This winter break, I, along with 450 other student ambassadors, embarked on a ten-day expedition to Israel. It was an experience I will never forget, and even more importantly, it taught me just how important Israel is to God.
In total, eleven buses were filled with college students from all over the U.S., who had applied through their schools to become student ambassadors with a program called Passages to Israel. Along with thirty new friends, who quickly became family, I was on bus #9, one of eight students brought by faculty member Dr. Andrea Hazim, representing the Elev8Life educational foundation. Museum of the Bible’s Vice President of International Relations, Dr. Allen Quine, was also faculty for bus #9. Passages provided two amazing faculty members to highlight the rich spiritual and Biblical implications of our trip back in time, which brought us to Jerusalem, the Galilee region, the town of Capernaum where Peter lived, and Jesus’ most often stayed, historic and modern sites around the Dead Sea, Jesus’ boyhood town of Nazareth, and the modern city of Tel Aviv. However, a few stops in-particular touched me most, and made the deepest impact, leaving a lasting impression.
A few days in, we set out onto the Sea of Galilee. It was slightly cloudy but gorgeous. After lunch it was the perfect time to relax and feel the fresh salty sea air in our hair. We boarded a sizable boat and enjoyed smooth sailing with picturesque views of the coastline. And then, in what I can only describe as a live in-color time travel back to the first century, the boat began to rock. The unpredictable sea tossed us like a salad. As I gripped for dear life, I remembered the disciples’ experience when their tiny fishing boat was agitated in the angry sea two thousand years ago. Their vessel, a fraction of the size, found itself in the midst of a vicious, raging storm. At the height of fear and danger, they lost faith and conceded in their minds to certain death.
Have you ever felt that way, even figuratively? I thought about how Jesus was with them, right there in the boat, sleeping peacefully. That should give us a hint about how God views even our worst trials. The secret: wake Jesus! The power of His words and presence can calm any storm. During our scenic trip, Jesus was asking, “Where is your faith?” As Luke 8:22-25 played in my head, I understood better than ever that in order to survive any trial we cannot rely on our own strength. We must, like the disciples eventually did, wake up Jesus. We must, like the disciples eventually did, wake up His Holy Spirit inside of us to command our trials with His power. And just as soon as our boat started to rock, it was calm again.
I stepped off the boat that day with a refreshed mindset and an eagerness to learn and grow further. As we continued our trip, we learned more and more about our own Christian roots in Israel. Approaching the holy city of Jerusalem, I expected to feel more of God’s presence in the atmosphere. What I did feel surprised me; nothing. Exploring the city’s busy streets and markets, I continued to feel nothing and found myself asking, “Lord, why?” The answer…He no longer needs a city in which to dwell; He lives inside of me. This reinforced my faith, and it wasn’t the first time that Jesus showed himself to me during the trip. He was showing up through some sort of “God encounter” to each of us on the bus. This common ground naturally bonded us together as family by the end of our journey.
The Israel experience through Passages really changed my life. I truly see why organizations like Museum of the Bible and The Philos Project care about subsidizing young leaders like me to visit Israel. From showing His power on the Sea of Galilee, displaying His beauty at the Dead Sea, to speaking life into me in the old city of Jerusalem, I truly felt like I was reliving the roots of my faith. The Bible was now in color as I journeyed through places where Jesus and his men walked and worked through their struggles. This was a personal journey that strengthened my faith and fueled my desire for fulfilling my God-given calling in this world. Israel made a lasting impact on my life and I’m ready for whatever comes next. Are you?
Isaiah Hazim is VP of Tomorrow’s Leaders Today, a program of Elev8Life Educational Foundation. You can reach him at [email protected].