Ivy Leaguers impacted for life by Israel tour

Jerry and Judy Ball, a classically Southern couple from North Carolina, felt called to reach out to students from establishment schools in 'Yankee territory'

Jerry and Judy Ball (photo credit: Courtesy Breaker of Dawn Ministry)
Jerry and Judy Ball
(photo credit: Courtesy Breaker of Dawn Ministry)
Most people probably do not realize that 50 percent of world leaders come from Ivy League schools – that storied network of elite universities in the Northeast of the United States. Among the students at these pillars of academia, only about 4% are evangelical Christians. Among this minority, even fewer appreciate the biblical significance of a restored Israel today.
But that small number has surprisingly grown since the start of the year, thanks to a special initiative launched by the prayer ministry of Jerry and Judy Ball, a classically Southern couple from North Carolina who felt called to reach out to students at establishment schools in “Yankee” territory.
Through their ministry “Breaker of Dawn,” the Balls gathered 50 Christian students from Ivy League colleges at the campus of C.S. Lewis College in Massachusetts in January 2011, confident this would grow into something bigger. They had high hopes these young students would one day assume high positions of influence in our world and take moral stands based on biblical values.
Their next step was a student-led conference in April with 250 students in Boston, with African revivalist Heidi Baker as the featured speaker.
From that group, the Balls identified 14 students they felt were the right material for a uniquely intensive summer study mission to Israel. Arriving in June, the “Ignite Ivy” tour group represented six cultural backgrounds, including Korean, Chinese, Black American, White American, Japanese, Hispanic and Jewish. The students came from such respected universities as Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Though well-educated, the Ivy Leaguers were still surprised by what they discovered in Israel.
“I realized that I knew relatively little about Israel,” admitted Chandler Douglas from MIT. “I only knew tidbits from verses I had skimmed over in the Bible, and I knew even less about its current condition.”
All of the Christian students kept their minds and hearts open to the new experience.
“I did not expect to find modern cities such as Tel Aviv. I never understood how miraculous it is that Israel exists as a nation amidst so many enemy neighbors and after 2,000 years of annihilation,” said Sharon Guan, a junior at Columbia University.
“Jerusalem bears witness to the ways that the God of the Bible has shaped history, and it holds His promise of total restoration for the world,” she told The Christian Edition.
In addition to numerous biblical sites, the students also visited many important places linked to Israel’s modern history, like Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. They attended lectures about current life in Israel and met with the “locals,” including Holocaust survivors at a special assisted-living home in Haifa solely dedicated to meeting their needs. The group also sharpened their sense of the political situation.
“When we stood on the Golan Heights overlooking the Sea of Galilee, I realized that Israel cannot give up the Golan Heights to anyone, and our government in America is seriously wrong for even suggesting it,” insisted Anna Waters.
But having travelled all around the country without experiencing any troubles, the students were impressed with the feeling of safety in the land.
“What most surprised me was the great presence of peace within the borders of Israel, though the nation is surrounded by enemies and seems to be in a constant state of war,” Douglas noted. “I found that nothing short of miraculous, like so many other things associated with Israel.”
Even weeks after the trip, the students are still evaluating their experiences, and all admit they will never forget their time here, or Israel as a whole.
“This trip gave me deeper insight into God’s heart,” said Guan. “I feel like He gave me a glimpse of something dear to Him.” •