Six members of Bethel College will be embarking on a journey to the country of Israel during the 2016 May term at Bethel College. The trip will consist of five students and will be supervised by Bethel College professor David McCabe, Ph.D.
The trip will be a study abroad opportunity that will provide college credit to students in one of two elective courses (Travel in Biblical Lands or Old Testament Literature). The group will meet for course work from May 9-12, which will provide detailed descriptions of the history and geography of the lands of Israel before they board the plane for departure on May 13.
While in the Middle East until May 27, the Bethel group will see various geographic highlights, including Galilee, Jerusalem and other small regions of Israel. McCabe believes that the group will be intrigued by the spontaneous and delightfully unique opportunity at hand.
“The trip is all about the enriched perspective that the lands provide,” said McCabe. “We get to use all of our senses and fully engulf some of the same paths discussed in the Bible while kicking some of the same desert tumbleweeds.”
Bethel College may only be sending six people on this venture into the Middle East, but the group will partner up and join with 60-70 other participants who will also be exploring Israel through the GTI study tour program. The name of the game for this Bethel group and the rest of the tour participants will most definitely be ‘surprise’ as the participants will keep a fairly sporadic schedule due to the nature of the land.
“Each night we will receive notice from our tour director to read a certain passage for the next day’s hike, which relates to the location we will go,” said McCabe. “They try to keep us on our toes and keep the excitement high by retaining our daily destinations as a surprise.”
One of the program’s main objectives is to be immersed within the Middle Eastern culture while engaging the texts of the Bible within Israel’s geography. Heat and physical exertion will most definitely provide an additional element to this objective, as the group is expected to embark on daily hikes that average between five and eight miles, all in the average 70 to over 100 degree heat of Israeli deserts.
Bethel College alumnus, and current director of Semester Abroad and Task Force at Bethel College, Laura Winningham believes that this study program is truly a once in a lifetime experience.
“Experiential learning is absolutely pivotal for these students,” said Winningham, “by embarking into the lands of Israel and the Middle East, they will have a great opportunity to see scripture in a brand new way.”
Winningham also was a member of the 2014 group of Bethel students that was able to journey to Israel and Jordan.
One of the participants in this year’s Israelian study program is Bethel College sophomore, Trisha Cousino. In an era that often sees the Middle East as a hostile environment that can be unsafe, Cousino believes that her focus on the opportunity at hand will not be shaken.
“People often view the areas that we are going to as frightening and I’ve definitely had people try to think twice about going,” said Cousino, “When it comes down to it, I’m just incredibly excited to see these biblical lands and have scripture come to life in a brand new way.”
Cousino believes that the 2016 trip to Israel will not only provide an incredible experience for her and the rest of the Bethel group, but also the people of Israel they comes in contact with.
“Our group may not being going exclusively on this trip with the desire for ministry, but I believe that being respectful and courteous to the people we meet will have lasting impacts,” said Cousino.
Cousino, understandably, has had some initial hesitations as the time approaches for the group to embark upon this journey overseas and into the lands of the Bible.
“The hiking that we will have to do is no joke and I think it will definitely test us physically,” said Cousino, “beyond the physical elements though, I believe that the trip will provide a great challenge in embracing and taking in the culture of Israel.”
A long-term goal for the trip is the possibility of making the study abroad opportunity to Israel more than just a random trip taken sporadically, but instead a more regular occurrence. This trip will mark the second time Bethel has gone to Israel since 2014, and McCabe hopes that it will most certainly not be the last time.
“I hope the trip will create a spark on this campus that creates widespread awareness and desire to keep this tradition of exploring biblical lands,” said McCabe, “This is exactly the type of thing that institutions like [Bethel College] were created for and it’s such an incredible opportunity to breathe in these lands.”