Tomorrow, God willing, I am headed on a journey to the cities of Paul and John with 21 students and others. We will go to Istanbul, Izmir/Smyrna, Ephesus, Pergamum, Assos, Neapolis/Kavala, Philippi, Thessaloniki, Athens, and Corinth/Isthmia.
If you teach or preach from the NT, I hope and pray that one day you will take and/or lead such a trip. This will be my fifth, and I am now acting as a consultant with the educational and pastoral travel organization Illume to encourage and help others go to Turkey, Greece, Israel, Palestine, and elsewhere. If you are a pastor or biblical scholar reading this post, please read the letter below and then email me at Illume. I will answer you in late February when I return.
Dear Colleague in Biblical Studies and/or Church Ministry:
Like you, I love teaching biblical studies and/or preaching from the Scriptures, and I have been doing so for quite some time now. In the last 10 years or so, I have discovered that there is something that enhances teaching and learning the Bible more than the latest book, article, theological movement, or pedagogical strategy. I am talking about travel to the “lands of the Bible.”
Since 1999, I have led and/or participated in one trip to Israel and Palestine and five to Turkey and Greece. (What do you expect? I’m a student of Paul!) I’ve seen stunning Jerusalem, the arid region of Masada and Qumran; the Jordan and the Sea of Galilee; the incredible rock formations of Cappadocia; the amazing ruins of Ephesus and Corinth; the imposing acropolis at Pergamum and the more famous one in Athens; the unexcavated Colossae and the nearly unvisited Pisidian Antioch; and so on. More importantly, many of my students—as well as some of their family members and friends—have seen these same places, read their Bibles on location, and been transformed in unexpected ways because of their travel experiences.
I have come to believe so firmly in this kind of educational and spiritual travel that I recently became a consulting scholar with Illume, the pastoral and educational resource center that I have worked with for years in planning and taking trips. Illume collaborates with educational and pastoral leaders to create transformative programs that involve travel to places of great historical and religious significance, educational and pilgrimage-like tours to places related to the Bible (Israel, Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Egypt, Italy) and beyond.
Illume is different from other travel organizations you may be familiar with. Illume brings important resources to the table for successful program development and coordination:
• two in-house scholars (Michael Hartwig and myself) for program development;
• a portfolio of client-scholars that Illume also draws on for program development;
• a Boston-based professional staff that is attentive to detail, is quickly accessible, and has more than 35 years of experience, relationships, and resources; and
• a global network of long-term partners and affiliates who consistently deliver professional on-the-ground expert guides and tour managers.
This letter is both an introduction—to Illume and to my role in it—and an invitation. It is an invitation to consider leading a group on a life-changing journey. (And if you already lead study tours, perhaps we can discuss the difference working with Illume can make.) Let’s explore this further: send me an email with some thoughts and/or questions, and I will be in touch. We can begin the process of collaboration that is Illume’s trademark.
Michael J. Gorman