Unusual Friends of the Holy Land Guru

Fascinating People I have Met Over the Years

Over the years, I have met and journeyed to the Holy Land with some very interesting people that you may have heard about.

Known as the Holy Land Guru as a result of his vaste experience over 46 years of conducting Holy Lnd Tours ever 125 times there

Dr Grant personally escorts groups of friends to the Holy Land annually


#1: I Helped to Kill Bishop James Pike 

During the late 1960’s the most radical and controversial figure in the world of American Christianity was Episcopal Bishop James Pike of the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  My path crossed his briefly in 1969.


A former Roman Catholic in training for the priesthood, a trained attorney, Jim Pike no longer fit the religious restrictions of Catholicism and so he migrated to the Episcopal church which was more tolerant of his controversial views about all things Christian. In short, he was the Bishop Spong of his day for those who recognize the name of episcopal Bishop John Spong of current controversy. I was then a young pastor and recent Fuller Seminary grad and newly involved in arranging Christian travel to the Holy Land which I continue doing to this day as the Holy Land Guru.


Our travel  strategy then was to find famous religious figures, recruit them to provide lectures and then encourage pastors from their denomination to bring people from their churches to travel to the Holy Land. Through this strategy we would gather a large group to travel to the Holy Land with the major figure offering lectures at points along the way. It was a sound strategy and offered many a wonderful journey to the Holy Land. It was this plan that brought me and my colleague in the travel venture, a beautiful Greek lady called Helene, sister of the president of the travel company, to the home of Jim and Diane Pike in the hills of Santa Barbara California in the spring of 1969. We came to recruit Jim Pike to be the focal point around which to create  a large group of people to travel together to the Holy Land later that year or the next.


The setting of the Pike home was informal and friendly and relaxed and Jim (as he insisted upon being called) made us welcome. But there was something about this environment that I just could not put my finger on that was somehow unsettling and weird and yes unclean. I remember driving back to LA after our successful meeting with Jim and having the distinct feeling that I wanted to take a bath. Never happened before or since. And yet I liked him as a person and he was gracious to us without a fault.   But why did I have this strange feeling?


Took a while to discover the reason for that but let’s not  get ahead of the story.


The late Bishop James Pike on the cover of Time Magazine

The late Bishop James Pike on the cover of Time Magazine

Seeing the Pikes had not been to the Holy Land before themselves, we agreed to arrange for them to go there to get acquainted and we provided them with airfare and hotels so they could get comfortable in Israel.  That was the only time I met Jim Pike.   What was he like?


He was a brilliant, warm, chain smoking, alcoholic and very conflicted and complex man, struggling to deal with the recent suicidal death of his son and with his multiple failed marriages along with his doubts about Christianity. Because of his attacks on settled Christian dogma he had recently been threatened with a heresy trial by the Episcopal church before he took leave of his role as bishop of California. It was after this series of events that I crossed paths with Jim. I found him enormously engaging and interesting and a terrific conversationalist.


And so the Pikes, with our help, departed for Israel in September 1969. One ill fated day while there, they decided to try to find a roundabout way from Bethlehem through the wilderness of Judea down to Qumran where the Dead Sea scrolls had been discovered some years earlier. This was an act of foolishness, fatal foolishness as it turned out. The Judaean wilderness is unforgiving and brutal and no place for unprepared travelers. And so on a whim Jim and Diane apparently decided to strike out on their own from Bethlehem heading East in the general direction of the Dead Sea. They had no emergency supplies. As a recall they had a single Coca Cola.


Within hours their car  became stuck and they found themselves stranded. Nobody knew where they were and they were on their own. Pike was still convinced that if he struck out to the East on his own that he would find his way down to Qumran and be able to find help and return to rescue Diane. Diane told him to remain by the car in the shade while she backtracked and went to find help.  When she returned with the help Jim was no where to be found. He had apparently decided to test his theory and struck out on foot down a wadi that it turns out was a dead end.


He never made it. Diane was rescued and Jim’s now mummified body was found at the bottom of a crevice some days later in a remote area nowhere near Qumran. He had fallen and killed himself. He was buried in a cemetery in Jaffa near Tel Aviv. After his death much was written about Jim Pike and it explained to me why I had  felt so uncomfortable and yes even soiled when I emerged from his home in Santa Barbara earlier that year. Having abandoned traditional Christianity, his experimentation took him in many unwholesome directions. Apparently that home had become the place where seances were regularly conducted as he tried to raise the spirit of the dead son and also there was talk of sexual orgies being staged frequently there.  So my instincts were apparently correct. He was a tragic figure that could have been so important to the Kingdom of God had he taken another direction. What a wasted life. So among my many experiences is the realization that I indeed played a part in the death of the infamous Bishop James Pike.


And now, as the famous radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say,  You know the rest of the story.


 #2: Rev. Louis Evans Sr.


In the 1950s and later, Hollywood Presbyterian Church was among the most famous churches in America and was the church frequented by those in the entertainment business that wanted a place to worship. And Rev. Louis Evans Sr. was the pastor who attracted them and reached them. Famous names from Hollywood were often to be found there. His son Louis Evans Jr. even married one of the starlets, Coleen Townsend. Evans Sr. was a big, mans man, with a big voice and a big heart and a man ahead of his times. His sermons found their way onto 12” vinyl  disks and were widely enjoyed across the world. Living in Toronto as a teen I was aware of them and of the famous choir of Hollywood Presbyterian Church. Among his converts was  Dr. Bill Bright who went on to create Campus Crusade for Christ.


Louis Evans Sr.Louis was a traditional manuscript preacher. His sermons would be meticulously researched and written out and then transcribed and presented. He was not much for extemporaneous speaking. And so when I approached him about being the guest speaker when we had a boat load of Presbyterian ministers and their flocks, he was overly diligent about his preparation and labored over it at length. He did not believe me when I told him that if he just cleared his throat the people would rejoice. He was not persuaded.


Marie his bride of many years was a very motherly lady that was so easy to embrace. Both of them were in advanced years. Marie and I and Louis traveled to Greece and Turkey and Israel together where we went by boat and I reveled in their warm friendship. Louis was greatly disturbed by the political situation of the Middle East and sided clearly with the Arab side. We had interesting discussions around that topic as we traveled from port to port. Louis died in 1981 at the ripe age of 84. He was my friend I am happy to be able to say.

#3: Hal Lindsey

Hal Lindsey


The author of the famous best seller of the 1960’s The Late Great Planet Earth, Hal came out of the Campus Crusade for Christ movement. He and I became friends and he traveled to Israel with me on his first venture there. That was his initial introduction to Israel and it sparked an ongoing interest in the Middle East as is evident if you have watched his weekly television show on TBN network. He has since returned to Israel on many occasions. I married he and Kim in Los Angeles.

#4: Dr. Jack Finegan


When I was a student at Fuller one of the standard text books we used was to 2 volume,  Light From the Ancient Near East by Dr. Jack Finegan of the Pacific School of Religion. Little did I suspect that he and I would become friends by traveling together to the Holy Land. Like with Dr. Evans, I also invited Jack to accompany me when we had a boat full of mainline denominational pastors and their people.


jack finegan via holy land guruJack was a Disciples of Christ ordained minister and a gentleman to the finest degree. His

 lectures tended to be somewhat  stuffy and academic in spirit. This was the way  in which  he was most clearly comfortable. His lectures were informative and filled with facts and research and information. He was personally quite reserved and did not seem to have a great sense of humor but focused seriously on the task at hand.


He and his wife were a great couple. About 15 years ago after losing touch we happened upon each other in an airport and he shared the sad news of his wife’s untimely death. I instinctively reached out to give him a hug in response to which he stiffened when it was spontaneously offered. It was hard for him to accept affection in this way. Jack and I shared a common love of sailing. He kept his sailboat on San Francisco bay. A truly great gentleman scholar.

#5: Dr. William LaSor


Bill LaSor was Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Fuller Seminary when I was a student there. His demeanor tended to lean towards downloadthe gruff side. But when I got close to him I found that this was not the real Bill LaSor who was friendly to a fault and great fun to be with abroad. Bill was a highly respected expert on the Dead Sea scrolls and published learned articles on that subject. After I graduated from Fuller our relationship changed from that of a serious demanding professor to a that of warm friend.


I was in his and Betsy’s home in Altadena California on many occasions and had the marvelous experience of traveling with them to the Holy Land on more than one occasion. In addition to his position as a scholar and teacher he was also a Navy Chaplain and my treasured friend.

#6: Dr. George Wood Sr.




Now General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God denomination and a fellow Fuller Seminary graduate, I met George and Jewel, his wife, when he was pastor of a thriving Assemblies church in Newport Beach California. Again it was in the context of presenting lectures abroad that I approached George. We had a boat load of Assemblies of God pastors and people ready to go to the Holy Land and he came along to bring the lectures.


George traveled with me on his first ever journey to the Holy Land and he has since then gone many times as he has risen into the national leadership position of his denomination.