A mini-road trip of its own marked the launch of a story of a trip through the Holy Land.
Of Falafels and Following Jesus tells the story of a tour through Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories that the authors—Nathan Brown with Michelle Villis and Brenton Stacey—took in October last year.
“I had the idea for this book while visiting Israel in 2015,” said Mr Brown. “I was trying to work out why we take trips like that, and then had a growing interest in how I might be able share some of the experience of such a trip with people who might never get the opportunity to visit those places.”
To write Of Falafels and Following Jesus, Mr Brown joined a tour group led by pastor, author and experienced tour leader Dr Peter Roennfeldt. Mr Brown also invited fellow group members—Ms Villis and Mr Stacey—to share some of their reflections as first-time visitors to places including Jerusalem, Petra, Bethlehem and the Sea of Galilee.
The first launch event took place on the afternoon of March 16 at Fox Valley Adventist Community Church (Wahroonga), and combined with a weekend of meetings led by Dr Roennfeldt at the nearby Wahroonga Adventist Church.
At the book launch, Dr Roennfeldt spoke on “assumptions, myths and reading the Gospels better” and reflected on how spending time in the places in which the Bible stories took place can change how we read and apply these stories.
“The gospel is the same today as it was in the Gospels: ‘Jesus is alive!’” said Dr Roennfeldt. “But I think you will read the Gospels better after reading Nathan, Michelle and Brenton’s book. Some of your assumptions and myths will be challenged, but you will have your eyes opened afresh to the story of Jesus.”
The afternoon program also featured a film of the trip created by the tour group’s youngest member, Lucy Geelan, from Newcastle, as well as contributions from a number of the 18 members from the tour group who attended.
“Trips like this are such intense experiences, so it is fascinating to see how others tell their stories from the journey,” said Mr Brown.
Launch celebrations continued that evening at Avondale College Church in Cooranbong. The evening included a premiere screening of an episode of Following Jesus: Multiplying Disciples—a 10-part series filmed on location in Israel, Jordan and Turkey. The project was introduced by Dr Nick Kross, presenter of the series and a member of the Discipleship Ministries Team of the South Pacific Division, followed by a video message from filmmaker Wes Tolhurst.
“Of Falafels and Following Jesus and this film series—which was filmed with Peter [Roennfeldt] and Nick [Kross] in the couple of weeks after our tour—are complementary resources, working with much of the same raw material, the same stories, the same locations, but presenting it and reflecting on it in different ways,” Mr Brown explained. “One of my resolutions at the end of our trip, which I narrate at the end of the book, was simply to go home and re-read the Gospels. So I hope that’s one of the key things people take away from reading the book.”
Of Falafels and Following Jesus is available from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand. For more information, visit <www.FalafelsandFollowingJesus.com>.