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Changing the Bible from abstract to actual

Views 18 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 9 - 26 - 2019 | By: Neily Green

Studying abroad in Jerusalem during Mayterm

The stars glitter in the stratosphere above, reflecting off the mirror of water below. Wind blows steadily, and all seems to be peaceful ... until it isn’t. Dark clouds billow above and rain pours from the heavens, the tranquility of the Sea of Galilee giving way to the chaos that the disciples experienced thousands of years ago.

The Bible comes to life in this moment, mitigating the helplessness of experiencing the temporal and societal disconnect between the Biblical texts and their readers. To help students overcome the disjuncture of reading the Bible, in recent years Westmont started to offer a unique opportunity to see the Bible become animated in its historical and geographic contexts.
“Before the Jerusalem Mayterm trip, I was struggling with a lot in my personal life. But looking up at the stars on the Sea of Galilee allowed me to see that God is present and powerful enough to help me through everything I was going through,” says Diana Krump, a third-year Westmont student who took a leap of faith in going on the Jerusalem University College Mayterm trip in May 2018.

“Honestly, it wasn’t realistic for me to go on the trip, and I didn’t think it would add up for me to go. However, I decided I had to go, or else I’d be wondering for the rest of my life what it would have been like, and what I would have missed out on,” Krump states. She speaks excitedly about seeing the famous “valley of the shadow of death,” the Judean Wilderness, the bustle of the streets, and the tranquility of the Mediterranean. “The Bible stories all just ... came alive.”

For Professor Richter, the program director of the Jerusalem 2020 trip, this is especially true. Her favorite part is simply watching “when ‘it’ hits. And by ‘it’ I mean that moment when something clicks and ‘Oh-my-goodness, all-this-I’ve-been-taught-was-real’ happens in their faces. Very very cool.” She had that moment herself, the power of it leading her to want to be a part of this experience, so that students could be as “truly transformed” as she was. “Being a part of that in a student’s life, students make that connection, watching a landscape they’ve known all their lives come to life — that is powerful.”
The class, RS-155, fulfills four units of elective Religious Studies credit, and Professor Richter also mentions that she would be “happy to help students petition for historical elective credit as well.” It is also under consideration for common inquiry tags for historical and global perspectives.

Students will primarily stay in the Jerusalem University College just outside of the Old City, with one day each week in the classroom, five days each week in the field, and one day each week for adventures. Lots of time will be spent hiking, going to archaeological sites, and visiting museums and artifacts of Israel’s ancient world.

The cost of the trip, with room/board/tuition, is $3850 plus airfare (which Professor Richter estimates to be at the most $1200). However, there are at least 11 scholarships available for interested students to apply for.

Krump leaves undecided students with a word of advice: “Sometimes it doesn’t make sense and it’s not realistic, but it will change the way that you view the Bible and your faith and the world. Let go of your doubts and just go on the trip!”


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