|Mat Staver (front left), vice president and dean of Liberty University School of Law; Cesar Fleitas (’08), Liberty University Online graduate and Garden Tomb guide; Shawn Akers, dean of Liberty’s Helms School of Government; and Rena Lindevaldsen, associate professor of law and associate dean of academic affairs for the law school pose with a group of Liberty students at the Garden Tomb during the School of Law’s annual Israel study abroad trip.|
Alumnus Cesar Fleitas (’08) has had a desire to minister in Israel for as long as he can remember. In 2007, he visited Jerusalem for the first time. He said it was a turning point in his life — he felt right at home, an affirmation of his calling. He would visit the Holy Land twice more in 2010, the second time to stay for good.
Fleitas is a native of Paraguay and grew up in a Jewish community there. He came to the United States to study at Word of Life (WOL) Bible Institute, then completed his B.S. in Religion through Liberty University Online while interning for WOL.
He is now immersed in ministry in Jerusalem. Through his local church he works with young adults, youth, and teens; he teaches Bible study and disciples other believers. He also works full time as a tour guide at the Garden Tomb, which many believe could be the garden of Joseph of Arimathea, who Scriptures say donated his own prepared tomb for Jesus’ burial. Fleitas finds the job rewarding and enjoys the unique opportunity to share the Gospel with people from many nations and faiths.
“The Garden Tomb is one of the few places you can hear the Gospel in a touristic place here in Israel,” Fleitas said. “It is a huge blessing and a wonderful opportunity to share the Gospel with people from all over the world, from all religious backgrounds.”
The experience is like “a little piece of heaven,” he said.
“You get to meet people from all over the world, many of them are born-again believers. You get to hear many people singing many of the same songs we sing in church in many languages.”
“To give a tour to people from Liberty, it was a huge blessing,” Fleitas said. “(Liberty) played a huge role in my education. To me, all of those experiences, the training that I got from both Word of Life and Liberty, they still play an important role in the ministry that I am doing here in Israel, both at the Garden Tomb and at my local church here in Jerusalem.”
Mat Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law, led the trip. He has been to Israel many times and said visiting the Garden Tomb is “a moving experience.” When he learned Fleitas was a Liberty graduate, he was “pleasantly surprised and very pleased.”
“Cesar did an exceptional job explaining the Garden Tomb and sharing with our Liberty group the last hours of the earthly life of Jesus Christ. I am always amazed at the impact Liberty graduates are making around the world. Every day Cesar shares the Gospel with people from around the world, he is one of our many Champions for Christ.”
Fleitas gives tours in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. He is the Garden Tomb’s first Spanish-speaking guide. Before, the English-owned site only offered tours in English. As a bilingual speaker, Fleitas’ services came in handy. In February 2011 he was able to guide a group of Chilean miners who visited the Holy Land following the 2010 tragedy in which 33 miners were trapped underground after a cave-in. All 33 men were rescued after surviving underground for 69 days. Israel’s Tourism Ministry invited the miners on an eight-day spiritual pilgrimage. Twenty-three took the trip.
He said the tomb now has other bilingual guides, predominantly Portuguese-speaking as many Brazilians have been visiting Israel lately.
As Fleitas continues to serve the Lord in Israel, he hopes to help grow the born-again community in Jerusalem by translating Bible study and discipleship materials into Hebrew.
The Garden Tomb is located in East Jerusalem, which Fleitas said is the most fought over piece of land in the world.
“Peace can be volatile here in Israel,” he said. “I believe that God placed the Garden Tomb (in East Jerusalem) for a reason, to be a light in one of the most difficult places.”