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Graduate travels overseas, makes Holy Land home

As the high school years come to an end, many move on to college and pursue their career goals. Alumnus Dawn Richardson, ’97, responded to what she believed to be her calling when she moved to Israel in August of 2006 after graduating from Vanguard University in 2001 with a BA in English. Richardson also has an MA in Religion and an MA in Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 2005.

Currently she is working on an MA in Middle Eastern Cultures and Religion while living in Jerusalem.

All of her life she believed she was bound for long-term overseas living. Since high school, her heart has been for the Arab people of the Middle East.

Jennifer Rose: You live in Israel for on a long-term mission assignment. How has that gone?

Dawn Richardson: There is something wonderful about the ways God leads us across a ravine on a rope bridge of faith sometimes. It can be terrifying, but when you get to the other side-there is no doubt it has been God’s miraculous doing-not your own.

I adore Jerusalem; I love Bethlehem. God is moving profoundly. We open our sails and he blows us along. Amazing things are happening. We are praying for signs and miracles, for Muslims to come to Christ and for Christians to be revolutionized for Christ.

Rose: What have been your high and low moments there?

Richardson: I am not sure anything has been truly scary: I’ve had rocks thrown at me by kids a couple of times. I think they where wanting to be antagonistic and not so much aiming to injure me.

One of my best moments would be when I spent my last birthday, my 27th, in Bethlehem all day. I went to an English class some friends of my friends are teaching. I visited some Arab Christian friends at their Christian bookstore and I went to Bethlehem Bible College’s choir concert. They worshipped in Arabic; it was beautiful.

Yesterday (April 26th) was very fabulous also another full day in Bethlehem: having lunch with a young Palestinian couple who are the only Campus Crusade staff in Bethlehem and hearing about their ministry, their heart to reach Muslims and encourage Christians and ways they would like to help us get involved.

I sat in their living room dumbfounded; I have been longing for this for most of my life joining with Arab believers to reach Arabs for Christ. The Lord is good. We had a Palestinian friend, a professor at Bethlehem University, whose husband (in his 50’s) died of a heart attack two days ago. This was hard, but we are grateful the Lord gave us the opportunity to mourn with her and to comfort her.

Rose: What year did you graduate from college? Where did you go and what did you major in?

Richardson: I graduated from Vanguard University in 2001 as an English major.

Rose: What is your favorite moment on this campus?

Richardson: I am not quite sure, either an Odyssey of the Mind moment, not a “big” moment per say, but all the little moments of laughter, brainstorming and wild adventures (my Odyssey of the Mind team won the regional competition) or maybe a brilliant moment of epiphany in Molly Sargent’s English class (literature is life-giving) or rehearsal time for drama for the spring play in chapel.

Rose: What was your worst moment on campus?

Richardson: I’m tempted to pass on this question, there isn’t an individual moment, but I will say that my senior year was really hard. I had been struggling with chronic depression and suicidal ideation since childhood and a lot came to a head in that year of transition. (I should add that God finally broke the year after high school once and for all. I don’t know why we experience all that we do, but I trust he uses it, in the end at least, for his glory; this is an amazing thing.)

Rose: Where did you go after you graduated from high school? What are your subsequent degrees and where they where from? What activities did you do after you graduated?

Richardson: I took a year off after graduation. I worked full-time. Then I plowed through college in three years, graduating in May 2001 from Vanguard University with a Bachelors Degree (B.A.) in English. I did a year of grad school at Vanguard and then I transferred to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. I graduated from there in May 2005 with a Masters degree (M.A.) in Religion and a M.A. in Counseling.

After seminary, some friends and I moved into a house in an underprivileged neighborhood (drugs, prostitution, domestic abuse were big problems) in Salem, Massachusetts. We started intentional community of seven women and partnered with an existing intentional community of six men in serving the community: we had bi-weekly neighborhood dinners, weekly prayer and worship, weekly accountability/prayer time and BBQ’s etc. It was really challenging; it was a blast. We saw miracles, we met witches and people met Christ.

That year I taught Philosophy, Religion and Human Nature classes at community college.

I was on the youth leadership staff at church. I trained for a marathon, but injured my knee and did not get to run it.

After college I backpacked around Europe for two months. During seminary I spent two months in Turkey on an overseas missions practicum.

Rose: What are you doing there?

Richardson: I am in a two-year Middle East Studies program preparing for long-term ministry on the region, and specifically in the West Bank. Thus, most of my time spent in my studies, meeting locals (lots of hot tea and Arabic coffee and preparing to open Christian hostel in Bethlehem, for the main aim of unity (in the global church) and mission (service to Bethlehem etc.)

In the next couple of weeks you will be able to check us out at for more on that you can come stay with us.

Rose: What do you do in your spare time?

Richardson: Explore Jerusalem and Bethlehem, pray, read, write, worship, take photographs, talk to my family and think about the complexity of the conflict here.

Rose: Please relate a few stories that would share your experiences.

To read Richardson’s stories while in Jerusalem, click Long term missions lure alumnus.

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