When I first heard about the Oxford Study Tour, I was thrilled at the possibility of going. See, every year, students and faculty have an opportunity to journey to Oxford to study, travel and learn — all while getting course credit. With a background in English and a love for travel, visiting Oxford was a dream come true for me.
I enjoyed the literary thrills of seeing Oxford University, Blackwell’s bookstore and visiting C.S. Lewis’s house. But as I reflect on what I learned and appreciated most from this trip, three benefits of time travel stood out. Yes, time travel. On a trip that focuses on visiting historical places and learning about important figures of history, the importance of time was a constant theme. So, I’ll share three benefits of time travel from my time on the Oxford study trip that could also benefit others who participate in this trip.
Connection to the Past
As I walked around the streets of Oxford, one of the oldest universities in the world, I couldn’t help but think about a connection to the past. This connection became more tangible when I stood on the very street where some of the early martyrs of the English Reformation were burned at the stake or when we stood in the church building where John Newton pastored and our group sang “Amazing Grace.” To see William Carey’s Bible and the shoe shop where he worked before leaving for India brought a weight to the facts that I had heard about him for most of my life.
This connection to the past was important because it connected me more concretely to a much bigger story than I had ever felt before. As our group visited places around England and Scotland, we were literally finding places in history. But I also considered how I could better find my own place in the larger story of history.
By seeing my story within a larger story, I recognized more fully the contributions of so many who have come before me. Through this trip I gained a new appreciation for the generations who lived and suffered in ways I may never have to. This both humbled me and made me thankful again for God’s providence and for this faithful cloud of witnesses and their legacy.
I gained a new appreciation for the generations who lived and suffered in ways I may never have to.Click to tweet
Influence on the Present
Along with a connection to the past, this trip also naturally influenced the “present” days of the almost three-week trip. Signing up to travel internationally for that long with a group of people you’ve never met certainly brings some unknowns. The good thing is that the group is made up of students and faculty members from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
This joint trip between the two schools brought many benefits. I built relationships with students and faculty from a sister school in another part of the country that I may never get to visit. Sharing the experiences of this trip with these brothers and sisters allowed me to make connections with others who are also training for future ministry and who will one day be future co-laborers even from afar. An added blessing was the opportunity to spend time with professors and their families outside of the classrooms. It is one thing to sit in a classroom under teachers but another entirely to be able to observe their lives and get to know them as real people. Some of my most memorable times from the trip were the meals or visits with the professors’ families.
What’s more, these same new friends and professors became immediate ministry partners during the trip. The other students sitting with me in the lectures and riding on the bus helped me remember the trip wasn’t just a vacation. We reminded one another in the middle of all of the excitement to keep gospel witness at the forefront—whether that was a lengthy, late night gospel conversation with a teen on a bus ride back to Oxford, or praying for another student as she shared the gospel in Spanish with two professing atheists during a walk at the park. We had a unique opportunity wherever we went as a group or even individually to give the reason why we were there.
I was also reminded of the present global church as we met and worshiped with believers in local churches. Any opportunity to experience the global church is a tremendous blessing by showing us how God is at work beyond what we know and experience in our day-to-day lives, and this affects how we view our local churches in America to better serve them. Finally, our time in Oxford culminated with an intentional time of going into the city to share the gospel together. This brought an immediacy to our trip more than anything. The history we learned about was a motivation and direct influence on the present.
Significance on the Future
A third benefit of my time travel was realizing the significance of this trip on the future. First, I was reminded of the importance of looking back to look ahead. As much as I enjoyed the sites and remembering the history of the places and their important leaders, time moves ever forward. I made a connection to the past but recognized that I shouldn’t romanticize it. Rather, I could learn from history as way of walking in wisdom in preparation for what the future may bring.
Second, another truth I thought of often as I saw artifacts from the time of Nebuchadnezzar or a tract written by Martin Luther, is that Scripture calls us to walk by faith not by sight. I found it tempting to see these tangible items or places and say to myself, “See, what I believe, it’s all true. Here’s physical proof.” But the harder task, I realized, is to continue to look forward in hope with faith that is the evidence of things hoped for — to trust in God who was, and is and is to come; the Alpha and Omega; the Eternal God — not to look for validation from a relic or physical place from the past.
These three benefits of time travel are not unique to my experience on the Oxford trip. Anyone who participates in this trip could enjoy these same benefits, ones that will bring:
- a greater connection to the past and the larger story we are a part of;
- an important (and providential) influence on the present in meeting others on the trip and partnering with them on mission;
- a significance on the future that challenges and encourages us to learn from the past to be able to walk by faith and not sight with hope for the future.
This trip is definitely worth your time.
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 For a fuller account of Spurgeon’s conversion, see http://archive.spurgeon.org/misc/bio2.php