Note: The following is written by Justin Scott, a middle school science teacher who joined me on the BEMA Turkey 2022 study tour. Part of my sabbatical is leading these trips, and I wanted him to share a bit about how these efforts affect others like him. Being healthy on sabbatical isn’t just an inward work; when done right, it also pours out into others.
As a teacher I have been taught that all learning is experiential. You must have a lived experience with information to really understand the specific concept. While my wife and I have listened to the entirety of The BEMA Podcast, we underestimated how much of the content we needed to experience to truly learn. Being on the trip to Turkey really drove home how similar my life is to the men and women who lived in places like Perga, Sardis, and Laodicea. Walking through the ancient streets, on almost-forgotten hills, and through well-preserved homes provided a connection to the Text I did not experience listening while driving to work. Learning the stories of Asclepius, Dionysus, and Athena helped to create a connection between my life and the lives of believers at that time.
For me to make these amazing connections, I had to get to the places where the connections existed. “Honoring the miles” wasn’t something I understood until we began running across ancient arenas, walking across ancient cities, and climbing actual mountains. It wasn’t easy, but it did help me to understand the daily experiences of the early believers. One of the two most impactful moments was when we studied the Olympics in Aphrodisias. I was reminded of the amazing people who are cheering for me and my race. This reminder helps me continue to understand the narrative of partnership with God and His love for me.
Leaving Turkey and the amazing connections created between fantastic people was difficult. It really helps you understand why the Essenes hung out together in the desert! Alas, as the song goes, “back to life, back to reality.” However, it hasn’t been back to the same old thing. I have felt it necessary to look for where God is working, to find the partnerships He has already formed to do the work of bringing the world back together. My eyes work differently now because they look for the good. My wife and I are looking for ways to shrewdly live our lives in a modern “Rome” and offer a message of Shalom rather than Empire. We are also looking for ways to partner with our home church to include more diverse voices to do the work of seeking out the mamzer, honoring people, providing space for the sacred, and partnering with God. There are so many things I learned — and so many new questions I am now asking — that my head and heart feels so full. Most of all, I learned that I should stay rooted to the Text and be a part of making it living and active in the world. For this, I am thankful for the opportunity to have gone to Turkey this year.