Vanessa Uzoh first heard about Passages through her job as a student worker while attending Southern Methodist University. She was disappointed when she found out the application deadline had passed, but she connected with her faculty and was told to go ahead and apply. She got all of her materials in, and she couldn’t believe the news when she was accepted.

At first, Vanessa had mixed feelings of Israel, and it was her mother who really encouraged her to go and experience all the country had to offer through a Passages trip. So, in the summer of 2019, Vanessa found herself on a plane bound for the Holy Land.

Of her time in Israel, Vanessa considers her Shabbat dinner the highlight of her trip.

“I had never experienced anything like that. I felt so welcomed into our host’s home, and I loved learning why [shabbat] was so important to them. It was so authentic and beautiful. It was so amazing,” Vanessa said.

She also spoke fondly of taking Communion outside the Garden of Gethsemane.

Her visit to the Golan Heights was particularly challenging when she encountered the geopolitical struggles surrounding the region.

“Our guide’s tone of voice changed when he talked about the place. I couldn’t believe the stories I heard, and it made me so grateful for what I have as an American,” Vanessa said.

Vanessa, forever changed by her experience in Israel, applied and was accepted to serve as a Passages Campus Ambassador, and now, she serves as a PLN Ambassador for the Southwest region.

When asked why she wanted to serve in a leadership role in Passages, she said, “I encountered my faith in a whole new way. Anyone who has experienced what Passages offered on that trip has what many others don’t. It challenges me to be better and love others unconditionally. My one way to give back to Passages is with my time and service.”

Working as a health consultant in Dallas, Texas, Vanessa wants to start a community services initiative to give back. She says her experience with Passages has inspired her to do more with her life, and when asked what message she wants to share with our alumni, she said, “Always make time to reflect on your journey to Israel. Go through your journal, videos, and photos. Begin to thank God for that experience and ask how it can move you to live out your faith more actively and speak to you about how you can be a blessing to others.”

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