In January, Revered Bill Dawson of the United Methodist Church in Sistersville acted as Bus Captain on a guided tour of the Middle East, exploring Egypt, Israel, and Jordan.
This was Dawson's third trip there with a group. His group this time included 22 people from Tyler and Wetzel counties, as well as one person from Pennsylvania. They were also joined by a group from Beckley, W.Va., and four people from New Jersey, putting a total of 37 people on their tour bus.
Dawson said that the trips they take are open to anyone, regardless of church affiliation. According to him, people who go to the Middle East return with a better understanding and appreciation of the area's culture and stories in the Bible.
The group is pictured on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel. The Dome of the Rock, at the center of the Noble Sanctuary, is visible in the background.
"When you're in Israel you see the Biblical sites firsthand," he said.
Dawson also mentioned how being there firsthand takes away the "boogeyman aspect" that may be associated with those cultures. Although he is a Christian, he spent time with and dined with people of Islamic and Jewish faiths.
"It helps you see the human side of people," he said.
The next group excursion is being planned for January 2015 and will be an extended tour of Israel.
"It's really an eye-opening trip," said Dawson. "Every time you go you learn something new about the people."