Thursday, April 21, 2011

Born Again

Just like any BYU institution, the Jerusalem Center shares this motto:
Enter to learn, go forth to serve.

Christ told his apostles before He left them, "Freely ye have recieved, freely give."
In Jerusalem, 

I have freely recieved.
       Liberally from God I have received


                beautiful views,


but mostly, the Spirit that has caused many "born again" moments. Moments when I burn with a desire to do what God would have me do, no matter what it is. Moments when I want to reach out to everyone around me and when I love every person in my eyesight, even strangers.

Although hard to leave a place that offers an environment so conducive to righteous living,
I'm not looking back at the Jerusalem Center behind me...
but using it as I look to the future.

Freely I have recieved this incredible experience and all that it entails, and freely I want to share it through my actions--through who I am.

And now, after the many testimonies I have born on this blog, this is the testimony last of all which I give of Him: that He lives! I have walked on the shores of Galilee where He walked, I have prayed in Gethsemene, I have walked on the temple steps He preached on, I have felt his love at the Garden Tomb, and each place has stirred my soul and overwhelmed me with His love. We do not have to see Him to know Him-- the Holy Ghost is witness enough. And although I have felt the Spirit in Gethsemene, you don't have to be in Gethsemene to feel the Spirit. It is offered to each of us no matter where we are.

And, although it is nice to have walked where He walked, wouldn't it be better to walk how He walked? My experience is available for everyone to experience without a plane ticket.  You don't have to follow the footsteps of the Savior geographically to follow in His footsteps.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Each life that touches ours for good,

Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord.

Thou sendest blessings from above,

Through words and deeds of those who love.

 What greater goodness can we know,
Than Christlike friends whose loving ways

Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.

My heart is breaking to leave these people who have motivated and inspired me by their incredible examples. We have slept, eaten, sweated, sang, ran, worshipped, prayed, explored, cried and grown together. Thank you Jerusalem Winter 2011 for changing me!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Passover Week

During our last week in Jerusalem we've been following the events and paths of Jesus during His last week of life. They have been powerful days. It seems like this entire semester has just been getting better and better with each passing day. With two days left, I think often about what I have learned here and what I am specifically going to change because of this experience. The list is long.

We went to Bethany and saw Lazarus's tomb. It was during this miracle that many decided now was the time to kill Jesus. Lazarus caused many people to believe in Jesus, and so many sought his life, too. Isn't it wonderul that we believe in Christ who is greater than any distress, even death itself?

We went to a church in Bethphage, and since we had experienced Palm Sunday the day before, I really liked this painting.
Then we went to Dominus Flevit, a church I have been to several times because I love it so much. It is where Christ wept over Jerusalem. We also went to the Upper Room on Mount Zion where Christ instituted the sacrament at Passover. We sang some sacrament hymns and a tour group came in while we were singing. They began filming us on their cameras and as we left a few had tears in their eyes. This has been happening at many of the sites and churches we've visited. Being Easter week, this is high tourist season, but I don't mind at all because of the opportunity we have to interact with so many people. Today in a church at Bethesda I suggested we sing "I know that My Redeemer Lives" and the tourists in front of us were deeply touched by it. We offered them our hymn books and they sang along. I loved it so much and wish I could share the great spirit we feel with more people.

Then we went to St. Peter in Gallicantu, a church that commemorates the time Peter denied Christ for the third time and the cock crew. We talked a lot about Peter and how we can only give the benefit of the doubt to a faithful follower of Christ like he was, since we don't know all the details.

Last night, after a full day of field-tripping in the heat, we came home and had an Upper Room experience. We had a Passover scene all set up, just like Peter, James and John set up a Passover in an upper room after being with Christ in similar April heat all day. We read the story of the Passover and of Christ's conviction, had some musical numbers and listened to some very strong testimonies. We had this diarama of the triclinium that was set up for the first sacrament. It was neat because it was actually Passover last night, so all the people in the city we were looking at were celebrating Passover in their own homes as we spoke.

Wake up and smell the palm fronds

I had a great free day last Sunday, which was Palm Sunday. We left the JC at 6 a.m. and went to the church of the Holy Sepulchre to hear the organ that plays early in the morning. The organ wasn't playing, but it was still fun to go and hear some monks singing. Then we went to the Jewish Quarter and got some fresh cinnamon rolls and pastries and ate them in the Hurva Synagogue plaza, one of our favorite places to spend time. Then we went to Hezekiah's tunnel one more time. It was already hot at 8 a.m. so it felt really good. The only thing is, we just plumb forgot that it is pitch dark inside. We hadn't brought our flashlights or head lamps. But it didn't occur to us to not do it, we just walked it in the dark. Ashley bought a 4 shekel key chain flashlight and used the flash on her camera when we were desperate. It was a blast, and I almost recommend doing it in the dark if you ever go.

That afternoon is the Palm Sunday walk from Bethphage to Lions Gate, which is the route the Savior rode the donkey in on. There were literally thousands of people making the 2-hour march in the afternoon heat.

It was a great experience to be one the same roads that Jesus followed on Palm Sunday. Before Palm Sunday was just another Sunday, but now I'll never think of it the same again.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Last Sabbath

How I feel now that finals are over and I have academic freedom until August 29th:
I've been thinking how the Church does everything with such excellence. If they wanted to build a BYU campus in Jerusalem, they could have built a regular square brick building somewhere in the city. But instead, they built this:  
A beautiful 8-story arched limestone palace with every comfort of home that has the best view in Jerusalem. This place has become so very special to me. The Spirit is always here and there have been so many times when I have run down it's halls to my room simply to pour out a prayer of gratitude.  

Today is our last sabbath here. It's been an emotional day. We had an incredible Sacrament meeting and then I went to the Garden of Gethsemene.  My heart is very full and I am not going to even attempt to describe all the feelings reverberating through me. My experience here will always be one of my most precious and life-changing ones.  I am so thankful for Jesus Christ, and only wish that those I love could feel what I have felt. I know He loves us and will always be our truest friend. I love Him with all my heart.

That beautiful building above + loving professors + Christlike friends + immersion in the scriptures + many more blessings from God =
One very happy girl.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Christ Only

“The only way that we may overcome the world is by coming unto Christ. And coming unto
Christ means walking away from the world. It means placing Christ and Christ only at the center
of our lives so that the vanities and philosophies of men lose their addictive appeal.” ~Sheri L.
Dew, “We Are Women of God

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Field Trips

"The Bus"

The Dead Sea was our last field trip on the bus. I've spent more time on a bus the past semester than probably all my time on a bus previously combined.
 Yes, our field trips are for a field trip class. I get credit for this (well, one credit).
 My class at the Sea of Galilee.
My class at Jerash.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Love Nuts

I would like to introduce you to my new-found favorite little snack:

We affectionately termed them "love nuts." In arabic they are called kabooki. They are peanuts coated in something and then baked, I think. I really don't know what the peanuts are hidden in. They are just super crunchy, peanutty, interesting little balls of goodness that whisper to you to eat more and then go buy 5 more shekels worth tomorrow.

I just had to post something today because the rest of the week we have class and final exams, and as much as I want to get as many posts in before I leave in 10 days (ahhhh!!!!), this week is going to be a huge determining factor in my GPA....maybe I should find some love nuts to get me through. Or else I might go nuts.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lowest Place on Earth

Today's field trip probably made top five. We boarded the bus as a class for the very last time. Que triste. We first went to Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Then we went to Masada. We took a cable car to the top of the cliff where the palace was (I wanted to hike up, but we weren't allowed to). Masada is one of Herod's great palaces where Jewish zealots gathered under the attack of the Romans in 73 AD.  They were there under seige and...well, I'll let you research the story if you don't know it because it is pretty sad.

Then we went to Ein Gedi which is a beautiful nature reserve where we hiked to some water falls. This is Brittnie, Jessica and I--we were all in the same freshman ward and now we're in Jerusalem. Are we not so lucky?

And then.....we went to the DEAD SEA.

I've always heard you float like a cork, but then I went in and really floated like a cork! It is unbelievably buoyant! You can't keep yourself down if you tried. You get a little water in your eye and it burns, you get some in your mouth and it's the worst taste ever. 
Can I just say that effortlessly floating on the dead sea in heavenly sunshine with wonderful friends at the tail end of  a semester of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities is a beautiful thing?
Mud bliss.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pieces of Jordan

We got to spend a few days in Jordan this week as our last excursion! We first went to Mount Nebo where Moses looked out over the promised land. Then we went to Medaba, Macheras, then to Petra where we stayed the night in a really nice hotel. Centurions greeted us at the door and did a little welcoming show for us. Centurions. Yep.
The next morning our tour guide Muhammad led us through Petra. We walked through the Siq, which is just like the Narrows at Zions National Park if you've been there, and at the end saw the Treasury peeking between the rocks.

We hiked to a monastery after that, ate lunch at a nice restaurant at the base of the mountains, and explored on our own for a couple more hours looking at the tombs carved into the mountains and excavations of temples and palaces of the Nabateans (it's ok, I hadn't heard of them before this trip, either).

Other highlights of Jordan were the Jabbok river where Jacob wrestled with a messenger of God (see Genesis 32), a huge, old Roman city called Jerash, the Shobak castle, Ajnun castle, and staying in a super duper nice hotel in Amman, the capital of Jordan. We also visited the baptismal site of Jesus on the Jordan river, and ate KFC in the middle of the desert (in Jordan it is actually Kentucky Fried Camel, did you know that?). Another highlight was going to the Mecca Mall one night and having a 10-minute argument with our taxi driver about how much we should really pay him.
This is me getting beheaded by my friend Sarah....or, at least I thought we were friends. What an  honor to be beheaded at Macheras, where John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded.

 The Treasury at Petra! Featured in the one and only Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. We got to ride horses out of Petra just like Indy....only I don't think he had a horse guide who asked him to be his boyfriend like I did.
 Who knew I would feel like a celebrity at Jerash? There were hundreds of school kids there that day and Americans were more of an attraction than the ancient Roman city. I am on the cell phones and cameras of tons of Jordanian kids.
 Susie and I overlooking part of Petra and the Monastery, which is just another tomb.

We got to go in the King Abdullah Mosque in the Amman! We had to cover our heads and take our shoes off. It was really interesting. They pray five times a day and make it such an ordeal. I'm listening to the call to prayer here in Jerusalem as I type this, and I realize I'm going to kind of miss the endearing call that I hear five times a day that reminds me to pray as it does the Muslims.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ein Karem and more

My bishop from Sedona and his wife were in Jerusalem and we spent the day together today! It was a blast and I'm so thankful to have them as friends and a blessing in my life; they are really good examples to me. They were really good to me and my friends and we all had a really enjoyable, solid day in what has become one of my favorite cities.

We went to Ein Karem, a town west of Jerusalem where John the Baptist was born and lived. We went to the church of his birthplace and the Church of the Visitation where Mary met Elizabeth. We talked with a Fransiscan monk there who was pretty interesting. Then we went to Ben Yehuda street in West Jerusalem and had lunch and ice cream. Then we went on Rampart's walk which is a walk on the walls of the Old City and saw some beautiful views. It was a perfect day.

General Conference is this week and we watched the first session at 7 p.m. last night. The second session was from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. and I didn't stay up for that. Speaking of John the Baptist though, there is a scripture where John's apostles ask him about how Christ is gaining more followers than John the Baptist. John says that this is what was suppossed to happen, he said, "He must increase and I must decrease." His job was to prepare the people for Christ, and then step out of the limelight. While listening to General Conference, I think this is a good question to consider: What should decrease in my life to let Christ increase?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Jerusalem is my classroom

My favorite picture of yesterday: finding these little Jewish boys eating popsicles in the Old City. Does a scene get much cuter?

This is us and Hashem (in the middle) on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In this church is where many believe the stone of Golgatha is that the cross was on, and the stone of unction where they anointed Christ's body. I've been wanting to get on the roof of the Church, so yesterday we ran into a shopkeeper and were just talking to him about Utah (he loves BYU students and is so sweet to us). I asked him if he knew how to get on the roof (it isn't really permitted to go up there) and he made it his mission to take us there. We didn't get to go all the way up, but we got part way and got some wonderful views. It was exciting!
Today we went to the Israel Museum as a research assignment. We spent three hours just doing the exhibits that are required and could have spent several more hours there. Seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls was just the beginning.

My homework list right now entails writing a 7-page paper about this, making a map of Israel, and New Testament reading. It's such enjoyable, interesting homework! We only have 21 days left and I'm cherishing every moment.

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