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24th December, 2013.
Nigerian pilgrims listening to the narration by Mr. Rahead Makhoudi,the official tour guide from Tabar Tours at the "Pool of Bethesda" in Jerusalem recently. (Photo: Omololu Olumuyiwa)

Pilgrims commends NCPC on positive transformation of Christian Pilgrimage exercise

By Omololu Olumuyiwa

The Christian Pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Israel packaged by Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission (NCPC) has been described as a positive factor in educating the Christians to understand the real essence of their faith and to restore the lost glory of the country through prayers.

This was the comment of one of the pilgrims to Israel, Mrs. Oluwafunmilayo Onuoha, shortly after her decoration as Jerusalem Pilgrim (JP) at the ceremony organised for the presentation of certificates and decoration of the pilgrims who successfully participated in the ongoing October/December Christian pilgrimage exercise at the famous Jerusalem Gate Hotel recently.

Prior to the departure of the intending pilgrims to the Holy Land in the State of Israel, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Christian Pilgrim Commission, Mr. Kennedy John Opara admonished the 350 intending pilgrims that comprised of delegates from Bauchi State, Consular officials and some private sponsored pilgrims at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on December 8, 2013 to take the good advantage of the trip in praying for the peace of the country.

"It is pertinent to reiterate the fact that pilgrims are the ambassadors of our great nation Nigeria in the State of Israel and therefore, you are implored not to do anything that will tarnish the image of the country during your short sojourn to the Holy Land", Opara said.

On the arrival of the pilgrims at the early hours of Monday, December 9 at Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv, they were all well received by the ground handler officials from Tabar Tours who has been assigned by NCPC to handle the pilgrims from Nigeria.

The Tabar Tours officials welcomed the pilgrims and marched them into the executive luxurious buses at the airport to the hotel for relaxation before the commencement of the pilgrimage exercise.

It was observed that the pilgrims were happy with the ways and manner they were treated at the hotel and above all, with the state-of-the heart facilities available at the hotel including free WiFi internet service, there was no cause for any complain or ill-feeling from the pilgrims.

As a way to make the pilgrim exercise a big success and truly transformed the spiritual life of the group during their stay in the Holy Land, an official of NCPC, Mr Stephen Adewara after the morning devotion of the pilgrims on the second day of arrival advised the pilgrims on the "Pilgrim' Handbook" that was given to them before leaving Nigeria as it contains many useful information to serve as a reference points to virtually all the sites to be visited.

"Beloved brethren, the Pilgrims' Handbook that you are holding is to help you understand the spiritual importance of the places that we shall be visiting. Also, there are prayer points to spiritually enlighten us on what to pray about mostly on getting to the places. I therefore appeal to you to make use of the valuable book as a guide to help our prayer life in the holy Land", Adewara said.

During the 11 days pilgrimage exercise, the pilgrims could not hide their joy on the ways they were conducted round various historical sites by one of the tour guides and narrator attached them in person of Mr. Rahead Makhoudi.

A pilgrim, Felicia Simon said, "Our tour guide as really done a good job, we are all impressed about the ways he was doing the narration with biblical references. He always gave satisfactory stories on virtually all the sites visited with good answers to our further inquiries."
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Among the sites visited that the pilgrims could not easily forget in earnest are the Sea of Galilee; The Sea of Galilee is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful in the Holy Land, and it has changed remarkably little since the days of Jesus.

The Wailing Wall; where the pilgrims were availed the opportunities to prayed fervently for themselves and the country. The Wailing Wall, now also known as the Western Wall is one of Judaism's most holy sites and forms part of the western flank of the holy site of the Temple Mount.

The wall is the imposing remnant of Jerusalem's Second Temple, which the Romans destroyed in 70 CE. According to Jewish tradition, despite the temple's destruction, the divine presence never left. While the wall itself stands as an impressive archaeological record from the time of King Herod, the hush that envelops the plaza in front of it as Jews approach the base of the wall to pray is also captivating.

The sight of seeing how people come from all over the world to place prayer notes in the wall's crevices is surely a scene to behold as it is strongly believed that all the prayer requests presented at the Wailing Wall will receive express answers.

The Western Wall is a holy site and visitors are expected to don a kippa (small Jewish skullcap) before approaching the wall (kippas are available free of charge at the site). Also, there is a separate area of the wall for female visitors.

Among other notable places visited by the group are Mountain of Temptation; Dead Sea; River Jordan; Garden of Gethsemane; Pool of Bethesda; Mount Olive; Sycamore Tree; Shepherds' Field; Church of John the Baptist; Church of Nativity in Bethlehem; Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

In his remark, Mr Abdin Dalla-Gin, the state Head of Service and the leader of the delegation from Bauchi State showered encomiums on the management of the NCPC on the ways and manner the pilgrimage exercise was carried out in conjunction with the ground handler, Tabar Tours.

"As a matter of fact, NCPC must have done a serious work in picking our handler here in Israel. I must confess, I was really impressed on the quick and faster accommodation arrangement made for over 350 pilgrims having returned from an aborted trip to Jerusalem due to the heavy snowfall on a particular day", Dalla-Gin said.

The Chairman, Bauchi State Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board, Revd. Dr. Shuaibu Byel, in a brief chat with Travelscope Magazine said "NCPC has really upgraded the level of performing Christian pilgrimage. The Christian pilgrimage has not been having it smoothly until the emergence of Mr. John Kennedy Opara as the helmsman at the affairs of the commission".

"It is now clear that the purpose of embarking on a trip to the Holy Land of Israel for spiritual transformation is been achieved in this era of the tireless executive secretary of NCPC", Byel concluded.

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