“The Bible makes more sense to me now.”

Mikayla Riley, who traveled to Israel in winter of 2019, first heard of the opportunity through her roommate who was a Passages alum. Having always wanted to visit the Middle East in general, Mikayla jumped at the opportunity to visit Israel. As a visual learner, Mikayla wanted to see and be in Israel so she could connect deeper with the Word of God.

Mikayla at the Mount of Beatitudes | Winter 2019-20

As a social worker, visiting Yad Vashem was particularly moving for Mikayla. Applying her education to her experience allowed Mikayla to understand to a greater degree the calamity that was the Holocaust.

“Generational trauma is something I studied in my master’s program. To see it in such a real form led to great conversations with the Jewish community,” she said. Experiencing that pain left a profound mark on her call to help others.

Mikayla also shared about her experience in Bethlehem. Not only did that visit again help the Bible to spring to life for her, but she grasped a greater understanding of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“There are more barriers than I ever anticipated. I empathize with the barriers and difficulties of solving this problem. It feels wrong to be anti-people. For so long, I thought that if you are pro-Palestine then you must be anti-Israel and vice versa. That just isn’t the case. We have to be pro-people.”

Mikayla on the Sea of Galilee Cruise | Winter 2019-20

She explained how the speakers she was exposed to on her Passages trip helped her to see the duality of any circumstance, helping her to apply that philosophy to struggles in our own country. We can seek to understand both sides of a situation without condemning people.

Mikayla recently graduated with her Master of Social Work degree and is currently working toward her license. Living in New York, her goal is to one day open a nonprofit organization that focuses on reducing the legal and cultural obstacles that impede the ability of those with criminal records to find sufficient and fulfilling work.

In addition to pursuing her career, Mikayla also serves as the PLN Ambassador for the Northeast United States.

“Being able to contribute to this network of Christian leaders by connecting on a professional and religious level and connecting with others of different Christian ideologies is a really beautiful experience that not many get in their lifetime,” she said.

Mikayla seeks to not only build a strong community in her region but also across PLN as a whole.

“God has given us this opportunity and connected us all for a reason,” she said. “Remember that God has connected you to people who are meant to do something beautiful in your life. What is the role for them in your life, and what is your role in their life? Take your connections to heart because God placed them there for a reason.”