Since he was a freshman at Southeastern, Lance Hurst had heard other students passionately share how studying in Jerusalem had changed their lives. He finally made the trip as a senior in the fall of 2010 and said that the Bible came alive during his five weeks in Israel.
“The Bible is not just words on a page but also pictures in my mind,” Hurst said after the trip.
One of Hurst’s most vivid memories was the Jewish recognition of the Sabbath – or Shabbat in Hebrew – each week. He said it was amazing to see the entire nation shut down on Friday nights and all day Saturday, and it gave him and his classmates needed time to recharge and reflect. The trip also changed his view of the Old Testament.
“Israel gives you a picture of the whole Old Testament,” he said. “You get to see how we fit in the story.”
Sarah Allen learned more in her five weeks in Israel than the rest of her time in college combined. Allen, a communications major who traveled as a junior in 2010, said her perception of the Jewish people changed dramatically while in Jerusalem.
“The trip really opened my eyes,” she said. “I saw the joy of the Jewish people, who have a gift for celebration.”
Allen knew about the persecution Jews have faced throughout history, from the exodus to Babylon to the Holocaust to persistent threats from Iran and other nations. Their ability to celebrate in the midst of those trials amazed her through the interactions she had with people in markets, at holy sites, and in worship. The trip gave her a greater interest in missions work, and she believes students shouldn’t pass up the chance the study in Israel.
“It will be the best semester of your college career,” she said.
Not only did Emily Miller get to walk where Jesus walked during her studies in Israel, but she was also baptized where Jesus was baptized. Miller was baptized in the Jordan River, an opportunity available to all Southeastern students who study in the Holy Land. It was all part of a learning experience she described as “way more than a textbook.”
She and her classmates had many incredible experiences together, but one of her favorites came on a camping trip near the Dead Sea. They spent more than two hours worshipping together under the stars and sharing their testimonies.
“You grow together and do life together,” she said of her classmates.
Dr. Sam Hemby
Having made multiple trips to Israel, Dr. Sam Hemby has seen firsthand the effect the journey has on students. He said the university wants students to see the historical sites of the Bible, experience the Middle Eastern culture, and build relationships with the Jewish people.
“This is the only university program of its scope and of its type (in the country),” Dr. Hemby said.
The presence of Dr. Hemby and other religion faculty members has been one of the highlights for students who have gone to Israel. One student said that with Dr. Hemby’s teaching, “a pile of rocks would gain significance.” That’s the kind of impact Dr. Hemby and the rest of the Southeastern faculty hope to make on the students who study in Israel.
“It really does rock a person’s world,” he said.