Israel Study Tour Fall 2022

Jul 1, 2023


About Western Theological Seminary

Located in Holland, Michigan, WTS offers 16 graduate programs online, in residence, in English, and Spanish for women and men preparing for faithful Christian ministry. WTS was founded in 1866 when seven of the eight members of Hope College’s inaugural graduating class wished to become ministers and petitioned their denomination to allow them to complete their education in Holland. Since that time, WTS has been preparing women and men for a lifetime of ministry all around the world in many ministry and denominational contexts.

By Western Theological Seminary

Israel Study Tour Fall 2022

In Israel, this past September, thirty-six of us from California to Michigan to North Carolina started and ended each day by reciting these words of Jesus from Mark 12. The “Shema” became a grounding prayer for our group as we entered God’s grand story of salvation in the place and with the people that God chose to reveal his redemption purposes for the world. It was a remarkable two weeks.

Western Theological Seminary has a rich history of hosting Israel study trips for friends, supporters, and alumni. Many of you may be familiar with Ray Vander Laan, an influential Bible teacher here in West Michigan, who developed the series “That the World May Know.” He and President Emeritus Timothy Brown led a number of trips over the years. In fact, it was on one of these trips that Eugene Peterson became better acquainted with WTS, and now, years later, we are the home of the Eugene Peterson Center. After a ten-year hiatus – following the retirement of Timothy Brown, the installation of President Felix Theonugraha, and the COVID-19 pandemic – a group of supporters from California (whose parents had attended a trip with Tim and Ray) asked us to host another trip.

Emilie Wierda ‘18, a WTS graduate and current board member, has a particular heart for Israel, so we reached out to her and she immediately agreed to help organize a trip. Emilie and her husband, Craig, have led these trips for several years with Rod and Libby Van Solkema. We quickly determined that the Van Solkemas could lead a wonderful trip for our supporters in the same spirit as our previous study tours.

Part of Western’s unique mission is that we don’t just want students to gain knowledge – although that is important! We are interested in a transformation of the heart that moves to the hands. This is why our mission includes raising up students who will “participate in God’s ongoing redemptive work in the world.” We wanted this study trip to reflect this same spirit. As we set out to explore the Biblical text in its original locations and cultures, we strived to experience the text on foot and in community. Our goal was not only to be informed but to be transformed so that our hearts would be awakened in new, powerful ways to see God’s work in our lives.

Our group of 36 arrived in Tel Aviv on October 29, 2022, and for the next two weeks grew in our knowledge and love of God and knowledge and care for each other. It was an absolute privilege as our whole group opened themselves up to this experience. We laughed a lot, shared real struggle and pain in our lives, experienced physical setbacks, cheered each other on in tough hikes, ate well, made profound connections with the text and the land, and ultimately grew in our love of God, his word, and our new community. I had hoped that God would use this time to draw each of us to him and to get to know each other better, but God did something more. He formed us into what we began to call ourselves: a Bet’ab. The Bet’ab is the Jewish concept ofm“Father’s House,” a deeply formed family that truly cares for each other and pursues God’s purposes in the world. Since our time in Israel, our group has continued to meet once a month via Zoom to recount what we learned and the experiences we had and to pray for each other. If you are interested in participating in a future Israel Study Tour, please email