Katie George

Dr. Widbin is a passionate communicator who is amazingly knowlegable and has a deep love for the land of Israel. I feel slightly biased because I also know Dr. Widbin as a professor at Alliance Theological Seminary, and his teaching/ministry in the classroom has deeply impacted me. Because of this, I went into my trip to Israel expecting to be challenged, brought into contact with the Word in a richer, more vibrant way, and to come face to face with the context of the Bible like never before. Indeed, my expectations on these levels were met and exceeded. He took us to places where tour groups would normally visit, but also to places of interest where groups rarely stop. I remember stopping beside a little village near sunset as Dr. Widbin rehearsed the widow of Nain’s story within a broader cultural background. Toponymy would place Nain on that very spot, and as we stood outside of the modern village, the compassion of Jesus was almost palpable in our few moments together there. Throughout the trip, our group would spontaneously break into worship at times as we beheld our God afresh. No other response was possible.

Dr. Widbin’s many years of leading groups, as well as teaching in the classroom, means that his trips are incredibly well organized. He provides great resources to help people gain an understanding of the land of the Bible: the context we don’t understand, the geography we so easily miss, the history we do not know. But he also has a way of translating that information, and Biblical stories in their original settings, into something that is deeply personal and challenging. One of my favorite moments on the trip was when an older gentleman who had lost his wife the year before to cancer sat weeping beside a three-room house as Dr. Widbin talked about the wedding formula Jesus recited as He prepared to leave His disciples. That gentleman was seeing something about Jesus he had never seen before. At that site, we learned about normal living conditions in ancient Israel, and we also heard the Bible “again for the very first time.”

Since going to Israel with Dr. Widbin, I no longer read the Scriptures in the same way. The experience of Israel, and the knowledge I gained through our time together there, colors everything I read. The Easter narrative makes me recall walking up the stairs that Jesus traversed during His passion, and His suffering for me seems more profound somehow, having walked the very streets He walked. When I feel a need for refuge and turn to the Psalms, I often think of taking a few moments to rest in a cleft in the rocky wall of a wadi. I can not think of Elijah on Mount Carmel without going there in my mind and remembering our group’s time alone with God; after Dr. Widbin’s presentation I sat on a rocky outcropping and asked for the type of faith that truly lives each day believing in a God who invades our existance and demonstrates His involvement in our world. The God of Elijah was so real to me in those moments! And that experience continues to enrich my life. I could say the same of visiting the Sea of Galilee, standing amid the dusty hills of the wilderness, driving up the wadi between Jericho and Jerusalem, and on, and on. These experiences, and the vibrant context they provided to me for the Scriptures I cherish, have somehow come home to America with me in a way I could never have anticipated. My life, my faith and my understanding of the Word have all been impacted by the two weeks I chose to dedicate to studying with Dr. Widbin in Israel. My profoundest gratitude is due him for leading our group on such an amazing journey.

Date of Posting: 30 June 2010
Posted By: Katie George
Nyack, NY