Representatives from Covenant Shores and the three Covenant Retirement Communities (CRC) in California traveled to Israel on a pilot pilgrimage from Feb. 24-March 8. The group of 41 residents and campus chaperones (three nurses and two activities directors) included CRC president Terri Cunliffe from Chicago.
The purpose of the trip was to explore the possibility of offering similar opportunities for senior adults who live in the other 11 campuses nationwide.
Chaplain Greg Asimakoupoulos of Covenant Shores was the designated chaplain for the 13-day tour. Other representatives from Mercer Island were 92-year-old retired bank president Bob Weber and 91-year-old retired surgeon Clark Hoffman.
“Bob and Clark were the oldest members of the trip,” Asimakoupoulos said. “Our Palestinian Christian guide wanted his picture taken with both men because he’d never had anyone that old in a tour group before.”
According to Asimakoupoulos, who performed baptisms in the Jordan River and served communion at the site of David’s defeat of Goliath, the trip was not scaled back to accommodate for the older population.
“I was amazed at our group’s ability to keep up with the rigorous demands of the daily regimen,” Asimakoupoulos said. “The fact that both Bob and Clark play tennis regularly served them well.”
In addition to the sites of Nazareth, Capernaum, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the itinerary included visits to archaeological tels at Meggido, Samaria, Masada and Jericho.
A highlight of the trip for Asimakoupoulos was visiting the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem that was founded by Horatio Spafford in 1881 to model peaceful coexistence among Christians, Jews and Muslims, he said. Spafford is best known for his timeless hymn “It is Well with My Soul” written following a tragedy at sea that claimed the lives of his four young daughters.