Journey to the Sea

Ebb Hagan Pic rgb

Ebb Hagan

For Ebb Hagan, the path from Evergreen, Alabama to the Sea of Galilee was paved in large part by people he has never met. A third-year student at Princeton Theological Seminary, Ebb embarks June 1 on a journey that allows him to participate in the excavation of Bethsaida, a significant city in Biblical history on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.

How Hagan got from his hometown of Evergreen to preparing to board a plane to Israel is a story made possible in part by the Stegall Seminary Scholarship Endowment Foundation. Donors that have covered Hagan in prayer and support, most of whom he has never met, have played a pivotal role in his ministry preparation.

During his time as a student at Princeton, Hagan has been involved in another high-profile program: the Dead Sea Scrolls Project led by Dr. James Charlesworth. Charlesworth, a New Testament scholar and ordained United Methodist minister, works with only three students at a time on the prestigious project. The project is in the process of publishing critical texts, English translations, and introductions to all of the non-Biblical Dead Seas Scrolls.

Hagan, who is still in awe that he was chosen to be a part of the project, says “I’m not the best Hebrew scholar in the world, but I can organize things pretty well.” Through his connection and academic work with Dr. Charlesworth, Hagan was able to connect with John Hoffman and the Foundation on Judaism and Christian Origins (FJCO), which provides grants for two students to travel to the Bethsaida dig each summer. “As much as I wanted to be a part of the Bethsaida dig, there was no way I could afford it,” says Hagan. As generous as the grant was from FJCO, it didn’t cover the cost of the opportunity and Hagan was left with a large balance to make it a reality.

As a recipient of a Stegall Seminary Scholarship, Hagan reached out to Dr. Karl Stegall and a couple quickly came forward to cover the remaining cost of the travel. These donors are allowing Hagan the ability to work this summer with priceless artifacts and study with other Biblical scholars. “Being a seminarian, I don’t have any money,” says Hagan, only partly laughing. “I emailed the only person I knew that I thought could help make this dream a reality. What I have been given from the Stegall Foundation is such an unbelievable blessing.”

As is often the case in the world of United Methodism, the connection is strong. “As this all came together, I sensed God’s hand in this strongly,” says Hagan. “All of the different people are connected in some fashion.” Hoffman is originally from Fitzpatrick, Ala. which lies a few miles southeast of Montgomery within the bounds of the Alabama – West Florida Annual Conference.

“On a personal level, this is something I have always wanted to do to enhance my understanding of the Bible and biblical culture,” he says. Hagan knows that often his peers are either not afforded, or cannot take, these opportunities. “The experiences that I have been given hardly come up for anyone – let alone someone who is called later in life to congregational ministry and not academia,” says Hagan. “I feel so blessed because I have always embraced my calling to the pulpit and I know that the opportunities I am a part of in this season of my life will form the foundation for my future ministry.”

Hagan is thankful for the loyal supporters of the Stegall Foundation. “Having people like those who support the foundation behind you makes all the difference,” he says. “Their support, through both prayer and financial funding, is very directly affecting my ability to attend seminary at Princeton, work with the Dead Sea Scrolls, and travel to Israel this June.

“I love the Alabama – West Florida Conference and especially the Stegall Foundation. They are preparing me for ministry and I will make tremendous use of every opportunity they have made available to me, so that I may share with the churches I will serve in the future.”

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