Alumni and Friends Tour Will Have ‘Lifelong Impact’

By Christopher Clymer Kurtz | December 20th, 2017

The EMU Alumni and Friends tour group hears the history of Herod the Great’s Roman-style port city Caesarea, famous for the story of Peter and Cornelia, and Paul’s final journey to Rome.

BEFORE THE FALL 2017 ALUMNI AND FRIENDS TOUR to Israel and Palestine, Betty Holsinger Shenk ’75 “knew it would be great.” It turned out, though, to be more than that. “This was a trip of a lifetime,” she said. “Its impact will be lifelong.”

During the two-week trip, 24 participants learned about and discussed the region’s biblical history, explored archaeo-logical sites, engaged in current social issues of Palestinians and Israeli Jews, and enjoyed local food and unique geography.

Professor Linford Stutzman ’84, SEM ’90 and his wife Janet Stutzman SEM ’91, who have led many semester and summer international cross-cultural trips for EMU, guided the group. Participants included alumni, parents of EMU alumni“and friends of EMU students who had always heard about how wonderful our cross-cultural experiences are and wanted one of their own,” said Jeff Shank ’94, director of alumni and parent engagement.

A hallmark of EMU cross-cultural trips is making personal connections with local residents, and this trip was no exception. The group visited the “Tent of Nations,” a family farm under threat of Settlement expansion; heard the firsthand account of how an Arab Israeli became a business partner with an Israeli Jew; and met two guides – a Palestinian Muslim and an Israeli Jew – who are both friends and co-workers.

The tour was the first for alumni and friends offered by EMU, but more travels in this unique immersive and educational format are in the works. A trip to Cuba, led by Elaine Zook Barge ’75, MA ’03 (conflict transformation) and her husband Nathan Barge ’84, leaves March 2018. (While the trip is full, a wait list has been started.)

The Stutzmans will lead a fall 2018 Mediterranean Voyage. In summer 2019, Professor Jerry Holsopple ’80 will lead an exploration of Lithuania’s music, art and culture.

For some members of the Middle East tour group, the inspiration to attend came from hearing about other people’s travels to the Middle East as part of EMU’s undergraduate cross-cultural program. Many friends of Kendra Martin ’05 went on that trip and returned having been “impacted, deeply,” she said. This travel experience brought her “full circle” and allowed her to experience firsthand what her college friends had told her about.

Maddie Clemens ’16 had a “life-changing” semester on the Middle East cross-cultural trip led by the Stutzmans in 2014, and was eager for the rest of her family, including sister Abby Clemens ’16 and parents Becky and Doug “to experience the people and places that had so greatly impacted her,” said her mother. This fall, the four participated in the Alumni and Friends Tour, together.

“We couldn’t have asked for a more enriching experience,” said Becky Clemens.

Leon Miller ’68 lived for “three wonderful years” in Jerusalem and the West Bank in the early 1970s, and went on this trip with his wife Sandy. He said that seeing Jesus’s teachings in his historical, political, cultural and geographic context was “enlightening.”

The trip traced 2,000 years of the biblical story and 4,000 years of human history and offered Kendra Martin something she’d been wanting: motivation to read the Bible.

“The Bible was feeling like a big collection of stories about people in places I had no context for,” Martin said. “Now … the Bible, its characters and the hope we have in Christ are coming alive with dust, sights and tastes.”

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