Sitting in the middle of the Sinai desert with her husband, two children, a Bedouin driver and an Egyptian police officer carrying an automatic weapon. That’s where Dr. Renate Hood, associate professor of Christian studies, found herself this summer.
After receiving two grants from the university, Hood planned a trip to the Middle East and Oxford to collect raw footage of Biblical sites to use in her classes.
“That’s my passion, being a good teacher. And then, of course the research wakes up in me that says what else can we squeeze out?” she said.
Hood noticed that interactive material was well received by her students but the length and nature of most biblical themed videos was not exactly what she wanted.
“I thought, what if you have short clips that dive to the point. And I’ve seen some examples that you use for church teaching, but it’s very devotional in nature. I wanted just the information part,” she said. “I thought how fantastic would it be … if I could go to the location and get a bunch of clips and bring them back?”
The task of getting those clips took her to some interesting places – some visited by thousands of tourists each year and some places almost no one else will ever lay eyes on.
Since Hood had both grants, one intended to be beneficial for the classroom and one to be beneficial for the professor’s field of study and research, she was able to also get material having to do with ancient manuscript research.
“What I was most excited about was … the Oxyrynchus Library. I was looking at stuff most of the world could just dream of looking into. … It was all there. I was a kid in a candy story,” she said.
Though she came back with much information, not all of it can immediately be turned around and put into use. Hood knows that research takes time and the process of doing it correctly requires patience.
She said, “I think the thing that’s hardest is patience. I want to develop it all now and then publish it next week. Some of the research needs to come to fruition. You need to think about it. Some of it is truly an investment, and the payoff will come later.”
One of the most memorable experiences Hood recalls is their visit to St. Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai Desert. There she met Father Justin, a Greek Orthodox monk, who is the head librarian. He showed them into the library and his office, pulling out documents that are hardly ever seen up close.
“He just unlocked the doors and led us in. I have two hours of tape of this man running me through ancient manuscripts. This man has spent his life with these manuscripts,” she said. “I have up close materials. I can have him narrate the story for my students. There’s no documentary like that.”
Getting to the monastery was a journey for Hood and her family. They went through a travel agency, the safest way to get there, and after several checkpoints, they were finally with their local team and ready to head off.
She said, “There we were with these three Muslim guys, one with an automatic weapon, then us in the backseat, with two children and there we go, off into the desert. So you just pray and you go. You just have to depend on the Lord because it’s scary otherwise.”
Having returned from her journey, Hood realizes the opportunity she has to use unique material to teach her classes. She hopes that the resources she has gained benefit her students, as they will be able to really get the big picture, and not just memorize words in a textbook.
“I think I returned as a changed teacher. … I think its much more impactful if you can see that with your mind’s eye, rather than staring at an atlas,” she said.
CLASSIFICATION MAJOR Kaitlin Burks has a class with Hood this semester and is benefitting from what Hood learned and brought back from this summer.
“Seeing all of the places that I have read about in the Bible and knowing from the videos, pictures, and the stories she tells really make the lectures come alive,” Burks said. “I can tell when a professor just says what’s written in the textbook compared to a professor who has actually gone and done extensive research into the topic.”
Hood wasn’t the only person learning and collecting material on the trip. Her husband, Dr. Ronnie Hood, senior pastor at Canyon Creek Baptist Church, was documenting their experiences of walking where Jesus walked to share with his church congregation.
He said, “There are so many little tidbits learned that are used in virtually every single study. It’s like the first time a college student takes world history or western civilization, your mind is all of a sudden opened in some degree.”
The Hoods have put together a series of presentations for the senior adult ministry at their church, Pacemakers, called Walking Where Jesus Walked. Ronnie wants the people who attend to have a better understanding of the area Jesus lived and walked and did ministry in.
“We try to take the people back and let them feel the life of Jesus as if they are with him in that original setting. It ends up being a more physical presentation of life with Jesus than purely ideological, so it’s bringing in a brand new element that people usually never get,” he said. “As we reflect on that physical environment, we are inspired in the more theological way from that.”
Ronnie appreciates the things they were able to learn and come back with to share with others and desires for more faculty to be able to do the same.
He said, “I think it says a lot about the university to want the professors to be extremely well educated in their fields. I wish every professor had the opportunity to go to where their field is enriched to the deepest degree.”