By KATIE EUBANKS
Pam Anderson of Madison is a Faith-Based Travel Specialist with Educational Travel Services (ETS). She recently spoke with MCL Editor Katie Eubanks about faith-based travel (it’s more than Israel!) and how she uses her business as a ministry. This interview has been edited for space and clarity.
Katie Eubanks: People associate faith-based travel with Israel, but are there other kinds of faith-based trips too?
Pam Anderson: You can do so much more with it than just going to the Holy Land. They do faith-based travel just in Italy, or anywhere else. You can do cruises and they’ll have guest speakers on board. And then you can plan your own through a church or through just a small women’s group.
I’m in the process of planning a women’s retreat cruise for 24, (and we’ll) have some guest speakers on there, and also a Bible study that will be done on the cruise. It’s a good way to invite non-believers (because) everybody loves to travel. (And it’s not just about) having the Bible study … but also forming bonds with other Christian women.
There’s also a lot of opportunities in Greece, where you can go to where Paul went on his journey … There’s one (trip where) you go to visit the seven churches mentioned in Revelation, which interests me. Every time I look through what’s available, I think, “I want to do that.”
I can also do a trip to go see the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum. That could be for any age.
KE: Where will your women’s cruise go?
PA: I’m still in the planning stages. It will probably be either some type of Caribbean cruise or an Alaskan cruise. I’m working on putting some surveys out … just to see what the preference is. (And) I’m working on a theme. I’m looking at going through Priscilla Shirer’s “Breathe” study. … I thought about doing a theme about rest, about the Sabbath, about incorporating that in our lives.
KE: You also plan ‘regular’ trips in addition to faith-based trips. How do you use your business as a ministry?
PA: I’m working on, just for my agency, putting together a faith-based travel journal/Bible study that I give to all of my clients. And also thank-you cards. Because that’s something I try to do when I travel is take thank-you cards and just give a little blessing to the staff, wherever I am.
You see so many different people when you travel, (and) if there’s something that can spark a curiosity or anything in them if they don’t know the Word or know Jesus as their Savior …
KE: Tell me about your recent trip to Israel.
PA: I didn’t know that the valley of the shadow of death (from Psalm 23) was a real place (called Wadi Qelt). And we went there. It’s amazing. It’s this huge (gorge), and there’s a monastery down there, and you look at it and think, “Wow, they walked through that?” And you understand why they called it the valley of the shadow of death, because it’s so treacherous.
KE: Did you have any safety concerns in Israel?
PA: No. … when you hear of something happening over there, like (a terrorist attack) … these places that you hear about are not the places that tourists go. They’re all in the West Bank, (or) they’re going to pinpoint Orthodox Jews. And that’s not where the tourists are, in their communities.
Now we did go to Bethlehem, which is barely in the West Bank. (But we) felt safe. We even went and ate with a family, went to their house, which was a neat experience. You can ask any kind of questions, and they love having you there and love talking about what their life is like.
But ETS, they’re so good with Israel and they’ve been doing it for so long, I personally have complete confidence that they’re not going to take you anywhere that’s not safe. And Israel does a really good job with their safety.
KE: How far in advance should people plan faith-based trips?
PA: It’s good to plan these at least a year in advance. That gives people enough time to make payments to where they don’t have to pay all at once. And they do fill up pretty fast. And to get everything organized, especially (if you’re) with a group, you need at least a year in advance. Twelve to 18 months, preferably.