I once visited the so-called garden tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem. Of course, we have no idea where exactly Jesus was buried. So this place, while no doubt in the larger neighborhood of the original tomb, is a re-creation of what it might have been like. But by the time I was done praying at this fabricated holy site, I had met the risen Lord in a new way. Go figure. There's something deeply moving about being in a place connected—even if indirectly—to a sacred event or person.
Christianity Today design director Gary Gnidovic visited Russia on assignment in 2006, and took time to visit the site about 15 miles outside of Moscow where Alexander Men served and, in 1990, was murdered. Men was a deeply spiritual leader, and the great hope for understanding between Orthodox and evangelicals in Russia. But his overt proclamation of an evangelical faith was a threat to both the government and the Orthodox Church. Gary walked the road on which Men was attacked (no one knows by whom). "It was very much a pilgrimage for me," says Gary, "and at the time, I thought of it in exactly those terms."
CT online editor Sarah Pulliam grew up in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, and about 10 years ago, traveled with several people from her church to Scotland to see historical sites connected with the denomination. "It was absolutely stunning to go to the gravesite of the Two Margarets [McLachlan and Wilson, mid-19th century martyrs]," says Sarah, "who were executed by drowning for refusing to swear an oath declaring the king as head of the church."
Editor in chief David Neff says he enjoyed visiting Martin Luther's home in Wittenberg: "You could almost see all those students gathered around the table with their dear doctor Martin, while wife Katie tried to keep them in line."
Stan Guthrie, managing editor of special projects, had an extraordinary experience on a mission trip, which, as online managing editor Ted Olsen points out in his cover story, strongly parallels the character of a classic Christian pilgrimage. Despite enormous pressures and a near meltdown on a trip to Poland, "a young man named Richard heard the gospel and prayed right there in a Krakow park to make Jesus his Lord and Savior," says Stan.
"I made a pilgrimage of sorts to Livingstone, Zambia (where missionary David Livingstone had named Victoria Falls), and to the Livingstone Museum," says Ted Olsen. "Seeing his journals, coat, medical kit, and other artifacts helped to make the history far more real. But it was seeing the cast of his arm bone that made me feel like a pilgrim. I'm generally repulsed by relics, but that moment helped me understand that wanting to touch the bone of a departed hero of the faith isn't that different from wanting to shake the hand of a living one."
Thankfully, we haven't noticed Ted digging up any graves to shake hands with the dead. But he has written a stellar cover story that puts experiences like these in a larger biblical and theological perspective.
Copyright © 2009 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
This story is part of our cover package on the surprising rewards of Christian travel. Other stories in the package include "He Talked to Us on the Road," "Pilgrim's Regress," "Pilgrimage Today" and While You're There
Christianity Today has a special section on pilgrimage and travel.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.