Before daybreak on May 8, psychology major Craig Johnson ’12 stood elated — he had experienced a personal triumph by summiting Mt. Sinai. From the place where Moses received the 10 Commandments, he and the 30 other members of Corban’s Egypt–Israel Study Tour witnessed the sunrise. To make this pilgrimage to the Holy Lands and climb what Exodus calls the “mountain of God,” Johnson had to overcome significant personal obstacles.
Upon first hearing mention of the proposed study tour, Johnson, who has autism, didn’t know if he could handle international travel. “There are a lot of variables to deal with on a trip which can make it stressful,” he said. “People with autism generally like to be in a place familiar to them.”
Encouraged by his family and friends, Johnson determined to go. A pre-trip spring course helped prepare him mentally for the historical and cultural sites on the itinerary, and he began to develop friendships with members of the travel team. “The trip gave me the chance to meet people I may not have gotten to know otherwise,” he said.
Preparation included stepping up to a daily workout routine and adopting a nutrition program. “Due to the amount of weight I had, I wouldn’t have been able to walk up Mt. Sinai,” he explained. He also described potential problems with walking: poor balance due to depth perception and just walking for long periods of time.
His pre-tour diligence paid off — his legs grew stronger and he lost 70 pounds in four months.
Once on the tour, Johnson experienced the Bible in 4D: rafting the Jordan River to a sandbar where seven group members were baptized; fishing from a boat in the Sea of Galilee and eating fresh tilapia for dinner; and watching 100,000 Jews usher in the Sabbath, dancing and singing at the Western Wall, the place they feel closest to God. “When I read the Bible now,” Johnson said, “I can say I’ve been there; I have a picture in my mind of what it was like.”
Besides noting the strong physical condition of Bible characters, Johnson was spiritually impacted while in the desert where the Israelites had wandered for 40 years. He said, “God was always with them. He wouldn’t have had them do something He didn’t think they could do.”
Johnson certainly personalized this biblical message. When his camel had taken him as far as was possible, it was still dark and 750 daunting steps of varying heights and angles remained between him and his mountain-top experience, Johnson leaned on the support of his team, acted in faith and conquered each step one at a time.
Sophomore and fellow traveler Amelia Kaspari said, “The most arduous part of the trip for all of us, Mount Sinai was the climax of the trip for many reasons, not least of which was Craig’s triumph.”
Drs. Anderson and Trull report that a “Journeys of Paul” tour is in the works for May 2012. It will include sites in Turkey and Greece. If interested, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.