Arkansas natives Jeff and Sarah Bennett of Prelude Tours in Houston were so inspired by their first trip to Israel that they wanted to help others have the same opportunity.
“As Christian believers, we immediately realized how life-changing it was to experience the land where Jesus walked and taught,” says Sarah, “and we wanted to provide this same experience to as many people as possible.”
Jeff and Sarah began to pray about starting a new chapter in their lives, and within three months they founded their travel company. The couple combined their talents to create travel experiences with a Christian focus, and since they opened Prelude Tours in 2013, “we haven’t looked back,” says Sarah. “Our trip to Israel in 2020 will be our 10th one to the Holy Land.”
The Bennetts continue their full-time jobs in addition to managing Prelude Tours. Jeff, a worship leader at a large Houston church, spends his evenings researching destinations and studying their religious significance so that he can better prepare to lead worship on the tours and teach scripture related to each Biblical site they visit. As a self-employed accountant, Sarah’s flexible schedule allows her to handle all the trip details for their groups.
The goal of Prelude Tours is to provide trips that lead to new memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. One of their most memorable experiences occurred at the peak of Mt. Pilatus near Lucerne, Switzerland, where a local man was playing a 10-foot-long alphorn. The group attempted to communicate with him and asked if he knew “Amazing Grace,” but he didn’t speak English. When the group began singing the hymn, he immediately nodded his head and began playing the melody on his horn.
Says Sarah, “To hear the music and voices of that great hymn echoing through the Swiss Alps was incredible and a beautiful reminder that music is the universal language.”
The Holy Land
Like all of the company’s trips to the Holy Land, the upcoming February tour will include visits to many historical sites of significance from the Bible and from the life of Jesus, both in Israel and neighboring Jordan. For example, the itinerary includes a visit to Nazareth, Jesus’ boyhood home; a stop in Capernaum, where Jesus performed many miracles; and sightseeing in Jerusalem. Activities in Jordan include a tour of the ancient city of Petra and the opportunity to stand on Mount Nebo, just as Moses did when he looked out on the Promised Land.
“At each Biblical site that we visit,” Sarah explains, “we offer a scripture teaching about that site led by the host pastor. Linking the scripture to the physical space truly brings the scripture to life.”
Examples of other unique components include baptisms in the Jordan River; a special church service at the Church of the Beatitudes, the site where Jesus delivered his famous Sermon on the Mount; and a meditative communion service on the last night of each trip.
“Two of our most powerful worship times on our Holy Land trip are prayer time in the Garden of Gethsemane and worship and prayer on a boat in the Sea of Galilee,” says Sarah. “We turn the boat motor off to allow everyone to experience the quietness of the sea as they worship and pray. It’s hard to miss God’s presence there.”
Other faith tours
Prelude offers faith tours in Europe, too. The Footsteps of Paul itinerary takes groups to Greece to follow the path of the apostle during his days in that country. Travelers can visit the sites and cities where Paul visited and lived, as well as the island of Crete.
The Bennetts offer choir tours every two to three years, or more often as the opportunities arise. Their choir tour of England mixes visits to many iconic British sites, such as Buckingham Palace, with performances at historical venues. This tour is created specifically for church choir groups, but it is open to non-choir members as well.
“Many times spouses or non-musical family members and friends want to join the tour, and we welcome them,” says Sarah. “Some people enjoy the music, but as spectators. Plus, we always need an audience when the choir performs!”
Jeff and Sarah are always considering new destinations based on customer suggestions, their own travel experiences, and their research on new places. Although they focus on places with Biblical significance, Sarah explains that “God created the entire universe, so everywhere has significance. For example, a trip to Africa is a reminder of God’s power and creativity when you see the stripes of the zebra, regal lions, and magnificent elephants up close.”
After an unforgettable family trip to Africa in 2019, the Bennetts are offering a tour to the continent for the first time in September 2020. The journey starts in South Africa, with a stop in Cape Town and the surrounding areas, including Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, as well as a three-day safari in the famous Kruger National Park.
The itinerary also includes a river cruise in Zambia and a visit to Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The final stop is Botswana, where a safari will take the group to the land where elephants roam. Because this tour sold out very quickly and interest remains high, Africa will most likely be offered every year.
The Bennetts are also happy to customize a tour to meet the exact needs of travelers, whether it’s a church or school group, or family and friends. These specialized tours can be created for groups as small as 10 people. “If our trip offerings don’t meet your needs, we can certainly work with you to create the perfect trip,” says Sarah, who suggests getting started several months in advance to ensure enough time to plan the perfect itinerary and accommodations.
Top photo: Group at the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem
Photo by Sarah Bennett