Students come to the Center with different ambitions. They come as young people to have fun. They come as travelers to find adventure, exploring the foreign and exotic places in the Holy Land. They come to learn about the ancient Near East and the history, culture, and religious beliefs of the Christians, Jews, and Muslims. They come as guests to encounter the gracious peoples who inhabit the Holy Land. They come as students to read and study the scriptures. Significantly, they come as pilgrims searching for experience and insight into the sacred, with hopes that their hearts can be changed. They come to walk in the footsteps of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Kings David and Solomon; the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lehi; and the Apostles Peter and Paul. Most importantly, they come as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to heed his admonition, as he told his ancient Apostles, “Come and see” (John 1:39). Our students come to see and hear and smell and touch and feel and experience the Spirit. They come to the land where he walked in order to learn to walk in his footsteps.
Today, in the spirit of pilgrimage, we have gathered to share our stories, our stories of encountering the Holy Land through the Jerusalem Center. We are going to start this panel discussion by introducing ourselves. We have three students from the Jerusalem Center programs from 1990 through 2000 and three from programs after 2007.