Book launch celebrates “following Jesus” journeys
A mini-road trip of its own has marked the launch of a book telling the story of a trip through the Holy Land.
Of Falafels and Following Jesus describes and reflects on a journey through Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories that the authors—Signs Publishing Book Editor Nathan Brown with Avondale College of Higher Education alumni Michelle Villis and Brenton Stacey—took in October this past year.
“I had the idea for this book while visiting Israel in 2015,” says 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, Brown joined a group led by pastor, author and Holy Land tour leader Dr Peter Roennfeldt, also an alumnus of Avondale. Brown invited fellow group members—Villis and 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 Seventh-day Adventist Community Church as part of a weekend of meetings led by Roennfeldt that also included those from the neighbouring Wahroonga church. At the launch, Roennfeldt spoke about “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 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 video of the trip created by the tour group’s youngest member, Lucy Geelan from Newcastle. Her travel to the Holy Land came courtesy of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia, which offered a spot in the tour group for the winner of a filmmaking competition it sponsored. “Lucy’s video is very nicely made, but I was quite stunned by how well it resonates with some of the key moments and ideas in our book,” says Brown.
Eighteen members of the tour group, some travelling from Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne, attended the launch. “It became a reunion of sorts, so it was fun to be able to share our respective stories of the journey with our fellow travellers,” says Brown. “Trips like this are such intense experiences, so it is fascinating to see how others tell their stories from the journey.”
Celebrations continued that evening at Avondale College Seventh-day Church in Cooranbong. The launch there included a premiere screening of an episode from Following Jesus: Multiplying Disciples—a 10-part series filmed on location in Israel, Jordan and Turkey. Presenter Dr Nick Kross, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific’s Discipleship Ministries Team, introduced the series, as did filmmaker Wes Tolhurst who had produced a video message of himself addressing Brown.
“Of Falafels and Following Jesus and this film series—which was filmed with Peter and Nick 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,” explains Brown. “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
Of Falafels and Following Jesus is available from Seventh-day Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand.LEARN MORE
Following Jesus: Multiplying Disciples
Watch the Following Jesus: Multiplying Disciples video series.WATCH
Holy Land tour video
Watch Lucy Geelan’s Holy Land tour video.WATCH