Bible Researcher and Tour Leader to Bible Lands
Olene Carroll is a Tour Leader to the Bible Lands. She is also a Bible Researcher. She takes two, sometimes three, tours a year – one to Israel and Jordan and another either to Greece or Turkey. She shares how her life unfolded in front of her by saying "Yes" to opportunities to live and travel abroad, learn Greek, write books and articles, and share little-known Bible insights with others. Enjoy reading about her "yes" journey.
It all began when my grandfather gave me a beautiful Bible Dictionary written by Philip Schaff. He had won it in a Bible competition in Canada in 1884, when he was 15. Years later, when I was appointed to be the Sunday school teacher of the oldest class, I used that beautiful old dictionary and my new commentary by JR Dummelow to help me answer all the questions I imagined the teenagers would toss my way.
Initially when I was asked to teach, I wanted to say, "I can't do that!" But that was the beginning of my life of saying "YES" to whatever assignments I was given. I felt like Abraham "when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went" (Heb 11:8 KJV).
As the wife of a pilot, first in the Navy and then for an airline, I found myself going to unknown places, not knowing where I was being led. When my husband Paul's airline cut back 500 pilots, and he couldn't find a job in America, he found one in Somalia. In the Bible, Joseph found a job in Africa, and "the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand" (Gen 39:8).
My husband felt that we girls shouldn't live in Somalia with him, so he searched for a home in Rome, one of his airline's frequent destinations. Paul answered an ad for a villa, and we were able to trade houses with this Italian family who was planning to go to Florida (where we were living at the time) for a year. We both left everything in place in our respective homes. Just as Elisha was taken care of by the Shunammite woman who built a room for him and filled it with everything he needed (2 Kings 4:10), so this exchange provided for both families.
I learned quite a bit about the Bible in Rome. I saw where Peter and Paul were thought to have been imprisoned. I studied biblical paintings and sculpture by famous artists in Rome and in Florence. Rafael's "Transfiguration" instructed me in particular. It was the first time I realized how distressed the nine disciples felt, left at the bottom of the mountain, unable to heal a boy, while Jesus was being transfigured at the top. As I studied the art so I could give tours to my family when they visited, the Bible stories gained new dimensions for me. I was blessing and being blessed at the same time.
A theme began to echo in my life. I began to realize that I was part of God's promise to Abraham, father of Jews, Arabs, and Christians, who said "yes" to the voice of the one God no one could see, whereby nations of the world were blessed and are still being blessed.
When our year was up, our family moved to Athens, Greece, where St Paul had spent time. I studied the places Paul traveled so I could show them to our families from the U.S. I also studied the Greek language in order to get along in the country, not realizing it would help me read and dissect words in the New Testament in the language in which it was written.
After five years in Greece, we returned to Florida, where taking a church position gave me the opportunity to study the Bible in greater depth. A friend talked me into sharing research insights with residents of a nearby care facility. I had doubts whether I could speak in front of people, but I did, and they loved it. A Bible scholar visited the facility and invited me to join him on a speaking tour. I didn't plan nor ask for any of this. I just kept saying "yes" to God's call to share.
Soon, I had subscribers to my publication of Bible research, to whom I sent up to 40 pages a week. I called it The Diggings. I shared with more people over the internet. When a kindred spirit in that group invited me to go on a Bible Tour to Israel, I said "yes," of course, and brought along my research for each of the stops. The Israeli guide welcomed my sharings. The travelers loved it so much that my friend and I partnered up and began leading subsequent tours. We added Egypt, Turkey and Greece. It's been 17 years now, including close to 30 tours, and a couple hundred travelers. We still love it.
I've had more opportunities to say "yes" to God. I reluctantly agreed to go with my partner for two weeks on an archeological dig at Bethsaida on the sea of Galilee. It was dirty work and cold, but I can't count how many things I learned that I can now share with others. I said "yes" to the invitation to co-author a set of children's books on biblical healings. We also designed two sets of cards on the Commandments and Beatitudes, as well as an interactive Time Line. I said "yes" to writing articles for my church's magazines and to writing the Kids Tour of the Holy Land and Turkey for this website, BibleWise.com. Children can take their own tour without leaving their computers. They can hear or read the Bible travelogue and see the pictures I have taken at the different sites of the Bible lands.
Every assignment and move throughout my life blessed me with new inspiration. I love to share surprises and insights I've gained from my study of the Bible. I've shared insights about the use and symbolism of the threshing instrument Isaiah references in 41:15 for BibleWise.
Yet, I also love to make new discoveries. For instance, after visiting Shepherds' Field outside Bethlehem, we noticed that it's dotted, not with stables, but with caves, where shepherds resort in bad weather. Elsewhere in Israel, we found that mangers were not made of wood, but of carved-out blocks of stone. And why did Jesus ride a donkey into Jerusalem when he'd walked so many miles for three years? He was acting out prophecy (Zech 9:9,10).
I have found that it's quite all right to discover contrary theories. They make us dig even further. For instance, what did Peter and John see when they looked into the empty tomb? Were the cloths that once wrapped around Jesus' body tossed in a heap, were they folded neatly, were they stiff with dried spices, untouched, still in the shape of the body out of which Jesus dematerialized?
One more: Why did Jesus call the Syrophenician woman a "dog"? When I discovered that he had actually used a gentler word, like "puppies," then pages and pages of research came to light to help satisfy my curiosity. When I can share these discoveries with others, it comes full circle. This is why I love Bible research.
When I find out something new and exciting, I want to tell everybody about it. So I thoroughly enjoy taking people on tours. I get to see their reactions as they discover something for the first time. I feel that my life has been God-led. God started me on this journey. I know that whatever I'm doing, God is preparing me for the next step, to which I'll most definitely say, "Yes!"