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Field Trips at Veritas Scholars Academy (and our recent trip to Israel) | Bob Cannon

Dr. Bob Cannon Written by Dr. Bob Cannon
Field Trips at Veritas Scholars Academy (and our recent trip to Israel) | Bob Cannon

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Ever worry that your kids will miss out on field trips by attending an online school? At Veritas Scholars Academy, we strive to provide rich opportunities for students to get to know the world around them and experience the places they learn about. Today, Dr. Bob Cannon, Headmaster at VSA, tells about this summer’s field trip to Israel (prior to the current conflict outbreak) and gives a sneak peek at what other international field trips are on the horizon for VSA students!

Episode Transcription

Note: This transcription may vary from the words used in the original episode for better readability.



Marlin Detweiler

Welcome again. Marlin Detweiler, and you’ve joined us for Veritas Vox, the voice of classical Christian education. Today we have with us Dr. Bob Cannon. Bob is not here for the first time. In fact, I think we've done two episodes with him previously that were a continuation type of thing. But Bob has joined us today because of a field trip – he is the Headmaster of our online school, Veritas Scholars Academy – a field trip that he and our folks from the school, students, parents and others went on this summer. But welcome, Bob.

Bob Cannon

Thank you, Marlin.

Marlin Detweiler

We've covered lots of things previously, including things about you personally. But I wonder if you have a couple of more fun facts about you that would help people know you better. I don't know if you want to tell them that you got your nose broken in jujitsu and that wasn't supposed to happen. But that was a funny, fun fact.

Bob Cannon

It's one that's one of them. Yeah. And I candidly, I don't like talking about myself much, but. But growing up, I loved water skiing. In fact, I enjoyed slalom skiing. And then during my high school days, I thought I would try downhill snow skiing. That didn't go as well as my experiences in the water, so I didn't do too much of that.

Another little fun fact that I think some of our community knows already is I have a Harley-Davidson- Fat Boy. It was kind of a dream for about 20-plus years. And my wife said, “No, no, no, no motorcycles!” And then when our son got a motorcycle, she said, “Maybe it's time for you to get a motorcycle so you can go riding with him.”

Marlin Detweiler

Help keep him safe.

Bob Cannon:

I guess now we know where her affections really lie!

Marlin Detweiler

Oh, well, it doesn't surprise me that a mother would think in extremes to protect a child for sure.

Bob Cannon

Yeah.

Marlin Detweiler

Well, as I mentioned, you were on a recent trip to Israel. Of course. We’re recording this after October 7th, 2023. What thoughts did you have having been back on American soil for a few weeks when you saw the attack on Israel by Hamas, Israel's response, and realizing the implications of what might have been the case had you still been there, or happened earlier when you were there?

Bob Cannon

In some strange way, I enjoy being put in situations where there are problems that I get to somehow solve. But this would have been one situation that I would not have asked for. On October 7th, as you mentioned that morning, it was a Saturday morning, if I'm not mistaken, I received a message from a friend who actually happens to be one of our teachers who grew up in the city of Jerusalem, and he sent word to me of what was happening.

So that was actually my first indication before I even saw it in any of our news sources here and to talk about it on some level, it can make me emotional because even when we were in Israel that same teacher I went to visit, I paid a surprise visit to his mother and sister. They live in the Armenian quarter in Jerusalem.

And so I made a point of it, being in that area to go and spend a little time with them. And it was just a lot of fun. We took photos together and a little bit of just the interaction was really special. So when I received news of it, of course, now there's an even more personal connection.

Which really puts some teeth on the fact that there are real people living there, always feeling like there's a threat not just from Hamas, but just generally speaking, that part of the world is a little bit touch and go. You don't know what's coming day to day.

Marlin Detweiler

Did you feel the sense of it being a powder keg when you were there?

Bob Cannon

I think that there's always tension and yes, I did feel some of that tension. In fact, when we went to Bethlehem, Bethlehem is controlled by well, Israel does not have control currently of Bethlehem. And as such, going into Bethlehem, we were all maybe biting nails a little bit and and wondering, are we safe? And the bottom line was, yes, we were safe relatively so.

Even to the point where our tour guide, who was an Israeli citizen, born and raised there, was willing, even though he wasn't technically supposed to be in Bethlehem because of his national status, he wasn't supposed to be there, but he wanted to go with us. And he said that as long as he's with us, American tourists in Bethlehem, he would be okay. He'd be fine. Because there are interests there, of course, economic and otherwise, where even if people groups are opposed to each other in the way that is frequently the case there, they do try to keep the peace the best they can because it satisfies their own interests to do so.

But to your question of was it a powder keg, you know, there are times when I'm sure it feels that way because tensions are rising, but the tension is always there. There's always an underlying question of whether or not something might happen that's going to just set things off.

Marlin Detweiler

Yeah, well, obviously things were set off shortly after. You and our people, our students, our parents and other teachers and administrators that were with you left. And I'm sure there was some sense of all thanks to God that you weren't there when that happened. It could have been really, really difficult.

As you look at the difficulty in the circumstance having had boots on the ground there a few weeks prior, What's your sense of what's going on and what's needed?

Bob Cannon

And what's needed? I'll answer that very quickly upfront. In a word, Christ is needed. He's needed by all the people there. Many of us in our culture here at Veritas would say that we stand with Israel – and we do. But let's not forget that whether you're an Israeli citizen or someone who regards himself as a Palestinian or whatever people group you may be, we had dinner at a restaurant owned by a woman who is in the Druze culture. Interesting culture. Learned a lot about it, even on the ground there while we were having dinner. And so there are there are other people groups, there is my point. And in talking with her and her people, in talking with even our bus driver who was an Arab Muslim, in talking with our tour guide who was an Israeli Jew, all these people groups who are there, at the end of the day, we need to have God's eyes for these people.

We can get so enmeshed in the details of this life and the politics and all that’s swirling around us that we sometimes fail, I think, to take a step or two back and recognize that God's perspective is that he ultimately wants peace. In fact, Jerusalem is the only city in the scriptures for which we are told we ought to pray for the peace of. And so there's a lot to say about Israel in general, Jerusalem specifically. And the special place that it holds in the scriptures. Even prophetically, it's being regarded as a stumbling stone to the nations. This place is very special on the world map, and it's both sobering to have been there and to experience much of what we did on the ground. And it's also sobering to consider that the events that are happening right now there are having such a profound effect on all peoples who live in that land and think.

Marlin Detweiler

Well, you lead into something I wanted to ask you about for the sake of our listeners, I've had this conversation with you a little bit before. Talk to us about the trip. What were the best parts of the trip? My understanding is this is your first time making such a trip. Did it square with the expectations? What were the expectations? A lot of questions out there, answer as you see fit.

Bob Cannon

Some people I could get easily lost in answering this question, so pull me back as needed. But some people, I think most people, would actually, having read the scriptures, wanting to go to Israel and to see the land and to have it come to life as it were, a lot of people will talk in those terms.

Some of us, I think, went there with the intention of not only seeing some of the scriptures that we had read, especially in the Gospels, coming to life. You know, these are places where Jesus actually walked. That's very significant. I don't need to get into that. But now having been there, I open up the scriptures and I read and as I'm reading through a passage, I think I was there.

And then I can see it in my mind's eye in a way that I didn't before. When I read about Simon, the tanner, and how Peter went to stay with him, and Peter went up on the rooftop, and he had the vision of the sheet coming down from heaven with creeping things in it. And then ultimately, men come to him and they take him back to Cornelius. And his having had that impact on the Gentiles, or shall I say, the Holy Spirit, having had that impact on the Gentiles, also recognizing that that place where Simon the Tanners house was, it's in a place called Yaffa or we know it as Joppa. And to see that house again, better than 90% sure that the actual house we're looking at is where Simon, the Tanner lived and where Peter stayed.

And then you get to thinking about Jonah and how Joppa had a significance in the Jonah account as well in the Old Testament. And where to Jonah go? He went to the Gentiles. So you're there seeing this place, and you're remembering the Scriptures, and then you go back to reading about it, and you can see it with your with your mind's eye.

It's just very significant to be on the ground looking at a place, both after having read the account and understanding it, taking it in on some level, filling in some of the gaps, maybe seeing it face to face, and then afterward reading about it and being able to look back on it. That's a really crazy good experience to have.

There were many, many sites. In fact, I've got sitting next to me here, I have this this map of Israel, and you could point to many places on this map, or I'd say, “We were there. We were there. We were there, too. “ Yep. And it's really it's pretty amazing to be able to say that.

A few more specifics and then I'll give the microphone back. Otherwise, you can just let me keep going. One of the first places we went was up north. In fact, that's about where we started the tour. We went north, and let's see, we were in Banias Springs north. Israel has made it a national park, but it was at Banias Springs where we saw the ruins of a pagan site with a cave as a part of those ruins, we weren't permitted to go into the caves, in part because the cave was potentially quite dangerous because it goes down into a chasm that's very deep.

And so we're we're there. We're looking at these ruins, and then we turn to the story in the scriptures, where Jesus says that the gates of hell will not prevail against the kingdom. And in being there, we're now able to imagine Jesus actually pointing at where that cave with the cavern is, because those who resided there and at one time had control of that land. This pagan peoples, they worshiped a God named Pen. That's where the name Banyas comes from. So won't get into the mythological story of Pen. But that's the God that they worship. And it's right there that this cave and cavern are. And they used to refer to it as the gates of hell.

Marlin Detweiler

It could be metaphorical to uninitiated like me not having ever been to Israel as real practicality when it connects itself to a place in time.

Bob Cannon

Yeah. So when we first read the account, we think, okay, the gates of hell, and we create this image in our minds of what that might look like, and we all have our own ways of constructing that in our minds. But then you're there, and you look at the cave in the cavern, and now when I read the gates of hell and Scripture, that's what I see, because it is quite likely that Jesus actually was while he's teaching, he's pointing at the gates of hell as the pagans would have understood. It really just brings it to life. It puts teeth on it.

There were a couple of other very significant there were many, many, many significant instances there, like floating in the Dead Sea. You really do float. The salt content is so high.

Marlin Detweiler

I would like that.l I'm a big-boned guy, and I can't float. My wife laughs at me because she can. I just need more salt!

Bob Cannon

It sounds like you and I both think that when we get into a swimming pool! But the Dead Sea was amazing. There were two instances that I will make short mention of, but they could deserve a lot of time. One was when we went to a place called the Church of the Sepulcher, and when we were there, Sam Andreades, he was our tour director or academic director, if you will, for the Veritas team. And we had a tour guide who was with us the whole time in Israel, as I mentioned before. But Sam was the academic director, and between the two of them, the Israeli tour director was talking about all things historical, and Sam was making the fantastic spiritual connections to all these details. So, that was a wonderful interplay between the two of them.

Sam and I were standing in line, and we waited in line for a good while to get to what was arguably – and I asked Sam at one point, what's the likelihood, Sam? Because I know how tourism works, but what's the likelihood that this is actually the site? – And he, with an assuring nod, said we're about 95% sure that this actually is the site.

And what I'm talking about is where the cross would have been sunk into bedrock, where Christ was crucified. Oh, well. And there was an altar at that particular site with a lot of a lot of detail around it. But the real significance of it was getting to that altar, getting down on your knees, reaching through a hole in the ground where you could reach down and about up to my elbows- so 18 inches or so, you could actually touch the rock. And that was arguably the actual bedrock where the event happened.

Marlin Detweiler

Where the bottom of the cross would have rested.

Bob Cannon

And then you walk around downstairs, get down into the lower kind of the belly of that facility. And you can see they have it all glassed off the entirety of that rock from down below. That was a was an emotional moment. But what was just as if not more emotional for me personally, I felt perhaps the greatest emotion in the trip. Sitting on a bench just outside a short fence- I could have hopped it really easily, but I didn’t – bad example to the kids. There was a fence around the actual Garden of Gethsemani, and that was very moving for me to just sit quietly and reflect on what was happening that night in the garden, as the Lord was praying and asking, “Father, is there any other way?” And three times, “No, son, this is the only way to accomplish this.” And where he sweats great drops of blood. So that was a remarkable moment. Even just being there and seeing the olive trees, for example, that some of them had been there for. Well, many of them, they can't measure how old they are because they don't ring up like a lot of trees do.

Marlin Detweiler

Oh, interesting.

Bob Cannon

And so they just grow, and they grow, and they grow. And so some of them were many hundreds of years old, no doubt.

Marlin Detweiler

How did the trip change you? How did it change the students and their parents and others who were with you on the trip? How would you say you all came back different?

Bob Cannon

Wow. That's probably a question that would be answered in a little bit of a different way by any one of those who traveled with us. I've heard or read an account or two from people who went, and there are students who have said that the trip was life-changing. It was a matter of they're already having believed they've already put their trust in the Lord, but then going to the land and walking in those places where Jesus and disciples and others from the Old Testament, all kinds of people that you read about, you realize that this is a very real place. These were very real people, sometimes not the way that you envision them in your mind. A little bit like the Gates of Hell. You have a certain picture in your mind. You see it for real, and you're like, Oh, I didn't have that at quite right.

Marlin Detweiler

You have to reset that.

Bob Cannon

Even going into Israeli sites like museums and archeology sites and seeing the way that people's pictures are portrayed – there was one instance of our having gone into a – it was a museum-like site. I don't know that they actually called it a museum, but it was a case of archeologists finding a 2000-year-old fishing boat or, shall I say, what was left of it.

But it was a pretty amazing recovery of a boat. But when they when they first found it, they would, of course, very gently because they're archeologists, but they they would touch the wood of the boat, and it would so easily disintegrate because it's so old. But it had been preserved because it was buried. And it's a very moist area because it's right by the Sea of Galilee.

And long story short, you know, great stuff that you get at Home Depot. You know, you fill in cracks for your windows and doors and stuff. Well, it wasn't exactly great stuff, but it was essentially great stuff that they got this idea that they were just going to spray the whole thing down with great stuff. And so they did. And then they floated it across the Sea of Galilee. So you've got, you know, like the famous great stuff, fishing boat. It's floating across the Sea of Galilee. It makes it to the other shore. They very carefully bring it up, and they basically build a museum site around it. It's all indoors. They've got metal arms holding each of the – I think of them as joists. That's probably not what they're called. But, you know, you've got this big, big boat that occasionally they'll spray it down, and there it is. It's it's in this place. And you go into the place, and you watch a movie about the boat, and they show you how they got it there. And you're looking at it, and you're like, that's 2000 years old.

There were men like Peter and James and John and Andrew. There were men actually in a boat just like that one. Not like, you know, you see in kids' picture books– pictures of boats and think again. No, that's what it looked like. That's what a boat that men who were fishing looked like. Not a very big boat, but, you know, bigger than bigger than your rowboat, of course.

But to imagine that they were actually in a boat just like that when Jesus said, you know, “Cast your nets on the other side,” you know, And they're like, “Well, we've been fishing all night.” That's the kind of boat. And look at that.

Marlin Detweiler

That's really neat. Well, we know this field trip was one that we'd worked on for several years. It first got postponed due to COVID, and there were various circumstances that caused us to take three years to finally do it. But it's been our routine to do currently based on our current size of Veritas, one field trip and one mission trip each year.

We've done a number of different types of trips. Talk to us for a minute about what we're trying to accomplish with these field trips and mission trips and where we might be headed with the whole idea and even trips in future years.

Bob Cannon

Yeah, I'll start with this, and I hope that I hope the comment doesn't sound at all provocative to some, but we don't want for our students to be worldly, but we want our students to be worldly. We want them to have felt wise.

It's an exciting thing to us, to me, to think about our students being wise about the world, and of course, reading accounts that are historical or even contemporary in nature is one way to absorb what's outside of yourself, to absorb things of the world, or things about the world, but to actually encounter something or experience something with your hands, with your feet, with your eyes, that takes it to a whole new level.

So we've been as a school so far, we've been to Italy and Greece. We had a Reformation Tour for the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation when Luther posted his 95 theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg.

Marlin Detweiler

It would have been 2017.

Bob Cannon

That's right. Exactly. Yeah. In fact, we just celebrated Reformation Day, didn't we, on October 31? Some people call it Halloween. We've been to in that tour Germany, Switzerland, and France. We've been to the British Isles, so Wales, Ireland, and England. And we of course we're talking about Israel. This was this was in some way, very different and in a special kind of trip from a spiritual perspective.

But don't get me wrong, when we were in Germany, and we visited sites where reformers, not just Luther, but others either were or resided, that too becomes a spiritual experience of sorts. So the history, the spirituality, the culture, even enjoying the foods of these various places, I didn't mention yet that we are going to Italy and Greece again, other parts of Italy and Greece in fact, compared with the first tour that we did.

But all of these tours are in fact well connected, I think, by design with what our students encounter in their learning with our academy, especially when you think about the great books of Western civilization, our Omnibus curriculum that Veritas designed, it’s there that you read, and then you go to a place like Italy or a place like Germany, and you encounter the things that you read about.

And just like going to Israel and encountering the things that you read about in the scriptures, you go, wow, like, this is real. This really did happen. And it's not that you didn't believe it before, but now it's really solidified in your mind.

Marlin Detweiler

Yeah. We've run out of time. There are a lot of places that we could go with this conversation, but I hope it's whet the appetite of the people that are with us today, listening and watching to consider the value of these field trips. We didn't talk much about mission trips, which also can be interesting places and really expand the understanding of God's world to the students.

So thank you for doing that. Thank you for being here. Thank you for what you do. I sure enjoyed working with you. I appreciate our friendship, and I appreciate the heart that you have for the thousands and thousands of students who come under your careful watch. Folks, you have joined us for Veritas Vox, the voice of classical Christian education.

Thank you. And Bob, thank you.

Bob Cannon

Thank you, Marlin. Then take care.