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Mile Two arrives in Israel
“Last year we were on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, reading about Jesus calming the storm, when a storm suddenly came up and we had to turn around and head back. Needless to say we never read the story the same after that.”
Jeff Banman, Director of the Providence-based Mile Two Discipleship School, believes that first-hand experience changes things, adds colour to things—even things as intimate and important as the way one reads the Bible.
“If we’re going to spend so much time in God’s word,” he says, referencing the immersive, biblical study of Mile Two students, “it makes a lot of sense to spend some time in the place where it actually happened. Those who have been to Israel often describe reading the Bible in ‘black and white’ before the trip and ‘in colour’ after it.”
On Monday, for the second time in as many years, Banman and a handful of staff arrived in Israel with the Mile Two students. They’ll be there just over a week, visiting sites in Capernaum, Jerusalem, and Jericho, among others, and will also connect with Muslims, Palestinian Christians, and Jews from all over the country.
“I hope our students will come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the biblical story,” says Banman. “I hope they will read the text through a new lens. I also hope we will be moved to be peacemakers in whatever way we can in a land that has not seen peace for a long time.”
The “peacemaking” theme is one echoed by Mile Two Assistant Director Angelle Arinobu, who cites a journey to the Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank as a particularly impactful experience from her previous visit to Israel.
“The biggest takeaway for me last year was the personal stories we heard as we travelled around,” she says.
And she, too, is confident that her fellow travellers will relish the chance for what she calls a “five-sense experience of scripture” in the land where so many bible stories took place.
“It’s something special to be able to walk where Jesus walked and see where fire fell from the sky when Elijah challenged the priests of Baal,” she says.
Given the scriptural focus of the Mile Two program, the students have been building up to this expedition since arriving on the Providence campus in September. By this point they’ve read through most of the bible as part of their course work and have also studied Israeli art, learned about the country’s history, and watched films about the holocaust.
“To say Israel is a complicated country is an understatement, but we prepare our students to be as informed as possible so they can best make sense of the diverse stories they will hear,” says Banman.
Arinobu points to a line from the Mile Two website when summing up what she hopes the group will take back with them: “We want to serve the marginalized people of Israel, to hear their stories and to gain a better understanding of the pursuit of peace in this special place.”
She adds: “My hope is that the students will come away from this trip holding onto the stories of the people they’ve met and interacted with.”
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