In the mid sixties,the civil rights champion and pastor Martin Luther King Jnr visited Israel. As he stood on the Mount of Beatitudes looking over the Sea of Galilee,he felt God urging him to bring 5,000 pilgrims to the Holy Land on a prayer tour,to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for other areas of conflict in the world where peace and reconciliation were needed. Plans for this momentous tour began but they were interrupted by the Six Day War when everything had to be postponed. Martin Luther King was never to realise his dream;it died with him on April 3rd,1968 when an assassin ’s bullet stole his life …until 30 years later,when in June 1999,a chance conversation took place on the Mount of Beatitudes between an Elim Pentecostal pastor from London and an Israeli Jewish guide.
A few days after this encounter Pastor Sam Larbie (above right),a former major in the Ghanaian army and mem- ber of a United Nations peace keeping team in Israel in the ‘70s,told me of his remarkable conversation. “Something happened to me.From the Mount of Beatitudes you have a wide view of the Sea of Galilee and the spread of the mountains …I was just imagining Jesus standing there and speaking to this multitude of people; men,women,girls,boys,grandfathers, fathers …and I was lost in my thoughts. All of a sudden,our tour guide,Amnon Betsser,said,‘Did you know that the late Martin Luther King Jnr ,planned to bring 5,000 men into this very spot to pray for peace in the world?’ “I said,‘Tell me again ’.And Amnon continued,‘Plans were underway but he was assassinated before his dream could be realised.’ “I said,‘this man is dead,but the dream can continue.’I felt something in my spirit that told me I should pick up the baton that Martin Luther King had dropped and run with it.So I said to Amnon,‘What does it take to bring 5,000 people here? ‘Only 10 Jumbo jets!’ he replied.. ‘Amnon,you make it sound so easy!’ But there and then I realised that this could happen.And I came back to England thinking about how this could be.” And that ’s when I heard about this ‘dream ’.Sam was a guest on my Sunday morning programme on Premier Radio, ‘Worship at Home ’.
I know him as a great man of faith and prayer,and we share a common interest in Israel.Sam knew I had visited the country many times and was involved with many believers in the land,both Jews and Arabs,especially those who are working to be reconciled to each other ’s communities. As I listened to this story I recognised that God had asked Sam to run with this dream. Sam is a gentle giant;a tough ex-military man with a tactical mind who now plans spiritual campaigns with military precision.And he ’s brave;he thinks nothing of praying for the sick to be healed – and they are..
In fact his church in Camberwell,south London,is well known as a church where prayer is answered;people come from around the world to attend prayer meetings there. It ’s hard to describe what goes on in your spirit when a conversation like this takes place,enough to say that in that moment our spirits united in a common goal,and I felt that Premier Radio could play a part in telling people about this tour. Sam told me of one occasion when he was in Israel,leading a party of 30. “Something wonderful was going on. We were united in prayer in a way we had not experienced before.Our spirits soared as we sat in a boat on the Sea of Galilee worshipping God!” During the trip Sam ’s prayer life took on a new dimension.“I realised afresh how much I believed in corporate prayer,”he explained.“So if we have 5,000 people praying together from the very spot where Jesus taught and prayed,I believe we will be so united in our thoughts,so united in spirit,that there will be an open heaven,and something will happen as a result of the prayers that will be said.” Several months later,and the dream is coming closer.Premier are organising a Prayer Tour of Israel scheduled for 23-30 June,2002.
Martin Luther King Jnr had the original vision for the tour –Sam has picked it up and run with it.I asked him what he saw as the purpose for the tour,what made this trip unique? “When you look at the world,there are so many things happening.Too many nasty things.I believe in the power of prayer.We have a God who created this world;we have a God who is almighty;we have a God who cares about his word and He says,‘Call to me,and I will answer,and I will show you great and mighty things you don ’t know about ’ (Jeremiah 3:3). “I am anticipating that people will be joining us from around the world for a week that will combine a tour of the Holy Land with prayer.The crescendo of the tour will be on the final day when we will all meet together on the Mount of Beatitudes,on the Saturday morning,for prayer.” Noel Treddinick will attend along with the All Soul ’s Orchestra.
He will be staging two concerts –on the first night in the Manger Square in Bethlehem,and on the final night at the amphitheatre in Caesarea.Each evening will feature seminars and concerts. “And the importance of praying on the Mount of Beatitudes?” I asked Sam.. “We ’re not being mystical,but I do believe it does have some relevance.It ’s where Jesus stood and it ’s where we will stand.” I asked Sam why it ’s important to pray for Jerusalem and for other trouble spots around the world? “For the gospel to travel,there must be peace.And some of these troubled situations hinder the spread of the gospel because people can ’t travel,or become fearful.But when there is peace,people will hear the good news. And when they come into the Kingdom they receive peace -the peace that surpasses all understanding;it brings about hope – it ’s all about Jesus!”