A group of students from Adventist University of Health Sciences (ADU) participated in the University’s first-ever Bible tour in April and May 2017. The trip was organized by Zdravko and Bozana Stefanovic, from the Health and Biomedical Sciences Department, as an alternative way for students to earn credits for their religion courses. Leaving the day of spring graduation, the group included 16 students, two faculty members, and Zdravko and Bozana Stefanovic.
It was an exciting step for ADU to be able to offer a student experience like this. Many members of the group had never traveled abroad before, but they were in good spirits and embraced the experience with positive attitudes, according to the Stefanovics.
The two-week trip was split equally between Greece and Israel, with the group landing in Athens, Greece, and leaving from Tel Aviv, Israel. They visited many important biblical sites around Athens, such as the Acropolis, and then traveled to the old city of Corinth for a day stopping by the Corinth Canal. Heading north, they spent a day enjoying the incredible scenery of the Meteora, formations of immense pillars and huge rounded boulders in Thessaly, Greece.
In Israel, the students had the chance to see many historic spiritual sites up close, such as the city of Bethlehem and its Nativity Church, said to be the birthplace of Jesus. In Jerusalem they visited Gethsemane, the famous garden where Jesus prayed before the night of his crucifixion, and the nearby Temple Mount. In the Nazareth Village, they walked through an open-air museum that reenacted village life in the Galilee in the time of Jesus. They had a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, and visited Capernaum and the Church of Beatitudes, where Jesus is believed to have delivered his Sermon on the Mount.
A highlight of the trip for many of the students was visiting the famous Dead Sea, Earth’s lowest elevation on land, and one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water. The salinity is so high that you can easily float right on its surface, which the students were excited to experience.
The group enjoyed learning about local cultures and customs. They ate local Arabic, Greek, and Jewish food, and learned Hebrew, Greek, and Arabic expressions. In their free time between tour stops, they could shop and explore areas like downtown Athens. While on the tour bus, they would read significant passages from the Bible that connected them spiritually with each place they visited. Faith and religion remained the focus as the students came face-to-face with centuries-old sacred sites.
Most of the students didn’t know each other before setting out on the trip, but bonded through this shared, unfamiliar experience. They talked about challenges they had or were currently going through, discussed the decisions they’d made, and prayed together. It was an emotional experience for many of them, with some of the girls currently in school to go into a second career or feeling at a crossroad in their lives. But, the trip gave them a chance to relax, meditate, and enhance their relationship with God. As one student later described in her journal, “This has been such a powerful, inspirational, and spiritual experience, and I truly believe my connection with God has changed for the best!”
Overall, ADU’s first Bible tour was a definite success: the students visited many significant religious sites, and learned more about them first-hand than they would have being in a classroom and reading out of a textbook. The group’s motto for the trip was, “We are not tourists, we are pilgrims.” The group was even honored with pilgrim certificates when in Israel.
As they moved through these historic Holy Lands, they embodied that pilgrim sentiment to the fullest. They went through a life-changing experience — connecting deeper to their spirituality, and taking those lessons back with them to enhance their education, careers, and ties to family and friends.
Adventist University of Health Sciences | August 2017