In October, I was part of an ecumenical press tour to Jordan. Sponsored by the Jordan Tourism Board, the trip took more than a dozen journalists from several denominations and Christian news organizations to the eastern reaches of the Holy Land. For about a week, we traveled across Jordan, soaking up the sights, tastes, culture and — of course — the deep biblical history of the country.

For religious travelers, Jordan offers a wide array of riches. From walking the sites of some of Jesus’ miracles to swimming in the waters of the Red Sea that were once parted for the Israelites, the trip was an overwhelming chance to experience the settings for stories many Christians have heard all our lives.

It was the trip of a lifetime — one that opened my eyes in ways I never expected.

While a week is never enough time to really experience a new culture, the time I spent in Jordan brings the country and the entire region of the Middle East closer to home. The Jordanians I met were, without exception, friendly, hospitable and helpful, and I was continuously humbled by their knowledge of world history and current events.

Perhaps it’s easy to feel connected to history when you live in the home of so much of it, but I sensed that the Jordanian people are attuned to the intricacies of the world around them in ways that often seem lacking here at home.

In a time when seemingly endless stories speak about the oppression, injustice and violence that affect so many in the Middle East, it can be tempting to turn a deaf ear to what seems like more of the same. But our group was fortunate to meet Jordanians who care deeply about interfaith relations, peacemaking and the preservation of history for all who care to learn about it.

As a sign at Bethany Beyond the Jordan, where Jesus was baptized, states: “Heritage belongs to humanity.” – King Hussein bin Talal