MORGANTOWN - As anyone who knows them can attest, their faith is very important to the lives of Lamar and Lois Ann Mast, the owners of Masthof Press and Bookstore in Morgantown, and these veterans of cultural and religious tours of Europe have recently branched out to walk in the footsteps of the prominent figures of Christianity and Judaism.
Freshly returned from a 16-day tour of Egypt, Israel and Jordan, the Masts, who help organize the tours, are reflecting on the sights and sounds of the Middle East and what their experiences have taught them.
The sojourn started in Egypt with tours of the pyramids at Giza, as well as the Egyptian Museum, followed Moses' route out of Egypt across the Sinai Peninsula, and included stops at the famed temple at Petra in Jordan, and three days in Jerusalem.
"It was one thing to go to Europe and walk where our ancestors walked," said Lois Ann Mast. "It was quite another to walk where our spiritual ancestors walked. It makes the Bible come alive for us. Every place that we stopped, we read scriptural verses that connected the place to the reading that we have done all our lives."
Especially moving for the Masts, as well as the six other Morgantown-area residents who went along on the trip, was the three days the group spent in Jerusalem, visiting famed sights like the Wailing Wall, the Temple Mount and Mount of Olives.
"Each time that we go, it is a growing time for us spiritually," said Lois Ann. "When we came back home, I missed that continual sense of worship, and being able to see those sights with other believers - that means so much."
Lamar said that the pair got their start organizing these historical and spiritual tours two years ago, on a tour to Europe.
"Before that tour was over, we decided that this was something that we could handle," Lamar said. "Then people began asking if we wanted to tour Israel, and we did."
For the Masts, being able to tour Israel also brought them closer to some of the work that they had already done here in the Tri County area. A school in Hebron, started as a mission by two Conestoga Mennonite Church members years ago, remains one of the only Christian influences in the Palestinian city, and tour participants were able to spend time with the children at the school during their tour.
Tour participants will also be sharing their experiences with local residents on Sunday, June 15, when they present their photos and stories from the tour at Connestoga Mennonite Church at 7 p.m. The public is welcome at this event.