Anderson University junior youth ministry major Brooke Courtney recently traveled to Israel through DaySpring Baptist Church in Wisconsin. The experience positively reaffirmed her passion for youth ministry.
“I learned so much about God during my visit in the Holy Land,” said Courtney. “I know that the cultural understanding I developed while there will benefit me in my ministry after college.”
Courtney’s passion for religion and history merged during her trip to Israel. The trip allowed her to visually understand the biblical history she studies. Courtney encountered significant places mentioned in the Bible, such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and the Sea of Galilee, during her tour. “Praying and reading my devotional in the Garden of Gethsemane was the most spiritually powerful experience I have had,” said Courtney.
Dr. Merle Strege, professor of historical theology, encourages his students to travel to the Holy Land. “Traveling to actual historical settings in Israel is a wonderful opportunity for students,” said Strege. “The terrain, plant, and animal life — even the angle of the sun — enable students to envision the events and people of biblical times. They are brought to life in a way that film or video cannot capture.”
Strege recalls his trip to Greece and the experience of being in a new country. “Although I had read a number of books and articles on ancient Greece, only during my visit to the country did I fully grasp the politics, warfare, and even agriculture of the Greeks. The same kind of opportunity awaits students who travel in Israel and the surrounding region,” said Strege.
Being in a country with different religious traditions from her own shaped a new perspective for Courtney. “The traditions of both Judaism and Islam have always been interesting to me, but my desire to learn more about them has grown since being surrounded by both during my stay in Israel,” said Courtney.
Although it was not for class credit, the experience taught Courtney a lot about herself, her faith, and the Muslim culture. “I had a discussion with an Israeli man about Bible stories, and I was surprised by how much he knew. He quickly replied, ‘Of course I know the Bible. This is where it all happened, right here in my backyard.’ Right then I realized how unaware I was of the Muslim religion,” said Courtney.
Beyond a new perspective on world religion, Courtney’s trip to Israel gave her a visual stage for the biblical stories she grew up learning. “In the months that I have been home, reading my Bible has been so different because I have a visual of the events,” said Courtney. “The growth I experienced while in the Holy Land will benefit me in ways that I had never imagined. It’s incredible to say that I have been to the places where Jesus walked or stayed.”
— Kristen Schaap is a senior from Chicago, Ill., majoring in communication arts. Schaap is an associate with Fifth Street Communication™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.