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Taking a Fresh Look at the Holy Land

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Kristi McLelland grew up in rural Mississippi. She accepted Christ when she was 9 years old and was instantly drawn to learning the Bible. At 16, her pastor asked Kristi if she could do anything in the world, what would it be? She responded, “I want to teach the word of God.” Yet, she grew up in an environment that discouraged females from teaching or preaching in the Church.

Becoming a physical therapist seemed like a good career fit for Kristi so she got her undergrad in biology from Delta State University. But God had different plans for her future. While in college, her thirst for studying scripture grew and she began leading Bible studies and receiving invitations to teach at various churches and groups. Eventually, the church she was attending put her on staff. 

After earning a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, she became a professor at Williamson College in Franklin, TN where she has been teaching for over 20 years. 


In 2007, God opened the door for Kristi to study the Bible in Israel and Egypt. She explains, “I went to Israel and learned that God is better than I ever knew.” The meaning of God’s word came to life and she was forever changed. Since 2008, Kristi’s been taking teams to Israel teaching the Bible through its historical, cultural, linguistic, and geographic context. Her study trips to the biblical lands, along with her Pearls podcast and in-person and online courses, help Westerners discover and appreciate the Bible within the framework in which it was written. This new lens offers a deeper look into what the biblical characters meant by what they did, said, and wrote, inviting us to better experience the God who is constantly pursuing us.​
When asked what her purpose in life is, Kristi says, “I am a bridge between the Western Church and the lands of the Bible.”

In 2017, while still on staff at her local church and teaching college classes, God began making Kristi uncomfortable. Kristi felt like the Lord was telling her it was time to resign from her position at the church. She knew change was coming but had no idea what God had in store. Kristi was afraid but felt she had to obey God, so she resigned from the church but continued her professorship at Williamson College. 

While waiting on God for her next assignment, she felt lost. Trying to cheer her up, Kristi’s friends invited her on a girl’s trip. While on the airplane, Kristi was still wrestling with God. She decided to do something she doesn’t usually do. Desperate to hear from the Lord, Kristi opened the Bible and said, “Okay God, I need you to speak to me.” She randomly laid her finger on a scripture, and it landed on Psalms 78:19 which reads, “Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?” Kristi knew she was hearing from the Lord. Reading how God provided manna from Heaven for His children during their “wilderness” experience comforted her. God was letting her know that He would take care of her if she would only trust Him.  

The word of the Lord found Kristi right where she was. Today, she encourages others looking for hope and direction to trust God. Kristi says, “The word of the Lord is moving through the earth looking for you. Are you tuned in to hear it? I know some of you are in the wilderness right now. I want you to know that He’s not going to fail you. You will not be the first person in all of human history that God fails.”


Kristi wrote Rediscovering Israel to help readers experience God and His Word more deeply. She says that as a culture, Westerners often read the Bible through a lens that asks, “What does this teach me about me?” But in the Middle East, they read scripture asking, “What does this teach me about God?” By reading the scriptures in the context that they were meant to be read in, we see the bigger picture.

The story of Jonah provides a good example. When asking Christians about this book most focus on Jonah. They might say Jonah was a prophet called by God to go to Nineveh. Jonah didn’t want to go. So, God allowed him to be swallowed by a whale. Eventually, Jonah did what God asked of him but was bitter that God saved the Ninevites when they repented. 

Kristi explains that the point of the book of Jonah is much bigger. It showcases the heart of God and how far He was and is willing to go to rescue His children. There were 120,000 people in Nineveh. Jonah was perfectly fine having them perish in their wicked ways because they deserved it. But God was not. The Apostle Peter confirms God’s this, saying, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9 KJV).”


Kristi also founded JW Global, a ministry focused on studying how Jesus interacted with women in the Bible and how He still uses women today. Offering seven sessions, Kristi examines the historical and cultural climate of first-century Middle Eastern society to not only understand Jesus more deeply but to fuel our worship of Him. 

She explains, “Women had a very good beginning within Israel's history. Women like Eve, Miriam, Deborah, Jael, Abigail, Esther, and Ruth were held in honor and given respect. Through influential teachings and teachers during the Intertestamental Period, women lost much of their social standing. Instead of being held in honor, women were denigrated to a place of shame.”

For more information about Kristi McLelland, please visit these websites:, and, and

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About The Author

Angell Vasko

Angell Vasko joined CBN in 1999. Acting as Floor Producer and Guest Coordinating Producer for The 700 Club, Angell briefs the cohosts before the live show and acts as a liaison between the control room and show talent during the broadcast.