Eli Anderson (B.A. ’18) had no clue when he committed to Cornerstone University in 2014 that, less than four years later, he’d be digging up ancient history in Israel.

Coming to Cornerstone

After spending seven years of his life as a missionary kid in Mexico, it came time for Eli to make the difficult decision of where to further his education. He had family in Michigan and spent a lot of his time prior to Mexico in the greater Grand Rapids area. He was looking for a good Christian school close to family, and soon he narrowed his search down to two schools—one of which was Cornerstone.

Eli was looking to become a pastor like his father and eventually wanted to study at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. After a meeting with the seminary, Eli went with their recommendation: Cornerstone.

Coming into CU, Eli didn’t really expect to get a lot out of college. Being the son of two missionaries had already given Eli all the experience he wanted regarding culture. He had little interest in learning more about other cultures or languages, but during his time at Cornerstone, Eli was able to develop lasting friendships, hobbies and new experiences that he didn’t expect or think he wanted.

“I really fell in love with the kind of people that Cornerstone attracts,” Eli shared.

His parents pushed him to try one new thing each semester, which led to him joining choir. Despite having no prior interest or training in singing, Eli was a part of Chancel Singers, the University Chorale and Credo. Eli shared that he was challenged to grow in ways that he hadn’t cared for before.

“Looking back, Cornerstone was not only a good fit for me but also something that changed my life for the better.”

A Semester Abroad

Another experience that Eli encountered was his study abroad trip to Israel. He applied for the study abroad first at Cornerstone, gained a scholarship and then applied for the college in Israel. All the classes that he took there would transfer into CU, so he could get the credits he needed to graduate. So, not long after Christmas, Eli hopped on a plane and flew to Israel, beginning his six-month adventure.

Eli was required to either write a thesis or complete a four-credit internship in order to graduate. He had already completed a zooarcheology internship, in which he studied bones from the Tel Dan archeological dig, which led to an idea: he was already in Israel, so why not write his thesis on Tel Dan?

Things slowly began to align, and he accepted another small internship with the head of the Tel Dan dig. He had the opportunity to do hands-on work in the dig, applying knowledge from both his internship and studies to his work and life in Israel.

“Everything I studied here ended up being applied and tied back in ways that I hadn’t expected,” he reflected.

He had spent three and a half years focusing his studies on ancient history and ancient languages and now could learn about those in the places in which they were important.

After the semester ended, Eli decided to extend his stay in Israel for two more months, doing more work for the archaeologists at Tel Dan and traveling throughout all of Israel and Palestine, visiting places he hadn’t had the opportunity to yet. One of those places was Hebron, a place where Abraham frequently visited and where David had ruled for many years.

He spent his last month back in the Tel Dan dig, which was fully funded for Eli, thanks to his prior experience with the dig. His internship coordinator had offered an extension for Eli, allowing him to continue his learning up until the day he came back home.

What Now

Now Eli is in between studies, taking the year to prepare for Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He’s helping at church in Sunday school classes, in addition to giving messages at nursing homes and homeless shelters.

“I am able to use my studies in language and history to be able to consider the Bible in its context and appropriately teach the word of God,” he said.

Eli believes that the Word of God is living and inerrant. His skills have been able to help him grasp that, and he can’t wait to see what else the Lord has in store.