Principia upper schoolers had the opportunity of a lifetime exploring Israel’s biblical landmarks for 15 days. Upper School Bible teacher Evan MacDonald (Emac) led the pilgrimage, elucidating several historical and religious sites, including Mount Nepo in Jordan, Petra (one of the seven wonders of the world), Galilee by boat, Mount Humon, the Old City of Jerusalem, and Bethlehem.
One of the most memorable moments for the group was their visit to Petra, where they traipsed through 4–6 inches of rain due to an onset of flash floods. While it was a challenging hike, they got the entire place to themselves, a rarity for a site that usually hosts thousands of people at a time.
The group was accompanied by a dynamic duo—a Jewish tour guide and a Palestinian driver who have been longtime friends. Emac noted that it was an important model for the group to see how the world actually interacts, as opposed to what they see in the news.
Q&A with Head of School Merry Sorrells, who accompanied the group to Israel.
Q: What stood out to you about this group of students as they immersed themselves in the trip curriculum?
Merry: It wasn’t just me who noticed, as we traveled through Jordan and Israel, people who encountered our students remarked how thoughtful, kind, and well-behaved they were. The students enjoyed each other fully, and I heard several of them note that they were enjoying newly-formed friendships with peers they didn’t spend time with before the trip. We had many long, uphill hikes and the students always offered to lend me a hand up or down a steep step, or they would offer to carry my heavy pack. I would leave a spot open next to me on the bus rides and the students would often fill it in for a fun visit or as a reading partner for one of our assignments. I delighted in getting to know each of the students on the trip. It was a rare opportunity for a Head of School.
As we traveled along on the bus each day, we often took that time to work in pairs on the “homework” for the day. This involved reading from our Bibles and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. I was impressed with the depth of knowledge these students shared of the Bible and foundational Christian Science.
Our bus rides were filled with the noise of many voices reading scripture and passages from Science and Health, and lively conversations about the spiritual concepts that would accompany the sites we would be visiting. In the evenings, the students would share the concepts they had learned during the day, and they spoke of highlights and gratitude during our evening gatherings.
Q: What was a trip highlight for you?
Merry: Stopping to sing a hymn during our journey back up the hill from the Treasury in Petra, soaked to the brim by the pouring, flash-flooding rain. It was a magical day. It is thought that Paul visited Petra. We traveled ankle deep in rushing water and pouring rain, past riders on horseback and camelback, to see this iconic monument. Due to the pounding rain, we were the last group allowed to travel the long path to the Treasury. As a result, we were blessed with the unique opportunity to see the Treasury with a crowdless, unobstructed view.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
Merry: The trip was a transformative experience for all of us. Today, as I read the Bible stories and study the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, I find myself reflecting on the many spiritual moments we experienced on the trip.