Note: The following is written by Dawn Nichols, Associate Campus Minister with Impact Campus Ministries, about her recent experience with me in Israel for BEMA Israel 2022 (low contact). Part of my sabbatical is leading these trips, and Dawn herself took this trip as part of her own sabbatical. Her alternative perspective should be a valuable look into the process.
Midwestern Guilt is the self-conscious feeling of guilt that comes by inconveniencing anyone for anything. At least that’s my definition of it.
Every two years since 2014, I have heard what an amazing experience the BEMA Israel/Turkey trip has been. In my nine years of working with Impact Campus Ministries, I have met and worked with many people who had the opportunity to go. As a person with a physical disability and limited mobility, it didn’t seem likely I would be able to have this experience. As a joke, starting around 2018, I would ask Marty, “When are you going to create a handicap version of the trip?” But my Midwestern Guilt didn’t allow me to push him into creating something that would only be suitable for me. After continuing to have the desire to go, I worked up the courage/chutzpah to ask him for his consent to “keep pestering him” for an accessible trip.
My expectations of the trip and why I wanted to go had been building for years, and when it was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, it seemed like it was never going to happen. I imagine I am like most people before a big trip or event—anxiety and nerves get the better of me. I was anxious that my body wouldn’t hold up. I was nervous because I knew only two people out of 56. But mostly I was worried that my heart and mind wasn’t ready for such an immersive experience.
On the first day of our trip, though, all doubts and hesitations I had about my physical capability were put at ease. Not because the trip wasn’t physically difficult—I broke a pair of boots—but because of the amazing community our group formed so effortlessly. There were others in the group who needed a little extra time, there was a lot of hand holding to steady our steps, and people literally carried our weight when we grew tired. By having people help guide me through rough, uneven “quarter-mile” hikes, I was able to connect and make friends incredibly quickly. A major blessing for me was that I was never left wondering, “Who is going to help me climb this giant hill, or how will I cross this stream?” Even before I would hold out my hand, someone was there EVERY SINGLE TIME! There was an overwhelming sense of freedom that allowed me not to worry about my physical well-being, and so I was able to be mentally present when Marty spoke.
There are so many memories that will flood my heart when I think back on this trip: Climbing giant hills that reward you with breathtaking views, standing in the Jordan River alongside an amazing group of women, and seeing Marty's passion for the Text emanate through his entire being.
What I have gained through this experience is an appreciation for the richness in the Text. I see it when I read past the name of a city in the Bible. I can now say, “I’ve been there.” There is a stronger desire to continue to wrestle and lean into the tension to better understand what God’s Word has to say for His people. There is a deeper appreciation of the opportunity for people from all over the country to come and share in this unique experience. But most importantly, I want to continue to have the chutzpah to love God’s people as well as I have been loved.