When I first got the e-mail, I dismissed the idea altogether. There was no way I could leave my wife and three children for two weeks for a biblical study tour. Besides, it was too expensive. Then a classmate convinced me to at least attend the informational meeting with him. The two-week, all-inclusive trip to Turkey and Greece was explained in great detail – trips to Ephesus, Smyrna, Laodecia, Athens, Corinth. It was a great opportunity. I went from, “I can’t go” to “I can’t not go” in pretty short order. My wife was supportive as she, too, saw this is an unique and valuable opportunity.
So on January 4, 2012, thirteen of my fellow Calvin Theological Seminary students and I, along with seven other guests, departed from Grand Rapids, MI for two weeks of discovery and learning in Turkey and Greece, led by New Testament Professor, Dr. Jeffrey A.D. Weima.
Our trip was divided into two parts. The first half of our time was spent in modern day Turkey visiting, among other things, the sites of the seven churches of Revelation. Stops in places such as Pergamum, Laodecia, Sardis, and Ephesus opened up for us the cultural and historical contexts of these churches that John was inspired to address. Seeing ancient roads, pagan temples, strategic locations, and massive sculptures provided new insights into what life was like for first Century Christians that will inform not only our understanding of the biblical text, but also the exposition of those texts to our future congregations.
The second half of our trip was spent in modern day Greece, visiting such places as Philippi, Athens, Thessaloniki, and Corinth and focusing on the missionary journeys of Paul and his companions. History takes on a whole new dimension when one can look at something like the Parthenon in Athens and realize that it has been there for over 2,000 years. Seeing the Aeropagus (Acts 17:16-32) or the island of Samothrace (Acts 16:11) or the theatre in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41) among others was something that this future preacher will not soon forget.
Each evening after visiting historical sites and checking into our newest hotel, we gathered in a conference room to learn from Dr. Weima, after which we would share a meal, Skype with family or friends and get some rest.
It’s been over three weeks since I got back and as I’ve had time to reflect, I have many thoughts and feelings about the trip. Most of all though, I’m thankful – for the experience and so much more. I’m thankful for the nudging of a classmate; the support of my family; the planning of my professor; the knowledge that I gained. But most of all, I’m thankful to God, who has revealed himself in a way that was just as relevant for Christians in the first century as it is for Christians in the twenty-first century. The Bible was, is, and always will be the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Michael Ten Haken, 2nd year M.Div. student