We are at the halfway point of our study tour, having yesterday wrapped up our touring in Greece. Today is a travel day and tomorrow we are taking a day to play on the island of Samos before we sail for Turkey. I think a reflection on its value is appropriate.
I’ve seen benefits of the study tour that go well beyond educational outcomes. Of course we’re all learning so much about the world of Paul and John—even the professors. We’re walking on the roads that Paul himself had traveled two millennium ago. A study tour makes the world of the Bible come alive. The experience of seeing for oneself the geography, distances between places, city layout and architecture, entertainment venues and numerous temples (Corinth alone boasts of nearly 60), gives one a tangible historical perspective on the accounts and correspondences that comprise the New Testament. As important as that element is, I also see a more crucial facet to a study tour in the Bible lands.
The journey the group takes together creates a spiritual experience that few other environments can create, even mission trips. Students are finding Gospel purpose. They are tackling doubts about faith and asking hard questions. They are dealing with insecurities and facing fears. To me, this aspect of the journey is by far the most exciting. Every night we gather together and have a meeting to debrief on the day’s activities and experiences. These meetings are becoming deep wells of relationship as students open up their lives to God and to each other. What is so thrilling is to see students’ life paths being altered because of this excursion.
Someone may wonder if it is worth the investment. Of course there are an innumerable number of important causes into which one can and should invest resources. I happen to think more than ever that participation in a study tour of Bible lands is one of these things.