For every sunny semester at The Master’s University’s main campus in Santa Clarita, California, dozens of TMU students board a plane destined for Israel to participate in the school’s 15-week Israel Bible Extension program (IBEX).
Last fall, 27 students spent their semester hiking, climbing, and traversing the varied locations of the Bible, working hard in the classroom, and being saturated by Israeli culture. Recently, a handful of those students were asked to share their favorite parts of the IBEX experience.
I loved the spectacular views of Israel’s varied landscape. They have deserts, forests, cliffs, lakes — you name it. A lot of the biblical sites are just ruins now, but the major geographical landmarks are still the same, more or less. We can say with confidence that Jesus once walked on the Sea of Galilee, and I enjoyed looking at the same landscape the disciples did.
I had two big takeaways. First, being at IBEX gave me a newfound joy of growing in understanding of the intricate details that God in His sovereign wisdom incorporated into the story of His people. Also, being at IBEX gave many opportunities to be completely dependent on the Lord and to give thanks in everything as we lived in a different culture, got to know believers there, and grew in serving one another as a student body.
My favorite parts of IBEX were the really simple moments we all shared. From movie nights to days in Jerusalem, or just hanging out, the experience was impossible to recreate anywhere else. The main thing that impacted me most was seeing how the Lord used the physical terrain of the area to prompt the Israelites to put their faith in Him, and how that played out over and over throughout history. You don’t get it until you see it.
I had been going through a spell of anger and anxiousness over my self-stagnating relationship with the Lord, and while we were traveling through the infamous wilderness of the Old Testament, our professor stopped the bus in the middle of nowhere, telling us to go out and pray for an hour. I walked for a mile and came to sit under a tree where I literally cried out to the Lord, begging for His forgiveness for my attitude and actions. I won’t wonder at the Israelites complaining hearts ever again.
My favorite memory from IBEX was the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. We took a small vessel out into the middle of the water in a light storm and read one of the accounts of Jesus walking on the water. What impacted me the most was the context for Scripture that being in and studying the land of Israel for so long provides. Going to many of the locations mentioned in the Bible puts your reading and studying into an entirely new light as it gives meaning to what was once obscure paths, locations, and metaphors.
My favorite part of IBEX was seeing all the sites that corresponded with the Bible. I have a better understanding of the Old Testament from just seeing where everything took place. Honestly, being away from home on my own for the first time really showed me how much I still need to learn in life. Even though it was hard, I’m really glad I went. IBEX taught me a lot of life lessons.
My favorite part about IBEX was being able to explore ancient sites that had great biblical significance, but weren’t manicured. We got to see what many of the places described in the Bible actually looked like. For example, you can still touch the chisel marks made during the digging of Hezekiah’s tunnel. The land itself spoke the truth of God’s Word.
Something that quickly became one of my favorite parts about IBEX was the sweet relationships the Lord blessed me with through my time there. Getting to spend so much time with these new friends (for nearly four months), often exploring, studying, fellowshipping, worshiping, and at times crying with them, was such a precious and unique experience. It was so sweet to get to know and love this group of people so specifically, and I praise the Lord for the closeness and unity He gave us through our love for Him and His Word!
The time in Israel was life-changing. Early on, we got to see Jerusalem, halfway we were in the Negev, and in closing we got to experience Galilee. Being able to see the places of the Old and New testaments in my mind’s eye while reading Scripture is unimaginable to grasp. You are visibly able to see the places of Joshua, David, and above all, Christ. I would recommend this study abroad to all because it will enrich your walk with the Lord.
For more information about TMU’s IBEX program, click here.
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