Simpson University Students Tour Holy Land on Study Trip

By Jacelyn Wedman

REDDING, Calif.–Simpson University’s Dr. Jack Painter, professor of New Testament, led 16 undergraduate students on a three-week Israel Study Trip from May 14 to June 2. The group, hosted by Jerusalem University College (JUC), toured the country observing historical and geographical sites. They listened to lectures and marked maps, reading the Bible and watching it come alive as they trod where the ancient Israelites and Jesus lived.

Dr. Painter has been leading the biannual trip since 2009. “It’s not a mission trip. It’s a study trip,” he insists, noting the importance of the 4-unit class, Historical and Geographical Settings of the Bible. The class counted for both an upper-division Bible credit and elective.

“The class merges understanding the physical geography as well as history with the biblical text. Not only do you learn about it, but you see it,” Dr. Painter said.

Nicole Masciola, senior youth ministry major, was impacted by the three-week long adventure.

“It was incredible that we were in the Holy Land reading the Bible and learning more about it,” Masciola said.

The trip cost approximately $4,500, which included air fare, lodging, travel, food, and tuition. Students self-funded their trips. According to Painter, they raised funds through their own work, family contributions, Go Fund Me accounts, and other fundraisers. “People got pretty creative,” he noted.

Sam the Camel Giving Kisses.jpg

Simpson University youth ministry major Nicole Masciola “enjoys” a kiss from Sam the Camel during the Israel Study Trip.

The team flew into Tel-Aviv from San Francisco and spent most of their travel time either riding a bus or walking to and from the host campus in Jerusalem. By the time the trip was over, the team had walked more than 105 miles. The group rode a bus from campus south to the Negev Desert and north to Galilee.

Meng Andrew Her, senior pastoral studies and youth ministry major, noted two highlights from the trip.

“Other than riding on a camel for the first time singing ‘A Whole New World,’ one of the highlights about this trip was being able to make friends with the local people,” Her said. “They are very nice and hospitable.” For many, the flight to the Holy Land was their first trip overseas.

Dr. Painter experiences this trip differently each time. The May 2019 group was his first with only undergraduate students. As anyone is welcome, families of students and A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary students also joined. Painter mentioned that this brought a dynamic to the group that he hadn’t witnessed before.

No trip is complete without a set of challenges. For Dr. Painter, those challenges begin early, stacking up almost 18 months before the trip. Recruiting and working with both travel agents and Jerusalem University College required patient planning and organization.

“A challenge is always making sure that the logistics are in place for the trip,” he said.

For students, the main challenge was facing fears and staying hydrated.

Her put it simply: “There are two ‘h’s’ to be aware of in Israel: heat & hike. Being physically active and having a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated are both needed when going on this trip. We hiked almost 5 miles a day uphill and downhill. It was not easy, but it was definitely worth it.”

Andrew Her and a Friend from Jericho.jpg

Simpson University student Meng Andrew Her, senior pastoral studies and youth ministry major, left, with a man he met in Jericho.

Masciola agreed, adding that the class would leave the campus around 7 a.m. every day, not returning until 5 p.m. She also noted that shade was sparse.

“Standing around in the hot sun listening to lectures was not always the most fun,” she said.

After three weeks trekking the land Jesus walked, the group of 17 flew home with much on their hearts. Many came away from the trip with a different, deeper understanding of biblical events.

For Dr. Painter, a highlight of every trip is worshipping in a different environment. He noted the difference in atmosphere, the vibrancy of worship, in the Holy Land.

“It’s one of the things I love about going to Israel myself. A highlight of the trip is always worshipping in different locations,” Dr. Painter said.

Her said he saw the Bible differently after spending three weeks in the Holy Land.

“Being in Israel and seeing what the land looks like has helped me visualize the settings of what the biblical stories may have looked like,” Her said.

“One thing a lot of us took away from the trip was that, as Westerners, there are so many things in the Bible that we either misread or misinterpret just because we haven’t experienced the culture and the land for ourselves,” Masciola said, noting that she reads the Bible differently now than before her experience.

Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane

The Arbel Cliffs

The Arbel Cliffs

From the streets of Jerusalem, to the Negev desert and Dead Sea, to the Mediterranean coast, to Galilee and Mount Hermon in the north, the Bible came alive in a new and vibrant way for participants.

“If you’ve ever wanted to visit Israel, this is the best way to do it. It’s three weeks instead of the normal 10 days to two weeks,” Dr. Painter said. “We do not have to encounter the constant barrage of people trying to sell you things because it’s a study trip being directed by a school.”

The next trip is planned for May of 2021. For further inquiry, visit or email Dr. Painter at

About the author:
Jacelyn Wedman is a senior English and Communication major at Simpson University. She is the Executive Vice President of Simpson’s student government for the 2019-20 academic year. When she isn’t in meetings or in class, Wedman likes to adventure outdoors, watch “The Office,” and tell stories.

Photos courtesy Nicole Masciola and Andrew Her / Top: Israel Study Tour participants in the Negev desert.


Simpson University, founded in 1921, moved to Redding 30 years ago and will celebrate its centennial in 2021. In addition to offering 25 majors in its traditional undergraduate program, the university has graduated more than 4,000 North State adults from its ASPIRE degree-completion program, and nearly 3,000 from its School of Education. It has a No. 8-ranked School of Nursing, a seminary, and master’s programs in counseling psychology and organizational leadership. Simpson University is recognized nationally by Colleges of Distinction.

Simpson is launching new athletics programs in track and field, swimming and diving, women’s wrestling, and men’s volleyball, as well as a bass fishing team. The university is also working to better serve transfer students from community colleges through its commitment to Associate Degree for Transfer agreements, and it is offering new scholarships.

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