Lois Norbie of Willmar taught Sunday school at her church for years. As she would recite the well-known Bible stories to her students -- the birth of Jesus, the Last Supper, the Resurrection -- she would dream of traveling to Israel and seeing the site of those biblical events for herself.
This year, she made that dream a reality.
She and her grandson Nick Norbie made the "spontaneous" decision to travel to Israel at the end of February. They had been contemplating the trip for years, and Lois said she didn't want to wait any longer.
"I'm 83 years old," said Lois. "I figured that if I was going to go, I had to go soon. This was the dream of a lifetime for me."
The two made quite the pair traveling across Israel. Lois is 4-foot 11, and Nick is 6-foot 7. While visiting high-trafficked tourist areas, Lois said Nick acted as her bodyguard. She would hold onto one of his jean buckles with her thumb, and he would lead her through the crowds of people.
"I felt very safe the whole time," Lois said. "It's a different world over there, but I never felt nervous or in any danger. Everyone was very cordial and very friendly."
The two spent 10 days traveling across Israel with a tour group. One of the biggest cultural differences, they both agreed, was the food. In Israel, the diet consists mainly of salads, fruits, pitas and hummus -- with very few fast food restaurants anywhere.
"I only saw one McDonald's the whole time we were there," Nick said. "They have salads for breakfast and all sorts of fresh fruit and vegetables all the time. They hardly eat any meat. I felt very healthy over there."
While intrigued by cultural differences, their devout Christian faith was the main reason they wanted to see Israel. Nick, who lives in Farmington, is currently in the seminary at Crown College and works at a church outside of Lakeville. Lois has been active in her Baptist church for many years.
The trip did not disappoint them. Lois said she felt very spiritually connected while over there, and even experienced what she describes as "heaven coming down."
"When we were at the Jordan River, we saw 12 or 14 people being baptized," Lois said. "In the Bible, it says when John baptized Jesus, a dove came down and settled on him. While this baptism was going on, I looked up and saw there were several doves circling around the people being baptized. That just gave me shivers. It really touched me."
Nick and Lois also saw the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Beatitudes and the Sea of Galilee. At the Sea of Galilee, "you could almost see Jesus going around healing people," Lois said.
"I felt more in touch with the natural sights," Nick said. "As I read through the New Testament, it is so specific to where these spots were. That was the whole reason I wanted to go to Israel. I wanted to walk in the footsteps of Jesus."
Now that they've been home for a while, Nick and Lois said they've had a chance to fully digest what they saw and the meaning of it. Lois, who at 83 was the oldest person in the tour group, said she would go again if given the chance. By the end of the trip, she had proved to everyone that age really is just a number.
"She kept up better than I anticipated," Nick said with a smile. "She was a trooper."
"They didn't think I was going to make it, but I did," Lois said. "At 83, I don't think I did too bad."