An Open Letter to Those Who Say, “NO! DON’T GO THERE!”

Antarctica, explore, faith, family, Foreign Language, travel, worldview


As I continue to get messages and replies, I have been released from On High to share my sentiments on Israel, Palestine and beyond.

An open letter to those who say,



Thank you so much for your comment. I am incredibly pleased to hear from you. The gift of this educational tour is to see the conglomeration of the bitter and beautiful. The goal of Passages Israel and COGIC World Missions is to provide an authentic experience of Israel.

Although much that I’ve experienced has been magnificently overwhelming because of the Biblical historical context while visiting, I’ve also witnessed heart wrenching facts right before my eyes and observed the misery that many endure. I’ve touched these people and walked on their grounds in their community.

This is certainly a place to tour. 

If one relies solely on others’ experiences and does not take advantage of placing their feet on the ground to get an accurate pulse of the place, they are undoubtedly doing themselves a disservice. This is compulsory for all who have an opinion about any place. If they have relied solely on the sore spots, they haven’t served themselves well. If they rely solely on the sweet spots, they have not served themselves well. If they are favored with the opportunity to be fully present and witness the struggles and the strengths of the place, then they are still only getting a glimpse or a sliver of the full story.

Some have only seen the flowers, but have never seen the fire. Some have only seen the missiles, but have never seen the mountains. Some have only seen the terror, but have never seen the triumph. All must be seen. All must be heard. The sorrow is that we will never see it all.

Even last night we had a journalist come and speak before over 400 of us regarding the Ethiopian Jews and the similar struggle with Black Lives Matter, but in Israel!

I have explored seven continents, and the story is always the same. It’s told with different accents and with a vast range of backgrounds and textures, but the core is always the same.

Each and every place is a beautiful rose with many thorns.

Each individual is a beautiful rose with many thorns.

I don’t discredit the beauty of a country because of its thorns. I don’t discredit the brutality of a country because of its beautiful petals. That’s unjust. It’s inaccurate and sorely jaded, vexing, and foul.

Many were disgusted, afraid, and fearful as I trekked along my journey, especially in the Middle East. Many who bore those sentiments experienced only one side or perhaps their readings, research, and reasoning led them to share in that manner.

I have yet to process all of the beauty and bitterness of my first trip abroad to the U.K. and that was in 2011. I have yet to process all of the beauty and bitterness from China and that was 2012-2013. I have yet to process what happened with all the beauty and bitterness during the year that I taught in Saudi Arabia and that was 2014-2015. And finally, as an American, I am still trying to process all of beauty and bitterness I’ve experienced since I was a child.

These things take time. Thousands of years, to be precise. This I know to be true: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto ALL men…” #Gal6v10

Feelings, friendships, and fouls are fleeting. News comes and goes at such a rapid pace, it is challenging, to say the least, to articulate a well-rounded pulse on any situation.

It’s a slippery slope for me to look at one nation, one city, and one region and cancel them out because of the devastating brutality of a section of the people.

After listening to some Israeli soldiers yesterday, who were actually American born, I was able to understand what the enemy actually is. In the past I would look at countries and discern if they were allies or advocates of each other.

During our session yesterday, I was enlightened by a soldier that the enemy should not deal with race, it should not deal with gender, it should not deal with religion, but the enemy is the following:

One who has

the will,

the desire,

the intent,

and the means for destruction, devastation, and harm.

If I, an African-American Christian am judged based off of the 45th President’s stance on all matters and based off of all of his decisions, that would be a terrible misjudgment. He is who he is. I am who I am.

There is bitter beauty in asking, “What’s the full story on this? What’s my responsibility regarding this?” The answers to these questions are unending.

I am yet in search for more understanding of the full story in every land, especially this one. The truth is beautifully bitter. It’s staggeringly sober. It’s violently vivid.

I have never cried so many tears of joy followed by sorrowful weeping in any country other than Israel.

I’ve never been welcomed into the parliament and in the same week visited Kibbutz where bombs and missiles had the capacity of launching while I stood on the grounds with the aroma of the last blast angrily seeping through. Tragedy and triumph have gone hand in hand in just a little more than a week.

So as I hear your heart as you write, I pray that you will hear mine. I pray not only for Israel, but for Palestine. I pray for peace. I pray for more hope. I pray that the soldiers that I hugged and met yesterday will continue to serve in the highest level of decency of morality as possible. I pray for what their eyes have seen and what their hands will do.

I pray that my life will forever be Christ-centered and love-based. I’m grateful that I got to walk on the land where my Savior bled and died only to be just feet away from where a Palestinian killed an Israeli solider who I possibly passed earlier that day. Her blood still cries out for peace along with those Palestinians and Israelis who are in a brutal battle that is much higher than ethnicity, religion, race, gender, or even land. It’s so much more than flesh and blood. I see this here. It’s a spiritual matter that requires a sober spirit to listen deeply and learn quickly.

I must increase the rate in which I process this information so that I can be part of the change within myself, at home, and abroad.

I must reflect on this Word, “To whom much is given, much is required.” There is a sense of a greater responsibility that has been heavily draped on my shoulders. There is an innumerable amount of takeaways from this educational tour. The eyes of the Palestinians and Israelis that I looked into and the hands of the people that I touched brings me to my knees. I praise God for this heritage-filled trip. These are my people. This is our blood. Here lies the Spirit of God. His presence is yet here. His anger is here as well. Both reside in the same neighborhood.

As I return to my home, the commission is great, indeed. I see that clearly; living it out is not easy, but it is always worth it.

May you continue to carry the burdens and callings of your heart with grace, mercy, and love. I will continue to carry out mine.


Karissa Denae Johnson

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Those Who Say, “NO! DON’T GO THERE!”

    1. Thank you so much, sissy!!! If you’ll allow me, I’d love for you to be a guest writer for my blog and share your experience. 500 words or less and as many pictures and videos as you’d like!


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