“I rang in the New Year in Israel,” Katie Hodgdon said as she shared about her 2017 winter Passages Trip. She had heard of Passages from a college friend who traveled to Israel with Passages six months prior. Katie was trying to get to the Middle East any way she could, and when her friend came back a changed person, Katie was motivated to apply for a seat on a Passages bus.

Passages alumna Katie Hodgdon stands at a Masada overlook. | PLN Alumni Spotlight

“I wanted to see modern Israel,” Katie said, “discovering my Biblical roots was secondary.”

She took that perspective with her through the pre-trip course and up through arriving in Tel Aviv, but everything changed when she arrived in Magdala. As her group dispersed for quiet reflection in the location where Jesus walked and taught, she felt the Holy Spirit say to her, Jesus wanted you to be here, right here, right now for a reason. “I started bawling,” Katie said. From that moment, she was awestruck by the reality of the impact visiting Israel had on her faith.

Parts of the experience weren’t as easy for her, though.

“There were definitely some grace builders on my bus,” she said, referring to individuals that she disagreed with on matters of faith and politics. She traveled with students from Moody Bible Institute, and she, a Catholic studying in DC at the Catholic University of America, encountered some challenging worldviews, which she had not previous encountered.

“It was a time to listen and learn, and I found myself growing in ways I didn’t think possible,” Katie said.

Currently working toward her master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies at the University of Chicago, Katie credits her Passages trip with changing the trajectory of her life. Her thesis is on gender and sexuality in Shi’ism, and she plans to graduate in June 2021.

“I’m doing what I’m doing now because of Passages,” she said.

Passages alumna Katie Hodgdon rides a camel in the desert. | PLN Alumni Spotlight

Katie also serves as a PLN Ambassador for the Midwest. The events and programs Passages hosted during COVID-19 quarantines really helped her with the isolation, and Passages has become a positive community in her life. Her service as an Ambassador is her way of giving back.

“I was lacking community,” Katie said. “Passages changed my life and the trajectory of my education.”

“The PLN platform is a really great tool that offers a lot of value, and the Passages team is here to support you,” Katie said when asked what message she had for alumni. “Everyone there are some of the most amazing people. You’re not going to find that caliber of people in many places. Stay connected to Passages.”