For those considering SSU for their university experience (study the classics, travel the world, worship the One), here is a brief “taste” of what happens on the Europe trip every year with our undergrads, from dear friend and historian Dr. Gregg Finley:
“I write from Florence, the birthplace of the Italian Renassance. This is our second day here viewing treasures from this period in Italian history–the works of Michelangelo, Donatello, Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Leonardo da Vinci…and on it goes. Yesterday we were in Siena, another centre of Renaissance history. The students are responding well to all of this–the visits to museums and galleries, the teaching, the walking tours–seeing some of the Western World’s great cultural icons and processing these experiences in relation to their SSU-studies. Each day brings opportunities for studnts to ponder how best to integrate their impressions of Europe with their experience as Christian pilgrims.
Teaching includes daily talks by faculty, presentations prepared and given by students, and sometimes, (like today) tours by professional guides. Beyond this, much of the learning is experiential. It happens all the time and is rich and multi-dimensional. Students are seeing works of art and architecture, streetscapes, landscapes, and real people everywhere in their travels in Europe. We are discovering that studying abroad is heightened travel combined and heightened living.
As I write this I am conscious that today is the beginning of week three of this program. To date our travels have taken us through Spain, southern France and now Italy. Tomorrow we travel to Rome for experiences at St. Peters Basilica and ancient sites associated with the Roman Empire, including the Roman Forum and the Catacombs. We are conscious of, and so grateful for, the prayer-support from home. I am happy to report that all is well among the SSU-pilgrims. Here are some highlights of the past few days:
— We had our first significant rain last night. Everyone emerged from tents for breakfast this morning dry and in good spirits. We were happy the tents that did not leak! Pray that the rains come at “opportune times” and that the weather continues to warm up in Italy.
— The initial euphoria of the “honeymoon period” of the past two weeks is over. We have settled well into the challenges of our daily routines as a community on the move. The leaders are appreciating the positive attitudes of students, their sense of responsibility, their interest in caring for one another, their attention to the academic program. Important conversations about matters of the faith are taking place on the bus, in the campground and throughout the itinerary. Pray for continued growth in the quality of our life as a community, for the values of optimism, availabilty and vulnerability to be expressed in our life together.
— Student teams lead times of reflection and worship on a continuing basis. These are becoming highlights of our life together. Several evenings ago on an breathtaking white sandy beach in northern Spain, we gathered for one such worship session. Peter and I played the guitars, various students shared and then there was a time of silence before God. As the leaders began to leave, thinking the worship was over, Heather Mercer asked for a guitar and she began a session of praise music and sharing on the beach that lasted well into the night. It was an important time for many of the students. Pray that God will favour us with worship that glorifies Him, that meets the students where they are at, and that edifies all of us.
— While camping in southern France, at Carcassonne, we met an English gentleman in his mid- sixties who, with his wife, was on a biking holiday in France. His tent was pitched next to ours and he shared with us that his wife had just exprienced a sudden stroke and had fallen off her bike, was in the local hospital and was experiencing some paralysis and problems trying to speak. He was waiting word from the doctors as to when she would be stable enough to return to England. With obvious emotional strain on his face, he confessed, “we never expected our holiday would end this way.” While visiting old Carcassonne, Peter and Mary Ellen prayed that God would give us an opportunity to bless this man, named Derek. They did not know that at that moment, Jessica Weatherhead had asked Derek to join our group for supper. Squash soup and potatoes and sausages were on the supper menu being prepared by the cooking team of which Jessica was a member. Derek was grateful and agreed to join us. As we stood in a circle holding hands for Grace before supper, we prayed for Derek and his wife Val. Derek remained with us talking and obviously enjoying the students hospitality for the next three hours. Pray for continuing opportunities for us to have significant encounters with folks on the road.
My internet connection is about up and Florence awaits. Next stop, the 15th century Duomo Santa Maria del Flore in the centre of old Florence.
Thanks to each one who remember us in their prayers. Two weeks down, six to go….”