Northern Seminary Seminarians Study in Jerusalem

One retired pastor with a vision for multiplying the ministry vision of seminarians has found a way to make it possible for Northern Seminary students to spend 3 weeks at Jerusalem University College participating in an intensive course.

The retired pastor is Harry Parker from First Baptist Church of Oak Park, Ill. During a sabbatical several years ago, the congregation sent him to JUC for a five-week intensive. Studying in the Holy Land and visiting Bible sites alongside fellow ministers and noted scholars was life-changing for Harry. He wanted others to have the same opportunity.

In 2010, after a cancer diagnosis, Harry knew the time was at hand. “I realized that tomorrow is promised to no one, so I approached the seminary with the idea of sending four students a year. I received the approval but had no money. One of my running buddies heard about my idea and wrote a check for $8,000 on the spot. This for me was confirmation that my idea was of God.” First Baptist Oak Park and The Shurtleff fund of Great Rivers Region American Baptists have joined the funding team, allowing 25 students to receive scholarships in the last seven years. Students cover their tuition (about $1000 over their normal course cost at Northern) The scholarships pay for travel.

Harry says, “JUC is a perfect partner for NS. The academics are first rate. The faculty includes some of Israel’s foremost archaeologists.”

Northern students Casey Pitchford, Nadine Rosier, and Janeane Forres made the journey to JUC in Spring 2018. All three say their lives and ministries were impacted immeasurably as Bible passages they’ve read for years came alive.

Casey Pitchford in Wilderness of Zin

Casey was impressed by the geography. “It put into perspective the distance between Nazareth, Galilee, Capernaum and Chorazin, in relation to Jerusalem. Usually when reading Scripture I assume they are just right outside of Jerusalem, but they took us two to two-and-a-half hours to get to by bus. The people from biblical times had to walk. Our tour guide estimated it would take three to five days to walk from Jerusalem.”

Casey’s experience in the wilderness also left a lasting impression: “Another lesson was the landscape of the Wilderness of Zin where Moses and the Israelites wandered during their journey to the Promised Land. The Wilderness of Zin had no sand but was all rock. We walked through the valley; there was rock to the left of us and to the right of us. They would have no idea where they were as they wandered through the wilderness. Their reliance upon God became more clear—they would have to trust God to provide water for them as there were no springs or rivers.”

Nadine, too, was impacted by the wilderness. “I got a new appreciation of what many of the Prophets and biblical figures had to endure for their faith. One experience that stuck in my mind was a trip we took to the Judean Wilderness. We climbed the mountain. I remember thinking that they should have been obedient because there is no way I could have stayed on that mountain and that desert for 40 years! Going to the places where Jesus was, especially Capernaum where He spent the majority of His ministry, was rewarding. I remember thinking, Wow! He did all this, and He did it for me. It took on a different meaning than just reading it.”

Nadine Rosier baptism in the Sea of Galilee

While she was in Israel, Nadine had an extra-special experience. “I had been baptized as a child on the faith of my caregivers. I was sprinkled when I became an adult, but now I wanted to be baptized by immersion on the basis of my own faith. When I found out I was going to the Holy Land, I began planning for my baptism. I wanted to be baptized in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized but because of security concerns, it wasn’t feasible. So I chose to get baptized in the Sea of Galilee. It was beautiful and Spirit-filled!”

In all, 39 students from various American seminaries and colleges, as well as international students and scholars, studied together for the three-week program. Casey recalls, “There were so many people from so many places and to hear how God was working in their lives and using them was really cool. They were not all seminarians. Some people were not going to school at all and just took the trip to learn. It was good to get to hear their perspectives on things, and some were able to add further insight.”

Nadine concludes, “While I was in Israel, God verified and solidified my calling into ministry. Because of the experience, I am stronger and more committed to my calling.”

— Julie-Allyson Ieron

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