Éfeso-Biblioteca de Celso en Turquía. Foto: Miriam Taylor
United States | Angelica Sanchez, ANN

Have you ever finished reading the Bible and been left feeling discouraged because it was difficult to comprehend? If connecting to Scripture has ever been a challenge, you are not alone. 

For many, including Kevin Christenson, director of Hope Media productions, relating to the Bible was hard. However, after attending the 2022 Hope Channel Study Tour entitled “In the Footsteps of the Apostles,” the Bible came to life. “When you read the accounts of the disciples, it’s hard to really get a sense of where they went and what those places were like,” Christenson shares. “Physically being there brought it all to life and suddenly made the stories feel more than just a historical account. It made them feel real.” For him, the tour was “truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” This sentiment is one many tour attendees concur with. 

In May 2022, Pastor Derek Morris, president of Hope Channel International, Inc. (HCI) and host of the tour, joined 22 attendees for the “In the Footsteps of the Apostles” tour. Together they traveled to Turkey and Greece where a local Turkish guide, Dr. Michael Hasel, professor of Near Eastern Studies and Archaeology and director of the Institute of Archaeology at Southern Adventist University, and his wife, Giselle Hasel, professor of art history at Southern Adventist University, led the group through several notable biblical locations. 

One memorable location for Marline Balbach, a tour attendee, was visiting the site of the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3. She noted the experience was eye-opening and helped her understand the relevance of Christ’s messages to these churches. Balbach explained, “Nothing’s really changed. Society has been struggling with luxury, vice, crime, immorality, lies, idolatry, poverty, the rich and powerful, tyranny, and persecution throughout time. We have the same battles. Yet, if the apostles could reach and change the world two thousand years ago, without the technology today, imagine what God is waiting to do with us if we could just be full of faith like Paul, the apostles, and the early church.”

During the first sabbath of the tour, the group experienced an exciting highlight. They spent the day on the island of Patmos in Greece and visited the cave where it is believed God gave John several revelations. Nanette Gensolin, an attendee, shared, “The trip to the Island of Patmos meant a lot for me. Seeing where the Apostle John was imprisoned gave me goosebumps as the place was tiny and cramped. [Seeing] the cave created this picture in my mind of how much John suffered so the gospel of salvation could be spread.” Derek Morris remarked that nothing compared to visiting this location. 

Patmos, Greece. Photo by: Miriam Taylor.

Patmos, Greece. Photo by: Miriam Taylor.

Besides these two locations, the group also visited Miletus, a notable destination found along Paul’s historic missionary journey. The caravan had the exciting opportunity to see the Biblical site of Ephesus. Christensen opined that his experience at the theater in Ephesus helped him “begin to grasp how major the words of Paul and the influence of The Way, [were in] this major center of commerce.” This insight became evident to him through the merchants surrounding the theater, who, to this day, sell trinkets and statues of Artemis to feed their families. The theater’s excellent acoustics also lent itself to the imagination, as he imagined a frustrated and hungry populace shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” in Acts 19.

Ancient Greek city of Miletus. Photo by: Miriam Taylor.

Ancient Greek city of Miletus. Photo by: Miriam Taylor.

After visiting the theater, the group also saw Ephesus’ beautiful terrace houses, its famed library of Celsus, and even the Tetragonos Agora. They went to Pergamon, an ancient Greek and Roman city that is now the site of some of the most impressive archaeological finds in Turkey and the Middle East. Additionally, the troop visited Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Colossae, all cities detailed in the Bible as the settings of Paul’s letters to the Colossians and to Philemon.

The study tour experience positively impacted the lives of everyone who joined. Gensolin remarked that since attending the tour, “The Bible just comes alive. [The tour] reinforced my belief in [the Bible’s] authenticity and gave me encouragement for a deeper study, strengthening my faith in the Lord.” Balbach added, “The tour reinforced my desire to be God's instrument.” 

Although the Bible may have previously been challenging for many, Hope Channel’s study tours has provided many tourists with a deeper understanding of the events within this timeless and inspired text. As a result, many have renewed their faith in Christ and His word, deepening their commitment to Him and His mission. You too can experience this during the next study tours in 2023.

Learn more about Hope Channel’s upcoming In the Footsteps of the Patriarchs and In the Footsteps of Jesus 2023 tours here.