Saturday, October 30, 2010
Great Families and great students
I just can’t believe that we can stack so many incredible weeks one on top of the other. How can they just keep being so incredible?
Last Sabbath was great, as it always is. I so enjoy being with the students and helping them grow spiritually. They are so pure and want so much to be good. The Church is in good hands with these good folks. I also enjoyed seeing BJ act as the Deacon’s quorum president, and today Tashara was set apart as the Young Women’s class secretary. What great opportunities for them. They then went to a youth leadership meeting. It is great to see them doing such good things. I need to help BJ have a presidency meeting soon, and teach him about leadership moments.
Sunday was such a great day. We went with the Judd and Lewis families on a great field trip. We went to Beth Shemesh and talked about the Samson story. It was fun to see the kids running around so much and enjoying being with each other. Then we went to the Valley of Ehlah, and read the David and Goliath story together and let the kids sling stones together. When that was over we went to Mareshah, and went to some great caves created by limestone mining. The kids had a phenomenal time running around inside. We sang a bit too, loving the echo qualities of the place. We also went to a dove cote there, and some fun tombs. I love seeing the kids enjoy each other so much and all the cool things around here. When we were done with that we went to Lachish, and talked about the huge citadel and how it was attacked and conquered by the Assyrians and Babylonians. It is really a very cool site, and I think the kids liked it. We even took them over to the temple site that is there.
At that point the other families left us (the Judds even a bit earlier). But we were still up for some more adventure. So we stopped by some caves and went spelunking. I was a bit nervous crawling through the tunnels that no one had been in for a while, just because I didn’t want to encounter a snake that had sought refuge there or something. But in the end it turned out fine, and we had a great time in some great, wonderful caves. What adventure, the kids loved it.
The next day was a bit of a mixed day. We let the Palestinian culture teacher take us to some places in Bethlehem, which is in the West Bank. We had to go through the separation wall to get there, and that was an experience for the students. I tried to talk to them about the complexity of the politics behind the wall, but I’m not sure they got it. The first place we went was a Palestinian think tank. There we heard an incredibly propagandistic lecture. None of us were expecting it. It was frustrating because there was good information that the students really should hear, but it was mixed in with a whole bunch of wrong information, bad math that led to untrue facts, and just crazy propaganda. Some of the students could recognize it for what it was, but many just soaked it all in. I usually try not to get involved in political commentary with my students, but on the bus I had to say at least a little bit to help them know not to take this all in at face value.
From there we went to Bethlehem University. The students heard a little lecture on the history of the place, then saw a movie on the history of the place that was laced with amazing amounts of political propaganda, and then got to ask a bunch of students questions, that was fairly laced with political propaganda. When that was over they got to visit with students randomly for a while, which was great. Then we had a nice lunch.
The frustrating thing is that there is such alack of balance. We should expose the students to this, but also to the other side of the coin, and we don’t. I am sad to say that I think the program has been built a little bit this way, to provide a bit of a bias. I would like to do it differently in the future, I would like to not sway them in this way. I would like to give them all sides in a balanced way. I do not believe it is happening here. It was very frustrating.
What was more frustrating was that this happened just before we went to the Church of the Nativity, which should be a great experience, but everyone felt like it started out with some toxin because of the earlier events. To make matters worse, lately it has been very crowded at the Church, and today was worse than ever because President Abbas had come this morning, which closed it down for the first two hours, so the line was backed up. We waited in line for two hours. Then the students had to hurry through the parts that they were there to see. At last, when it was past time for us to leave, we gathered in a chapel and sang Christmas hymns. That part was great, and thus we ended on a good note. It took us forever to get home, going through the wall, etc. In the end it was a bit of a frustrating experience.
The next day we had classes. Then Julianne and I spent most of the day visiting with different students who had various questions, concerns, and trials. The same was true of the next day as well. I love doing this with Julianne. It is so much better to do it with her, and I love how she and I can share our life together more this way. And the way it helps us grow closer to the students, and how much joy we get from trying to bless the lives of these students is the most enjoyable part of being here. These students are such amazing people, and we love them so much. They bless our lives, and we love these times of being able to sit down with them and talk about the things that matter most.
That night BJ and I went to a part of town we hadn’t been in before, and we had a good scout meeting. I am pleased with how scouts is progressing. Tonight BJ was elected senior patrol leader by the rest of the troop. It is good for him, but I am not sure we have the time and schedule to live up to this responsibility. We will really have to work on it. BJ is becoming a great young man.
Wednesday was sadly the last day of class I had with my Old Testament class. I will love my new class, and I will still get to see these guys, but I love them so much. It was hard for me to say goodbye, even though it wasn’t really goodbye. I got very choked up. Julianne also came, with brownies, and addressed them. She also got choked up and got me going worse. Bless her heart, besides the other good things she said, she talked about the joys of motherhood. She is so good for them.
Then the students gave me a gift and thanked me. It was overwhelming. I could not believe how great they are, and how filled with love I am for them. I really started bawling. They were so good to me, and I love them so much. What great people, I really just can’t express how wonderful they are and what a touching moment it was. Their gift touched me very, very deeply. My time here is increasingly marked by walking around with an overwhelming feeling of love. This is a great experience in that way.
Thursday was an interesting experience for Julianne. She ran a Breast Cancer Awareness race along with four of the students. She ran through a lot of New/West Jerusalem, and ran along the wall of the Old City. Pretty cool to be able to run a race through Jerusalem. We had a good day, getting lots of good stuff done. That night we ate with the students, and I stayed for a long time visiting with them. I am getting an increasing amount of questions about politics. They can tell they are not getting a full story, and I think are becoming increasingly aware that even with a full story they would not understand it all. No one can. Things here are so complex, and every viewpoint, every angle, every narrative, has another side to it. When they want to talk about it, I am happy to help them see how complex it really is, and help them see the various sides of it. I sure enjoy visiting with the students, these are such wonderful people.
Friday I spent time with my new class. These guys are great, and this will be wonderful. I got to spend a lot of the day with my family today, and still got a lot of good stuff done. We are having such wonderful scripture study. It is incredible to sit on our balcony and study the scriptures together. The other day we read of the triumphal entry, and I was able to point out where it happened. When we read of Jesus teaching in the temple I can say “right down there.” The wonderful experiences just keep piling one on top of the other.
Posted by Kerry Muhlestein at 11:59 AM