Saturday, March 22, 2008

January 28, 2008

A "Go with God" moment:

This week we have a guest contributor to the Monday Memo, Christina Tripp. She spent the spring 2007 in Israel, studying at Jerusalem University College. I had coffee with her after she returned and thought you might like to overhear her impressions and the impact a semester abroad had upon her life. Here is her story…

“So what are you going to tell everyone when you get back?” I asked my roommate. “What are you going to say when they ask, ‘How was Israel’?” She paused in her packing, and I just waited. She shrugged. “I don’t know. ‘It was good’? What are you going to say?” I lifted empty palms. “‘It was good. It was hard.’ I don’t know.”
It was and is the hardest question to answer because there is so much to say about what we learned and experienced that semester, and only a limited amount of time to say it in. So the most accurate and concise statement we could think of was, “It was good.” And it was. It was fantastic. I learned more in that semester about life, about family, friends, God, people, and place than I ever have before. But I can only tell you about one of those, so let me tell you about the place – the land.
As students within the Religion Division, we all have learned, or will learn, how to write an exegesis paper. Do you remember the component of historical and cultural studies? Do you remember being told that unless you understand how the people of the Bible understood what was being said to them, you would not understand what the Bible was saying to you? Therefore we studied the history and culture surrounding our text in order to understand the Biblical context in which that passage was written. Let me reinforce what our professors have told us. It’s true. Unless we understand how the people of the Bible understood what was said to them, we have not understood the fullness of what God is saying to us.
For example, my understanding of and respect for a shepherd completely morphed. As a farm girl from northwest WI, and going off those pleasant pictures of lush, flat pastureland from Sunday school curriculum, I thought I knew a thing or two about shepherds. Ha! Let me tell you what I didn’t know. There is no such thing as flat, lush pastureland in Israel – well there is, but not for the shepherds. Flat, lush land is a scarce resource in Israel, and if that land can produce crops to sustain a community, then that community was going to cultivate it. Shepherds were going to have to find somewhere else to feed their flocks. And they did – in the hills. And when I tell you hills, I don’t mean those gentle, rolling ones that burst with wildflowers. These are high hills, rough hills, hills of hard crusty limestone that sustain scraggly patches of vegetation only in the rainy season. When the rainy season stops, those hills dry up and the shepherds have to hunt for vegetation and water if their flocks are going to survive. When I understood how difficult that is, my understanding of the Lord as our Shepherd took on a much fuller appreciation. I got to spend a semester learning this – learning how the land, history and culture of the Bible formed how the people thought. And when I understood how they thought, and how God spoke into those understandings, I found myself awed again and again by the depth, breadth, height and width of the love God has for his people.
I don’t write all of this just to tell you Israel was great. This isn’t just to tell you I had a great time – this is to tell you it changed the way my mind works; it changed the way I read the Bible and the way I understand how God speaks to His people. I could go on and on – and hopefully I’d convince you that you should also study abroad. Israel or elsewhere, you’ll learn there what you can’t learn here – and you’ll never get a better chance to do it. There is much more I could say, and I will if you want to hear more, but for now, this has to be enough. I’ll suffice it to say, “Israel was great. You should go.”

FYI, Professor Brian Bernius will be taking 12 students to study at Jerusalem University College this summer, then they will go to Tel Dan for an archaeological dig. (Prof Bernius has promised some entertaining side trips to fill out the cross-cultural experience). Indiana Wesleyan has several options for Study abroad, beginning with our own campus in Zambia, Africa for the fall 2008. Study Abroad questions can be directed to Dr. Karen Hoffman in Academic Affairs in Jackson Library.

Please show me the vastness of Your Kingdom.
Open my eyes to the wonders of Your Creation
But also to the diversity of Your creatures.
May You provide me with an opportunity to learn these truths in both theory and in practice.
Open my ears to hear the array of languages which bring praise to Your holy name;
Then I may understand how wide and long and high and deep is Your love for this world.
Lord, please speak in bold and life-changing ways to me.

Now, Go with God

There are many joys I have being the Division Chair but nothing compares to announcing the names of students that have been awarded scholarships. This year, the recipients of the Williams Scholarship to Israel are:
1. Joy Cash
2. Brian Bither
3. John Cleghorn
4. Kelsi Adkins

If you see them, congratulate them. They will be traveling with Dr. Williams to Israel this April. Even more so, let’s give thanks to the people who make this and the other scholarships possible. Their sacrifice is our gain. For many students, it is the only way they can afford an IWU education. Ultimately, thanks be to God!

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