When Junior Tejada was first approached by his pastor about going to Israel with Passages, he had no idea how much it would shape the next few years of his life.

Since going on his first trip in Winter 2018-2019, Junior has been a Campus Ambassador, a Fellow for the Winter 2019-2020 trip, a member of the Philos Hispanic Leadership program, and would have been a faculty member for trips this summer had COVID-19 not canceled the plans.

Even before he knew anything about Passages as an organization, Junior knew that the opportunity to go to Israel was the offer of a lifetime. “My mom has talked about that her whole life. She’s always wanted to go [to Israel], always wanted to have that experience. At this point she still hasn’t been able to. But just going up with that thought … and having that experience was one of my top highlights,” he said. 

After returning from his first trip Junior said his favorite part was “the opportunity to develop relationships with youth from different parts of the country and the experience to get to bring that home and share with others,” which made him an ideal candidate for future leadership positions. 

Plus, he had to return for “the food obviously.” He said, “I thought I was going to struggle with it, but the food was amazing.” He couldn’t find words to describe how good the falafel was, so he had to rely solely on sound effects. 

His highlights from his trip as a fellow were the opportunity to assist in baptizing students in the Jordan River, helping lead communion with the same group in the Garden Tomb, and participating in praise and worship at the Sea of Galilee.

It’s no surprise, based on these answers, that he plans to pursue a seminary degree. Junior, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, has lived in Rhode Island for the last 12 years and graduated from Rhode Island College in 2019. He currently resides there with his wife and 8 month-old daughter working as an accounting manager. However, his true passions include his church of 10 years and playing basketball. He plans to start at Southern Seminary for his MDiv next semester.

If Junior could give Passages alumni one piece of advice it would be to not let the trip end after the flight back home. “I would say definitely don’t let it just be the moment of those 10 days, the experience you get in those 10 days, but push on a daily basis to continue and grow in cherishing that moment that you got to experience. Not only keep it to yourself, but also share with others and bring the insight and light of what you got to see and hear and experience,” he said.