400 Norwegian young people travel to Israel

Many Christians around the world have Israel on their “bucket list.” The entire youth group from the church in Oslo went on a trip to this unique little country in September – to experience Christian history, Jewish culture, and fellowship.

By Anne Lea Nielsen – Photos by Randi Fosse 

For the Norwegian young people who made the trip, it was an experience of a lifetime. The trip made a huge impression, and there are hundreds of pictures posted on Instagram to prove it. They were part of a fascinating tour with visits to places like the fortress on Masada, an overnight stay in a Bedouin camp, a vista of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, and visits to the Wailing Wall and places where Jesus lived and worked almost 2000 years ago.

Experiences like these provide a new perspective on religion for present day Christian youth. “In a way, faith becomes more real when you see the places Jesus lived, and you understand better how He experienced a lot of the same things we experience as people today,” says Helene Haukliseter (21).

Well organized and planned youth trip

The entire trip was so well planned ahead of time, that all you had to do was get on the bus, accept the key to your hotel room, and sit down at a table to eat.

Kristian Smith takes a picture of one of the groups.  Here they are singing in Cenaculum, one of the places Jesus is believed to have spent time with His disciples.  Photo: BCC

“We worked on plans over a year in advance, and it took time to save enough, so expectations were high,” says Kristian Smith. He was one of those responsible for planning the trip, done in conjunction with a travel agency with many years of experience with group tours in Israel.

“We emphasized safety for everyone, but especially the teenagers. We made sure they had mentors looking out for them the entire time.”

An overnight stay in a Bedouin camp was one of the experiences on the agenda, which included elements of culture, religion, and history.   Photo: BCC

70 older youth were mentors for the younger ones

The trip was a huge success, largely because of mentors who were focused on looking after each individual so they felt included and received the help they needed with practical things along the way. “To ensure everyone would have a nice experience on the trip, we enlisted the help of about 70 mentors, each of whom was responsible for a smaller group,” says Kristian.

Helene Haukelidseter (right) contributed as a mentor on the trip. Here with Kristina (16).  Photo: BCC

One of those who was a devoted mentor during the trip was Helene Haukelisæter.  She had this to share: “I was the one responsible for getting those in our group back to the hotel at the agreed upon times, so no one wandered around in the cities on their own. I also did my best to ensure that everyone was having a nice time.”

“When every mentor looks after the persons they are responsible for, everyone is taken care of. I believe it is reassuring for teenagers in a large group to always have someone they can ask; someone who knows what is going on and is fond of them.”

Friendships are established during travel and adventures together. The older mentors spent their time together with the younger ones. Photo: BCC

Christian youth conference in Israel for several years

The tour around the country culminated in a conference with over 1,000 attendees from BCC’s youth groups around the world. Right here in Israel, BCC members have been organizing conferences for young people for more than 20 years, so that young Christians can literally walk in Jesus`footsteps in the land that is mentioned so often and is so vital for many religious groups.

Read also: Youth trip and conference in Israel 2017

The combination of tangible impressions – artifacts from an ancient history of faith – together with an encouraging, personal message spoken at the youth conference, made a deep impression. For the 400 young people along on this trip, the experiences they shared in autumn of 2018 will certainly be remembered for a long time.

From Jerusalem, where the group spent two days.  A city of impressions, with its history spanning thousands of years.  Photo: BCC  

From the visit to Herodes fortress on Masada, where 960 Jewish rebels resisted the Romans from 72 BC to 69 BC.