LUBBOCK, Texas — Dr. Salzwedel and a group from Lubbock FUMC were on a ship in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea heading to Israel when plans abruptly changed.

“One of the things that’s going to happen, I think, is that our folks will look back on this and realize that they were they were there at the precipice of what potentially could be a very historic event in the Middle East,” said Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Lubbock, Todd Salzwedel, reflecting on recent events.  

“On Saturday morning, we woke up to the news that the rockets have been fired from Gaza,” described Dr. Salzwedel. “We were all pretty sure that we weren’t going to be making it in Israel at that point.” 

As tensions also escalated in Egypt, the group made the decision to not go there either; choosing to seek safety and divert to Greece.  

“I’m well aware there are a number of people that for health reasons, financial reasons, security reasons,” said Dr. Salzwedel. “They won’t have an opportunity to do this again ever in the future, and so I recognize that and I’m disappointed for them.” 

But on the other hand, Dr. Salzwedel said that while he empathizes with those who were understandably disappointed in these changes, there are other important things to be concerned about. 

“Our inconvenience pales in comparison to the fear, the danger, the uncertainty of folks throughout the Holy Land, and some of those are dear, dear friends of mine,” said Dr. Salzwedel.

While he doesn’t claim to be an expert, Dr. Salzwedel said there’s much more to this conflict than what meets the eye.  

“I have dear friends on the Palestinian side who will pay a very, very heavy price for the actions of people that don’t represent them,” said Dr. Salzwedel. “I have… Israeli, Jewish friends who their kids are getting are being spun out of going to war. They are being called up as reservists to go to war, and they live in fear and they’re terrified.” 

As a man of faith, Dr. Salzwedel said prayer leading to focus and education on the conflict, action and a hope for peace are some of the best things we can offer right now.  

“My hope remains the same, that it’s the younger generations,” Dr. Salzwedel said. “The hope is, and placed in them, by Jewish and Palestinian elders and leaders who themselves feel like they’re not sure that they have the capacity to move beyond this, that their kids and grandkids will be able to succeed when they haven’t.” 

The majority of that group from FUMC is expected to be back home in Lubbock next Tuesday, October 17.