At the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in historic Salt, Jordan, a handful of Christian media from North America ‘Voluntoured’ to join students at the school to make traditional handicrafts such as mosaics, rugs and belts. The center offers a wide range of vocational training courses, including ceramics, metallurgy, weaving, cooking and computer skills, to ensure the boys and girls have employable skills once they leave. Volunteers who visit the school can join in the activities to encourage and interact with the students.
Christian Voluntourism in Jordan
AQABA, Jordan and McLEAN, Va. (March, 2011) – A group of Christian media from North America, including Brandon Crouch, JCTV co-founder, and the producers of “Travel with Spirit,” are mixing ‘volun-tourism’ along with ancient holy sites and modern adventures in a Lenten-timed press tour of Jordan hosted by the Jordan Tourism Board. The group reached Aqaba today on the seventh of nine days in this biblical “Land of Refuge.”
A highlight of the trip was a March 14 “volun-tourism” experience at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in historic Salt. Several of the journalists joined students at the school to make traditional handicrafts such as mosaics, rugs and belts. The center offers a wide range of vocational training courses, including ceramics, metallurgy, weaving, cooking and computer skills, to ensure the boys and girls have employable skills once they leave. Volunteers who visit the school can join in the activities to encourage and interact with the students.
Chuck Chalfant, web producer of CBN.com, blogged about the experience saying:
“I had no idea what to expect, but was excited to serve and meet the kids. What I learned about love and servanthood and my own shortcomings was priceless, … Brother Andrew A.L. de Carpentier is the executive director and a very wise yet humble man. One of the things he said that stuck out was that the deaf communicate not with their mouths, but their hands. To say something, they have to do something. That pretty much sums up the whole place – show your love and communication through action.”
Malia Asfour, director of the Jordan Tourism Board North America adds:
“We have worked hand in hand with our suppliers and religious travel planners about how to build volun-tourism into some of their Holy Land travel programs, … Now we are giving Christian media a glimpse of how volun-tourism, unlike longer one-week or two-week mission trips, can be built into any type of trip to Jordan.”
Asfour views faith-based travel as one of the primary niches for Jordan tourism. She has been working since 1997 to promote the destination of Jordan to the North American travel market, and decided early on that Jordan needed a re-branding in the religious sector in order to educate and re-introduce the kingdom’s biblical sites and experiences to prospective travelers. A passionate advocate for volun-tourism, Asfour sees it as a natural element of any faith-based tour to Jordan.
The Jordan Tourism Board North America, in cooperation with “Travel with Spirit,” is producing promotional videos and public service announcements (PSA’s) about volun-tourism. “Travel with Spirit” is a half-hour television program that features destinations that appeal to Christian travelers seeking spiritual enrichment as a part of their travel experience. The show airs on several networks, including FamilyNet, Sky Angel and NRB Network.
The crew filmed one PSA segment featuring Brandon Crouch at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf.
Crouch, a Christian evangelist, inspirational speaker, television broadcaster, and co-founder of JCTV (Jesus Christ Television), summed up his support for volunteering on vacation in this way:
“Volunteering for as little as one hour can turn a vacation into a life-changing experience. Jordan has opened up my eyes to the rest of the biblical sites that I had always wondered about from the other side, … Aaron’s tomb, Mount Nebo, the Red Sea and so much more are combined with a rich culture, loving people and delicious food. You can’t go wrong with Jordan!”
Biblical Background of Jordan:
Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan – where the Bible says Jesus came to be baptized by his cousin John – is part of the wilderness area associated with John the Baptist and also contains the traditional spot where the Bible says Elijah the prophet ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire. Today, the holy site is a rustic, eco-protected park that welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
- Mount Nebo, where Moses saw the land he would never enter and, according to the Bible, is buried nearby in an unknown location;
- Mukawir, a mountaintop fortress not far from the Dead Sea where John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded;
- Tel Mar Elias, the birthplace of the prophet Elijah (also known as Elijah the Tishbite), located among the ancient Hills of Gilead;
- Umm Qais, a Roman Decapolis town overlooking the Sea of Galilee where the miracle of the Gadarene swine took place;
- Jabbok River, where Jacob wrested with “the Angel,” and his name was changed to Israel, meaning “He who wrestles with God.”