My name is Adam Pangan, and I am 23 years old. I’m from Virginia, and I went to school at Virginia Tech. It was during my time in college that I agreed to give a full year volunteering. Long story short, God guided me to Israel, and the month of my graduation, He highlighted the Magdala Volunteer Program to me.
I couldn’t tell you for certain what I was expecting life in Israel to be like, but I knew God wanted me here, so I came. I arrived in February 2020, and on my second day of being here, I began giving tours of Magdala. Oh boy, was that nerve-wracking! But, oh how God met me in that place, speaking through various people to encourage me. By the sixth or seventh tour, I was much more comfortable, and it was great: sharing about the history of Magdala, meeting and praying with people from around the world, and telling my story of how God led me here. Then, when everything was going smoothly, the quarantine went into effect, and 14 of my fellow volunteers went back home, leaving us with a total of eight.
What were we going to do without any pilgrims? How long would the quarantine last? Were they going to ask me to go home, too?
Well, we figured it out, and in my opinion, the most impactful and transformational moments were during the quarantine. Practically speaking, we accomplished a lot with regards to cleaning the archaeological part of Magdala, installing a wired fence to prevent birds from polluting the synagogue, furnishing the pool area, and reorganizing the restaurant space. All of that seems inconsequential though in comparison to the spiritual growth that we all experienced.
In early April, I decided to start a Bible study solely for the Magdala volunteers. At first it was kind of like, “Oh… God, I don’t know how this is going to go, but I’m trusting You with this.” The first meeting was mostly me talking, with the rest of them staring at me, despite my attempts to get them to open up. Over time, they gradually got more comfortable talking about faith or even just about things that were weighing on them. I remember one week when the consecrated women asked one of us to pray during our morning devotion, the others would look at me, waiting for me to lead it. I encouraged my friends that they too could pray out loud, but they would smile shyly at me and shake their heads. A couple of days later, two of the young women decided to lead the group prayer that day. Yes! What a huge step in being more confident!
On Good Friday, we did the Stations of the Cross, and at the 11th station (when Jesus is crucified), we literally hammered screws (we couldn’t find any nails) into the wooden cross we were carrying. Later on, one of the girls shared that this had been a really powerful experience for her and helped her to understand the weight of sin and more importantly the love Jesus has for us.
During a hike up Mount Arbel, another one of the girls shared with me that she had a vision of Jesus, and ever since then, she knows, like really KNOWS, that He is always with her. Talking with them (and even just observing how they carry themselves), I can see that they’ve grown a lot in their relationship with God, and not only that but to share God’s love with their friends and families back home. It’s been so good the time I’ve been able to spend with them, and AHHH!!! There’s not much else that gets me as fired up as seeing young people come alive in their faith.
As for me, two of the most memorable weeks here in Israel were the first and last weeks of May. The first week, we participated in a healing retreat, and through it, God revealed how events of my past had distorted my perception of reality, and how that was leading me to believe lies about myself and about God. By the end of the week, I felt like God brought much more clarity and really helped me to see me as He sees me. In the last week of May, we went to Jerusalem, visiting the Garden of Gethsemane, the Holy Sepulcher, the Emmaus Trail, and many other places. It was such a blessing to be there and to immerse myself in the Gospel story.
So, what now? Well, the guesthouse has reopened so I’m helping out wherever I can. In the past couple weeks, I’ve been helping to revamp the information of the volunteer program on the website. Once my part was done, I was asked to make and edit some videos. I’ve also been helping out at the pool. One day, I even gave a couple tours (I might need to brush up on some of my facts…).
Have I ever made a website? No. Do I have much video editing experience? Not really. But, hey! It’s been fun. Frustrating at times, sure, but fun, nonetheless. There’s nothing like inviting Jesus into the new things that are being asked of me and “becoming all things to all people.”
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
1 Corinthians 9:22b