Here you can find the updates from our Freshmen students studying overseas during January!

China Group Photo


January 2019


It seems ridiculous to think that it was just about a month ago that we all found our seats on a giant plane to fly across the world in just under 14 hours, with open hearts. Personally, I had no idea what to expect. I had only been out of the country 2 other times, both to Central America and both on flights that were less than 6 hours long. These trips had also been the result of years of praying. China on the other hand, was exciting, but I didn’t quite know how to prepare my heart or what to expect from our experiences. I wasn’t ready to fall in love with the country, as I had done on my other trips.

In the months leading up to the trip, the week prior to our departure especially, our
chaperones did an incredible job of preparing us in the language, food, and for what we may experience. During the couple of days we were able to spend at Taylor before we left for China,my expectations of what I would experience and what China is as a whole, were shattered in the best way. I became very aware that we all had no idea what we were stepping into. With each presentation, movie, speaker and lecture we were all reminded to open our eyes to what God is doing in China regardless of what our media is telling us.

We spent close to the first half of the trip in Beijing, our first city. We visited an incredible
amount of places, but in Beijing our focus was mainly on people and relationships. We spent time in a conference room hearing from and conversing with a number of people with a number of worldviews. Some were believers, others weren’t. Some were business owners, others worked for the government.. All had a story to tell and began to help me shape my idea of China. In my opinion, which I’m sure is one that is shared by a number people on the trip, two of the best relationships I formed were with our tour guides. We had one man who had picked us up from the airport and was with us until we got on the plane to come home, Frank, and another local tour guide for Beijing, Eby. We had local tour guides in the other cities we visited, but we spent the most time with Eby and came to love her greatly. Both Frank and Eby spoke English and put in a massive amount of work behind the scenes to make our trip run as smooth as it did. One of the best moments was when Frank asked me if he could sit next to me on one of our bus rides. I heard all about his family, his young son Tank, and life in Beijing.

By participating in this trip and completing outside work, our group earned credit for
Biblical Literature II- The New Testament in Global Context. At first it seems a bit odd to be learning this content in China, of all places abroad, but there could not have been a better time and place for us to see the practicality of the gospel message. Along with discussing major themes in the new testament, we met people to mirrored the early apostles, teaching the word and on fire for God, yet met with opposition. We also experienced how incredibly God is working in China. We may not see it from this side of the Ocean, but good things are happening there for the Kingdom there too. As China is a largely buddhist country, we were able to experience how people worship within other religions while visiting the Lama Temple in Beijing.

Although this was an educational trip, in the traditional sense of completing a course, we
were able to have a large amount of time to sightsee. We were treated to traditional foot
massages, mongolian music, a ride up the Great Wall in a ski lift and down in a toboggan. We were able to visit three learning centers, enjoyed meals with each other every night at a new restaurant and traveled by bus, plane and high speed train.

All in all ,if I were to boil down our experiences to a main theme of the trip, it would be
the challenge and joy of considering the global kingdom. In experiencing places and people different than what we are used to, God reveals just a little more of himself to us and gives us a better picture of what it will be like when his kingdom is our full reality.


Group Picture Thessaloniki 2


January, 2018

Greetings from Greece!

We ended our last update telling you of our time visiting the ruins of Philippi and speaking to the Orthodox Priest, Father Barnabas.  As we left Thessaloniki the following day, we were able to stop in the town of  Verea, formerly Berea, where we saw a small collection of monuments dedicated to the Apostle Paul and the time he spent there.  The Christians there are very proud of their description in the New Testament as people who studied the Scriptures carefully to see if Paul’s message was true. –  Alec Tebben

From there we continued on to Mount Olympus, the traditional home of the Greek gods like Zeus, Venus, and Ra. The views from our hike were stunning and left us in awe of God’s handiwork that we had the pleasure to witness. We reached the summit of our hike just as the sun was setting, and the smoky, hazy air made the backdrop of our posed pictures eerily beautiful. At this point of the trip, we have started to become very comfortable with each other, and deep conversation intermixed with banter along the trail. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any Greek god sightings. Which is a bummer, because I was really looking forward to seeing if Wonder Woman’s depiction of Ares as a middle-aged man was accurate. Oh well. –Zach Winters

The next day we traveled to a Greek Orthodox monastery. There we learned more about the history of Orthodoxy and monastic people. As we approached the monastery we wound our way through these giant cliffs, which were shrouded in fog, In its earlier days the only way to access the monastery was by a small lift made out of rope (which apparently was only replaced when it broke). Fortunately none of us had to take that exercise in faith and were able to reach the monastery via bridge. As we entered the monastery our eyes were immediately drawn to all the paintings on the walls. Every inch of space was covered. In the first chamber these paintings depicted many martyrs of the faith. This place was one of somber remembrance, as believers dwelt on the long line of people who gave their life for the faith. The second chamber depicted keys parts of the life of Jesus. It was the Orthodox theology conveyed through pictures. Toward the end of our visit we had the opportunity to speak with a monk who lived at the monastery. We were honored to hear him explain their theology and way of life. For most of us it was a thought provoking conversation that gave us new insight into our faith. –Spencer Kilmer (Hi mom!)


Also, if you so desire, you can follow the Honors trip on instagram via the account Ockengram.


Honors First-Year Students


Bahamas Group Photo


January 17, 2017

Dear families,

We hope this week finds you well! We (Rylee Hackworth, Taylor Budzikowski, Tucker Germain, and Gwyneth Terrett) have the privilege of sharing with you guys our experiences over the past few days.

First, we have officially arrived back on New Providence on Saturday afternoon, after experiencing true island time.  Our plane arrived to the airport two hours after the scheduled departure time.  Once we arrived back at New Providence, we ate an authentic Bahamian meal at a Taylor alumni’s house.  It was an awesome opportunity to see the Taylor connection with alumni community in the Bahamas.  Later that evening we walked from our hotel to the local fish fry. This fish fry is not a fish fry in an American sense, but rather the Bahamian fish fry was a long stretch of the road with many restaurants and other eateries.  Here we had the opportunity to try the conch fritters, which is a Bahamian favorite. The general consensus was in favor of the conch fritters. They were delicious! After dancing to live music and eating our fill, we walked back to the hotel for the night.

The next morning we were divided into groups to join more Taylor Alumni at their respective churches. The denominations ranged from Baptist to Catholic to Non-Denominational to Evangelical.  The services tended to be considerably longer than that of our American churches because of the emphasis on relationships rather than the duration of the service. Some of us experienced very traditional services whereas some were more charismatic than others. Regardless of the church and type of service, most students were introduced by name to the congregation and given a warm welcome. This experience gave us the opportunity to be immersed into the core of the Bahamian culture. Following the service each group shared a lunch with their respective Taylor Alumni.

This was our second opportunity to eat another Bahamian meal. We spent the afternoon with our Alumni bringing our intentional community here to the Bahamas. Through conversations, we built relationships with these Alumni who could relate and share a passion for our experiences at Taylor University. As we finished up the afternoon and meal, we all made our way to the Adventure Learning Centre, where we will be staying for the duration of the week.

Today we began our morning by traveling to the New Providence Community Church in order to learn how this church is being a steward of creation here in Nassau. Pastor Matthew began his discussion with the problems of creation care in the Bahamas and progressed into his own solutions/actions that he and his church have taken in response to the lack of support for environmental conservation. Our biggest take away from Pastor Matthew was this, “If you see your brother in need, don’t say ‘God bless you’, but roll up your sleeves and do something about it.”

After this we went to the Primeval Forest National Park where two wardens, with extensive knowledge about the plant life and their medicinal uses, walked us through the forest. This forest is the largest and oldest collection of hardwood trees here on New Providence.  The natural beauty of these trees was absolutely breath-taking!

Next, we made our way to Clifton-Heritage National Park. This is the site of the oldest plantation found on New Providence. The tour guide explained the history of the slave trade and the role of the Bahamas in it. We had the opportunity to see some of the ruins of the buildings of the plantation.

To finish our first day of class in Nassau, we stopped at a beach to swim and relax. As we made our way back to ALC, we are excited for the adventures and experiences we will have in the coming week!

Gwyneth, Tucker, Taylor, Rylee, and everyone else

January 12, 2017

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1-12 Bahamas Picture 2

Dear loved ones,

Island greetings from tropical San Salvador! Today’s correspondents are David Fletcher, Madison Hiatt, and Katie Justice (the Manatees, or cows of the sea)!

Yesterday morning started bright, but didn’t stay that way. After a quick breakfast, we fed the rock iguanas that are sheltered at the Gerace Research Centre. Soon after, the rain started coming, and the winds also picked up. Our island historical guide, J (sometimes spelled Jai), showed us to different landmarks around the island.

We saw Watling’s castle, which was a set of ruins that has been affected by hurricanes in the past few years.  It was built by pirates during the colonial age since the Bahamas were a relatively safe place to be. This island was also ideal because they could see the westward-bound navies headed for the New World. Thus, they could plunder ships easily.

We also went to the highest point on the island where we could easily see most of the small island (only 12 miles by 6 miles!). We could also see Columbus Blue Hole, the fifth most sought after blue hole in the entire world! Although the clouds were hanging low, it was still a picturesque experience.

J showed us to his favorite place, Pigeon Creek, which is really a tidal body of water, not a creek. It’s a natural habitat for many incredible species of life, and is endangered by the local practices of other tourist industries. He is actively trying to conserve this haven.

Although the rain dampened our spirits yesterday, we woke up this morning to bright sunshine and blue skies. We had made plans for the day that ended up falling through, but like Dr. Guebert says “Our days shift like the sand.”

This morning started out with a hour of personal reflection and God time. Each of us felt refreshed (David: “reef-freshed HA”) as we headed to the beach for a morning swim at Graham’s Harbor.  Many of the students snorkeled their way out to the incredible reefs that held hundreds of fish and swaying coral. Others stayed behind and sun bathed on the beach, which was a blessing after yesterday’s difficulties.  Conch shells were being discovered all around the beach, just like in the new Disney movie Moana.

We then headed back to Gerace to eat lunch and prepared for the afternoon out on the town.  Gloves and trash bags in hand, we drove to the nearby town of Cockburn and did a trash pickup. Not only did the townspeople appreciate our efforts, we wanted to set an example of how San Salvador needs to be protected and taken care of.  Once we were done, we headed to the fossilized reef right outside of the town. Exploring the beach allowed us to see preserved corals that we had swum past earlier in the day at Graham’s Harbor.  Afterwards, we took our trash to the San Salvador landfill and experienced a whole new meaning of the away in “throwing away.”

As our Gerace adventures are winding down, we look forward to what the rest of the trip has in store for us. Please continue to keep us in our prayers as we prepare for travel back to New Providence. May the sun shine on you like it has us!

David, Madison, Katie, and the rest of the Bahamas group!

January 10, 2017

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Dear parents and supporters,

Hello from the Bahamas! We hope that you all are well. This is an email from Kitty Trudeau, Emma Seeman, and Andrew Baker, or the Dolphin Group. We wanted to tell you about what’s been happening since Sunday; it’s only been a few days, but they’ve been full! The weather has been fairly temperate, unlike what we were expecting, and the wind has prevented us from snorkeling. However, we have more than made up for it, as we got to see incredible land features as well as do a little bit of swimming.

Yesterday morning we headed out at about 8:30 and went down to the southern end of the island. We wandered around a little bit inland, looking at rock formations and finding a few holes and caves, one of which we were able to fit our entire group (around 40 people) into. Parents will be pleased to know that no one sustained any injuries. After this, we walked down to the coast and along the beach, where we waded in the ocean and ate lunch. Then Dr. Guebert showed us two more caves, Dripping Stone Cave and Altar Cave, in which we discovered about a hundred sleeping bats. Next we went to a blue hole, called Inkwell, named for its black water. We ended the day at Monument Beach, Columbus’ landing place, where we got to learn about the history of the Bahamas and swim. (Andrew would like me to inform you that he bodysurfed, “on at least four waves.” He would also like me to inform you that they were very rough waves, so he had an excuse for only getting four.)

Today, we went to San Salvador’s North Point in order to study the wide variety of vegetation present on the point and the difference between the plants on the east side, which gets most of the wind, and the west side, which is protected. The view was truly incredible. After lunch, we went to San Salvador’s lighthouse, one of the only, if not the only, manually operated lighthouses in the world. We got to go up into the lighthouse and see how it works; then we went back down and along a trail into our final cave, Lighthouse Cave. We had to swim through parts of this cave, which was only accessible because it was low tide when we went in. It was one of the coolest things that we’ve ever seen, and we can’t wait for you all to see pictures; we can’t really do it justice with words.

We are currently sitting in one of the labs in Gerace Research Centre, waiting for dinner and doing homework for our lecture tonight. We hope that you’ve been able to get a little taste of the amazing things that we’re doing, and that things are going well at home. Love from the Bahamas!


Kitty, Andrew, Emma, and the rest of the Bahamas group




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After an early start at 8:00am on Tuesday, we boarded a high-speed train to Venice, a surprise arrangement that had us all grinning like we were going to Disney World. Arriving just as the sun was starting to appear over the tops of the tall, elegantly decaying Venetian buildings, we crowded aboard a “water bus” and traveled down the Grand Canal toward the church of San Marco. After a brief tour of …we were free to wander the streets the Venice. (Don’t worry Mom, we were in groups of five or more.) This was more difficult than anticipated due to many watery dead-ends and a lack of street signs. However, seeing the beauty of the decaying city up-close was well worth the effort of navigating through its quiet narrow streets, twisting alleys, and quaint squares. Some of us also took the opportunity to experience Venice in the most classic style possible, riding a gondola.

On Wednesday, we visited the Bargello Museum, where we works done by Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, and Donatello’s David. (The one with the puss-in-boots look.) After that, we broke into two groups: one group visited the Academia to see Michelangelo’s famous David, as well as other works, while the other group visited a local panini shop for lunch. Words cannot accurately describe either experience. While Michelangelo’s David was magnificent, I think I will remember my experience at the panini shop more fondly. The local shop owners were adamant that we sample all their varieties of cheeses and meats before we decided what we would like on our sandwiches. Even with all of the beautiful artwork and ancient ruins we’ve seen, I think my favorite moment of the trip was when gray-haired Italian man making my sandwich “accidentally” cut too much cheese for my sandwich and handed me the extra slice with a look of grandfatherly.

Today we had the opportunity to meet with some representatives from the University of Pisa. They explained some of the various programs they offered to both Italian and international students, particularly in their computer science, engineering and physics departments. In existence since 1343, the University of Pisa has nurtured notable figures throughout the centuries, including Galileo Galilei, several popes, two Nobel Prize winners in Physics, Enrico Fermi and Carlo Rubbia, and others. With our hosts we discussed the differences between higher education in Europe and the United States. We left with a new perspective on international higher education, an understanding of the educational influence of Pisa through the centuries, and with small canvas bags of informational brochures, pens, and logo-ed thumb drives (perfect for back-up storage of all the pictures we’ve taken.)

It is with mixed feelings that we approach the end of our time in Italy. The Italian countryside, culture, and legacy is rich and enchanting. From the history of the ancient Romans, to the birthplace of Christianity, to the origin of the Renaissance, we have learned a lot about the legacy of Italy and how it has inspired humanity throughout the ages. But to quote classmate Micah Bragg, “there comes a time when one has to move on from being inspired and actually do something with that inspiration.” While we are not all gifted with the artistic talents Michelangelo or the mathematical skills of Galileo, we all have the opportunity make a lasting impression on those around us.

Because sometimes everyday moments of kindness leave a greater legacy than even the most ancient monuments and greatest works of art.


Megan wrote this update before we visited Sienna today, so you’ll just have to ask us when we get home about our final visit (which became a favorite). We fly home in the morning–we’ll be to O’Hare on flight KL 611 around 2:30pm. We’ll meet some of you there and the rest of us will be heading back to campus.

As our trip comes to a close, I know I can speak for all of the leaders when I say that we are so grateful for these phenomenal students that we’ve gotten to know and love these last two weeks. Their joy, curiosity, and care for one another has been a blessing. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and beyond, watching as they grow and flourish in their various communities. And I can’t wait for them to share with you the stories of what they’ve seen, learned, and explored–ask them about the cathedrals and paintings, but also ask them about the free time, the gelato, the friendships they’ve formed, and our night-on-the-beach medley. And listen as they share what they’ve learned about people and beauty and the God that reveals Himself to us in so many ways.

Thanks for sharing your gems with us,

Julia (& Scott, Jennifer, Amy, Dannie, and Emilie)

Maybe Sienna

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This morning I woke up, turned over and looked out my window to see the sun peeking over the dome and bell tower of the Duomo. For some of us lucky ones, the best view of Florence is from our hotel rooms. The past two days have been a crash course in the major sites in Florence. Yesterday we started off by doing a walking tour of all the main sites in Florence, starting at the Duomo, the famous basilica that dominates the Florentine skyline, then walking through a few piazzas, all of which were filled with beautiful architecture and sculptures out in the open air, and ending by heading into the Uffizi gallery, which used to be the Florentine government building, and then was turned into one of the first museums in Europe. Inside was statues ranging from Byzantine to Gothic to Renaissance, and everything in between. It was a surreal experience seeing famous paintings such as Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” Philipo Lippi’s “Madonna,” and Da Vinci’s, “The Enunciation.” We even got to see Titian’s “Venus,” what Mark Twain names as, “the most scandalous painting in art history.” (Don’t worry parents, it was more culturally scandalous than anything else).

After a delicious panini lunch and a trip to see the Ponte Vecchio, the main bridge in Florence, we headed to Santa Croce, a church built by the Franciscans, the same group we visited in Assisi a few days ago. At this point in the trip, we’ve visited many churches, and while some of them may run together, (forgive us if we can’t answer specific details when we get home, that doesn’t mean we haven’t been learning) the beauty never fails to amaze us. After a free afternoon filled with gelato and exploring the back alleys of Florence, some of us took the opportunity to attend Italian mass at the Duomo, while others used that time for naps or some much needed quiet time. Salad, pasta and cheesecake rounded off our evening, and then the usual games ensued, such as Bridge, Mafia, and Euchre.

Today, after a big breakfast of assorted meats, cheeses and breads, (and Caprese salad and espresso for Dannie) we headed off to the Duomo. We began in the baptistery, then headed into the Duomo museum, where we got to learn the interesting history and science of the Duomo’s dome (Challenge us to stand an egg upright when we get home-we’ll show off our new architectural skills we got from Brunelleschi). The Duomo itself was different than many of the other basilicas we have seen. While the outside was just as ornate, the inside was fairly plain, except for the great dome itself, which was covered in a beautiful mural.

We had lunch on our own, and most of enjoyed eating in an upstairs food court, and then exploring the meat market downstairs. Stomach lining and intestines were some of our favorite finds. We then headed over to Santa Maria Novella. During free time, some overcame their claustrophobia (I was not one of them), and climbed a spiral staircase to the top of the Duomo, to soak in the views of Florence.

I think most would agree with me in saying that the highlight of the past two days took place in a small chapel off a courtyard outside of Santa Croce. Adam told us that it had great acoustics, and asked us if we would like to sing. One of the most beautiful, glorifying experiences of my life took place after that. We lined the exterior of the chapel, and as we sang our voices carried and rang out from the top of the domed ceilings. We sang Amazing Grace, Come Thou Fount, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, and ended with the Doxology, a song that it has become a bit of a tradition for us to whenever we get the chance throughout Italy. About halfway through our singing, other tourists began to gather in the doorway and listen to our praises to a God they may or may not know. On a trip where we have gotten to see artistic depictions of His life, walk in Cathedrals raised in honor of Him, and hear of the Christian martyrs who died in order to worship Him, it was incredible to be able to be a part of that worship, even for a moment, in a chapel where Franciscans, Catholics, students and tourists alike had experienced God over the centuries.

Big News from the Group: Tonight at dinner, Adam stood up to give us the normal evening announcements. However, he had a surprise up his sleeve. Because of our attentiveness and interest in the many, many museums, churches, and historical sites (be proud of us), the adults decided to try and come up with a surprise for us. After a day of crunching numbers and frantically making plans, we are excited to say that tomorrow we will be deviating from the itinerary that we know many of you have memorized already, and headed to VENICE! Be looking for a multitude of pictures and stories to come from the next day.



More Italy Chapel Pictures

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Let’s look back to the very middle of the Pax Romana, right around the year 77c.e. The Pax Romana titles nearly 200 years of relative world peace which was marked by economic, academic, and cultural growth, abundance for the multitudes, and military restraint. A fine time to be in Italy. 100 years of good stuff behind, 100 years of good stuff to come.

We have reached the mid-point of our trip to Italy, and like those Italians waking up on the first dawn of 77, we are comfortably sandwiched between two halves of growth, abundance and, yes, military restraint. The middle of things prompt reflections. It’s a good a time to praise God for our continued safety, learning, and bonding. It’s a time to stoke excited anticipation for the joys to come. However, it’s also a time to attempt to justify all the outright fun we are having. Students left at Taylor, and parents left at office desks, will be happy to review the hard boring things we have painfully endured in the memory of grade cards, library study hours, and spelling tests.

Boring things we learned about La Papa’s little house/country:

Friday morning began with one of the world’s cruelest tragedies: forced travel. After a lovely Italian breakfast, we were forced to cross from the lushes and beautiful architecture of Italy to the even more lushes and beautiful architecture of the Vatican City. We circled the very center of Catholicism. Entering St. Peter’s huge courtyard (designed by Bernini) fills one with the sense of community that comes so easily when standing in the place where millions have gathered together in the unity of Faith. The gigantic Church itself is gigantic. The huge and ornate entrance (Bernini) fronts a huge and ornate nave (Brimonte) which is topped by a huge and ornate dome (Michalangelo). Inside: gold, solemn majesty, and an alter (sitting upon Pete’s bones) which turns eyes and minds up to the sacrificed lamb. Thoughts fling through our minds. How should we worship God? What dangers do we encounter in attempting to make things worthy of Him?  What does heaven really look like? How does the truth of the Gospel reach across so many countries and peoples? Miracles? Relics? Authority?   These are just a few of the exhilarating boring things we thought and spoke about in our forced visit to the world’s smallest country.

Boring things we learned about painting walls:

Once in the Vatican, our tour guides prodded us down the endless halls and courtyards of the dry and dire Vatican museum. We walked through the apartments of some of the most powerful leaders in the history of the world as we examined Raphael’s frescoes in the Vatican Papal apartments. They each tell stories. Besides fancy wallpaper (Natalie referred to it as Papalpaper) there’s pope propaganda, history, and stirring imaginations of Christ’s resurrection. The statues are epic. They inspire me to thoughts of heroism, action, war, and adventure. I feel like doing an ab workout after viewing every one (they have impressive abs). Others are more austere, silently speaking volumes on grace and humility. Then comes the Sistine Chapel. Every inch of the place is covered by high renaissance art. It shines down not only Michelangelo’s muscular characters but a powerful Biblical telling of Christian heritage. God takes center stage (or ceiling) clothed in a dull pink, vigorously separating light and dark or bringing life to Adam.

Boring things we leaned while staring at some hills from an old building:

Today, we did little. Yet on our way to Florence we stopped (again, forced) to look at a tiny village that, though well preserved, hasn’t changed much since the 1500s. Could it get any more boring than that? There, we visited St. Francis’s Church and grave, and climbed to the old castle on top of a hill. It was the most beautiful site my young eyes have yet seen. Google “Assissi”… Images… I was there. I would like to argue that the most beautiful sites in the world are not composed of merely untouched nature or merely man-made architecture, but a strangely spectacular mixture of both. This might shed light about how we, as God’s creations ourselves, are supposed to work with the Creator in cultivation and dominion. We now know this at least: Assissi is doing something right.

So there were no boring parts to our trip so far. In fact, my class mates could enthrall you (and likely will) with even more stories about Bo Thomas’s brash navigation to the Mediterranean Sea (I followed, it was epic), Kirsten singing, or Will’s humor, but be content; we are learning a lot.

In conclusion, I can tell you this: After completing half of their journey through Italy, the Freshman Honors Cohort of 2016 has certainly proven that God’s Omnipresence extends to Italy. We have heard Him in the quiet magnificence of Cathedral halls, and the loud complexity of Rome’s well-populated streets. Let’s see what another week will tell us.

Micah Bragg

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Hello parents!

Wow. Where to start? Since the last update, we’ve been all over Rome, seeing even more of the mind-blowing buildings, sculptures, and pieces of art this incredible city has to offer. Tuesday, we began the day by visiting the Church of St. Peter in Chains, which casually held one of Michelangelo’s finest sculptures, a commanding piece depicting a stern, godlike depiction of Moses. On our way to the next major stop, the Capitoline Museum, we passed the Imperial Forum, a contemporary of the main Roman Forum just across the street, and the Victor Emmanuel memorial, a gigantic marbled building dedicated to the main founder of the modern state of Italy which was used by Mussolini and the Fascist party as a central spot for their rallies. After a long walk up the sloped entry to the Capitoline Square, we entered the museum. It didn’t disappoint. Among some of the world-famous sculptures and statues we saw were the massive marbled head of Constantine, the bronze she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, and, centered in the square, the bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius riding his horse in triumph, hand outstretched to grant pardon to the defeated.

We continued our jam-packed day by walking to the Pantheon and lunch. It’s hard to say what was better: the domed beauty of the best-preserved building in the entire Roman Empire (don’t worry Mom: I have plenty of pictures) or my porquetta sandwich, a type of cured pork shaved directly off of an entire cooked pig (its decapitation right before our eyes was…entertaining).

With full stomachs, we made our way through Rome’s historical Jewish Ghetto and across the Tiber River to Santa Maria in Trastavere, a beautiful Byzantine-style basilica that may be the oldest church in Rome. We then made our way back over the River to a quick stop at two of the oldest pagan temples in the city and the open-mouthed fountain made famous by Roman Holiday. We ended our full day with an improvised race along the Circus Maximus and group photo back by the Colosseum.

Our itinerary for Wednesday was much simpler: we would take advantage of the beautiful weather and travel to the ancient port of Ostia, whose ruins were wonderfully preserved thanks to being covered in mud from a Tiber flood for centuries. After a long train ride, we were taken on a short tour through the ancient city’s baths, theater (we had several people perform for us there, of course) and shopping center. After that, we were allowed to roam the endless ruins for a few hours. At the end of the allotted time when all of the mini-groups came back together from their adventuring, the general consensus was that Ostia was absolutely incredible, no matter where you went or what you found. After Ostia, a large group decided to ride the elevator to the top of the Victor Emmanuel memorial for a fantastic view of the city at sundown. Unfortunately, pictures can’t do the view justice, but again, don’t worry Mom: I took them.

Today we began by visiting St. John Lateran, the most important church to Catholicism in the city of Rome (the seemingly obvious answer, St. Peter’s, is technically located in its own state, the Vatican City). After a special time of reverence in the beautiful church or at the Holy Stairs nearby (students were given the choice to stay in the church or visit the stairs) we made our way through the rain to our lunch location, Le Foodie (I’m not kidding). After a long lunch break, we made our way to the Borghese Gallery in the scenic northwest portion of the city. The museum houses the majority of the sculptor Bernini’s most famous works, including the Rape of Persephone, and Apollo and Daphne. We stared in awe at the majestic works of art in the museum, and then topped off our Bernini-fueled day by making a short stop at St. Maria della Vittoria, a smaller (but still pretty) church that contains the sculptor’s St. Theresa in Ecstasy. As I write this, we are 10 minutes away from leaving for dinner, and we are all a little sad we only have one more day in this gorgeous city. It has been incredible!

Ciao for now,


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Hello parents,

I am currently typing on (other) Julia’s laptop in a rooftop garden between ferns and shuttered windows in Rome. If you were worried about us not living the dream, do not worry, it’s happening.

Two mornings ago, we were living a dream, albeit a different one. We loaded the van and drove to O’Hare. Chatter levels were high. We meandered about the airport and then loaded onto the plane. We were supposed to sleep on the plane. Unfortunately, airplane seats are not optimal for sleeping.

As we approached Paris, the sun rose over the landscape. Specks of light amid darkness dissolved into rooftops and thin roads in neat fields. We landed and exited the plane in various states of dishevelment, but all relatively happy. A plethora of languages greeted us. Then, shopping and eating and walking and watching and reading and sleeping ensued as we exhorted the eleven hour layover to pass. Magically, it was time to board the plane. Magically, it was such a quick flight. Magically, we did not have to go through customs. Magically, we had arrived in Rome.

Our guides, brothers Adam and David, greeted us along with the Moeschbergers. We rode a charter bus into the city, and walked a bit on a narrow cobblestone street to reach Hotel Tirreno. Given keys, some of us decided to shower and then collapse in bed while others went out in search of food and an ATM.

After a blissful spell of unconsciousness, we woke up to breakfast this morning and then stepped into the streets of Rome. The temperature felt balmy, the skies were blue, the trees were green. We walked the streets, some of us for the first time, and over the horizon the Colosseum arose. Okay, so I could try to describe these magnificent structures, but we snapped so many different angles of everything that when we return, you’ll see plenty. Still, I think that my classmates agree with me about how pictures do not do these justice. Yes, we all had seen numerous pictures of the Colosseum. And yet, physically experiencing it was not at all underwhelming. Wow levels were high.

Afterward, we discussed the triumphal arch next to the Colosseum, depicting Constantine’s victories. We walked through beautiful gardens, many more arches, Julius Caesar’s burial place, and the Forum, too. Every way we turned, a new wonder met our eyes. The most inconspicuous ruin in that place I believe would demand its own museum elsewhere.

The Santa Maria Maggiore, a beautiful church, is just a block from our hotel. Every surface was covered in artistry: mosaics, paintings, sculptures, marble designs. And the space was not small; the golden ceiling was very far away as we craned our necks from the floor.

Then, free time. We all walked down a different dark alley by ourselves! Just kidding. In safe groups of at least three, we participated in window shopping, gelato eating, journaling, and napping. A nice pace for our first day.

At our orientation meeting, we were introduced to some basic Italian vocabulary and aspects of Italian culture. Apparently, pizza, pasta, and paninis are legitimately Italian foods. At lunch, we each ate an entire pizza, but each slice was of a different flavor. Dinner was three delicious courses.

We are beating jet lag, building friendships, and looking forward to another day.

Good vibe levels are high.

Julia Noonan

Early Italy Pic.jpg

Early Italy Pic 2

Italy Cathedral.jpg

Dear Parents,

Just a quick email this evening to let you know that your students have survived their looooong flight and layover in Paris, and are happy to be settled into Hotel Tirreno in Rome! Half of them went out for some pizza with the leaders, as restaurants are open late here!


After some well-deserved rest, we will meet in the morning for an orientation, and then off to see the colosseum, and more!



Rome Colliseum.jpg






January 20 – Update 5

Ni Hao parents and beloved family members, Noah Nemni here. ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /

As of 5 PM China time we are currently on the bus to Shanghai! I get the exciting but difficult task of summing up in one page our past three days in the city of Nanjing.

First thing we noticed is the weather here! For the first time since our first day in Beijing, the smog has lifted and we can see the sun. It’s a weak, cold, winter sun, but bright and beautiful nonetheless! The sky has been clear blue, temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Most native Midwesterners on the trip are considering this quite warm for January and have shed heavy coats, much to the surprise of bundled up Chinese passersby. (They keep staring at David in his t-shirts. They think he is very strong.) I as a Floridian am keeping my coats on.

Xi’an to me looked pretty desolate, like an outpost of high rises cropping up in the middle of nowhere. It’s probably because the smog reduced visibility so much it was impossible to see what lay beyond the buildings. Nanjing was quite a refreshing difference! Every street is lined with mature sycamore trees, green bushes, even palm trees (which made me feel so at home!).

Sunday was the Sabbath we needed after eight straight days of touring. We finally got to sleep in a bit, with nowhere to go until 10 AM. We were glad to catch up on sleep, even for just a little bit. We worshipped at an English service at St. Paul’s Church, a registered church in Nanjing. About 200 English-speaking Chinese were in our service, with 4,000 in the total congregation! That’s so striking about the church in China, it’s growing! Partially because it is so welcoming. Before the service begins, a church member leads the congregation in practicing the hymns that will be used in the service, so no one feels left out. At the beginning, any first time guests were asked to stand and a microphone was passed for them to introduce themselves. Jordan, our fantastic guide, spoke for our whole group. We were not the only guests! Lots of university students, one came to faith at college in the States, one was invited to come by an older lady in the church. We got to have Communion with our Chinese brothers and sisters. Such a great experience—and don’t worry, it was grape juice.

Then we finally got to get out of the busy city and head up Purple Mountain! 300 steps up the side of the mountain is a mausoleum devoted to Sun Yat-sen, the Christian founder of the Nationalist party. The amount of honor shown to him was surprising, considering his democratic ideology comes in stark contrast to the current Communist regime. It’s simply another example of how nothing is as you expect in China.

The mountains were beautiful and a few of us went on some off-trail adventures while others spent the hour posing for Chinese people who wanted pictures with Americans. Seriously. Let one group take a picture with you and suddenly three others have their phones out, wanting their picture—and their kids’ pictures—with the meiguo ren. It’s hard being a celebrity, but it’s fun.

That night we had a very special treat: Papa John’s Pizza! Chinese food is fantastic, but we were ready to throw down the chopsticks and stuff our faces. It tasted just like the American stuff and we all ate at least 5 slices. Coldstone Ice Cream and shopping around the city topped the night off.

On Monday a friend took us on a day trip to sister cities Zhanjiang and Yangzhou, small towns for China—about 3 million people. We were joined by some ELIC friends, including a Canadian and a 2008 graduate of Taylor University! There we followed the life of Hudson Taylor, the first missionary to China who actually adopted Chinese culture in order to reach people with the Gospel of Christ. We saw his house where riots drove him and his wife out of town. We saw his tombstone, and even his grave. At his tombstone there is a beautiful picture of five generations of Taylors. It was amazing to see Hudson Taylor V, a Chinese young man. How cool is it that Hudson Taylor I devoted his life to becoming Chinese and now, a few generations later, his family is genetically Chinese?

The tomb of Taylor and his wife can be found in the bell tower of a modern Chinese megachurch. And that’s truly the best word to describe it! The brand new building has a beautiful grassy courtyard, a 2,000 person sanctuary, a bookstore, and a basement full of rooms for kids and Sunday school and fellowship. The church is prominently placed on a busy street corner with two enormous red crosses on the roof. This was a crazy sight for me who one month ago thought Christianity was illegal in China. We’re happy to report it’s not. God is moving and the Church is growing. Please put the Church in China on your prayer list.

Another crazy sight, on Tuesday morning we visited Amity Printing Company, the largest Bible press in the world! Multiple people asked me if I was allowed to bring my Bible to China, now I can show them my video of Bibles popping out of the press in China! It was enormous, the working conditions looked comfortable, and the workers seemed happy. They churn out 18 million Bibles a year in Chinese, English, Spanish, and many other languages. How encouraging to see God’s Word going out from a place where this would have never been possible just 40 years ago!

Last we visited the Nanjing Massacre museum, an expansive complex in memory of 300,000 Nanjing civilians brutally slaughtered by the Japanese imperial army in 1937-1938, at the beginning of World War II. I don’t know how in 13 years of history classes learning about WWII, I had never even heard of this horrific event! The museum was very somber, built on top of a mass grave of innocent Chinese people. There was so much history to take in and reading to do we could have spent all day.

But we had to leave for Shanghai, one last city before coming home to the U.S. of A. The trip planners have done a great job of connecting us with people and getting us off the beaten tourist path…We also have gotten to see the way real people live, not in the upscale shops of the city with their Western models, but in tiny alley neighborhoods with one well shared by the community. As we walked single-file through a tight alley, saying ni hao to all the people we passed, Elise White remarked, “They’re so beautiful!” Little old Asian ladies, men with sun-stained skin—people like us with dreams and ambitions, made in the image of God.

Love you, family! (And I’m sure everyone else loves theirs too.) I’m excited to see where God brings us in Shanghai!

Noah Nemni


Prayer Request: Please pray for the group’s health! Sniffles and sore throats are going around, and as the trip winds to a close we are all growing very weary. Pray that the good cooperation and fun group dynamic can continue, even while we’re tired.

P.S.: Happy birthday Mr. Berends! Alex still has not bought you anything. But she’s working ­­­hard to find just the right thing.

Oh yeah and we got to do karaoke. That was an amazing experience. And I killed my voice.

January 17 – Update 4

Hello from the Xian airport! Cora Herbkersman speaking (Hi Mom and Dad!!).

We have had a fantastic time in this city.  Many of us have expressed how full of character and personality it is. As usual, the people are friendly and enjoy taking our picture way too much. The buildings in Xian are beautiful, many historic. While we were there, we spent a substantial amount of time in the Muslim Quarter, shopping and eating traditional, delicious meals. We have really been blessed by all of the unique opportunities provided by this trip.

Yesterday we saw the Terra Cotta Warriors. It was incredible and much larger than most of us had assumed. Personally, I was surprised to see just how far archeologists had yet to go in excavating the site. Hundreds of the warriors have been repaired, but many more have yet to go.

We also stopped by the Big Goose Pagoda, a Buddhist worship center. A large group of us stopped there to talk to some Chinese students. When they found out that Ty was a musician, he was forced to sing to them. He turned kind of red as he proceeded to sing Amazing Grace in full view of the public. Afterwards, we were able to walk around Xian for a little while in small groups. As usual, many adventures were had; including watching elderly men fly kites in a local park and Jacob posing like a wristwatch model. Last night, we were joined for dinner by several American friends from ELIC and the two Chinese founders of Faithful Learning Institute named Ann and James. All of them are fellow Christians and told us about their callings to teach language in China. Today, we went to a local mosque with some Muslim locals. It was a great time to spend together, learning about their religion and exploring small streets full of shops. During this outing, we went into a calligraphy shop called House of Helen. We got to hear Helen’s testimony of her transition from Islam to Christianity. Her testimony, just like many we have heard in China, was very powerful.

While we are excited for new adventures in Nanjing, many of us, myself included, are sad to leave such a beautiful city so soon. Everyone is fairly healthy, and we are still energetic and enjoying ourselves greatly. We would, however, ask for prayers as we continue our journey. Please pray for continued health, good sleep, safe travels on the crazy roads of China, and patience. Also, Dr. Brainer and Dr. Moeschberger have left us, so please keep them in your thoughts as they travel back to the States soon.

Thank you for your thoughts! We miss you all. See you in about a week!

Cora Herbkersman 

January 16 – Update 3

Ni hao meiguo ren!

Wednesday was a very productive day for us!  We had the opportunity to meet and listen to three prominent artists in China.  A lot of us didn’t know exactly what to expect, but we were excited nonetheless.  The first artist we got to meet was Zhu Jiuyang, and he has an amazing story.  He is not only extremely talented, but his artwork reflects his passion for Christ.  He is not afraid of using his skills to share his faith, and his art gallery is being used as a meeting place for church.  Many of us were amazed by how he recognized a natural skill that God gave him and is now using it to further God’s Kingdom.  We also had lunch with him and some people in his church which was very enjoyable.  It was a great chance to get to know our brothers and sisters in Christ who live across the world from us. 

In the afternoon, we were able to hear from another famous artist and designer in China.  Mr. Song Tao had a fascinating story and a great perspective when it came to traditional and modern elements of art.  He created many pieces that included distinct features from traditional and modern Chinese culture.  His passion for his work was something that we all admired and getting to ask him about his inspiration was a great learning experience for all of us. 

Our evening was very entertaining and fun.  We had a great meal at a restaurant across the street from our hotel.   Thanks to our fearless leader, Dr. Moeschberger, we walked twice as far as we needed to, and we gave him a hard time for that.  However, the meal was delicious and we got to have really good conversations about what we learned from the artists.  Later that night we got to hear a brief presentation from He Chuyne, who is Christian artist.  He is very talented and uses his artwork to reflect his love for Christ.  His daughter is a sophomore at Taylor and is majoring in art education.  It was a very productive day that every student loved and benefitted from.

Yesterday was a travel day for the group as we went from Beijing to Xi’an.  We all enjoyed the trip on the bullet train and had a nice relaxing day.  It was filled with great conversations, lots of cards, and the hiding of a pillow pet.  All in all, the group is having an incredible time on this trip and God has blessed us in so many ways.  We hope everything is going well back home and we are excited for what the next days have in store for us. 

Nick Dennig

January 13 – Update 2

Ni hao meiguo ren!

These past two days have been packed! First off, don’t worry. The pollution has been surprisingly mild, and the citizens have been very kind. Most even stop and stare, and many take photos of us. We started yesterday off with a trip to the Bethel Orphanage, and orphanage for children with multiple disabilities. Seeing the more rural area of China was interesting after seeing nothing but Beijing. Seeing the children was a bit challenging for the group. We were left with some big questions of life, and really no answers. We talked about what we had seen over lunch, and we came away with a hugely different perspective on China, and maybe even a changed perspective on life. The food in general, and especially at lunch, has been great. We’ve all stepped outside our comfort zone with the food, especially David and I. We both ended our lunch by eating 20+ Sichuan peppers, which is a tiny pinecone-like spice that tastes lemony and numbs your mouth. To give you some perspective, I’m told these were used as anesthetics in the past. I was left unable to feel my face, and things went a little bit worse for David, but he’s fine now. We did a bit of shopping after lunch, and finished up the day at the Laoshe Tea House. We saw many traditional Chinese performing arts, but the highlight was definitely the face-changer. If you haven’t heard of this, look up a video on youtube and prepare to have your mind blown.  We made it back to the hotel very slowly, happy that the worst of the jet lag was almost behind us.

We started today at a very early 6 A.M. We were all exhausted on the bus, but it proved worth it. We made it to the Great Wall around 9 A.M. and began climbing. We didn’t hike the whole mountain, but it felt like we did. I can personally say that the Great Wall and surrounding landscape was easily the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, and I doubt very many students would disagree. I’m sure you’ll get to see plenty of photos of it; we took close to 1000 collectively.  We finished the Great Wall strong with a sled ride down the mountain. Dr. Brainer and I both reached about the speed of sound, and a few others got pretty close.  Overall, the Great Wall definitely lived up to the hype. From there we went to the Forbidden City. Our tour guide friend Adam was with us for the last time, and he told us all kinds of fun facts about it. Ask us about them when we get home, I’m sure we’ll have plenty to tell you. We finished up the day with an awesome dinner, and a few of us explored the night life. Alex, Chester, and David definitely won the award for most adventurous when they a shared a stick of scorpions out on the town.

Hopefully everything is going well in the States. We’re having a ton of fun, bonding a lot as a group, and learning a little too. No need to worry, but definitely pray that the trip stays at least as great as it has been so far. PS, Don’t worry Beasley family, Mary is staying well-hydrated.

Max Price (Doggie)

January 12 – Update 1

Hello Parents!

I’m writing today from our bus ride over to the Bethel China Orphanage/  The traffic this Monday morning seems fit for a city of twenty-million, but we are making the most of it.  Most of us are still getting over the jet lag, but our leaders have been keeping us well hydrated and well rested. The temperature has been a pleasant change from Upland- the low teens (C), maybe 30-50 F?

A few of us tried to watch some professional Chinese basketball on tv last night, but it was hard to take seriously.  This morning, we were surprised to see the Colts-Broncos game on.  We have been very welcomed here in China and the efforts to accommodate foreigners have not gone unnoticed.

Sunday morning, we lined up outside the Gangwashi Three-Self Church gates. There was a service before and limited space inside.  Cultural differences are everywhere, whether not having a beverage with our bowl of noodles and soup, or having the Chinese take pictures of us wherever we go, but we are learning.  The church service was a great experience. Most of us were given headsets to listen to a translation of the sermon — a message on Paul’s obedience in staying back from Rome.  We heard a big emphasis on giving up the things of this world for the promises of God, something that seems to mean a lot in this country. Late in the service., the first time guests were asked to stand and the congregation showered us in a song, “Welcome to our church, Jesus loves you all, welcome to our church.”

In the afternoon, some local Christian young people joined us to tour the Temple of Heaven and quickly we made some friends. Though we were so different. their English was good and we found common ground to talk about.  Later, we went to the Pearl Market to browse and bargain for souvenirs.  Supposedly, the sellers said they would give us a better price since we had Chinese friends accompanying us, but I’m not too sure about that. We ended the evening with a huge meal of dumplings and sharing with fellow believers.  Our first day in Beijing, I felt we had already made some friends, and it was hard to say goodbye.

Things are going well and know that the leaders have been taking very good care of us 🙂

With love,

Chester Chan (Yue Yue)



Ireland Honors Ireland 2014

Entry #13, Wednesday, January 22

(From Samantha Petersen)

Hello everyone,

Today was our last full day in Belfast but also in Ireland. It’s a little bittersweet as this amazing two weeks comes to an end, but I can honestly say I have learned so much from this experience. Meeting with different church leaders, talking with community members, and being able to engage in numerous historic Christian sites has opened my mind up to ideas I’ve never thought of before.

Before we headed out of Belfast, we had a chance to debrief with Dr. Roddy Cowie (Professor of Psychology from Queens University) and Rev. Steve Stockman (Minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, who helped host our visit). Dr. Cowie spoke to us on Sunday night as part of a lecture for the city-wide “4 Corners Festival” (  and about our responsibility to live out the Sermon on the Mount, and how God can use that to reflect His goodness to others. This morning we had the chance to ask him questions regarding his lecture and dive deeper into some of the issues surrounding reconciliation. One of the prominent topics was the division between the political parties that have permeated every aspect of life in Northern Ireland. Dr. Cowie challenged us to look for these divisive ideas back in the states. What kind of interactions do we have at home that seem functional on the surface, but are actually fraught with bias or a sectarian-type mindset? I think it made a lot of us examine how we unconsciously separate those we perceive as different from us. That was just one of the many questions and thought-provoking answers we discussed in our wrap up of the Belfast learning experience.

As you might have gathered, Belfast was a very heavy place. After years and years of conflict, the weight of sectarianism was palpable as soon as I entered the city limits. I originally thought I was going to hate every moment, but I was wrong. Our five days in Belfast gave me an opportunity to get to know the people that have been living through this conflict and not just the details of the conflict itself. I was able to meet people like Steve Stockman and Father Gerry, pastors of churches who have been on opposing sides of the conflict, but are now trying to work together to foster reconciliation. The youth of Fitzroy Presbyterian were willing to talk to a bunch of Americans about their faith and how it doesn’t reside in what flag flies over city hall, but in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The people who are working tirelessly to create peace projects like the 4 Corners Festival and the Unity Pilgrimage were inspiring in their tenacity to do whatever is deemed necessary to bring reconciliation even at the risk of their lives and reputations. In a city I thought I would strongly dislike, I came to love and care about the people who are still living in a very polarized part of the world. It was an honor to learn from people who have the power and the vision to change their country despite their differences.

After leaving Belfast, we headed to Newgrange. There are many mysteries about Newgrange because the civilization of that time period didn’t have any recorded history that we know of, but it is an example of what is known as a passage tomb. Now this is no ordinary tomb; it’s built into a hill with 97 stones surrounding the bottom, some weighing  up to 10 tons. It’s main entrance is covered with white quartz quarried from 80 kilometers away. There are decorative designs carved into many of the stones around the outside, making this 5000 year old structure absolutely breathtaking. What I can’t seem to wrap my head around is that this Stone Age Culture was able to construct a cohesive structure (with rock they had to move by hand) over multiple generations of people. Because their life spans were so short and all the building processes took a long time, it is believed that the grandchildren of the original builders were the ones to finish the tomb. So this unknown civilization had some way to communicate the plans for this beautiful structure many years before we imagined thought processes like this to happen.

Another mind boggling thing about this tomb was the alignment created between the sun and the door. The door was created in such a way that the sun shines directly into the tomb on the winter solstice every year without fail. This shows that this prehistoric civilization had some knowledge of the workings of the sky as well as amazing architectural know-how. In case you couldn’t tell, Newgrange blew my mind in its complexities. I think the group as a whole were amazed that we could touch something that’s older than the Egyptian pyramids by 500-1000 years.

Newgrange was our last stop in a long list of historical sites we had the opportunity to visit the last two weeks. It was a great cap to our historic tour of Ireland.

We spent our last night back in Greystones before our big flight back to the States. Before heading our separate ways, Dr. Moeschberger led us in a time of reflection focusing on what we want to remember and apply to our everyday lives after this amazing experience.

I would personally like to say how much of a blessing it has been to be a part of such a great, intellectually challenging group of students for the past two weeks. These people have pushed me to be better in so many ways. I have left my comfort zone by trying new things, meeting new people, and ultimately entertaining ideas I’ve never even imagined. I am sure this trip will mark me for the rest of my life as a pivotal moment for my relationship with these people and my Heavenly Father. Going on an academic trip, studying Historic Christian Belief with 31 other very bright students brings so many layers of the Taylor vision together, it could have been overwhelming. Thankfully, wonderful leadership, great students, and the history-rich land of Ireland have made this trip challenging and stretching in all the best ways possible.

Samantha Petersen

Tuesday, Entry #12-Our final day in Belfast, January 21 (Nicole)

It rained today. The weather was no different from every other day we’ve experienced in Belfast, but we learned material that did not match the gloom outside.  This morning, we visited a streak of sunshine in Belfast’s rain cloud.

Skainos is a community complex that spilled out of a Methodist church’s sense of mission. Their 150-year-old congregation was planted at the corner of a minor Catholic sector and a major Protestant area of town.  The relatively impoverished surrounding community still feels the aftershocks of sectarian violence. We met with the director of the organization, who outlined its mission for us.

Skainos contains a hostel, a theater company, day centers for the mentally ill and elderly, a trendy (but inexpensive) café, apartments, and the church’s sanctuary. I was most impressed, however, by the building’s symbolism. It begins with the facility’s name. The word Skainos loosely translates to “tent” in Greek. The meaning is twofold: the first is a definition of their meeting place as frail, removable, repairable, and disposable. The second is a reference to John’s description of Christ: “The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us.” The congregation at Skainos wants to “pitch their tents” in the midst of their community and dwell with them.  In a city full of territorial space, they hope to create a shared space.

The symbolism goes beyond the churches’ intended purpose and into its very architecture. The exterior of the building contains a four-story “vertical garden” wall, which provides a living, always-changing contrast to the bleak, concrete sectarian walls that separate Catholic and Protestant sectors in Belfast. On the inside of the building, symbolism is inescapable. The brick walls’ mortar spills over to cover the bricks, representing the Holy Spirit’s power to unify believers.  Doorways, table legs, and even the lectern are angled to mirror shipbuilding cranes (a symbol of their community).  A curved wooden ceiling (representing God hovering over believers) covers both the sanctuary and the café as a reminder that God is present in every place.  Brightly colored ceramic bolts fill empty holes in the walls to mirror the beautiful, colorful, fragile human beings that hold the place together.

Every element of the spectacular modern building is symbolic. After almost two weeks of visiting high churches, cathedrals and monasteries, I was struck by the connection between those ancient places of worship and this modern industrial-style building. The symbols woven into Skainos’ building point to Christ just as much as the beauty of swinging incense, stained glass windows, and high vaulted ceilings. Through conversations with clergy of every denomination, I am gaining a greater appreciation for different expressions of worship.

In the afternoon, we heard an engaging lecture from Dr. Gladys Ganiel of Trinity College’s School of Ecumenics.  She discussed the role of Northern Irish churches in reconciliation after the Troubles. In the evening, we met with local university students for pizza and traditional Irish music. We finished the night by learning a classic Irish Ceili from our new friends, and returning the favor by teaching them to swing dance.  By the time we walked back to our hostel, the rain had stopped. We enjoyed the warm winter air and anticipated a time when the people of Belfast will fully clear their dark and overcast community.

Entry 12 continued- summary reflection, hopes, and prayers (Kate)

During our time in Belfast, we have taken in a fast and intense amount of facts and ideas encompassing the subjects of the Troubles, peace, and reconciliation. The more I have learned about these things, the more questions and complexities arise in my mind. God is stretching me to consider what it means to be a peacemaker. In our fallen world, division is a constant factor—relationally, racially, economically, etc. As Christians, we are called to reflect God’s image to the world, and a facet of this calling is to pursue peace. But how?

The organizations and individuals striving to build a better future for Belfast have inspired me to wrestle with this issue and I am beginning to connect a number of ideas based on their example. I believe that the starting point is to prayerfully discern what specific walls of separation are present in our lives. Then, we can begin the challenging process of critiquing our own positions and beliefs in order to root out and repent of our errors. Redemption will only be attainable when we stop dwelling in the past and instead focus on common goals for the future.

I ask that you would pray for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as our group continues to process and connect everything that has been poured into us. God has blessed each of us with this unique opportunity to learn—pray that we would be good stewards of this gift.

We send our love.

Honors Ireland 2014

Entry #11, Monday, January 20, 2014

(Written by Mitch Mays)

Dear Family and Friends,

I am happy to inform you all that God again has been gracious to us with good weather! Rain, clouds, and even most of the cold held off and allowed for a beautiful sunny day! This weather was especially nice since our big event of the day was visiting Giants Causeway.

The morning was spent on the bus ride to the Causeway. Most of us were relaxing and reflecting upon the talks we had heard in the past few evenings, it was nice to have some time to think. After arriving and eating a quick packed lunch, we headed off toward the Causeway. We were given handheld audio guides which explained the Irish legend of the significance of Giants Causeway.

After hearing the history of the place it was even more enjoyable to see it. The formations of the volcanic rock made hexagon shaped pillars which stretched a large portion of the coast. Everyone spent a while capturing photos with the beating waves in the background. We then trekked on and followed a steep path leading us back to the visitor center. While walking Dr. Moeschberger pointed out that Scotland could be seen on the horizon.

On our way back from Giants Causeway, we stopped at Dunluce Castle.  Inside there was a place for the boats to port and unload material into the castle. There were a few nice spots to view the ocean from inside the castle. One such spot was covered in slick grass and about four of our crew found themselves getting a nice view from the ground!

Overall, the day was a breath of fresh air, full of time to clear our heads and contemplate the things that we had heard past few days. I am sure I speak for everyone when I say we have been loving our time here and are excited to see what the next few days have in store!

Thanks for still being our family and friends,

The Honors Guildians

P.S.   In a brutally close final game against Kate and Beth, Gabby and Emily claimed tonight’s Euchre tournament victory

Entry #10, Sunday, January 19

Hello Friends and Family,

After a wonderful experience at Clonard’s Saturday night mass yesterday, we were all excited to worship with their partner in ministry, Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, this morning.  Fitzroy is conveniently located just around the corner from our hostel.  The pastor of the congregation, Reverend Steve Stockman, has been a friend of Taylor for years, and the church currently has an intern that graduated from Taylor in 2012.  We were warmly welcomed by the congregation and enjoyed service together.

The message this morning blessed my heart and was very relevant to our studies on peace and reconciliation.  The sermon was entitled “Rivers of Living Waters will Flow” and was focused on scripture from John 7.  In this passage, Jesus cries out “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).  God poured out living water through Jesus into believers in the form of His Holy Spirit, and in turn, we have the water of life to give to others.  Reverend Stockman related these flowing waters of life to rivers.  Rivers shape the landscape as we have seen firsthand on this trip with the flooding of the River Shannon.  The living water of the Holy Spirit should be shaping the landscape of our lives, and we should simultaneously be shaping our surroundings.

The message was a great encouragement after the heavy day we had yesterday.  All that is needed to change the landscape of this city and consequently our world is the Holy Spirit flowing through us and the power of commitment to Him. The power of the Spirit of God has been very evident to us throughout this trip especially in our times of worship together at Greystones and Clonard. 

After the service, we talked with members of the congregation and enjoyed tea, coffee, and biscuits (cookies) which have quickly become a staple in our diet.  We then had the wonderful opportunity to go to host homes for lunch and were blessed by the hospitality and kindness of our hosts.  Pete, Elma, and Marie Greer hosted Sean, Rachel K., and I in their home in East Belfast.  We enjoyed a delicious meal of orange chicken, potatoes, roasted peppers, fruit salad, ice cream, and lemon posset.  I am convinced that we had the best host home (although I’m not the only one to make this claim) as we were graciously given dinner and a show as Pete serenaded us with a beautiful guitar that he made by hand!

The afternoon was spent back at Fitzroy listening to two staff members, Janet and Jonathon, speak of their experiences in the Troubles and their attempts at reconciliation between the Catholics and Protestants in Belfast.  We then had a light dinner and free time at the church, and some our musically inclined cohort members found themselves fighting for a turn at the piano.  We ended the day at Fitzroy with another Four Corners Festival event; Professor Roddy Cowie from Queen’s University spoke on “The Psychology of Peace in the Sermon on the Mount.”

Our evening was spent back at the hostel, and I am sure you will all be relieved to know that we were able to watch the Broncos defeat the Patriots.  Scout bravely donned her Patriots jersey for the second time on this trip and then graciously endured mild mockery as our Colts fans experienced sweet revenge!  In all seriousness, we have been so blessed with beautiful community and much laughter on this trip and are all deeply saddened to realize that our time together is quickly coming to a close.

Sending our love,

Taylor University Honors Guild

Cassie Long

Entry 9, Saturday , January 18, 2014

(Written by Jessica Schulte)

Dear Family and Friends,

You’re in for a long update, as this was the single most challenging day of the trip so far. I hope you’ll read it through and get a bit of a taste for where our hearts have been over the last 24 hours.

This morning dawned to the realization that there were 32 students and 3 Graduate Assistants in this hostel (24 of them girls), and only 3 showers. Of all the team challenges we’ve faced thus far, this test proved to be the most revealing in regards to the strength of our communal bond. We pulled through alright, and even managed to avoid overwhelming the friendly hostel staff by eating breakfast in 20-minute shifts. On the bus Dr. Moeschberger warned us that because our week was so fully scheduled, this morning would likely be our last opportunity to shop in Belfast. Needless to say, we scattered like rats across the damp city streets (in groups of 4 or more, of course). During that time I saw the opportunity to fulfill my lifelong dream of getting a tattoo.

When we met back in the bus-sweet-bus at 12:30, cheerfully sharing stories of our escapades and/or embarrassing American behavior, the drizzle settled into a fog over the city, and with it came a bone-chilling gloom because we were headed to Falls Road. In overly simplified terms, Falls Road was the heartland of the Republican (Catholic) and Loyalist (Protestant) struggle during The Troubles. Peace Walls, the barriers erected to discourage the violence between adjacent Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, line the street. Some of these walls are decorated with murals bold in color and in theme. During The Troubles these murals were used to intimidate and even terrorize members of the opposite side. Since the cease-fire in November, 1994, those murals have been covered by less violent images, but equally passionate messages. A fairly consistent theme of the murals I saw today was anti-oppression both locally and internationally. Brian and Gladys, our local tour-guides, informed us that in many cases, one side of the struggle will pick a side on a political or global issue simply because the other side supports the opposing view. I was shocked to see how closely we follow on the heels of those dark days. Under the shadow of the walls we visited a museum and several cemeteries filled with stories of betrayal, confusion, tragic protests, heroism and injustice. The lines between socioeconomic goals, civil rights, religious ties, familial loyalty and politics seem hopelessly tangled – but that is why we’ve come: to learn about the challenge of forgiveness and reconciliation that can untangle the snare, and to see that the process has already begun.

As you can probably imagine, this was a very heavy day for our group. We were given a very graphic, raw, personal confrontation with the events of The Troubles, and the aftermath that still exists in Ireland. It is all so much more complicated, conflicting, and ultimately grey than any of us could have previously known or imagined. But just when you thought we couldn’t get in any deeper, there we were, sitting in a meeting with two Fathers of Clonard Monastery asking uncomfortable, though crucial, questions about the rift between the Protestant and Catholic churches today. Sitting in that meeting, hearing the hearts of these two Catholic servants of God, I realized that issues I thought to be crystal clear were just as tangled and broken as those that surrounded The Troubles.

Father Jerry Reynolds and Father Ed Peterson work very closely with the Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in Belfast to promote religious and social reconciliation in N.I., and shared with us their dream wherein all members of Christ’s Church are united as they ought to be. This dream campaign has begun grow in the form of a movement called, “The Walls of Separation do not Reach to Heaven.” One important piece of this movement involves a group of Fathers from Clonard Monastery visiting and participating in other non-Catholic church services. The one stipulation is that they cannot partake of communion, but instead walk forward to receive a blessing, a ritual which (because we are not confirmed Catholics) we must perform tonight during their celebration of Mass. Sitting in the back row of that meeting, I suddenly began to cry. For the first time in my life, I was in a situation where I was not free to participate fully in a celebration of my Savior with fellow believers.

The Fathers had expressed the desire of their hearts for a truly loving, unified body, as well as the reality that when it came down to it, their hands were almost powerless, so of course I understood. But my heart was broken. My heart was broken for the past: families torn apart in The Troubles, for the weak and the helpless, for the passionate and the lost, for those disenfranchised by the Church because agents of hate and power perverted its influence to terrorize minorities and majorities on both sides of the conflict. My heart was broken for the present: a divided people, a lingering anger and insurmountable loss, and for a divided Church. My church background is predominately non-denominational, and I have had close to no interactions of this nature with Catholics before. As I participated in a conversation and a Mass such as I’d never imagined, some things to which I’ve clung so tightly in pride began to seem less and less important in light of our common identities as believers. I believe I speak for many of us in saying that we left the conversation with many more questions than we came with, and you, our dear families may be in for some robust conversations upon our arrivals home from Ireland. J

What a trying day! I can just hear my mom telling me to let it all out then get a good night’s rest. (Unfortunately, by the time I finish this blog post…J). But I truly believe that today’s intensity was designed by God to challenge and grow us all as believers. How can we understand what it takes to reconcile when we aren’t willing to hear the stories of the people who suffered? And how can we comfort others when we shy away from our own wounds? Today I discovered how deeply I love the Church by experiencing the pain of feeling isolated from it. I ache and long for the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17, and this is why in the end, I was thankful to receive the blessing; thankful that godly men and women were taking steps, led by the Holy Spirit, towards reconciliation. I approached the altar with a heavy, hopeful heart, knowing that where it really counted, we were in fact united in Christ, and one day we would be perfectly and eternally One.

I will end this lengthy post the way the night ultimately ended, with joy. After the service, we all gathered in the empty sanctuary to sing “Jesus, I Adore You,” “Be Thou My Vision,” and the doxology. Our voices rang in the rafters, clear to the Heavens, swirling around the brilliant blue and gold tiles and red candles, and the presence of God made it all spectacular. His heart is broken for the dissonance of His Church, but also overjoyed that a group of Freshmen students from Taylor University are experiencing the fullness of His grace in every moment, and learning more and more each day how wide and long and far and wide are His mercy and His love. Oh, and did I fail to mention that one of our number (I will let her remain nameless) was one second short of drinking the Holy Water? And also, I didn’t really get the tattoo – Sam did. (See disclaimer below)

Blessings to all! Please keep us in your prayers as we emotionally process all we heard and saw today, and also for the health of our entire group. To my family: I love you and miss you!


TU Honors Guild

p.s. Just kidding about the tattoo, Mr. and Mrs. Peterson, she put me up to it

Day 8, Friday, January 17, 2014

(Written by Ellie Williamson)

Hello, parents and other friendly readers!

Today we wrapped up our week in the Republic of Ireland and hopped on the coach to travel from Greystones to Belfast. We were all thankful for a later start this morning than we’ve had in recent days. After loading the coach, we spent a few last minutes on the beach to admire the gorgeous view, spend some time in the Word of God, and reflect on our trip so far. It’s hard to believe we’ve already passed the halfway point!

Saying goodbye to Greystones, we shouldered our backpacks and hit the road. We stopped briefly to see Murdoch’s Cross (a beautiful high cross) at Monasterboice. A few minutes after leaving there, we stopped again at Mellifont Abbey, the first Cistercian Abbey built in Ireland. There we climbed down and explored the crypt. We also found some beautiful stone arches in the middle of the ruins and had a spontaneous photoshoot under them. (Photos will be posted soon!)

From Mellifont Abbey, we crossed the border into Northern Ireland and arrived in Belfast. Here, we will be staying in a hostel. Our rooms are certainly cozy; there will be plenty of opportunities for intentional community! It will be quite a different experience staying here than we’ve had so far, but we are ready for the adventure.

We’re already squeezing as many of us as possible in these rooms. Only a few moments ago Evan had a packed audience enjoying his interpretation of the Cowardly Lion in room 13.

After a wonderful Italian dinner, we attended a session of the Four Corners Festival of Belfast in Stormont Estate, where Parliament meets. The festival is devoted to peace and reconciliation between the different sectors of Belfast. We heard several politicians share their stories and their visions for the future of Belfast and Ireland.

Today has been a day of transitions. We left the quiet coast in Greystones for the city of Belfast, the spacious YWCA for the cozy hostel, and the Republic of Ireland for the United Kingdom. We look forward to learning more about the changes happening here in Belfast as it transitions from a city at war to a united community.

We’ll keep you posted!

Your favorite freshmen (and a sophomore and a senior and some grad students)

Entry 7, Thursday, January 16, 2014

(Written by Sean Maynor)

Dear Friends, Family, and everyone else too,

As my most recently introduced colleague has so aptly pointed out, the percentage of male representation on this reputable and honorable publication has been less than impressive. I, therefore, have the privilege of sharing with you a small sampling of the illustrious history and modern culture that we attempted to take on today in Dublin.

We started the day by reenacting the Flood.

We boarded the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) two by two – as our tickets were for two people – and headed off towards Dublin. After a quick zip down the line, we took a walk over to the one and only Trinity College. We have been learning a lot about the development of the Catholic Church in Ireland and the development of the early church in general. With all of this historic learning freshly minted in our minds, we went to see the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells, housed at Trinity College, is one of the best examples of an early artistic manuscript of the Gospels. It is a beautiful and large book made of velum skin with intricate drawings and crafted calligraphy.

The craftsmanship with which the Book was made is unparalleled. To fill you in, we got to see the process by which the leather cover was wrapped and backed, the way that the passages’ leading letters were embellished, and the care with which the different scribes performed their duties. The intentional value with which the people of the church looked upon the recording of the Gospels said a lot about the ascetic and monastic lifestyle that they led, which – no doubt – Dr. Harbin has explained through his lectures.

The Book of Kells was almost small time fun compared to what lay stretched out before us, as we all left the Book of Kells and walked into the Long Room. This library is so exclusive and illustrious that you could not even use it as a student at Trinity back when it was first opened without first getting special permission, and second, reading Latin. Language barrier aside, we gawked our way down the long hall, glancing at original drafts of works by Handel and others in the special seasonal display case in the center of the room. Flanking the cases, the two sides of the room held the lengths of book cases sorted by genre, and then by book size, which struck some students as peculiar. I am sure the sages at Trinity were a little more intentional and informed than us, a couple of college students, but I digress.

We took the rest of the day at our leisure, though we did not take much time for rest, as there was much to see and learn throughout the modern day, buzzing megacity of Dublin. Some people grabbed tarts and pastries that they shamefully held to be better than their grandmothers. Others, seeking to stuff their minds, chose to run over and look at original first drafts of William B Yeats. The city life in Dublin was exciting; it was welcoming. For the most part, everyone had positive and receptive experiences in the many and various stores we shopped in. We were building up our group dynamic to a level higher than it was before. After last night’s powerful group worship service, today came with a fervor and passion for one another and God’s purposes here for us. The general consensus was that today took what had already seemed like a fantastic group of people, and made it something more – something that we will not forget.

As we filed back onto the DART in our pairs, we knew we had seen the best of Dublin, with the best of friends. We look forward to tomorrow and our travels to Belfast. We pray that our learning and understanding of the early Irish church and the ensuing conflict between the Protestants and Catholics will grow and flourish, finding fertile ground to take root in in our minds. We also pray that, as a group, we will build each other up even more, and bring glory to God in a country that has seen so much conflict. Thank you for your time, and keep us in your hearts, as we keep you all in ours.

From the wetter side of the pond,

Sailors of the Ark.

Day 6, January 15, 2014

(Written by Julia Oller)

Hello everyone!

Wow. What an adventure we have had over the last six days. I’m pretty sure that by the time I’m able to fully grasp being across the Atlantic, it will be time to fly home. We’re all in awe of the rugged beauty of this country and each day seems to top the previous one.

Flexibility is the key to any trip, especially one with 40+ people in a foreign country known for its touchy weather patterns. We headed out this morning to visit Glendalough, a monastic community founded by St. Kevin in the 500s. By the time we arrived, it was freezing, drizzly, and miserable. While the Irish are used to these conditions, our tour guide didn’t even wear a raincoat, we Americans weren’t hearty enough to withstand the rain for long. Everyone snapped a few pictures of the bell tower and “Kevin’s Kitchen,” the church on the site, and then drove back to Greystones.

After a few hours learning about the Celts with Dr. Harbin, the sky cleared and we took a trip to Powerscourt, a British palace and garden from the 1500s where parts of the movie The Count of Monte Cristo were filmed. The gardens looked like something out of a painting; one area even had roses in bloom. Near the end of our time there, I took a quiet moment to reflect on the creation surrounding me. I read Psalm 24 which begins, “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”

I have been continually reminded during this journey that all of the beauty heaped on beauty I have witnessed thus far is a treasure from Christ. When I didn’t think the day could get any better, we were blessed with an unexpected opportunity to grow closer to each other and to Jesus. Late this evening, two students led the rest of us in an hour of worship and prayer. As I watched the focus with which my peers praised the “High King of Heaven,” I couldn’t stop smiling. The same God who expressed Himself in the Cliffs of Moher and gardens of Powerscourt was reflected in the faces of the 30 students worshipping His majesty.

With one week left to go, please continue to pray for energy and refreshment in the midst of a jam-packed schedule. Please also pray that we will continue to feel God’s presence in our midst like we did tonight. May you all have a blessed day. See you soon!


Your favorite globetrotters

Entry 5#, Tuesday , January 14, 2014

(Written by Evan Miyakawa)

Dear Family and Friends,

I’m glad to be able to represent the male portion of the group, since there have been no previous guy writers. Rest assured, we are having a grand time in Ireland too.

Today was a very simple day. We arrived in the town of Greystones last night, which is south of Dublin, and began our several night stay at a small campus were Taylor students often stay when studying in Ireland, whether for several weeks or a whole semester. After breakfast this morning, we all gathered in a classroom to spend a good portion of the day hearing about the history of the church in Ireland from our dear professor, Dr. Harbin. It is absolutely mind-blowing to see all the ties he has made between the development of Irish Christianity and things such as church history, Celtic traditions, features of land, and European politics and warfare. Instead of simply feeding us information to memorize, Dr. Harbin has strived to help us make connections between what we see and what we learn in class that ultimately make our experience here so much more well-rounded and impacting.

Aside from the several hours of classroom time, most of the group chose to take walks in the area during the afternoon, giving us a chance to immerse ourselves in the beauty and culture of Ireland even more. There was a small rain most of the time, but the experience was definitely worth it. After dinner, we all had discretionary time which we used to hang out, play games, write our journals, or go into town.

Since today was pretty straightforward, I’ll now take some time to reflect a little bit on our journey as a whole, explaining how I have processed everything we have seen and experienced so far.

One of the main observations I’ve made Is how much the history of the Irish church really matters to this day in Ireland. Unlike America, which has only been around for officially over 200 years, Ireland has a rich church history, full of significant symbols, books, and structures, all of which tell the story of how Christianity has developed over the ages. I have been amazed by the dedication of the Church to keep all of its sites and artifacts in good condition, despite all of the invasions from other people groups over the last millennia.

Along with the satisfying educational experience we are receiving, we have also really bonded as a group in many different ways. Having a group of around 30 allows us to split into smaller groups easily to hang out, while still letting us feel united as a whole. I can speak for many others in our group when I say that God has really blessed my relationships with others thus far. There were many good, deep conversations that happened over the past several days, which made me really begin to see how God is using our friendships here to work in our lives in ways we didn’t even expect. I’m very thrilled to see how He will continue to change and transform us while we are here.

On a final note, it has been so incredibly obvious to me that the Lord is working on our journey here in Ireland. Please pray that He will continue to do so.

(To my family: Don’t get too hot in Thailand while we are still experiencing a real winter here)


The one and only Taylor Honors Guild

Entry #4, Monday, January 13, 2014

(Written by Gabby Trudeau)

Dear friends and family,

Today has been an incredibly growing experience! We are only four days into our Irish journey and already the experiences we have had far exceed previous expectations. Today was a day of transitions as we made the trek from Galway to Greystones with a couple stops on the way. We will be staying in Greystones at the YWCA (home to Taylor’s Irish studies program) for five nights.

It was hard not to feel melancholy about the change in location since most of us became rather attached to Galway during our brief stay. However, rain or shine we loaded up the bus this morning and were on the road at 8:45. Most of us passed the two and half hour trip to our first stop asleep and were woken up by our arrival at the castle Cahir.

We took a tour of this impressive castle from the perspective of soldiers attacking it. Our tour guide took us through each line of defense showing us the function of the design of each structure and opening in the castle. It was amazing to me how many features of the castle had a purpose in creating a virtually impenetrable defense system. Had I not been on the tour I would definitely been critical of the tight staircases, low doorways, and uneven steps. However, it turns out that the stair cases made it impossible for attacking soldiers to use their dominant right hands in the attack, making it all too easy for defending soldiers to push them back; low were meant to take away visibility when attackers rushed into the building; and the uneven stairs were to trip up the soldiers and take away secure footing. Needless to say we were all pretty impressed by the ingenuity that went into the castle. Yesterday Dr. Harbin pointed out that often we equate technology with intelligence. This castle was a prime example of extremely intelligent individuals creating impressive works without what we would consider good technology today.

Our next stop was The Rock of Cashel. Unlike the name implies, The Rock of Cashel is actually an impressive fortress on top of a hill. As we drove up to it, the gigantic spires and structure dominated the view from the bus. We were able to spend significant time here admiring the beautiful architecture and the impressive size. It was truly easy to see why the presentation we watched called this a “fortress of the faith”. We probably could have spent days there examining the carvings and admiring the remnants of paintings on the chapel ceiling.

We end this long, exhausting day in Greystones. We are looking forward to the next few days we get to spend in this beautiful place and are so grateful for the Ellis family and the wonderful welcome they gave us upon our arrival.  Today we learned that the hymn Be Thou My Vision originated in the Irish church. It continues to be so humbling to stand in the places where thousands of believers have stood in past church history and to be contemplating the same God in all of His glory. It seems that the more we learn about Ireland the deeper our understanding of our Creator becomes.

Until tomorrow,

TU Honors Guild in Ireland

Entry #3, Sunday, January 12, 2014

(written by Kat Smith)

Dearest friends and family,

We spent the Lord ’s Day in the best fashion I could ever imagine.  We started in an Anglican church, which was an adventure in itself. I found myself really enjoying the whole experience, regardless of the differences. (This trip, three days in, has already been an experience of unity in diversity.) The liturgical service involved more crowd participation than I was used to, but I found myself reading all the words and actually focusing on their meaning in my life instead of just repeating the same old songs I’m used to. The sermon itself couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes, but it floored me.  Mere minutes before, we’d been praying, and I had been focusing on my current “life struggles”. Without getting overly personal, I’ll just say that it was nothing incredibly profound or difficult in the grand scheme. The sermon reminded me of how limited my focus is and how long I have to go to reach the full potential of my life that God has for me. How much suffering and real issues will I face to truly follow Him? Life shifts from the childish black and white skirmishes to the muddy gray of young adulthood, full of unanswerable questions.

*Sidenote: Being an active part of communion was also different for me. I come from a PCA background, so the idea of walking up to the table was odd. However, and I found this incredibly ironic and humorous, I did have my first ever alcoholic drink in Ireland…but not in the friendly pubs of yesterday, but the Anglican wine. We went pubbing, and no drinks, but that first church we walked into got us. I chuckled. Alright, I will quit boring you and head back, because after church we went to the Cliffs of Moher.*

                Along the way to the Cliffs, we saw a castle in its decaying form. We passed through seemingly endless green and sheep. To quote Grant, the drive was, ”a whole lot of absolutely beautiful nothing”, and I can’t think of a better way to describe it. The scenery is so untouched by the deadly influence of our culture and sin. The constant need to photo shop and perfect every ‘imperfection’ is unnecessary.  Each ruin we pass is breathtaking in its own destroyed way.

The Cliffs were a sign to the Irish that there is a God. Nothing else could have created that kind of aesthetic excellence. The amount of cameras out today was astronomical. The Cliffs look so untouched by the hands of humans, and graced by those of God. The steep drop off has apparently been known to lead some astray, but we all (barely) stayed behind the fence. (They told us before we arrived that Ireland causes people to turn into monkeys and have an inerrant desire to climb EVERYTHING. So for those of us that were already part mountain goat, we’ve had a few temptations and it’s only day three.)

After our adventures, we had a long bus ride full of wonderful conversations and relationship building. I’m always a little blown away with where our conversations end up, and mildly humbling with how intelligent some of the people here are. We all split up for dinner, and my group found a delightful little Spanish restaurant, and we had a blast. Not really your typical Irish dinner, but we regret nothing. Once again, the time spent in fellowship was uplifting and enjoyable. We then treated ourselves to the local McDonalds for a wee little bit of wifi to make sure all our parents and roommates were managing without us.

In short, this trip has been incredible and eye-opening, and I keep forgetting that we haven’t lived here for a few weeks. Time is so elongated here, and I will be truly sad to leave, except I’m allergic to wool, so it will be nice to be able to stop crying every time I go into a store. But there are no regrets.

(To my own family: That drink at communion can hold me over for forever. I have never been so upset about the lack of grape juice in my life. I love you guys, and I’m enjoying myself. I was just kidding the other day…I’ll probably come home, even if it’s just to dry off.)

See you tomorrow!

Irish Honors Guild 2014

Kat Smith

Entry #2, Saturday, January 11, 2014

(written by MacKenzie Bedor)

Dearest friends and family,

Today has been an AMAZING day in Galway!!  We woke up to a beautiful sunrise and NO rain (surprise surprise ;))!!!  Our hotel, Jury’s Inn, is right around the corner from downtown, so we began our day by doing some shopping and walking around the city.  It was so fun seeing all of the shops and venturing into the market.  The town is so full of vibrant colors and friendly people…SO MANY friendly people! J   We also explored the stone” Spanish arches” right across from our hotel, where the Spanish merchant ships unloaded their cargo from the canal.  (Which, by the way, is the most insanely crazy rushing canal I have even seen…due to recent flooding!)

A couple of us were shopping for rings in the market when we came across a merchant who was helping me find the perfect size…she never stopped looking through her products until she found it!  This simple act quickly grew into a lesson that I love to be reminded of…never fail to do things with all your heart, no matter what the task!  The lady even told us: sometimes the simplest things are the most important.  Whether it be our studies, our relationships, or finding the perfect size ring for someone…we need honor God by giving 100%, 100% of the time.

After shopping and exploring downtown Galway, we walked to the coffee shop An Tobar Nua (which means “A New Well”).  This is the café where many TU students come to study for a semester.  It is a ministry within the community that serves by creating relationships with the locals.  They also teach Bible classes such as New Testament, Old Testament, Bible Survey, and courses focused on certain books in the Bible.  They also do “retreats,” where the local teens come to learn the truth about sex, drugs, alcohol…and most importantly, Christ!  This ministry is an incredible example of serving Christ wherever He has placed you in life.  We should simply be “sharing Christ by building relationships,” not just trying to force others to come to Church with us every Sunday (but definitely not discounting that!).  A local man named Mike shared his story and how Christ has changed His life in drastic ways.  He really caught my attention when he emphasized that we should try to connect with Christians of different views/backgrounds, working together for the Kingdom…I feel like we put so much emphasis on denominations that we forget we are ALL on God’s team!

We then had some class time (in order to make up for our snow days J) hearing Dr. Harbin lecture.  I’ll tell you what, I LOVE THIS GUY!!!!!  He is SO knowledgeable, yet SO humble!  Let’s be honest, learning about Carbon-14 dating and tombs…not everyone’s cup of tea…but we were all engaged, asking questions, and curious, much thanks to the efforts Dr. Harbin put into teaching.  Those 2.5 hours flew by!

After our class time we got to hang out with some students from the local university.  In small groups, we learned all about their life and culture.  My group was really interesting because we had a Galway local, a girl from 1 hour south of Galway, a girl from Virgina USA, and a young man from England!  It was SO fun to hear their perspectives on all different things! (Most hilarious thing…the British guy loves American accents!!! Tell that to all of those 1 Direction fans out there!) 😉 It is incredible that you can find so many similarities with people halfway across the world, yet be so unique at the same time!

For our night out on the town, I went with a group to The Crane Bar (Pub) to experience some true Irish culture.  We listened to live music (a group of instrumentalists just jammin’ together) and drank some Irish NON-alcoholic concoctions (I got a Rock Shanty, tasted like Sprite with a lime kick to it). J It was the perfect way to wind down such a fun day!!!

Hope everyone is doing well and having a great weekend!

(Family: LOVE YOU LOTS!!! Dad…totally saw a dentist office that was right next to The Crane…don’t worry, I took a picture ;))

MacKenzie Bedor

Entry #1 (1/11/2014)

(written by Katie Schantz)

Hello family and friends!

We are pleased to say that God has blessed us with very smooth and safe travels over the last 30 hours. We arrived at Chicago O’Hare with copious time to spare; our flight was on time and smooth; we landed in Dublin on time; and our bus ride west to Galway was pleasantly uneventuful, and a wonderful opportunity to admire the iconic green grass, fluffy sheep, and legendary beauty of the Irish countryside.

As planned, we stopped at the 1500 year old monastic ruins of Clonmacnoise, which happen to be almost the midpoint between Dublin and Galway and overlook the flood plains of the river Shanon. This monastic complex once held more than two thousand people (the same size as our entire university!), but today stands as a collection of beautiful stone echoes of centuries of progress in literature, art, and most importantly our Christian faith.

By the time our team made it to dinner at the Italian restaurant in the heart of charming and picturesque Galway, everyone agreed that our collective cognitive abilities had greatly diminished and our perception of humor had exponentially increased, both as a result of varying levels of sleep deprivation. Needless to say, we very much enjoy each other’s company. We are here at the Jurys Inn, and everyone is looking forward our cozy beds, warm showers, and another fun day ahead of us tomorrow.

Your continued prayer are greatly appreciated by all, and on behalf of all my fellow students, I wanted to say thank you to all of you for the varying ways that you all (our families and friends) made this experience possible. We appreciate your support and love so much.

(To my own family, I love you guys and miss you)

Until next time,

Honors Ireland 2014 J


Introduction: January 2014 Honors J-term Trip

This year the Honors Freshmen have the unique opportunity to travel to Ireland/Northern Ireland during the month of January 2014. The students will be participating in a Historic Christian Belief course taught by Dr. Michael Harbin. For the same cost of being on campus during J-term, these students will be fully immersed in a study abroad experience at no further expense. Be sure to follow this page for updates from us during January.

To prep for our trip in January, we have some suggested blogs to read:

Below are older updates from the previous Honors January 2013 trip to the Bahamas.


Update #11

Here are the pictures from our trip to the Bahamas!

To see the blog posts from the Bahamas J-Term trip, please see the Lighthouse blog site:

(Posts below were written in Jan. 2012)

Update #10

Honors Guild South Africa Team before seeing a play, Jan. 2012

In January 2012, the Honors Guild Interterm team traveled to the country of South Africa and had an edifying  experience learning about the culture and the community in light of the theme of “Restoration of the Other.”

For this upcoming January 2013, the next interterm team will be traveling to the Bahamas to study small island sustainability on the islands of San Salvador and New Providence.

Update #9

We’ve begun to wrap up our time here in South Africa, but don’t worry, we still had a jam packed day full of art, history, and learning.  This morning we awoke at an early hour and enjoyed a lovely breakfast cooked by the ever faithful sisters of Koinonia.  After that, we packed up our cameras, our notebooks, and pens and headed out to Pretoria.

Pretoria is a predominantly Afrikaans speaking area of South Africa.  On our way to Pretoria, our tour guide entertained us with Zulu legends and tales of the Voortrekkers, which refers not to Captain Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise, but the original Afrikaaner settlers.  More on that later.  Our first item on today’s schedule was a lecture from Gwen Miller and Celia de Villers.  These women worked as lecturers (professors) at the University of South Africa and were involved in social activism as well.  The mission of these women was to empower the unemployed women in the townships by teaching them craft (embroidery, sculpture/jewelry making out of recycled trash) as a trade.  The women brought samples of some truly amazing embroidery they had created.  Some of us students even got the chance to purchase these works, and a few of you lucky parents may be receiving them as gifts (not you mom and dad so don’t get your hopes up.)

Afterwards, we headed to the Voortrekker monument located on Monument Hill.  This was a gigantic towering structure which inside contained marble friezes of the major battles of the Afrikaaner settlers.  It also had 174 steps that we laboriously climbed while chugging our inhalers to reach the top of the monument which overlooked Pretoria.  The asthma attack was completely worth it—I’ll never get tired at looking at the South African landscape, green, lush, and punctuated by blue mountains rising majestically in the distance.

Finally, we visited Freedom Park.  This park was established in remembrance to all South African heroes who had sacrificed their lives to ensure the freedom of others.  The park incorporated important South African elements of spirituality and nature, and it was a very natural and serene place to visit.  The names of those who gave their lives were carved into the walls of the main building and walls surrounding it.  There were about 750,000 names, and it was overwhelming when the realization hit that each of these names represented an actual person, not just a hero or a martyr, but a father or a mother or a son.

South Africa has been amazing.  The landscape and the nature have been absolutely beautiful, but this beauty is surpassed by the displays of forgiveness and reconciliation in the aftermath of darkness and corruption.  Talking to the people who lived through incredible persecution, seeing the townships firsthand, and viewing the psychological effects of oppression in South African art work has made everything that happened in the Apartheid “real”.  You can read as many facts and figures as you’d like on the Apartheid, but until you see the faces behind it, it’s almost impossible to comprehend.  Although this sounds depressing, the more you comprehend the ugliness of racism and injustice, the more you realize the amazing beauty of reconciliation and forgiveness.

It’s been an eventful day, and we’ll be turning in early tonight because tomorrow, we’ll be playing tag with the lions.  But don’t worry mothers and fathers, we’ll be home safe and sound in a few days!

This edition brought to you by: Sarah Cook

Update #8

South Africa is still warm and beautiful! Today we had our second and last full day in Johannesburg. After another early morning we had a busy day exploring the fine arts.  Heading back to downtown near the Market Theatre (where we saw Yellowman) was Artist Proof Studio, a program focused on providing opportunities to artists who could not go to the tertiary educational institutions.   They primarily use printmaking, and everyone learned a lot about it I think.  One additional point of interest was watching them film “Top Chef: South Africa” right next to the studio in the building.

After this we were treated to seeing Diane Victor at a gallery at the University of Johannesburg.  Her recent works have been groundbreaking in experimenting with media such as candle smoke and ashes as drawing materials.  We talked about the symbolism in this, and how it reflects the fragile and temporary nature of human life.  As a Christian I thought about this brokenness and the need for redemption and healing in ushering in the Kingdom of God on earth.  Our lives are so short, “a vapor”, a wisp of smoke, that we must not waste any moment.

Following a packed lunch picnic outside, we went to the Johannesburg Art Gallery.  This was especially cool as the museum was not normally open this day, and we got a special tour.  We got to go down into storage and see other works not on display, as well as William Kentridge videos.  His works were especially cool as they were made by taking photos of a drawing which he erased and changed for each frame.  This leaves marks left by the previous frame, giving an ethereal record of the past.  In a way I think this reflects the situation we have encountered in South Africa.  Although the situationhas changed and improved with the end of apartheid, the past historyand wounds are still present in a way and linger on.

Back at Koinonia we had dinner and a small birthday celebration for Maddy and Katie, including cake and song.We are thankful for everyone and the blessing of life.

We ended the night with a discussion of the books our groups have been reading over the trip.  Most of us are pretty tired now and taking advantage of any time for rest, but with just a few days left we are determined to make the most of them.  Excitement about the game drive at the reserve is growing (if that is at all possible!)  There was an intense game of limbo that happened tonight and the group continues to bond together.

Please pray for continued strength and safety in these last few days.

This edition brought to you by: Joe Kasper

Update #7

Greetings once again from South Africa!

As you have heard, we have successfully reached our home in Johannesburg, a Catholic guest house called Koinania. The sisters here have been the definition of hospitality as they prepare our food, open their well-equipped lodgings, and wash our (very) dirty clothes.

Compared with the westernized sectors of Cape Town and Stellenbosch and the rural beauty of Volmoed, Johannesburg is a distinctly foreign place.  The newness of our surroundings has brought with it new questions, new discussions, new aggravations and fears, and new answers from new perspectives.  I’ll be the first to admit that the sheer intellectual volume is a bit much to handle at times.

As we have made our way from the coast to the heart of the country, the red-brown color of the soil has intensified. In Johannesburg, this color seems to have seeped out of the dirt as it permeates the walls of buildings, the streets, and the city itself. We encounter the red-brown dirtiness of the city everywhere we go. We see it on rusted razor-wire atop walls and corrugated steel roofs, we see it ingrained in the soles of our shoes. We see it trod into buildings along with trash from the street. We see it dripping down windows, the residue of long-dried rain. It would be impossible not to see it.

The city is dirty in more than just its color. Here, crime is justified by the corruption that governs over the criminal, and the most basic human needs are sought at high costs. And this city that cannot take care of its own population has become home to many thousands of refugees, intensifying the stark contrast of wealth and poverty that still perpetuates here despite the destruction of apartheid. We have heard it said that the unemployment rate is as high as 50%.

This morning, we visited a Methodist church located towards the very heart of Johannesburg. The service there, as many students remarked, was quite remarkable. Approaching a staggering 2½ hours, the service had us into and out of our seats constantly, moving and singing with the rhythm of Zulu and Xhosa syllables that we can only sometimes sound out, let alone understand. This church, which was very predominantly white under apartheid, is now a poignant example of the inner-city population shift, with hundreds of black and 3 white members. Despite our obvious minority status, we were welcomed warmly into the sincere worship of the congregation. We even sang “Happy Birthday” to Maddy Trudeau and gave three cheers of Hip-Hip-Hooray. This particular celebratory jubilation was a testament to the exhaustiveness of the congregation’s marathon service.

The Bishop offered a strong message wrought with themes of social justice and call to action, and following the service we were fortunate to have an interview with him.  In this time we realized that the remarkable man’s message was more than just words; the church facility itself has housed as many as 3,000 refugees at a time.  Tonight as I write to you, the very sanctuary we worshipped in is bed to hundreds of women from Zimbabwe. As you can imagine, this kind of use takes a toll on the church, and the way it has been opened is challenging and inspiring as it shapes our notions of the uncomfortable nature of Christ-like openness and hospitality.  The irony of this particular situation is that kaddy-corner from the crammed church-turned-hostel is an empty hotel 17 stories tall, a shadow of apartheid and an image of current injustice and corruption that is hard to swallow. It is clear that although great strides have been made in this nation, there is still work to be done, and many of the places we have visited so far are stabs in the right direction.

Following the service, lunch, a relaxing afternoon at Koinania and a succulent Chicken dinner, Charles Nkomo, a professional semi-abstract painter from Zimbabwe presented to us. He showed his impressive works, and explained why and how he paints the way he does. His paintings are an interesting combination of the western-influenced semi-abstract form and style with African subject matter, shape and color. The talented artist fielded questions from us about the current unrest in Zimbabwe as well as on the inspiration behind his work and his past. His presentation was to our betterment on a multitude of levels, levels which we are beginning to tease out and draw connections between as our time here races towards completion.

We continue to find South Africa a rich, nuanced culture, a harbor to both natural and human wonders, and a great place to follow the class theme: Art and Ideas, and the honors guild theme: Truth and Reconciliation. We are continually grateful for the hard work on the part of the trip leaders that is making this tremendous experience possible.

This edition brought to you by: Davis Meadors

Update #6:

Today, we bid farewell to Leticia, the owner of St. Paul’s guest house in Cape Town, and to Hugo, our bus driver. I think the whole group has really grown to appreciate both of these people and the effort that they have made to make our experience worthwhile. Both asked us to return to South Africa (fingers crossed!), and Leticia commented that she considered it a pleasure to cook for us every morning. We have been truly blessed to have them for the first part of our trip!

After an early breakfast, we loaded up for the airport and flew to Johannesburg! It’s been very interesting for me to see another side of South Africa, especially when compared with the luxurious side of Cape Town and its surrounding townships. We are lucky to have a tour guide (Jacques) with us for this part of the trip, to give us more information about the city of Johannesburg. We met him at the airport and took the bus to Koinonia House, where we will be staying until Wednesday. Again, we are very fortunate to stay in a hospitable, safe, beautiful environment.

After lunch at Koinonia, we went to the Apartheid Museum for the rest of the afternoon. Although we’ve been learning about apartheid since the beginning of the trip, visiting the museum was still a powerful experience for me. I really appreciated seeing video footage of the uprisings and riots that took place at the height of apartheid. Seeing the videos, reading the stories, and revisiting the photographs helped me see apartheid as a very real. It was a strong reminder that the atrocities and murders of that time period were not just dates or names, but painful realities. Overall, I’ve been amazed to see how far this country has come in the reconciliation process.

We then returned to Koinonia for dinner before going to see Yellowman, a play at the Market Theater of Johannesburg. The play related the lives of a couple growing up in South Carolina, and the social problems created by their skin tones. Two cast members (a man and a woman) carried out the entire story, changing between characters when necessary, and powerfully telling their life stories. I was very impressed by the raw emotion in their acting, and their ability to convey the problems of growing up in a society that determines your worth based on your skin color. The man, Eugene, is a light-skinned black man and struggles to find his place in society as a result. The girl, Elma, has darker skin, but struggles with the abandonment from her light-skinned father, who considers her worthless and ugly because of her skin tone. The play had strong undertones of the South African apartheid system of racial segregation. Just as people were classified into white, coloured, and black in South Africa, in South Carolina blacks were classified based on the lightness of their skin.

Overall, today was a tiring but fulfilling day! I’m looking forward to seeing more of Johannesburg in the coming days!

This edition brought to you by: Sarah Topp

Update #5:

Greetings from the beautiful land of South Africa!

Today was one of our more relaxing days on the trip so far. Volmoed retreat center, where we have been last night and tonight, is incredibly picturesque. When I step outside my room I feel as if I am living in an image from a postcard. I woke up this morning to a host of baboons streaming down the rocky hill outside my window which made me slightly nervous to walk to breakfast, but the allure of yet another handmade South African breakfast was stronger than fear that I might have to fight off a few primates to receive said breakfast. The morning then was free for us to choose what to do. Some of us attended one of the daily prayer services held here while some more adventurous souls explored the grounds (or caught up on homework, but we’ll just say they were exploring). Before lunch we met with world renowned theologian John de Gruchy. It was incredible to interact on such a personal basis with someone with his wisdom and experiences. His sharing about the church and his own personal life  in South Africa was fascinating and at least for me inspired more questions rather than answers which was unexpected, but challenging in a good way.

After an “American” lunch of cheeseburgers and French fries prepared by our hosts, we were able to go to a beach nearby on the Indian Ocean. I felt I was in a scene from the old Disney classic Swiss Family Robinson on the long white sandy beach with mountains behind us and the Indian Ocean before us. Sufficed to say, we just had a little fun jumping in the waves and building sand castles, and other such beach activities .(Don’t worry mothers, there were no great white shark sightings) We returned back to the retreat center and worked on our group readings some before dinner. We had dinner and then watched a South African film called “The Wooden Camera”. It was a great way to finish another day here in the Southern Hemisphere.

We are enjoying each other, the sunny and hot weather, and all the amazing opportunities we are having. It is tough to have perspective as we rush from one thing to the next, but as I look back over the last week, I realize it has already been the trip of a lifetime. We have been privileged to meet key figures in modern South African history; people that had a direct influence on the amazing change this country has experienced. This truly is a country of juxtapositions still though. We continue to be presented daily with incredible ugliness and beauty, life and death, wealth and poverty, hope and despair, injustice and reconciliation, and continue to be challenged in our response to these things academically and spiritually. One thing though has struck me as we have travelled though: God’s hand is evident here, in the physical beauty and the beauty of the people that live here. We ask for prayer in the next week for guidance and strength from the Holy Spirit as we continue to engage the people, art, and ideas of South Africa in all their human beauty and imperfection.

This edition by: Andrew Whitworth

Update #4:

The days have been an amazing combination of fun times, tough life questions, and moments in absolute awe of God’s majestic creation. Today especially we were able experience these in unique ways. We began our day with a wonderful breakfast in Cape Town and said goodbye to our grown up tree house, at least until we return in few days.

Later that morning we met with Johan Horn who was himself an Afrikaner (his ancestors have lived in Cape Town since the first Dutch Settlers came in 1652).He taught us about the ministry that he leads for developing leaders called ALICT. Furthermore he taught us about the history and art of the Dutch settlement named Stellenbosh. Johan really encouraged us to dream big and not be comfortable with the difficult circumstances that were going on in our lives; but to have a vision of a better life and see it through.

We met with a professor from Stellenbosh University and it made me realize the real similarities between American Colleges and the colleges here. However in their arts program here they specialize in gemology which is especially pertaining to rich minerals that are found in South Africa. After the professor showed us around the university we ate lunch by a pond in the unbelievably beautiful botanical gardens. In the pond were large bright orange carp, which reminded me of my family’s giant goldfish… yes, despite all of the busyness there are still brief moments of homesickness 🙂

The most heart wrenching and challenging part of today was going into one of the townships. One thing that I should mention first is that in South Africa the drastic contrast of rich and poor is seen within minutes of driving. The townships are the extreme poverty end of this spectrum. Through our experience of walking around I think most of us were hit with the great challenges of having to be in a situation where we could utterly not relate. It was also encouraging to see the church working so closely with the township. We specifically learned about their film school which showed us how they were bringing hope for a way out for students in the township. Leaving the township many were discussing on the bus how it was their favorite place we have visited in South Africa, we really got to see the hardships that South Africa deals with.

We drove to our new home around four and were all flabbergasted at the beauty of the retreat center we encountered. The pond’s reflection perfectly framed the setting sun behind the mountains. Retreat is the perfect word for this place. I look forward to taking tomorrow lightly, catching up on reading, meeting with the theologian, and hiking. We are all doing wonderfully.

With warmest regards from South Africa,

The South Africa Team

Edition 4 brought to you by:

Chandler Chapman

Update #3:

I’m writing from the beautiful Cape Town, as our adventures continue in abundance. Day Four was another great success with lots of learning with a great balance of fun. We continue to appreciate the beauty of the landscape, the growth of our team, and the kindness of the South Africans who have welcomed us with open arms.

We began the day with another hot breakfast, prepared by our gracious hosts at St. Paul’s. They have been so helpful to us and make sure we start out our action packed days fully energized. We then drove down to the waterfront, where we boarded a ferry and took a breezy 45 minute trip out to Robben Island. The island is most famously home to political prisoners, specifically Nelson Mandela, during apartheid in South Africa. We received a full tour of the island by a very informative guide, where we learned the history of the island in full. After touring the island, we had the privilege of walking through the actual jail cells guided by an ex-prisoner of Robben Island. He works alongside other past prisoners and also the ex-wardens of the prison, which is truly incredible. What an incredible example of reconciliation!

After returning from the island, we decided to do a little haggling for souvenirs in Green Square Market, a local market run by the people of Cape Town for people just like us who want to bring home memories from our trip. We had a lot of fun negotiating prices and getting the opportunity to find out a little bit about the lives of the people we were buying from. And of course it was plenty of fun just comparing deals and stories about the things we all bought. We returned to a lovely homemade dinner of pasta, made by some of our team members, and finished the night off with delicious ice cream!

In addition to the way we have grown in our learning, it has been incredible to see how our team has truly grown into a family. It is so encouraging to see the way that people have come together and that each person has reached out of their comfort zone in one way or another to make a connection. God is truly present and your prayers continue to be answered as we travel on to Stellenbosch tomorrow. We appreciate all of the time you have dedicated to the prayer for this team, and we want you to know that it is not in vain. We are learning a lot regarding art, but also regarding one another.

As we travel tomorrow, I ask that you continue to pray for the health and well-being of all the team members, as well as safety as we move on to our next location. Also, I ask that you pray for energy as we each have been challenged mentally and physically during the last 5 days. We have so much more to see and a fresh eye to accomplish that would be much appreciated! Stay tuned to continue to get updates about what’s going on here!

Edition 3 brought to you by:

Allie Mahdasian

Update #2:

Our third day in South Africa was once again jam-packed, but it was incredibly rewarding. We began the day with another delicious breakfast prepared by our wonderful host at St. Paul’s and then headed to the archives of the University of Cape Town. There we had the opportunity to listen to photographer, Paul Weinburg, discuss his experiences behind the front line during South Africa’s struggle period, a volatile time when tensions reached a breaking point just before Apartheid finally came to an end. His images have become some of the most well-known depictions of the protests and demonstrations which took place during the struggle period; they are famous around the world, and we have encountered them several times even since hearing about them this morning. (Try Googling him – I bet you’ll recognize some of the photos you find!)

After enjoying lunch at UCT, we returned to St. George’s Cathedral where we took a tour of the Bishop Desmond Tutu Memory and Witness Centre, a photographic journey through several key events of the struggle period which culminated in the Cape Town Peace March of September 1989, a rally for justice attended by over 30,000 people that sparked demonstrations across South Africa and was a sign of the beginning of the end of the Apartheid era.

We also had the opportunity to listen to Mary Burton, a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). I was personally blown away by her descriptions of the TRC, which in the course of three years listened to the personal accounts of over 22,000 people who had been involved in the atrocities of Apartheid, whether as perpetrators, victims, or witnesses. The TRC was charged with weaving together the stories of these people and creating an accurate record of the events of Apartheid, such that no South African could deny that they happened. In the midst of the TRC’s work arose several beautiful examples of grace, as people who had been deeply hurt by Apartheid confronted those who had injured them and forgave them – almost in a “superhuman” way Burton said, though we might describe it more as the supernatural grace of God.

Finally, we went to Moyo restaurant, a delicious taste of South Africa complete with impala, antelope, and spring bok sausage. We were entertained by traditional African dancers as we enjoyed dinner outside on a beautiful evening in South Africa – a perfect way to end our day.

As I wrap up today’s snapshot of our South African adventures, I would ask that you pray for our team’s health and energy. We are still feeling the effects of jet lag even as our days are stuffed to the brim with a variety of activities. Fortunately we have tomorrow (Tuesday) to sleep in a few hours and rejuvenate!

Blessings from South Africa!

Edition 2 brought to you by:

David Adams

Update #1:

After traveling for over 24 hours including 4 flights, a few quick transitions, and one big tour bus, we arrived at our guest house in Cape Town. Throughout that time we especially enjoyed the various accents and abundance of food. Exhausted from our travels we settled in to our rooms. We awoke to the aroma of bacon and after a very complete breakfast, started our journey in South Africa.

Saturday consisted of a trip around Cape Town City Center. It was in the 90’s and very sunny all day long. We went to the South African National Gallery, the Castle of Good Hope, and ended our day with a South African dinner prepared by the leaders of Youth for Christ. We enjoyed spending time talking and singing with a few of the students who are involved with that organization.

Recovering from jetlag became easier after another great night of sleep and wonderful breakfast.  On this Sunday morning we attended a service at St. Georges Cathedral and were mistakenly welcomed as a group from Portugal.  After the service we made our way down the coast, stopping intermittently to take in the beauty of the beaches and scenery.  Many students hiked to a lighthouse which overlooked the Southernmost point in Africa. Later we had the opportunity to trek across the coast to the Cape of Good Hope. We took many pictures you’ll be sure to enjoy! We concluded the evening by attending a worship service at Christ Church and a fellowship dinner with the youth of the congregation. We have been grateful for the many opportunities, even in our first days, to interact and learn from the South African people.

Right now it’s about 90 degrees outside and there is a cool breeze making its way through the window. We can’t quite say we miss the freezing drafts that Upland has to offer, but we can say with certainty that we miss all of you. Keep an eye out for more updates from your favorite South African adventurers.

Edition 1 brought to you by:

Holly Murphy and Tamara Barrett

One thought on “Travel

  1. Hi Honor’s friends!
    I am praying for you all, hoping that God pushes you out of your comfort zone only to show you that he is right there, waiting for you on the other side.
    Enjoy my beautiful country!! Be sure to drink some rooibos or Appletizer in my honor and don’t forget to eat all the boerewors you can! 🙂

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