Cheryl Franklin

The Grove Sun

Five pastors from Grove and one from Miami travelled to Israel together recently.

That fact, in and of itself is not of particular interest. Pastors go to Israel all the time.

The fact that the pastors are from different denominations is what makes the trip interesting.

These same pastors meet every Thursday morning at 6:45 a.m. to pray together.

They have been meeting for more than a year now at the Rivers of Life, a Christian facility east of Grove built for such purposes, and have experienced a unity because of it, but the trip to Israel cemented their relationships even further.

“Because of this trip I don’t look at them (the other pastors) as Independent Baptist or Assembly of God or Non-denominational. I look at four men who are my brothers,” said Mark Goode, pastor of the Freewill Baptist Church in Miami.

“This was such a rich, rich, experience spiritually and emotionally,” said David Knox, pastor of Grove Christian Center. “The bonding that took place can never be broken.”

“I’ve made a lot of trips, this one was very special,” he added.

Knox, whose wife Rhonda also went, posted his trip on Facebook each day.

“Good morning from the Royal Tiberias,” he wrote. “Yesterday was so special. We were baptized in the Jordan! I was baptized by Pastor Marty Hughes of the Independent Baptist Church. I baptized Rhonda.We sat on the hill of the Beatitudes. What an awesome view.”

Pastor Marty Hughes, blogged his trip every day from his church’s website complete with photos and insights for his congregation and friends to see.

“I am eternally grateful to the ones who provided the means for me to make this trip. My wonder at the opportunity to stand on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem and speak the words of Jesus from the very spot where He spoke them, is beyond my ability to express,” he wrote the first day.

Later he wrote: “Our time here is drawing to a close. My life has been changed forever.  I hope that I can come close to sharing the lessons that I have learned when I get home.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

Pastor Tony Wisdom from Grove’s First Assembly of God church kept his friends and family updated on Facebook as well posting photos and comments about the trip.

The group, which also included Pastor Rick Thomas of Zena Baptist Church, was joined by some of their wives along with some friends including Mike and Karan Jacobs, owners of Jacobs Manufacturing in Grove.

“There was truly cooperation. There was love. There was harmony. There was fellowship. It was a beautiful thing to see,” said Karan Jacobs.

The Pastor’s Pilgrimage was organized by Joe Nowlin of Grove, who built the Rivers of Life building in an effort to give area churches a neutral place to congregate and hold events. The beautiful facility, complete with a state of the art commercial kitchen that would be the envy of Emeril Lagassi, also serves as a catalyst to unite the different congregations. Nowlin also included, in the building, a high tech dental clinic where free dental services are performed twice a month by local dentists.

Rivers of Life sponsored the trip for the five pastors and although Nowlin and his wife Brenda were the organizers and main source of funds for the trip, Nowlin is eager to not take credit for any of it. In fact, his prayer to be humbled during the trip turned out to be more than he imagined.

“When I got off the plane I had Bell’s Palsy (a temporary paralysis of the facial muscles)” said Nowlin. “I ended up spending time in the hospital there and missed some of the most important moments.

“I missed them baptizing each other in the Jordan. I missed the foot washing and the work day at the dental clinic,” he said. “It was just perfect. Instead of me leading them, their only leader was the Lord.”

And, they had to work out things together, for themselves, unifying them even more.

“You would think that because we area all pastors, all leaders that there would have been a lot of butting heads,” said Goode. “But there was nothing even close to that.”

“There are 80 churches in Delaware County. My dream is to see the day come when all of them sit down at the table and take communion together,” Nowlin said. “I don’t how to work that out, but God does.”