The next few days were spent largely recuperating and getting ready for Jordan. That next morning we went way up to the top of the building where we could see Jerusalem so well. We had our traditional Thanksgiving “Thankamony Meeting”, and I was glad to hear of all the things the children are thankful for. It is nice to know that they have something of a feeling for how blessed they are. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with all the students that night. We also spent some time the next day helping BJ with his movie, and then went out for a drive as a family. We saw some beautiful countryside, and visited the most amazing cave I have ever seen. The stalactites and stalagmites were magnificent. It felt like we were walking around on a different planet. It was incredible, and a wonderful family moment. Church was also great. That night as I got ready to go to Jordan, and the kids were misbehaving, I was a bit more harsh than I wish I had been. That memory haunted me all throughout the Jordan trip.
Nevertheless, early Sunday morning we departed, yet again. It was a great day. Lots of long bus rides, a fairly long but uneventful border crossing, some great singing and story telling. I got to spend nice time with the students. We went to Mt. Nebo and talked about Moses seeing the promised land there. We went to the church at Madaba, and to Maccherus, the site where John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded. It was a nice moment to think about that great prophet. Then we had more of a long drive as we headed out to Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses). We got up early and went into the Wadi, also known as Petra. The students ate up the incredible sites there. It really is a cool place. I had a million déjà-vu moments as I thought of hiking up there with my family. I could picture Jacob playing in the dirt and with the rocks, and Kaleb trying to stay in the shade. I thought of all the great things we did as a family. I wished they were with us, but we had a good day. Two wonderful students, Jacqueline Schneiber and Megan Connelly, convinced me and Dr. Judd and Dr. John Jackson to go with them to the high place. I had never been there before. We went up the back route, and saw some incredible tombs I had no idea existed. They were great, and I was glad I went. It was a good time.
As we drove to Amman we stopped at another crusader castle. I went again with Janelle Knight and Catie Shaw. We found some very cool places to explore. I forgot my flashlight, so we went by cell phone light through some cool tunnels. In one spot two students hid in a corner and jumped out at us. I nearly hit them before I saw who they were, and so they just got light thumps by the time I got my arms slowed down. Anyway, we had a great time exploring. I was determined to make it back to the bus on time. But I got lost on the way back, and so at the second crusader castle I was late again. This was not good.
The next morning we went to Jerash, another Decapolis city and the largest Roman City anyone will ever see. It was very cool, and we had some great theater singing moments. One of the highlights of the day was that Dr. Judd and I decided to switch which classes we were with. While I love my new class, it was very fun to be with the old class. Kind of like being at the helm of an old, familiar boat. We had a wonderful day together. We also stopped at another castle. I got with my two castle friends, and we explored all around, even finding places I am not sure were places meant for us to find. I love exploring these castles. When it was time to go back I was very determined to be on time. Just as we were leaving, and I was near two of the nursing students, we found a worker who was in terrible pain. He started convulsing, and lost a bit of consciousness. I stayed with the nurses while they stabilized him and the ambulance arrived. We will never know what happened, and can only hope that he is okay. In the end, I was late for the bus again after another crusader castle.
On the way back to Amman we stopped by the Jabbok river and talked about Jacob wrestling with the angel there. It is a wonderful and important story, and there is so much to learn from it. I felt like we had a good moment there, very good. Finally we returned to Amman, where we had a few hours to walk around and see what Amman was like. I was very happy to just wander the streets with these students I have come to love so much and enjoy their company. God has blessed us with good people to be with. I am grateful.
Our last day in Jordan was not that exciting. We went to the citadel, saw a nice mosque, went around the archaeological remains of Amman, saw their little museum, and then left the town. We stopped at the Jordan River on the way down, at a place that might be the area of the baptism of the Savior, though we don’t really know. It was a very nice site, and I wonder if it is not a good place to baptize Alexia. We will have to look into it.
The border crossing was long, but not too eventful. And finally we were able to come home. It was very, very nice to be with my kids again. I have been gone too much. It was the first night of Hannukah, so we lit a candle and I gave them some presents. Very good to be with them.
Thursday morning I met with the CES teachers from Europe East. For an hour I talked with them about teaching students and studying the scriptures, plus some brief history. I showed them the olive pressing process and the wine pressing process. Then Julianne joined us and we all went down to the City of David. It was fun to go through that place with them, teaching them a little about everything there is to see there. We hiked Hezekiah’s tunnel with them also. It was so great to spend time with such good men doing such good things. I really enjoyed my time with them.
After we got back I spent time with the kids, and we got all ready and went to Eran’s house. He and his family were so kind to invite us over to celebrate Hannukah with them. They let us enjoy their wonderful home, taught us some great Hannukah songs, made us wonderful latkes and fried cauliflower, helped the kids make dreidels and paint little pots, and gave us wonderful doughnuts. It was outstanding, really terrific. It was one of the best times we have had here. What a great family they are.
We had some normal, yet slightly exhausting days for Friday and Sabbath. Not too bad, but a lot of things going on. On Sunday, when I would have liked to spend time with the kids, I instead had to do a field trip preparation. We went to Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found), where we saw the site and also went into an extra cave or two, went quickly to Ein Gedi, and set up how to do some good things there, then down to Masada, where we walked through how to take care of everything there, and then checked out where we would swim in the Dead Sea. It was great, but it takes up so much time. I am glad to be with these good men I serve with here. They are the best, and I mean that in every sense of the word. These guys are so good, and so easy to work with. I am so fortunate to be here with them, I will be better at teaching the scriptures my whole life for having been here with them. It is a real pleasure.
Ibex at Ein Gedi
I was too tired that night to type everything up and get it all ready for tomorrow. So I went to bed early, and got up at 3:30 and got all ready for the field trip. Then off we went. It was a very good trip. It is hard to believe it is my last full-day field trip with this group. Qumran went very well, and I think they were very interested. Then we went to Masada. A serious wind storm came up, and we were eating sand and getting it in our eyes half the time, but it was a great time. Ein Gedi was incredible, as it always it. I love that place. Yesterday and today we saw a ton of ibex, hopping all around, jumping into the trees, etc. The place is so wonderful. Then we went to the Dead Sea and all the students swam, and it was a ton of fun. It was a long, but wonderful day.
Mom and Dad at Qumran Cave 4