Michaela McCurdy is a sophomore biology major and Spanish complementary major. She serves as leader of AU’s Prayer Ministry and recently participated in the Tri-S trip to Israel over Christmas break.
Q: What are you involved in and most passionate about here on campus?
A: I love campus ministries; I’m super passionate about people and living in community. I love running, being outdoors, hiking, going on any type of adventure and ice cream and mangos.
Q: What is the role and impact of AU’s prayer ministry?
A: It’s taken kind of a different spin this year, but it’s been really awesome. There’s a lot of different dynamics to it. There’s a prayer team of around 50 students and faculty members who are committed to praying for their areas on campus, and then there’s prayer events throughout the semester that I help lead. There’s the 24-hour prayer events, prayer before chapel and prayer on Thursday nights.
Q: What first inspired you to sign up for the Tri-S trip to Israel?
A: I think it’s always been a bucket list type of place, but it’s a difficult place to get to, it’s an expensive trip to do on your own, so I feel like when the opportunity is there, just take it, because it will be totally worth it. I went with Tri-S to India last May and have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit. I’ve been to South America, Hondurus a few times, Costa Rica, Haiti and Mexico.
Q: What kind of research and preparation was necessary before going on this trip?
A: Last semester, I was super busy. I was taking 18 hours and they were not easy 18 hours. So I waited longer than I wish I could have, but I didn’t have many other options until break started. The first 10 days of break the rest of my family was gone, so it was just me at home. So I would just hit coffee shops and spent a lot of time just looking up the different places that we were going to go to in both the historical context and biblical significance, and just gaining an appreciation for both the culture and the places. It just gave me a general framework to work from and a bigger perspective.
Q: Now, looking back, what were some of your most memorable experiences from your trip to Israel?
A: You see the Bible stories you’ve read since your childhood come to life. You’re touching stories and standing on places that you’ve read about, so that’s just incredible. Then, when you go back and read the Bible, everything is different. You’re not trying to formulate pictures in your mind, you’re picturing places, which is really cool. I’m super thankful to have had that experience. I think it will change a lot moving forward.
We spent two days in Galilee, which is an area that Jesus spent so much of his life in. It was incredible for me to gain more of an appreciation of the places he was at.
I’d never thought about how beautiful it was. The hazy mountain landscape and the sunsets over the Sea of Galilee and the chilly mountain mornings—it’s just an incredible thing that Jesus wasn’t just doing the things that were in the Bible, but living life in a beautiful place.
Q: You said you went to Galilee; what other places did you visit while there?
A: Bethlehem was another really cool one. It was really neat because Bethlehem wasn’t just historically and biblically significant, but also present day—we got to see some of the modern issues too.
It’s a Palestinian controlled area, so within the state of Israel, it’s not really accessible to Israeli citizens, but the Palestinians who live in there are very oppressed and not able to enter Israel either. We also visited the wall that you hear about between the Israelis and Palestinians and learned about their side of things. I think so often that history is written by the victors, so being able to hear the ones who are being oppressed currently speak out is really significant.
You are seeing first-hand the oppression and the hurt and asking, where is the peace that you sing about in the Christmas carols like “Peace on Earth?” Then, at the same time, to go to the grotto, the cave where Jesus was born, and touch the place where peace on Earth was established and he entered the world, and physically put your hand on that—it was just mind-blowing. And to realize the good news is that the kingdom is here. It was established here. It was a really neat day.
Q: People might think that going to Israel in today’s political climate would be intimidating or even scary. Did you ever feel that way?
A: I would say there was no need to feel intimidated. There was nothing that I saw with my own two eyes or experienced that should be fear instilling. Personally, I would be lying if I said there were moments that I wasn’t fearful or just concerned for my own safety, or scared when I woke up, like, ‘Oh my gosh. What is that noise?’ But there was really no need to be. I think you hear so much about it that it’s scary, but it definitely also made me appreciate the safety that we live in, because I think that the degree to which we live in safety is pretty unknown to a lot of the world.
Q: Was there anything about your trip that surprised you or stood out to you that you didn’t think would?
A: I expected to learn a lot about the biblical significance of places and I did, which was awesome. But I wasn’t expecting to be as touched by the cultural aspects that we saw and the current issues too, and how those fit into the broader scheme of history. It was really cool to see the Palestinian-Israeli conflict first-hand and realize just how little I know about it.
Q: If you could visit anywhere else in the world, where would you go next?
A: I absolutely love Hondurus. That’s where my heart is, so I would go back there for an extended period of time. But anywhere in the world that I could travel to? I really want to go to Kenya. My grandparents spent a lot of time there and did a lot of missions work over there, and my grandpa’s really important to me, so I would love to see the place that he made such an impact on and that impacted him so much.