Chris Donaldson is a Chaplain with the Archer Group in Christchurch. The Archer Trust provides a variety of aged care and is part of the social service and charity work of the Canterbury/Westland Baptist Association. Chris and his wife Susanne have led more than a dozen tours to the Holy lands.

In 2015 Ian and Alison Syme of Oxford Baptist Church went on a pilgrimage to Turkey and Israel: “Each time we now read about one of these places in the Bible it takes us back to being there and makes it so much more relatable to us.”

Stand on the shores of Galilee, where crowds once jostled to share in the loaves and fishes Jesus was distributing. Praising the same God of provision.

Walk beside the pool of Siloam, where Jesus sent a blind man to bathe, emerging with clear vision. Praying to the same God of healing.

Stand in the immense theatre at Ephesus and cry out, “Great is the Jesus Christ, Lord of Turkey!”

Pray among the ruins of the Church of Philadelphia and ask Jesus for an open door of witness and mission in your life.

Worship in an ancient cave church in Capadoccia, joining the multitude of Christians who have gone before us in exalting the Lamb who was slain.

Pilgrimage has long been a tradition in the Christian faith, with believers traveling to holy sites around the world to connect with their faith and deepen their spiritual journey. It’s an opportunity to step away from the distractions of everyday life and connect with the stories of the Bible in a new and profound way. By walking the same ground as Jesus walked, Christians are reminded that God is not just a distant figure from history, but a living and active God who is still working in the world today.

Sometimes it’s easy to get our faith mixed in with our own culture and limited experiences. We can forget that the events in our sacred texts happened in such a different environment. And while our God transcends all cultures and times, there’s something valuable in meditating on how the people of 30AD Israel encountered Jesus. 

“It exposes us to different traditions that inform our thinking,” one author says. “Ours becomes a kaleidoscopic Christianity, and we see reality through sacred lenses, lenses that put flesh on faith and bones on Bibles” (Christian T. George). This was certainly the experience for Ian and Alison Syme of Oxford Baptist Church on their pilgrimage to Turkey and Israel in 2015:

“We thoroughly enjoyed the trip through Turkey and Israel and it really made the biblical places come alive for us. Ephesus especially stands out – the heat and the size and the reality of standing right where these events in the Bible actually happened. This was also true of other places. The time at Fethiye was a most appreciated rest too and Cappadocia is just something you have to experience to get the feel of the landscape and size.  
Out trip through Israel was also great at putting in the biblical perspective and that has also left lasting impressions and made it all so much more real for us both. Each time we now read about one of these places in the Bible it takes us back to being there and makes it so much more relatable to us. 
We felt very safe and well cared for with Chris and Susanne Donaldson, our wonderful tour leaders. We enjoyed lots of extras a regular tourist may not get, including biblical teaching about the places we visited as well as times of prayer and worship.”  

We (Chris and Susanne Donaldson) have led more than a dozen tours to these Holy lands. We have another coming up 2-26 September 2023. If you’re interested in joining us, please get in touch with us via email: [email protected]

“Put flesh on faith and bones on Bibles.”


Photo supplied: Ian and Alison Syme in Fethiye, Turkey (second and third from left).

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