Israel Study Tour Wrap-Up

It’s been just over two weeks since they returned from a ten-day College-Age Study Tour in Israel, and the college students and young adults who participated in this adventure of a lifetime have been processing what they learned and how God impacted them on this trip. In their own words, here is how God has already used this incredible experience in their lives:

“I’ve been asked by many, ‘How was Israel?,’ ‘What did you learn?,’ ‘What was your favorite part?.’ These questions are hard to answer. Why? Because explaining and recalling the depth of information that our brains took in while we were in the Holy Land is nearly impossible. All I can say is, ‘It was awesome.’ The overarching concept that I learned was that Jesus was real, is real, and will always be real. Seeing where he walked, learning how he made disciples, and seeing Scripture come to life solidified who I know Jesus is. He was a REAL human, his ways were perfect even in a sinful world, and he can relate to our hearts on an extremely personal level. The details in Scripture prove that the Lord is trustworthy, faithful, and sovereign. After this trip I am encouraged by the new friends I made, empowered by the new way I see Scripture, and refreshed by knowing that God is sovereign over all. I was beyond blessed by this opportunity, and I pray that the Lord continues to teach me (and the 70 others who were on this adventure), not only the details of Scripture but who he is and who he is calling me to be.”

—Jenna Rueff

“It has been difficult for me to simply answer the question ‘How was your trip?’ in the days following our return from Israel. Caesarea Maritime, Nazareth Precipice, Mount Arbel, En Gedi, Wadi Quelt, the Temple Mount, the Garden Tomb…these are just a few of the sites where the richness of historical knowledge, archeological discoveries, cultural significance, and beauty of the scenes left me awestruck and in wonder. For me, our trip was so much more than just a study tour and a nice break from school that happened to feature incredibly scenic landscapes. My adventures in Israel truly reawakened a longing in my heart for what I have desired to experience in the past but what has been partially veiled for some time: a daily passion for the Holy Spirit to fill my life and to empower me to fully live as God has created me to live.

As we traveled from site to site, from Galilee to the Dead Sea and on to Jerusalem, as we followed Jesus’ life and ministry from His baptism to his death and resurrection, the Spirit worked through the journey to help me contemplate what it really meant for Jesus to submit to the Father in everything and how He demonstrated what it means to be fully human and to truly live as God created man to be. Throughout the week, these realizations became more salient in my mind, as the significance of these weighty implications spoke to me on a personal level. As a whole, my Israel experience was immensely worshipful and was a catalyst for a spiritual renewal of sorts in my life. By the grace of God, the impact of our trip, which the Spirit is using to transform my heart and mind and to equip me for future ministry, will have everlasting implications!”

—Nate Andrew

“Ahead of the trip, I imagined the desolate desert lands of Israel. In my mind’s eyes, I saw Jesus in the wilderness and pictured the Israelites wandering in unthinkable heat. But as our plane descended and our 26 hour travel journey came to an end— I was truly blown away. I saw green.

From Mount Arbel (in the north of the country) we saw Capernaum; the seaside town that would catalyze Jesus’ ministry. Shrouded in forestry, we saw Magdala; the hometown of Mary Magdalene. And in all its majesty, we saw the Sea of Galilee, a seemingly small blue lake in the middle of it all.

Israel is not only home to the southern, arid lands through which the prophets journeyed. It is also home of fisherman, farmers, and fertile lands. Jesus chose the most vibrant lands to make Himself known.

En Gedi (perhaps the most memorable of all the places we visited) was a great reminder of this. It’s an oasis, situated in the middle of the desert. As we wandered the grounds where David wrote many of the Psalms, I couldn’t help but think of God’s promises of Streams in the Desert (Psalm 78). It was here where David sought refuge from Saul, and come to experience an unthinkable friendship with Jonathan.

Sometimes it seems that much of life is lived in barren lands—whether it’s an exhausting job, a tiresome family situation, or dreams long deferred. However we can learn from the oasis that comfort lies just beyond the calamity, and peace comes after the pilgrimage. Through it all, God is present in our midst; offering us refuge.

I have seen streams in the desert. And the promises of them ring true in our everyday life. The promised land is ahead; so I thank him for the desert. For it is there that we see wisdom, we hear from our Father, and we truly grow to appreciate that He is with us through it all.

—Rachel Harris

“For the first time, I feel like I fully grasped the depth of God’s love for me. You learn in church that His love is eternal, unconditional, and so much more. But do you truly comprehend that, or do you just hear it? It wasn’t until I was walking where Jesus walked that I felt the true love of God in its fullness. I was overwhelmed with God’s love and I still am today.

As I stood where the Israelites reached the promised land, where Abraham offered Isaac, where David defeated Goliath, where Jesus healed the demoniac, where he sent out his disciples on mission, where he was crucified and resurrected, ‘unconditional’ and ‘eternal’ took on a whole new meaning. This love was tangible, engulfing me. It’s the kind of love that is limitless. You can’t lose it or run away from it. It never leaves, and it only grows. Never in your life will you experience this kind of love apart from the Father. When He has your WHOLE heart everything changes. In 20 more years, I hope I look back on this moment and see that God’s love continued to reveal itself to me in new ways and continued to grow, molding my heart. I hope I understand it in a way I can’t even begin to fathom at this moment. I pray that 20, 30, 50 years from now, that love is pouring out of my heart every single day, giving people just a taste of the true love they can find when they give their whole hearts to God.”

—Emilee Flispart

“Going into Israel I knew I would learn a lot. Everyone told me I’d come back a changed person—but I didn’t know God was going to reveal what he did to me, on the level he did. The first day there I prayed and asked God to open my heart during the trip and be as vivid and as blunt as possible when placing things on my heart. Boy…did God hear that prayer and answer. Each day and night God placed something new on my heart. Through worship and tears I could hear God telling me what I needed to work on, change in my life and new, bold moves that needed to be made. Coming home, I see everything with a new set of eyes and a new heart. I can’t help but smile when I read the Word now. My heart has forever been changed.

—Bryce Phillips

“It was the little things on this trip for me. Someone pointed out that Jesus was a tekton or ‘builder’ and I already knew that, so I was prepared to zone out—but then they said that he would have worked with and lifted heavy rocks all day so he was probably pretty strong. All of a sudden the whole picture in my head of Jesus changed. I spent the rest of the trip continually revising the Jesus I had come up with in my head. He was much more human than I ever gave him credit for—but that makes what he did in his life, death, and resurrection that much more important for me. He laughed, he cried, he had emotion, he grew up and learned new things. All of the little things about Jesus that I never bothered to think about or question started to come together for the first time and it was like switching from black and white into color. And now it’s all more beautiful and none of it will ever be the same.”

—Katelyn Essex

“Although we want to, it’s difficult to fully capture a moment experienced. It’s hard to fully lock in every smell, sound, and view into our memory. In fact, we really only take in about 50% of what we see and hear. I wish I could perfectly replay every moment of my unforgettable trip to Israel. There are a few things, though, that I know I will never forget.

Lord, don’t let me forget.

Don’t let me forget sitting at the Southern Steps. Don’t let me forget the sound of the Muslim Call to Prayer as we sat together in community praying for hearts to be softened and transformed. Don’t allow my appreciation for your Holy Spirit and your Son to ever fade out of my heart. Don’t let me forget standing in front of the Western Wall with my closest friends praying for your children to know your Son. Don’t let me forget sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane, having a sweet conversation with you, nothing like the one our Jesus had to have in the same location. Don’t let me forget the beautiful dialogue we had through worship on the Sea of Galilee in the pouring rain. Don’t let me forget the truth poured out by you through each leader placed on our trip. Don’t let me forget your rich history constantly being revealed and discovered in Israel, making your name stronger and louder to the world.

Please don’t allow these memories to fade, Father.”

—Katherine Thacker

If you want to learn more about this trip, join us for Discover Israel on Friday, January 27 at 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Café 920 (Blankenbaker Campus).