The four C.B.S. teens — Charlotte Dawe, 18, Victoria Dinham, 17, Ryan Dwyer, 17, and Kaylee Morgan, 16 — were in the Middle East as part of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
They were aboard a replica first-century fishing boat.
Some people had dubbed the vessel the “Jesus boat,” says Father Mark Nichols of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Upper Gullies, who accompanied the teens.
It was night, and the city lights of Tiberias shone in the distance.
Then the music started and teenagers from Newfoundland, the U.S. and Israeli Arabs started dancing.
The music was as diverse as those dancing — a mix of North American, Christian and Arabic songs.
The Arabic music “was very different, but was very nice,” Kaylee recalls.
Adds Victoria: “Everyone was just mingling together, and it was really nice.”
Nichols says it was a night to remember.
“Seeing them come together, these different groups, was something for me.”
About 35 teens took part in the religious study tour.
The four participants from C.B.S. were the only ones from Canada.
The trip came about, in part, because of a previous visit to the region.
Nichols has been in the Holy Land a couple of times, most recently in 2008.
He discovered that St. George’s College in Jerusalem had a summer course designed specifically for youth.
So when Nichols began his time at St. Peter’s in Upper Gullies, he decided to canvass some of those most involved in the church to gauge their interest.
The parents of the four teens agreed to the trip.
Last fall, fundraising began in earnest.
That included everything from selling cookie dough and cold plates to organizing a smorgasbordand silent auction. In July, all that work finally paid off.
“A lot of people stop going to church, and stop doing stuff like that, when they get out of (high) school. So it’s helped me find a reason to keep going.” - Charlotte Dawe
Including travel to and from the Middle East, the local group was away for 10 days.
Charlotte, who turned 18 while overseas, thought the time was right to do it.
At her age, she says, many tend to drift away from religion.
“A lot of people stop going to church, and stop doing stuff like that, when they get out of (high) school. So it’s helped me find a reason to keep going.”
The C.B.S. teens had many memorable experiences on their journey.
They slept under the stars in a bedouin camp, visited the ruins of a castle built by Herod, rode camels, swam in the Dead Sea, visited Bethlehem and had breakfast on top of Masada, the famous fortess besieged by the Romans 2,000 years ago.
“The place just got to me, and the people we were with were amazing,” Victoria says.
“We met a lot of people and we all got, one way or another, reconnected with our faith over there. So it was really cool.”
“For me, it’s to experience the culture over there — how people were different, and even though we’re so different, we’re the same.”
He recalls one of the girls — an Israeli Arab — addressing everyone one night. She said they want what the Israelis do: “We want peace.”
“It just sort of stood out to me — how both these youth, all of these different cultures, want the same thing in the end,” Ryan says.
“It’s a country unlike any other — all these cultures in this one tiny little spot. … It (was) just really an incredible experience.”