Seeing something in person can make an impression on people, and that hit home for John Turner when he started taking tour groups to the Holy Land in Israel.
As director of education for the Father’s House Educational Foundation in Glen Rose, Turner organizes and leads tours to Israel, sometimes to Jordan.
Turner is the director of education for the Father’s House Educational Foundation, a nonprofit, non-denominational organization based since September in the former First Community Bank Building on Highway 67. The Father’s House’s first tour of the Holy Land was in January 2009. There have been more than 20 in all.
The tours give visitors first-hand views of biblical sites, and Turner noted that Christian believers find that the journeys enrich their lives.
“The reason I’m doing this is because of the exciting and intense biblical education that people experience when they go in person to the land of the Bible,” said Turner, a part-time pastor at New Prospect Baptist Church in Nemo who has now led more than 20 trips through the Father’s House organization.
Turner, a native Texan who moved to Glen Rose from California in 2004, said tour members have told him that their trip was like “the Bible became a new book to me,” and “It’s like I’m reading the Bible in living color because I’ve been there.’
Another comment Turner heard was, ‘Before I went to Israel, when I read the Bible it was like watching a good movie. Now that I’ve been to Israel, it’s like I’m in the movie.”
Turner noted, “I’ve been teaching the Bible for 30 years, and all of a sudden I’ve been blessed by going in person. Now I’m passionate about sharing that experience with other people.”
Turner said the size of the travel groups ranges from 25 to 55 people, with an average of about 35.
Byron Stinson founded the Father’s House Educational Foundation in 2008, and is president of the board of The Promise in Glen Rose.
There are two formats for the trips. The ones to Israel are 10 to 11 days. The flights go in and out of Tel Aviv, which has that nation’s only international airport. The trips that include a visit to Jordan take up to 14 days, Turner said.
Father’s House tour members have come from other states, such as Colorado and California, Minnesota, and inside Texas from as far away as Houston, Turner said. He said they stay at four-star quality hotels.
Although many other groups around the world take tours to the Holy Land, Turner said thee Father’s House tours are different.
“We go to some of the most recent archaeological finds, where evidence is that this is a particular biblical location — something you read about in the Bible. And most of the (other) tourist buses don’t stop there. They don’t know about those places.”
The key sites, traditionally popular among visitors, are also on the agenda. They include the Church of the Holy Nativity in Bethlehem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Masada, Turner said, among others.
“Every day is packed, just nonstop,” Turner said. "Every trip, you wish you could stay another week.”
Turner said that a surprising fact is that Israel is only about the size of New Jersey.
“The first thing you realize is how relatively close all of the biblical locations are to one another,” he said. “You realize several biblical events had taken place at the same location, centuries apart from one another. Often, all of these different events have a common theme — that the central message of all of those events builds.”
For all but one of the trips, the Father’s House travel groups have utilized the talents of veteran Tel Aviv tour guide Moshe Bronstein, a 69-year-old Jew who came to know Jesus as the Messiah. A former member of Israel’s military, Bronstein has been leading tours through his organization, Ancient Pathways Travel, Ltd., for more than 20 years.
Turner said Bronstein’s knowledge, passion and special touch helps make the tours unique.
With Bronstein’s guidance, Turner said it’s unmistakable “that the Bible is all one book from Genesis to Revelation.”
Turner also said that Bronstein helps Western believers “to connect with our heritage in the faith, people and the land of Israel.”
Turner also teaches alongside Bronstein, with both acting as trip facilitators.
Turner said that members of the tour groups, even in cases where they were strangers at the start, often develop close bonds during the trips.
“They mostly are Christians, but some are just interested in the area,” Turner said. “We do have some young people, and some bring their children. The groups become a small family. They have great relationships, and this becomes part of the experience.”
Many times the core groups that make the trips are from evangelical church congregations. Some area churches help fund the cost of the trip for members who can’t afford to go on their own, Turner mentioned.
“Everyone is welcome, but we focus on smaller congregations that normally wouldn’t think it’s possible,” Turner explained.
There are long-range plans for the Father’s House tours to visit Egypt, Turkey, Greece and Italy, Turner said.
The next Father’s House Holy Land trip is scheduled in February, followed by another in March. Turner and his wife, Roxy, will stay over in between the two tours, joining the second tour group upon arrival.
From July 2-11, a women’s-only trip to Israel is set by Father’s House for the first time. Roxy Turner and Byron Stinson’s wife, Tammy, will lead the way.
“Roxy and Tammy have it on their heart to highlight the importance of the messages of the women in the Bible,” said Turner, who said he began pastoring churches in 1981.
For more information about the Father’s House and the trips to the Holy Land, call 254-898-3437. You can read more about the foundation online at http://www.FathersHouseFoundation.com.