For many students, summer is a time of rest, recuperation and relaxation. However, for 41 students from Regent University — nearly all of whom are students in the School of Divinity’s (SOD) master’s and doctoral programs — it’s been one of travel, exploration, and education in a place filled with historical and archeological significance for Christians everywhere: Israel.
Passages — an organization that “offers Christian college students with leadership potential a fresh and innovative approach to experiencing the Holy Land” — hosted the trip.
“The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures are rooted in the land of Israel,” said SOD Dean Corné Bekker, D.Litt. et Phil. “We believe that any serious student of the Bible must make a visit to the land of Israel a priority.”
“The students were up early visiting sites,” said Carrie Wood, a SOD Ph.D. candidate who Bekker asked to lead the trip. “The experience was delightful as I watched students engage with the land and space for the first time and experience an aspect of study of Scripture which is priceless.”
Locations students visited included Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Sea of Galilee, the Valley of Elah (where David defeated Goliath,) Bethlehem — the City of David — Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
The highlight for many of the students came when two households of Orthodox Jewish families hosted them for a Friday evening Shabbat meal — a “Shabbat of a lifetime,” according to Woods.
“Our hosts were thoughtful, engaging and friendly,” she said.
Nate Phipps ’21 (SBL), one of the students on the trip and an employee in Regent’s admissions department, expressed thankfulness for the opportunity to be part of such an immersive experience.
“I have long wanted to travel to Israel … I experienced Israel as a modern state with hospitable people and amazing food,” he said. “God drew me further into a calling that involves Israel, Jewish-Christian relations and the Jewish people.”
This wasn’t Woods’ first time in the Holy Land. She’s spent time in the nation studying with other scholars. In 2018, she participated in an archeological excavation of El-Araj — the possible location of Bethsaida.
However, for her, this trip was unique. Aside from their numerous site visits, she and the students received an introduction to contemporary issues, needs, issues, and conversations from various political voices.
“My experiences in the land have birthed a passion for studying Scripture in a dimensional aspect and encouraging [other] disciples to fully immerse themselves in their study of Scripture,” she said.
“My goal was to have the students immerse into the historical, cultural and spatial dimensions of Scripture,” said Wood. “I believe every School of Divinity student should experience a trip to Israel as they prepare for their various ministries.”