Two modern-day admirers of a First Century apostle will spend the next year following his mighty big footprints.
Linford L. and Janet M. Stutzman have embarked on a contemporary missionary journey, trying to understand, as much as humanly possible, what St. Paul experienced in his missionary travels that criss-crossed the Mediterranean region. For 15 months, they will retrace the routes of the early church leader to every site mentioned in the New Testament book of Acts.
Dr. Stutzman, associate professor of culture and mission at EMS and the undergraduate Bible and religion department, is beginning a sabbatical year. He’s been on the EMU faculty 13 years. His spouse, Janet, recently announced her resignation from the university after serving 12 1/2 years as director of alumni-parent relations.
“Our goal is to seek to understand how the geographic areas, the weather conditions and the cities and towns themselves that Paul traveled through affected his mission and vision for what the church could become,” Stutzman said.
“Paul was an explorer, an experimenter who tried to understand the Roman Empire,” he said. “Paul spoke often about the Kingdom of God, declaring that his citizenship was in heaven, yet he was a Roman citizen – what did that mean to him?
“I believe that Paul was grappling with change as he met and interacted with a variety of people. He struggled with his belief in the power of the gospel with the power of pagan Rome, and that has implications for us today.”
The Stutzmans have secured a 33-foot, two-mast ketch for sailing on the Mediterranean and Aegean seas from one port-of-call to another. “It’s old, but seaworthy,” they said of the craft that they have re-christened “SailingActs.” They will detail their travels via an online journal posted at www.emu.edu/sailingacts.
The couple plans to begin their itinerary on the island of Cyprus off the coast of Greece the end of May. From there, they will work their way slowly counter-clockwise around the Aegean (Turkey and Greece), ending in Corinth in October.
At each site visted, the Stutzmans will explore the geographical situation and new archeological discoveries in an attempt to glean new insights into biblical accounts as that relates to Paul’s missionary work.
They plan to interview local and regional experts of history, religion and mission aong with local inhabitants in order to explore traditional and current perceptions of Paul and his legacy.
They will do cultural and social research at every location, including interviewing local and regional experts of history, religion, and mission, and other local inhabitants in order to explore traditional and current perceptions of Paul and his legacy.
They will also sail the same sea routes as Paul, anchor in the harbors and travel overland to the sites in ways that parallel, as closely as possible, Paul’s experiences detailed in the book of Acts.
“There have been many studies of Paul and his role in the development of the early Christian church, but I’m not aware of anyone else having taken this [sailing] approach,” Stutzman said.
The Stutzmans plan to spend the early winter months living aboard the boat in Israel, working on sabbatical writing and teaching projects.
“That time of year is not an ideal time to be out to sea,” Stutzman said, noting that Paul’s shipwreck on the Island of Malta – documented in the 27th chapter of the New Testament book of Acts – likely happened in November.
Stutzman is hoping to prepare two manuscripts based on their research – a reflective travelogue in popular style on what Paul’s travels meant to him and in turn interpret those meanings for contemporary society and a missiology piece that applies these learnings to the globalization process, the way nations relate to each other today.
The couple will return to the U.S. for about three weeks over Christmas, then return to the boat for the rest of the winter to complete their writing projects.
Next summer, they plan to sail from Ceasarea in Israel along the route of Paul’s final journey to Rome. In May, 2005, they will interrupt their travel to lead a study seminar of 12 EMU students in the Aegean, then resume in June toward Rome, arriving there mid- to late-July.
Janet Stutzman said she expects to assist with navigating and other sailing duties and buying supplies, doing some cooking on the ship and assisting her spouse with chronicling their adventures.
“I thoroughly enjoy meeting and offering hospitality to people, and I expect to be doing a lot of that in this cross-cultural setting,” she said.
The couple will return to Harrisonburg this Christmas to screen and orient a group of EMU students for a cross-cultural seminar they will lead to the Middle East the spring of 2006.
Armed with a laptop computer, the Stutzmans will make regular journal entries on their travels and post them on a special web site at: www.emu.edu/sailingacts.