JOPLIN, Mo. —
Nuclear threats between Israel and Iran don’t deter Roger Gladden, president of Christians for World Peace. In light of increased tension over the possibility of a nuclear war between Israel and Iran, travelers to the Holy Land this year may have felt more uneasy than normal. Gladden is no exception.
Gladden, a former executive with Leggett & Platt, Inc., of Carthage, recently visited the CWP-supported ministries in Israel, and was happy to have completed his mission. But he was just as happy for a safe return home.
The Joplin man ranked his latest trip as one of the three most tense environments he has experienced while traveling on behalf of the not-for-profit ministry he founded 16 years ago. CWP works to promote peace through Christ’s teachings.
With Israel on alert over the nuclear threat from Iran, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, D.C., discussing the issue, Gladden easily could have had second thoughts over the timing of his visit last March.
“When I got there, it was kind of bubbling as to whether Israel was going to go ahead and attack Iran,” said Gladden, who added that he has always felt the presence and protection of the Holy Spirit and Jesus on his missions. “If this had sparked while I was there, I got the impression from the people I was visiting that there would have been a very quick retaliation.”
As difficult as it was, he said he tried to block the distractions from his mind as he called on CWP ministries and attended meetings. With hardly enough time to pause and catch his breath, Gladden said he did not take time to reflect on the Israel-Iran situation until he was reminded of it when reading newspaper headlines.
Even though he has made an estimated 20 trips to the Holy Land, Gladden said he gambles on his safety every time he travels.
“You just don’t know,” he said. “I was there one time when the Lebanese war started. It really got bad, and that was the day I left. I don’t know how many times I was there and just leaving when something terrible would happen.”
Gladden said it wasn’t uncommon during conflicts for most of the Israeli men to be headed into the midst of the battle while he was going the other way. The majority of men in Israel are in the military until they are 45. When regional tensions flair, the men put their military uniforms on and answer the call -- they are automatically set for active duty.
Even though a sense of danger is often in the air or suggested over the airwaves, most people don’t seem to be frightened, Gladden said.
“You sense that the Jewish people have accepted the fact that their lives will be threatened some time during their time on earth,” he said. “So it is like they have drawn this little line and block it all out and then go on with life, just like we do. They go to soda shops, out to exercise, attend sports activities, etc. You wouldn’t know they have a care in the world.”
Gladden refers to today’s young, tech-oriented generation as an example. He said that although they aren’t part of the Holocaust generation, they share historical perspective with those from the past.
Gladden rates an experience he had in 2003 as the scariest and most intense. He said he could hear bombs falling all around him while in his hotel room in Jerusalem. Even at 11 p.m., he said he could see helicopters and emergency vehicles coming from every direction.
One thing Gladden always keeps in mind is an adequate escape route, which he has memorized. Knowing the directions to take if something serious happened, he said he would get into his rental car and drive.
“All you have to do is grab what you need from your hotel, grab your passport and exit at the nearest border,” he said. “If you were exiting Israel, you would go toward the Dead Sea so there would be a way out. You would not want to go to Tel Aviv because that would be a major target, since that is where the airport is.”
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email richbrown@ cableone.net.