Staff Blogger: Gretchen Colón, Vice President of Advancement & Communications
*This blog was written by Gretchen Colón on Saturday morning, Feb. 10 local time.

On Feb. 9 several Lakesiders set out on a 10-day journey to the Holy Land. The trip was organized by Educational Opportunities Tours (EO), an organization that plans educational group trips to destinations all over the world. Since 1974, EO has been dedicated to providing quality Christian travel programs at an affordable price. Over the years, more than 400,000 Christians have traveled on the various faith-based tours. Their full-scale offerings make immersive groups trips easy by planning all transportation, lodging, meals and activities for the group. Lakeside would like to thank past board member, the Rev. Dan Drew for working with EO to plan this trip for Lakesiders.

All day Feb. 9, Lakesiders boarded flights to New York to meet before departing to Tel-Aviv, Israel. Flights came in from Atlanta, Columbus, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and Springfield, Mo. Much like family meeting for a reunion, Lakesiders all began to gather at JFK Airport. And in the spirit of Lakeside, we met many new friends as we struck up conversations with the many travelers around us.

We departed at 11:30 p.m. for a nine-hour flight to Israel. We all enjoyed the inflight service, some enjoyed entertainment and many of us used the flight to catch up on sleep.  Once off the plane, the Rev. Dan Drew gathered the group to welcome us to Israel and gave us departure instructions for the charter bus that would take us to the Grand Park Hotel in Bethlehem.  We met our in-country host, FJ, who shared an array of facts about the area on our way. Did you know that Israel is the same size as the state of New Jersey? Or that 60 percent of the country is desert and 20 percent of it is green? We do now!

After arriving at the hotel, Kevin Sibbring, Lakeside Chautauqua President/CEO reflected with the group on the life-changing potential that a trip like this has. Over the next 10 days, our lives will be enriched as our experience will cover all four Chautauqua pillars: religion, education, arts and recreation.

Tomorrow, we are headed to Qasr el Yehud, Jericho, Qumran and the Dead Sea.

Even if you were not on the flight to Tel-Aviv, we invite you to join us from your home to experience the trip with us over the next few days. Journey with us from afar, and your soul will be enriched as you embark on this life-changing experience. We hope that by following our experience digitally, your interest might be sparked to join the next Lakeside Chautauqua EO journey.