Ronald Clay was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. The Lord saved him in 2012 while serving an eight-and-half-year prison sentence. Upon his release in 2017, Ronald sought work as a welder, having received his welding certificate through an inmate program. However, the Lord had different plans for him. God led Ronald to apply and enroll in the Master of Divinity program at Moody Bible Institute with the goal of bringing the Gospel to his immediate community in Southside Chicago.

It was during his first-year studies at Moody that Ronald heard of Passages and applied. Upon acceptance, he faced a difficult problem: probation.

Ronald Clay travels to Israel with Passages in Summer 2019.
Ronald Clay travels to Israel with Passages in Summer 2019.

With seven years left on his probation, there was no way the state would allow him to leave the country to visit Israel.

But God.

Appearing before a judge, Ronald saw firsthand the favor of the Lord on his life when the judge released him from his probation six years earlier than expected. The judge, satisfied with Ronald’s life direction, paved the way for Ronald to visit Israel with Passages in the summer of 2019.

“I got married two days before we left for Israel,” Ronald said.

He explained how he wanted to wait and get married after the trip, but his fiancé had insisted they move the wedding up so she could greet him at the airport as his wife.

“My wife wanted to greet me at the airport like in some cheesy chick-flick.” He laughed about it before sharing his experience from Israel.

“I went with the most amazing people,” he said, “and I felt a peace when most people said they felt a tension.”

He recounted his most memorable moment while gazing out over the Valley of Megiddo, also known as the Jezreel Valley. Ronald explained how he was interested in the past events but was fascinated by the events to come.

As he sat on his perch looking out over the green and fertile land and noting the Israelis had cultivated the valley, he said, “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is where this is going to happen: the Battle of Armageddon.’”

Several other experiences topped his list: praying and dancing at the Western Wall, having Shabbat dinner with a local family, and being baptized for the first time in the Jordan River.  Ronald also recounted his appreciation for Passages for not only bringing him to Israel but showing him both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially the perspective from Palestinian Christians.

When asked what this trip meant for him, he paused a moment then said, “It allowed me to help people see as I see [about] supporting Israel and living a life dedicated to Jesus.”

Ronald Clay poses for a photo with his wife Nathalie.

He explained how before traveling to Israel, he supported the nation solely as a Biblical mandate; but now, in addition to that, he supports the state on a moral level. He desires to share his experience in Israel, so that others too will be motivated to visit the country.

On a more personal note, he shared how, at the Shabbat dinner, his host and the children prayed for and respected the mother beyond anything he had ever seen. He vowed at that moment to honor his wife in the same manner. “It changed my entire perspective,” he said.

Addressing fellow alumni, Ronald shares the following: “The trip will go to waste if you don’t bring something back and give it to somebody else. Help others to want to experience what you experienced. Don’t let it be a waste.”