Biblical Lands Educational Seminars and Service

The BLESS program is an innovative graduate-level, missional education program that combines experiential, cross-cultural learning in or from the biblical lands with rigorous academic inquiry. BLESS is offered by Eastern Mennonite Seminary in cooperation with Mennonite mission and service agencies and is designed for enabling and equipping a new generation of emerging church leaders who have a vision for the future church, compassion for the world, and a passion for cross-cultural engagement.

Who is BLESS for?

All of the study options are offered with maximum flexibility designed to be included in a mission or service assignment, or for those who are not in the position to study in traditional seminary programs. BLESS especially suited for:

  • New mission or service appointees, interns, and others on a mission or service assignment.
  • Young adults interested in both seminary study and mission or service but not ready for residential or full-time seminary study.
  • Urban pastors scattered across the USA.
  • Seminary students desiring cross-cultural study in the biblical lands.
  • All others interested in intensive, experiential, non-traditional seminary study options.

BLESS courses

From Eden through Exile – Movement, Migration and the Old Testament – 4 credits

The newest addition to the BLESS catalogue explores the themes of movement and migration throughout the Old Testament and in current eastern Mediterranean contexts. In addition to a two-week online intensive component, students will travel for three weeks in Egypt, Jordan and Israel-Palestine where they will study how the authorship and compilation of the Old Testament have been impacted by circumstances of movement and migration. The course integrates migration studies and trauma studies with biblical study. Special attention is given to discussions of ancient Near Eastern contexts of imperial domination, deportation, diaspora, and repatriation as portrayed in Israel and Judah’s foundational narratives and in other contemporary sources.

Cross-Cultural Discipleship

Designed to be taken in conjunction with a mission or service assignment, students in “Cross-Cultural Discipleship” will learn as Jesus’ disciples by participating in the biblical story as they follow Jesus in the world in mission and service. Extensive reading, personal reflections, on-line conversation with others in the class, on-site mentoring, and individual learning projects will enhance this experiential learning.

Students will explore the integrating theme of cross-cultural faith journeys in Scripture, focus on Jesus’ teaching method, agenda and effects, learn with and from Jesus’ disciples in first-century Judea, and from Paul’s successes and failures in the Roman Empire. Discipleship as learning in public, participation in God’s work in the world, sacrificial serving, missional exploration and experimentation, will be encouraged, practiced, facilitated and reflected upon during the course.

The Jesus Movement in the First Century

This course can be taken online by anyone, anywhere, or as an intensive three-week seminar in the summer. This course is also offered as a hybrid course for people living in the biblical lands, or as a directed study for anyone traveling to the biblical lands. In all versions, Nazareth Village and the Jesus Trail will be used as primary learning resources for the course. Students will learn about the religious, economic, political and social life within first century Palestine and the missional dynamics of the Jesus Movement within this volatile mixture of peoples.

The Christian Movement in the Mediterranean

For the past number of years I have taken up to 5 students at a time on SailingActs (our sailboat in which my wife and I sailed the entire routes of Paul’s journeys in 2004-05) along the beautiful, biblical southern coast of Turkey, exploring the remote ruins of the famous ports in the Acts story. The more famous and visited sites we visit by land include Perga, Ephesus, Athens, and Corinth.

The Christian Movement in the Mediterranean seminar, is a student favorite, for not only do participants plunge into the world of Acts (and the Mediterranean itself!) but also the life of the traveler by land and sea during the first century. Through experiential learning and intense exploration of the biblical text and latest research, students become familiar with the magnificent and thoroughly pagan Roman Empire and find clues for the reasons the Christian Movement swept the entire rim of the Mediterranean. This study sheds light on our own troubled and unstable world and the opportunities for authentic Christian witness for the future. View sample syllabus

This course is filled for 2016, but will be offered annually in the future.

More information

For more information contact Linford Stutzman at or by telephone at 540-432-1714.


Virginia Mennonite Missions’ tranSend program
Eastern Mennonite Missions
Mennonite Mission Network
Nazareth Village
The Jesus Trail

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