by Margarita Kovalchuk |  Chicagoland Schools

 After spending a relaxing morning floating around the Dead Sea, my friends and I almost struggled to keep up with our energetic guide Efrat. She led us on a hike through a bleak desert landscape: Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. “Don’t forget to drink! Stay hydrated!” she reminded us. The sun was hot. The steady shuffling of feet on the trail and Efrat’s narration in my audio headset faded into the background as my thoughts began to wander.

Walking along our nicely outlined path, I thought of King David. He spent years in the wilderness, on the run from jealous King Saul. David had to navigate with hundreds of warriors while making sure to leave no trace for his pursuers–a matter of life and death.

I always admired the bravery of Abigail in the Old Testament. As soon as she heard that David was angry for being insulted by her foolish husband, she sent provisions ahead of herself. Then, she rode a donkey down the winding paths of the mountain to petition David to restrain from shedding the blood of the entire household. Her husband died of a heart attack once he heard about her actions the next morning. David welcomed Abigail with open arms. To the right of our trail, the mountain slope rose vertically; it showed me the real physical danger Abigail overcame while traveling towards her peace-making meeting.

Glimpses of green came into view up ahead. Could it really be so? Finally, an oasis in this desolate place! Lush foliage surrounded a breathtaking waterfall. After trudging through the barren trail, none of us could resist wading and splashing in the pool. Jesus’s words came to mind: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink!” Standing at a spring of life in the midst of a desert gave perspective about the stark contrast between having a relationship with Christ and rejecting him.

Looking back on my trip to Israel, I see that walking through biblical sites has made an impact on my faith. I have a deeper understanding of scripture because I can more vividly see the physical challenges biblical heroes faced. Having experienced a minor portion of the realistic constraints they experienced, I have a far greater admiration for their victories. At the same time, the biblical heroes become more relatable. I’ve walked in their shoes.