10 November 2009

Out with the Old, in with the New

Testament that is... Over the last week we have taken finals for Old Testament, our OT Field Trip Class, Judaism/Israel class, Islam/Palestinian class, and Arabic. I am now down to only three classes--New Testament, New Testament Field Trip, and our Ancient Near East history classes. Time is absolutely flying. Logan comes home in 21 days... exactly 3 weeks from today. That means that I go home in 37 days. Completely bittersweet. Good thing I love my family and I haven't seen my brother in 2 years. Cuz otherwise, it might be more than a little difficult to leave this wonderful place. But enough with that kind of talk!

I am so excited to intensely study the New Testament. I've taken both of the classes at BYU, but this experience will be 1000 times more enlightening! On Sunday we went on our Herodian Jerualem field trip, where we went to several places around Jerusalem that still remain from the time of Jesus. We sat on the steps where Jesus walked and read some of the things he taught there. What an incredible experience. in 6 days, we leave for two weeks in the Galilee. We will live at a Kibbutz on the beach of Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) and then we will have class and go on field trips during the whole time. I'm SO excited! I'm trying to take as many notes as possible, but regardless of the notes I write down, I am learning leaps and bounds about the scriptures and how I want to be able to read them.

06 November 2009

Chillin with GAs and Special Sabbaths

So one of the coolest parts about living in Jerusalem is that everyone else thinks it's a pretty big deal, too... including the general authorities of our church. We were lucky enough to host both Elder and Sister Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy AND Elder and Sister Jeffrey R. Holland of the Twelve Apostles. These couples are just like any other couple, and yet, they bring a unique and added portion of the Spirit with them... not to mention that the cooks make especially good food when they are here!

Now before I get into everything that we got to to with them, I have to give some background first. My father attended BYU when Elder Holland was President of BYU, and he absolutely fell in love with the way Elder Holland spoke and taught. I don't remember many family home evenings, but what I do remember is that a lot of times my dad would teach us things from his favorite talks, which were often by Elder Holland. Not that we love any apostle more than another, but Elder Holland was definitely my dad's favorite. When I heard he was coming for a couple days, I knew my dad would be so jealous and I prayed that he might be able to share in the experience with me.

Every Sabbath here is just incredible, I always fill full to the brim with the Spirit. I'm like a wet sponge that has been soaking in water and is suddenly hit with a hose every Sabbath. The last two Sabbaths have been even more sacred. Two weeks ago was the Primary Program in Sacrament meeting. I don't know if it was my frame of mind, the setting we're in, the individual children, or the message... I suppose it was the perfect combination of all of these things that led to the most piercing and truly sacred Primary program I've ever experienced. I can't even describe how special it was, by I have honestly never cried during a Primary program before... Sunday School and Relief Society that followed were also just as amazing, as always. After church I went back to my room and continued my study of the Gospel of John. When it came time for dinner, God blessed me with impeccable timing, because I just happened to be standing at the very back of the line, by the stairs, when Elder and Sister Holland came walking up for dinner. It might sound corny, but they literally glowed... with love, with the Spirit, with joy. They were absolutely radiant, and instantly I knew once again that he is an apostle of God, a special witness of Jesus Christ to all the world. That night we had a District Fireside (we're in the Israel District), where both the Porters and the Hollands spoke to us. Elder Holland spoke about mercy. Sometime when I have my notes up here, I will type up some of the things he said. But it was the most wonderful experience I've had in a really long time.

Then last Saturday we had our District Conference, with the Porters and Elder Kacher of the Seventy. It is a rare experience for the whole district to get together, especially two weeks in a row. Some of these people have to fight to even get into Jerusalem. The conference was powerful. I know I keep saying that, but it's the only word remotely close to how I feel. I walk out of the meetings filled to the brim of the Spirit and I just think "Wow. It can't get any better than this." And then I go to the next meeting and it is even more incredible. After Conference I felt like I was going to burst because I just felt so FULL of the love of God and His Spirit. And the day was just getting started!

After church, we went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where the gatekeeper let us into the "Private" part across the street... most importantly completely secluded from all of the tourists that normally videotape us as we read our scriptures or sing hymns there. It was so wonderful just to have some alone time in such a special place! What a tender mercy! And then after dinner we were filled once again during President Brown's "Lectures on Luke" that continued. And then, the most wonderful experience of all: some students organized a musical Firemony--aka a fireside/testimony meeting--off the cuff, and it turned out to be the most powerful experience we've had during the last two months. Hands down. It probably helped that we were already SO overflowing from how full we felt, and then this experience created a highly pressurized system of waterworks. The Spirit was so intense, and it just lingered in the room because we were each so full that there was no where else for it to go. I think I've done the best I can at explaining that we were just TOO FULL of the Spirit to receive anymore. haha I feel like I'm grasping at straws trying to describe these wonderful experiences that I'm having, and I know that the confines of our language are just inadequate at describing such things, but I hope what I can convey is that I still don't know more today than I did 2 months ago that Christ lives. God loves His children, and He has a plan for each of us meant to bring us the epitome of joy. One of my favorite lines in all of scripture that I have learned even more about this semester is that no matter what we do or who we are, the Lord's hand is outstretched still... ever willing and waiting to guide us back home to Him. Through the tender mercies of the Lord, I know that my dad is also there waiting for me to return, and I can't wait! There is a lot I have to do here before that day comes. But it will come. And this is knowledge that has given me the greatest amount of peace ever imaginable!

04 November 2009

Beyond the Jordan

So I went to Jordan last week... and I had so much fun! Some of you may recall that I lived in a Bedouin village, Um Sayhoun, just above Petra last summer for about 6 weeks during my archaeology field school. So going back to Petra felt like going to a little piece of home for me. Of course I was absolutely bombarded with questions from 100 people in my group about Petra, things they should do and see, where I lived, what I did, etc. But I was just so happy to be back that I didn't mind the questions. While everyone hiked the 860 stairs up to Al-Deir, aka the Monastery, I had permission to stay behind on my own. It was my favorite part of the entire trip to Jordan. I got to explore a lot of the places in the main city of Petra that I didn't have a chance to last summer. I finally found the Roman Bathhouse, which was so cool for me! **Last year, in preparation for my dig in Italy (that I didn't end up doing), I intensively studied and researched Roman bathhouses. But because I didn't end up going, I have never actually gotten to see a bathhouse in person.** Like a nerd, I recorded all of the rooms and the order they were supposed to be in and then I walked through the whole complex trying to figure out which room was which. I actually did pretty well, with only a couple minor rooms left unsure about. I was so excited, even though I was completely alone. My excitement perplexed me though, because a couple weeks prior, I had decided not to continue in archaeology for Grad School. Well shoooooot. If I am this excited about walking through a Roman Bathhouse that someone else found, how much more excited would I have been to actually take part in finding it!! So much for thinking my life plan was coming along... haha.

Also while I was in Petra, I ran into several Bedouins who knew Dr. Johnson and Holly Raymond, or had relatives that had worked with us last summer. One man, Attalah, made the connection with me that it was his sister who cooked lunch and dinner for us. She would always bring her beautiful baby girl with her. Big brown eyes and dark curly hair. She melted my heart in an instant. It was so fun to reconnect... even though it was with people I didn't know originally. But once I mentioned that I had lived in their village, they stopped treating me like a tourist and started just conversing with me. Attalah told me I was half-Bedouin and he offered me a chair to sit in while I waited for some friends. Bedouins, and even Arabs in general, are the most generous and sincere people I have ever met. I'm trying hard not to be bias living in Israel, but the Israelis are definitely not the warm, inviting, generous people you would hope to find... especially since $3 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars are going to them. I'm just saying...

But moving on, the rest of our Jordan trip included a stay in Amman. We visited Jerash, the Roman city which was part of the Decapolis where Christ came and preached. We got to watch a reenactment of a Roman chariot horse, and a demonstration of a Legion and their war tactics... Tanner would have been SO jealous if he'd known. :) ALSO, there was a dig going on in Jerash, right by the second gate to the city... don't worry. I told them I was an archaeologist while I took pictures of them, and they stopped working and handed me the pick axe. I was again the happiest little almost-archaeologist you have ever seen. So I put down all of my things and jumped in and started picking the ground where they were working. So, even though it's a little exaggerated, I totally got to dig in Jerash!!! :) hmmm... you think God is trying to tell me something? haha

We also stopped at Mt. Nebo, Madaba, "Dana Restaurant" for lunch, an overlook for the Jabbok River, visited the Amman Branch where we had a meeting with the Branch President, went to the Abdullah I Mosque, the Amman Citadel (where we saw a man fall off a cliff... definitely too much excitement in one day), and finally the Jordan River at one of the traditional sites where Jesus was baptized. There we had a sweet, powerful meeting about baptism, John, Jesus, etc. We sang a couple primary songs, and as we did all of the other tourists started gathering around us. It was a very tender experience, and definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

Jordan is still one of my all time favorite places I've been in all of my travels. The people, the places, the food... all the best that the Middle East has to offer. I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who is looking for a new place to travel. This will definitely not be my last time. :)

Picture Recap from the week:

01 November 2009

Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem is the Israel Holocaust Museum, and there is no other museum like it in the entire world. The emotions it stirs come from the depth of the human heart, yearning for all human suffering to cease. It was a powerful, emotional, and even tragic experience at times. It certainly was not the first Holocaust museum I've ever been to, and it probably won't be the last. But it is the only museum on the Holocaust built by Jews for Jews. you can only go through on a guided tour, and all of the tour guides are related in some way to survivors of the pure evil of the Holocaust. It's hard to say that you enjoyed something like this. How can you have a good time looking at pictures of starving children and reading about the lengths that mothers would go through to protect their children? I don't know if I had a good time. There was certainly no joy involved in the day. But I learned and felt things that every human being should feel. our teacher told us a story about two Jewish children's reactions to the museum: As they walked out of the museum, one of the youth turned to the other and said, "We can never let this happen to us again." While the other responded, "We can never let this happen to anyone ever again."
The experience was juxtaposed with my homework assignment that night for my Palestinian class. We were assigned to read and write about the massacres of Palestinians by Israelis during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. It was unfathomable to me that any Jewish or Israeli person, whether intimately connected to the Holocaust or not, could ever allow such things to happen, let alone just 3 years after the Holocaust. The despair I felt that night was crippling on behalf of the sorrow that people experience from acts of hate. I was frustrated with how dramatic my feelings seemed, but there seemed to only be darkness for the future if such hate persists, and I caught a glimpse of how Enoch may have felt when he wept for the sorrow of the world. Thank goodness for our Savior and His Gospel that show us the way to peace. Thank goodness for His love and the chance we have to share it with everyone around us. This is a point that has been driven home to my heart continuously since I've been here. Love is the point. Love is why we are here on earth, why God sent His Son, why we are in families, why we experience joys and sorrows, why we share the gospel, etc. Love is EVERYTHING. Sorry for my soapbox, but a fire for love has been lit underneath me. :)