This May, students from Providence Christian College in Pasadena will be traveling for May Term abroad to see with their own eyes what they have been studying in their Biblical and Theological Studies classes – the Holy Land.
The majority of the 13 students are from Southern California but will make Israel their classroom from May 9 through May 24. Their journey of discovery will take them from the modern cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa to Jerusalem, the ancient Roman city of Caesarea to important biblical villages around the Sea of Galilee, and on a Dead Sea excursion to Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
The trip is part of Providence’s signature Avodah program. Usually, the program focuses on different cultures and cultural expressions in and around Los Angeles or Mexico. Once a year though, students go on an immersion study out of the country. Past trips have included Cambodia, Jamaica, Belize, and Italy.
As the only Reformed Christian College on the west coast, Biblical and Theological Studies Professor Dr. Scott Swanson believes these hands-on experiences at Providence are vital to fulfilling the college’s mission and equipping students to live and serve effectively in a diverse world.
“The Bible cannot be understood without understanding the Land of the Bible. And the more one grasps the historical geography of the Land, the more one can enter into its story and message. Bible places and landscapes come alive and archaeological study recreates and confirms much of what we know of biblical history,” explains Dr. Swanson.
“But the Bible also compels us to understand and care about the peoples of the Land and their history, society, and current problems. And so we learn about the modern state of Israel and its inhabitants, both Jewish people and Arab Palestinian people. We listen to dueling perspectives on the conflict, and attempt to think through the issues according to biblical principles of justice and mercy.”
According to Max Belz, Director of Experiential Learning at Providence, it’s about more than class credits as students make memories when their curriculum comes alive in churches, holy sites, museums, parks, and archeological digs.
“The desired outcome is that the students will also learn to engage the competing perspectives on the modern day conflicts of the region with understanding and compassion,” adds Belz.
During the trip, the students are required to keep a daily travel journal as part of their final grade to focus and elaborate on the places and people they meet along with the higher purpose.
According to Belz, the students will experience ancient history as they drive through the desert to Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley, visit the Temple Mount and City of David excavations in Jerusalem, and attend a Shabbat service at the Jerusalem Assembly. The students will venture from the Valley of Elah where David defeated Goliath to Mt. Bental, the highest point in the Golan Heights with a view into Syria.
Dr. Swanson added that his preferred outcome is for the students to appreciate the diverse culture and peoples of the land and “accept responsibility to pray for the welfare of these peoples and to work for justice, mercy, and peace there even as we pursue our callings here.”