With a population of a quarter million in the first century B.C., Ephesus was once of the largest cities in the world. It was one of the seven churches of Asia mentioned in the Bible’s book of Revelation, and was the focus of the apostle Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. Today, its ruins are close to the town of Selcuk, an hour’s drive south of Izmir.
“It was both humbling and a thrill to walk where Paul once walked through the streets of Ephesus,” writes ACU psychology major Elizabeth Ellery of San Angelo, Texas, in her reflections of the experience. “The many tourists there that day made it feel like a real city, which helped make the ruins come alive.”
On Sunday, the ACU group toured the what is left of the library of Celsus, once the third richest of its kind (after those at Alexandra and Pergamum), and shared communion at a morning service in an ancient outdoor theater.
“Sitting at the top of it, I could imagine Paul walking up to the city from the harbor with all the boldness and strength of the Lord in him to share the most incredible news about the promises we have in the resurrection of Christ,” Ellery writes.
“I even got the chance to stand before the group on the steps of the theater and read Ephesians 6:10-24,” writes Raymond Lowe, a business management major from Crowley, Texas. “For the first time in my life I stood where Paul stood. Everything was right there before me, a perfect moment. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
It had an effect on others as well.
“I got tears on my eyes listening to Raymond, hearing the impact it was having on him while he read it,” writes Stephen Shewmaker (’91), associate director of ACU’s Center for International Education (CIE). “It was as if the Word was alive for him at that moment, almost as if we were the Ephesians, and he was reading Paul’s words for the very first time.”
History also came to life for biochemistry major Marissa Marolf of McKinney, Texas. “It was an incredible, yet humbling experience to walk through one of the first cities where early Christians dwelt and inevitably faced persecution for their rejection of paganism,” she writes.
Nathan Spencer, a psychology major from Joplin, Mo., says the experience was fun, eye-opening and inspiring. “I wanted to make a difference in the world before but after seeing where Paul walked and preached in Ephesus, I know I can,” he writes. “There is something about literally walking in the path of someone great that gives you the courage to be great.”
ACU chancellor Dr. Royce Money (’64) and his wife, Pam (Handy ’65) accompanied the group on the tour of Turkey. Royce is serving as a visiting faculty member, with this trip an integral part of his Survey of Church History class in which all the students are enrolled back in Leipzig.
The tour was planned and led by Shewmaker, who is serving with his wife, Dr. Jennifer (Wade ’92) Shewmaker, associate professor of psychology, as visiting faculty and on-site coordinators this semester.
He credited Dr. Kevin Kehl, executive director of the CIE, with the idea for the 12-day trip.
“Kevin originally conceived this as a way to provide real-world context to the history and issues students would be learning about in Dr. Money’s class and the one in which Jennifer and I teach (A Mighty Fortress: A Study of German People and Culture),” Stephen says.
The group returned to Leipzig on Monday.