February 7, 2023 : By Jacob Couch - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Liberty University’s John W. Rawlings School of Divinity has long offered its students the opportunity to travel to Israel to visit various Holy Land sites that help bring the Bible to life and ground them deeper in their faith.
From Jan. 6-17, School of Divinity Dean Dr. Troy Temple, Associate Dean Dr. Adam McClendon, Professor Eunice Chung, and professor Dr. Kevin King took 56 students and faculty to Israel, where they visited the Sea of Galilee, Megiddo, the Mount of Olives, the Garden Tomb, and the Old City of Jerusalem, among other sites.
“It is a great privilege to walk and study in Israel,” King said. “The Bible really does come alive as we walked where the patriarchs, the apostles, and of course, where our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ walked. Our time was enriched by spending 10 days with the Liberty family who gathered from around the world to take time out of their busy schedules to focus in and on the foundations of our faith.”
The trip began with a morning dedicated to serving the hungry at the Leket Israel Logistics Center, the nation’s leading food rescue organization. The organization collects leftover and donated fruits and vegetables from area events and distributes them to those in need. It also employs workers to glean crops from area farms. Liberty’s team sorted the food at the warehouse.
“We served 3,600 families just by being there that day,” online Master of Divinity student Ashlee Decker said. “The operation is incredible because of how they serve people.”
Decker said it was a wonderful way for the team to get to know one another.
“We were able to form a unique bond right from the beginning by doing that,” she said. “It was cool. Everyone opened up to each other.”
Afterward, the team began consecutive days of sightseeing across much of the country. At each site, a tour guide would speak, and School of Divinity faculty, including Temple, would share their insights on the historical significance of the site to the Christian faith.
Decker said hearing from Liberty faculty and being able to share the experience with fellow believers made the trip much more meaningful and memorable than when she traveled to Israel by herself years ago.
“It was magnificent,” she said. “It was something that I will absolutely never forget. They linked it with application that you can’t get anywhere else. It was priceless.”
“When you go with brothers and sisters in Christ and the Holy Spirit captures you all, you learn so much from each other,” she added. “That is something that I could never have gotten when I (visited Israel) alone.”
Now, since returning to the United States, Decker said that her Bible reading has been enhanced and she has become more engaged and involved at her church in Greensboro, N.C., where she has already sensed a difference in conversation with the youth she teaches.
“Now everything is so much bigger than I could have ever anticipated,” she said. “There’s a completely different confidence in my heart now to say, ‘I know this.’”
Fellow team member and Master of Divinity student Antonio Thomas said the experience has given him energy and encouragement as he pastors in Atlanta.
“Many in the congregation have commented that there is a surcharge in me that they have not seen before,” he said. “And I definitely feel it.”
Thomas is sure that this is largely due to unplugging from the world for 10 days while being surrounded by fellow believers with a similar mindset.
“It has rearranged my priorities,” he said. “It was only 10 days, so it made me think of what would happen if I was to remove myself from worldly things for 30 days.”
The School of Divinity offers trips to Israel every winter. Last month, a team traveled to Rwanda to experience the power of reconciliation after a nationwide genocide in 1994. The School of Divinity will be taking trips to Jordan and Italy during Spring Break and will also be offering a trip to Spain in May. They will also be returning to Israel Jan. 5-16 of next year.