Passages Israel Trip Deepens Students’ Understanding of Faith
On May 21-31, 42 King’s students visited Israel through Passages Israel, a grant program in partnership with the Museum of the Bible and the Philos Project.
For many Christians, traveling to the Holy Land is life-changing, giving a sense of physical reality and context to the historical nature of their faith.
That was the experience of the 42 King’s students (41 participants and one who served as a Passages Fellow) who visited Israel from May 21-31, 2018. The trip was made possible through Passages Israel, a grant program in partnership with the Washington D.C.-based Museum of the Bible and the New York City-based Philos Project. Passages Israel is designed to give Christian college students an up-close experience of the ancient places of their faith and a deeper understanding of the modern state of Israel. Two King’s professors, Dr. Anthony Bradley and Dr. Matt Parks, also attended.
“Passages provides an extraordinary experience for King’s students,” Dr. Parks said. “For a very modest price, they get a challenging and rewarding religious and educational experience in Israel. They will never read their Bibles or the headlines from the Middle East the same way again.”
The team visited a number of ancient and modern sites, and delved into a wide range of subjects, from biblical archaeology to contemporary conflict in Israel. Students sat by the Sea of Galilee and discussed Jesus’ teachings in the very places He spoke. They visited the Old City of Jerusalem and saw Hezekiah’s tunnel, mentioned in 2 Kings. They visited the Syrian and Lebanese borders, central to contemporary policy in modern Israel. Throughout the trip, top speakers in Israel joined the team to lecture on Jewish-Christian relations and other topics.
Annie Mae Jones (RTS ’19) traveled to Israel with King’s and Passages last year, and the experience was so profound that she applied again this year. She said, “The trip gave me a better understanding of Judaism and Islam in relation to Christianity,” greatly enhancing her grasp of her major, Religious and Theological Studies. This year, she served as the Passages Fellow, or group leader, to help facilitate the trip for a new group of students. Even on this second visit, she said, “I was surprised at the amount of things I don’t know. Visiting Israel and learning about the biblical and religious context reveals the wide range of history that many Christians are not exposed to.”
The team traveled with a tour guide, Samuel. Several team members said that the guide’s presence on the trip contributed greatly to their experience. “Without Samuel, the sites would have been mere places,” Annie Mae said. “But he brought these sites to life. Not only does he know his facts and Scripture, but he is a practicing Jewish Israeli citizen. This allowed him to give the King’s group a very up-close look into Israeli life and Judaism as a religion.”
Jordan Chin (RTS ’18) also mentioned Samuel in his recap of the trip, calling him “one of the best tour guides in Israel.” Jordan recalls visiting the Banias Falls in Caesarea Philippi, where archaeologists believe Jesus spoke the famous words of Matthew 16, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Jordan said, “It was pretty surreal to see Dr. Bradley point to a single rock under a cavernous mountain enclosure that is symbolic of the rock Jesus meant.”
To help students make the most of their visit to Israel, Passages is structured in three phases, including pre-trip preparation and post-trip engagement. The post-trip engagement options include an essay contest, photo and video platforms, and a course for students like Annie Mae who want to pursue leadership with the Passages Israel trip. For Annie Mae, the best part of the 2018 trip was serving as a leader and making it possible for her fellow students to experience Israel. Over the coming months, King’s students will engage with the trip through blogs, videos, and op-eds. Jordan said, “I always wonder, where is God in the Middle East? This trip really made me realize that He was right there the whole time.”