A Pastor’s Perspective on the Archaeological Dig – Pastor Jim Bartz

It Is About People.

Many years ago (actually a few decades ago), I remember seeing a picture and reading an article in the Northwestern Lutheran of now sainted Seminary Professor John Jeske and some other pastors who were taking part in an archeological dig in Israel.  How cool I thought.

My daughter told me about this trip to Israel and said Professors from WLS, MLC and WLC would be the leaders.   I had read about the trip but at that time I brushed it off.  (I didn’t know that a few months later I would brush off pottery).  But, at the encouragement of my classmate who had been on trips to Israel before, and my wife telling me I should go, I signed up. 

As Prof. Kock quoted: “It was hard work!” “It was boring.”  And, yes, it was.  I can’t tell you how many buckets of dirt I carried and threw down the hill. However, what I enjoyed most was getting to know not only the 20 people that came on this dig and tour of Israel, but also the other group of Christians that we had joined. 

During the five-day dig I was with a group that had been at the site the week before.  I worked with two retired police officers, the wife of one of the officers, and a Jewish lady from Israel who retired from working in a bank.  One of the men was also a former Catholic priest who realized his first year in the parish that, as he said, “the Catholics got that marriage part wrong with their priests and nuns.”  He continues to serve as a pastor of a United Church of Christ congregation.  A piece of sound advice these four gave me the first day was, “You’re not running a sprint.  You’re in a marathon.  Pace yourself.  Drink lots of water and take breaks!”  They mentioned that during their first week one man in their group didn’t drink enough water and got heat exhaustion.  The Jewish lady commented to me as I came back with the empty pails for her to fill: “What you’re doing is the equivalent of a person in a chain gang.”  I responded, “True–only difference is that I paid for this fun!”

I got reacquainted with a layman I knew when I served in Milwaukee, saw his daughter and met her husband who teaches at a WELS area Lutheran High School and the layman’s son who recently graduated from our Seminary.  I met his classmate as well.  I met a young man going into his vicar year; another Seminary student and his wife; two MLC college students; a younger pastor and his pregnant wife who happens to be my high school classmate’s daughter; a young woman who teaches in a WELS school in Wisconsin; our two Professors, and other pastors, who like myself, decided to make this trip.  It was my privilege to get reacquainted and to have met and to know these brothers and sisters in the gospel ministry.  I keep them in my prayers.

On the last day of our dig another couple, from Colorado, that I got to know approached me.  I think they must have thought I was one the leaders (probably because of my gray hair).  They thanked me and the others for coming and complimented our group that we had such a variety of ages who worked together well.  But the biggest compliment he gave us was that our work showed we love Jesus.  Yes, we do!

“It’s really about people,” Professor Kock stated in one of his devotions.  “After all, that’s why our Savior came to earth.  He had you on his mind and he loves you.”  If you’re thinking about this trip, pray about it and be assured it will be one you will not forget. It is, after all, about people.