JACKSON — Walking in the footsteps of Christ during January’s Global Opportunities Trip to Israel was an unforgettable experience for Paige Tang, a junior music major from Union University.
But knowing Jesus is alive from the grave made the trip all the more meaningful, Tang noted.
“I really did not know what to expect from the trip, but the more I prayed about it and the more meetings we had as a team leading up to the trip, the more I felt God calling me to go,” Tang said. “Whatever my expectations were in the back of my mind, the trip exceeded everything.”
Seventeen Union students and staff traveled to the Holy Land Jan. 10 for the 10-day GO Israel Trip, said Lee Wilson, director of discipleship and one of the trip’s leaders.
Having visited Israel on three previous occasions, Wilson taught an Introduction to New Testament class during the trip, which he said provided participating students with the opportunity to see many of the places mentioned in their studies. Several of the teams’ experiences included floating in the Dead Sea, taking a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee and visiting the ruins of Beth Shean — a Roman city destroyed centuries ago by an earthquake.
Students who took the class also kept a journal, completed quizzes and researched cities in Israel as part of their trip assignments, Tang said. As a result, she and her classmates were prepared to not only recognize locations from the Bible but also understand their importance.
“I simply wanted to be a part of every extra adventure and would always jump at a chance to explore the country, whether it was wandering around Jerusalem or shopping in Bethlehem,” Tang said.
While the trip provided a unique opportunity to witness biblical history, Wilson said the trip also allowed the team to share the love of Christ with Israel and Palestine. For three days, the team split into small groups to minister in Bethlehem, Hebron, and Ramallah, where Union students taught English and formed relationships with local students.
Tang helped teach in Bethlehem, where her group worked with Palestinian students between 19-25 years old. While she engaged in discussions and played language-building games with the students, Tang learned that the students were already advanced in their English skills. As a result, she was able to not only have complete conversations with the students but also exchange stories and talk about their cultures.
But learning more about the students’ lives also meant understanding more about the political and spiritual turmoil in the region — a situation Tang said she struggled to understand. While the Palestinian students expressed their longing for peace in the region, she prayed the hope of Christ would truly free them.
“One of the reasons I love GO Trips is the opportunity they provide for students to apply what they are learning on campus at Union University to Jesus’ call to make disciples in all nations,” Wilson said.
“For the Israel trip, students get to see all the complexities of our world from up close. They get to wrestle with hard questions that often feel far from us in our daily life in the states. Students see how things really are, and they come to understand the gospel is the only answer to the profound realities of our world.”