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When I first got the email, I dismissed the idea altogether. There was no way I could leave my wife and three children for two weeks for a biblical study tour.

Then a classmate at Calvin Theological Seminary convinced me to attend the informational meeting. The all-inclusive trip to Turkey and Greece was explained in great detail—trips to Ephesus, Smyrna, Laodicea, Athens, and Corinth. As I listened with mounting interest, I went from, “I can’t go” to “I can’t not go” in pretty short order. I’m fortunate that my wife also viewed this as a valuable opportunity.

Thirteen of my fellow Calvin Theological Seminary students and I, along with seven others, departed from Grand Rapids in early January for two weeks of discovery and learning in Turkey and Greece.

Our trip was led by New Testament Professor Jeffrey Weima and divided into two parts. The first half was spent in Turkey visiting, among other things, the sites of the seven churches of Revelation.

Stops in places such as Pergamum, Laodicea, Sardis, and Ephesus opened up the cultural and historical contexts of churches John was inspired to address.

Seeing ancient roads, pagan temples, strategic locations, and massive sculptures provided new insights into life for first-century Christians that will inform our understanding of the biblical text and our ability to preach about it.

The second half of the tour focused on the missionary journeys of Paul and his companions in Greece in such places as Philippi, Athens, Thessaloniki, and Corinth. History takes on a whole new dimension when you can look at the Parthenon in Athens and realize that it has been there for more than 2,000 years.

I’ll never forget seeing the Aeropagus (Acts 17:16-32) or the island of Samothrace (Acts 16:11) or the theater in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41), among other sites.

At the end of each day, the group gathered in a conference room at the hotel for Dr. Weima to speak about what we’d seen that day.

I’m thankful for the nudging of a classmate; the support of my family; the planning of my professor, and the knowledge I gained.

Most of all, I’m thankful to God for revealing himself in a way that was just as relevant for Christians in the first century as it is for Christians in the 21st century.

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