I have led more than twenty tours of Israel and Palestine. I have a Ph.D. in the Old Testament, in which I focused on biblical interpretation of the Torah, the history and archaeology of ancient Israel, and Old Testament theology. I have two master’s degrees in biblical interpretation (Old and New Testament), theology, and religion and culture. I taught Old Testament to Master’s and Ph.D. students in Brasil. I also taught New Testament and biblical archaeology at Central College.
For the tours, I use the model that my parents, Marlin and Sally Vis, created over ten years and fifty tours ago (historical/archaeological/biblical + contemporary), though I have added significantly more speakers and experiences on the contemporary conflict. The split between these two emphases is roughly 65% on historical/archaeological/biblical sites and 35% on speakers/experiences related the contemporary conflict. My mother, Sally, works with me. She has planned and helped lead over 50 tours. She is a pro. My father, Marlin, is a close consultant. Marlin has been the primary teacher and tour leader, along with Sally and others, on over 50 tours in ten years. Marlin has mentored me for years. He is a pro.
Very few organizations do tours that include history, archaeology, biblical teaching, and the contemporary situation. No one does it better than we do. You may disagree with something I teach along the way, but I think it unlikely that you will feel as though I have not done my homework. We know what we’re doing. You can trust our trips.
Sally and I are employed by the Reformed Church in America. My and Sally’s official title is Church Engagement Facilitator for Israel and Palestine. Churches and individuals support us in this role. If you would like to support our work, you can do so here.
Bachelor of Arts in Religion, Hope College
Master of Divinity, Western Theological Seminary
Master of Arts in Religious Studies, University of Chicago Divinity School
Doctor of Philosophy in Old Testament, Duke University
A bit more interesting
Ideas and concepts fascinate me (I’m a 5 on the Enneagram). But the consequences of ideas and concepts on the lives of people are most important to me.
Certainty is toxic. Dominance is toxic. I appreciate goodness and kindness more than being right and more than winning.
Stand-up comedy startles and delights me. Some of the most honest and subversive thinking comes from stand-up comedy.
Conversations facilitate insight. Sometimes you can only find clarity in conversation.
Adjusting behavior is so hard, but so important. I didn’t want to believe this for the longest time.
I am emotional, but not at expected moments.
Currently, my favorite Bible verses are almost all of the verses of Romans 12, though I do have questions about verses 1, 19, and 20. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 are also favorites of mine. I find it intriguing that Paul, who often stresses faith, places love above faith.
In 2017, my family and I had the privilege of traveling to Israel/Palestine and joining one of Josh’s tours. That trip left a mark and reverberated long after arriving home. To now be in this role, walking with folks as they encounter the people and places of Israel/Palestine is an immense privilege. I view it as an extension of my pastoral work (I also serve a church in Grand Rapids, MI, called The Branch) – helping people reflect on what the sites, land and people might have to say to us and our own spiritual journeys.
I am excited to take over for Sally Vis, who handled the organization, planning and logistics for so many years and retired early in 2023. Her kindness and excellence is well known in the region. I hope to carry on her legacy and add my own perspective and gifts.
A bit more interesting
I am the oldest of four boys, but by far the shortest.
If you told me I could spend a week out west in the mountains, but I had to leave immediately, I would say, “I’m already in the car”.
At 10 years old I named my first dog, Cuddles. Why did no one stop me? (our current dogs are named Penny and Milo)
My wife, Bethany and I, have four children. I’m shorter than two of them – and perhaps 3 (our youngest may still have a bit of growing to do).
I’ve traveled to 37 of the 50 states. It’s not impressive, and I’m not even sure it’s interesting. But it is true.
Ice cream is the best. Bread is a close second.