Katie began traveling to the Holy Land nearly thirteen years ago on a pilgrimage similar to the ones she now leads. She quickly caught the bug and returned every summer to live and serve in Bethlehem in the West Bank. She lived with Palestinian Christian families, taught music to local children, spent a summer living with nuns and serving people with special needs, and studied Arabic, the local language in Bethlehem. While she was there, she watched thousands of groups traverse through Bethlehem, passing by the local population and spending only an afternoon in the West Bank. She had the unique opportunity to sit in the homes of the local people and discuss this phenomenon with them. The message was always the same: They wished that groups would get to know them, that travelers would listen to their stories, and that pilgrims would stay in Bethlehem longer. Local Arab Christians were among the most hurt, as they felt that international Christians were ignoring them, seeking to step on the holy stones, but not caring about the living stones. These conversations planted the seed for Katie's future pilgrimages over to the Holy Land.
Katie moved to Chicago to study Music and Middle Eastern Studies, gathering as much information as she could about the people groups living in the Holy Land, the history of the area and the current political climate. At the same time she began her career in liturgical church music, leading as an instrumentalist and vocalist. The more she studied Jesus, the more convinced she was that Jesus cares deeply about PEOPLE. And it was in this understanding that she decided to join in this mission of connecting unlikely groups of people together through the avenue of pilgrimage.
Katie is convinced that 99% of Holy Land pilgrimage trips are not doing justice to the local, indigenous population and is determined to provide an alternate path for Americans to travel ethically and respectfully. She wants to give back to the local people who showed her such overwhelming hospitality in her summers living there by responding to their requests for groups to spend time with the local population, humbly learning from them and spending more time in areas where most groups ignore.
Katie uses her professional skills as a musician to add another special layer to her pilgrimages. Catholics get to experience a full Mass including music with a trained liturgical musician. Protestants get to worship at every site, singing praise songs on the Sea of Galilee and worship music at the Jordan River. And Katie adjusts the music to incorporate the most popular songs of the church with whom she is leading.
One favorite memory Katie has is when she led a group down to the place of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem during peak tourist season. An angry security guard was counting the seconds that each person spent (only 3 seconds!) in prayer and then asking them angrily to move on. Katie pled in Arabic for him to give the group more time but he would not budge. Finally, she began to lead the group in Christmas carols and the tone in the room shifted. The man, with tears in his eyes, began to soften, allowing the group to spend as long as they wanted. By the end of the night, he was asking them to stay, just so he could listen to the music.
Katie lives in San Diego with her husband, Patrick, and her dog, Milo. She organizes her days around sunset time, making sure she and her husband can walk to the beach to catch it each night. She also runs an organization of people who help to tangibly welcome thousands of Middle Eastern refugees to San Diego. You can find her driving a minivan full of couches with a mattress strapped to the top flapping in the wind down the freeway. In addition to her studies in Arabic, she is currently learning Farsi, to help aid her in warmly welcoming refugees from Afghanistan who have served the American military overseas. And finally, she loves some southern white queso dip. If any one finds some in SoCal, she'd appreciate the heads up.