Briercrest study tour returns from following Paul’s journeys in Turkey and Greece

Julie Cole | Jun 10, 2013
Members of this year's Briercrest study tour in front of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.  Members of this year's Briercrest study tour in front of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. Members of this year's Briercrest study tour in front of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.

It was a trip that changed the way they read Scripture.

Last month 30 people returned from a Briercrest study tour that retraced the Apostle Paul’s journeys in Greece and Turkey. Seeing these biblical landmarks up close deeply impacted the group along with their tour hosts, David Miller (associate professor of New Testament and early Judaism) and Kevin Daugherty (assistant professor of theology).

“I had never seen these things firsthand,” Daugherty explained. “The sense of what a city in the New Testament age would look like – it’s really hard to put into words the way it changes the way you read Scripture. You get a better sense of what life was like, what travel was like, what the public life was like. For me, probably one of the ‘aha moments’ was I didn’t realize how mountainous Turkey and Greece are.”

The presence of mountains added a whole new appreciation for the trek the apostle Paul made on these journeys.

“You land in a port and look up, and you see snow caps all around – there’s a whole mountain range (Paul) had to cross to get inland,” Miller exclaimed.

The hilly terrain also meant quite a bit of walking for the tour group as well.

“Any time you go to any of these cities you’re in for quite a climb,” Daugherty said. “They built their cities on higher places most of the time.”

The tour participants were up for the challenge.

“The group had a great spirit,” Daugherty added. “(There was a) diversity of young people all the way up to fairly old people and everyone was a trooper. There were times when people were given the option to ride and they walked.”

The richness of the history and the wealth of ancient sites made the trip memorable.

“I’m still getting over Athens – realizing that we saw things that were built in the fifth century BC,” Miller said.

“From kind of a historical perspective, it’s amazing,” Daugherty added. “You just go along and here’s a fortress wall that was built by the Byzantines and later it was captured by the Turks and then there’s a church that was turned into a mosque – the Hagia Sophia – the big church we saw in Istanbul.”

Six of the tour participants completed assignments for college credit.

“I gave them quite a bit of reading before the trip to prepare them,” Miller said. “They had to do map work. They had to decide on a research topic before the trip, and they had to journal during the trip. Their devotional presentations during the trip were a highlight for the whole group.”

The venues for the devotional presentations provided a challenge for some of the students. Nathan Scott gave his devotional for the group in Ephesus, where the Apostle Paul’s message had created a riot among those who worshipped the god Artemis.

“It was an experience of a lifetime,” Scott wrote, “Being given the chance to preach in the same theatre where, 2000 years ago, 20,000 or so people were chanting the name of a false god in defiance of Christ Jesus. So in the place where the name of a false god was proclaimed, I spoke on the power of God over demonic forces (Eph. 6:10-18). An interesting aspect was that as I was speaking there was a group from a high school that was chanting and shouting something in Turkish which was seeming to attempt to drown out the message I was presenting. The great news is that God's message was heard loud and clear.”

Daugherty and Miller also received a clear message from tour participants that they enjoyed their experiences in Greece and Turkey. Miller anticipated this to be his last trip for a while, but admits that the pull to return again was stronger than he anticipated.

“Everyone was very enthusiastic,” Miller said. “On my way back I was telling people, ‘I’m not going again – I’m done.’ A day later, I was dreaming about our next trip.”

Plans for a return trip to Israel are in place for 2015.