Friday, November 26, 2010

Busy and Great

It has been too long since I have written. Two weeks ago I didn’t write because it was my last day to spend time with my family before leaving them for quite a while, and I thought I would have time to write in the evenings while at Galilee. I was very wrong about that, and so I am way behind.

We started out the week in a great way. Our whole family came with the students while we did the field trip where we went down to the archaeological remains all around the temple mount/Dome of the Rock. We looked at steps on which the Savior had walked. We saw places where he almost undoubtedly performed miracles. We witnessed the remains of what had been destroyed on the mount by the Romans, which had so sadly fulfilled prophecy. It was a good and powerful field trip, and was great to do with our family. I felt badly that a few times Julianne missed some of the stuff we talked about as she was taking care of crazy little ones. But I think it was a great time.

Afterwards we were able to stay in the Old City with BJ and Tashara, while the ever-kind Jill Judd took the rest home. We had a wonderful day and were able to do some things we really enjoyed. It was the first time the kids had seen the Jewish Quarter of the city.

Two days later we took the students around to a bunch of Christian churches in the Old City. We started with the Holy Sephulchre, and while many had been there before, I think I was able to help them see some things about it they never had before, and appreciate it more. We also were able to go to a Syrian Orthodox Church, where a very devout lady shared with us miraculous stories from her life. And we were able to see a place in which Orson Hyde may have stayed while here, and a place there where “Hyde” had been carved in a door in which many tenants carved their name. Pretty cool.

But for the most part the week was spent in getting tests ready and getting ready for Galilee. It took up most spare minutes that I had. It was one of the busiest weeks I have ever had.

Sabbath was fun because it was the primary program. The kids were great. My kids did so well. It was slightly marred by Sabrina and Alexia having some fights while sitting on the very front of the stage, in front of everyone. But that’s parenting, a few good moments coupled with a few bad within a few minutes of each other.

The next morning we started out very, very early for our trip to Galilee. The Relief Society had sponsored a panel about motherhood for the students the night before, and I had heard about a few comments from a person or two that did not seem exactly right to me. I woke up at 4 am and was never able to go back to sleep because I could not escape the overwhelming, continually coming waves of feeling that I needed to address this with the students. I decided I would do it on the bus the first thing in the morning.

But as we got going I just couldn’t get myself to do it. So we rode quietly to Caesarea, where we had a great field trip. It is a site with so many great things to do and see, and surprisingly so many scriptural ties. We had a great time, and then moved on to Nazareth. I planned on talking about motherhood while on the bus again, but just couldn’t get myself to do it.

It is, of course, amazing to be in Nazareth. How incredible to think about the Savior growing up there. And to picture the annunciation, how wonderful! We went up to the place that is supposed to be the site of the synagogue in Nazareth, but could not get in. So we talked about some things there, and moved on. We went to the Church of the Annunciation. It was almost completely empty, because it was Sunday, so we had a great experience there. I think that is the most I have seen students enjoying their time in that Church. We had a nice time in Nazareth.

As we got on the bus it suddenly occurred to me that right after talking about Mary was the perfect time to talk about Motherhood. So we had a long discussion about basing our decisions and desires on eternal principles, and about not trying to believe both what God teaches us and what the world teaches us, though that is what most LDS women struggle with because the world is so loud on this matter. I was afraid that I was getting a little preachy and that I had exhausted them on this matter, so I wrapped it up and sat down. One student had a question she asked me that I thought might be something many had questions about. There were a few empty seats at the front of the bus so I got back on the microphone and told students that for those who were interested we would continue the conversation a little bit more, and they could come up to the front of the bus. The whole bus stood up. After a minute they said they all wanted to hear and we should just keep doing it on the mike. I was surprised at the amount of hungering for coming to an understanding on this topic. I should not have been. These students are at a time when they know they have some big decisions coming up, and some of them are a bit conflicted regarding it. The conversation continued for the rest of the free moments we had on the bus, and with various students coming up to me at various times throughout our whole week and a half there. There is a real need to be met here.

In any case, in the midst of all that we went to an incredible view atop Mt. Arbel. From there you can see the whole Sea of Galilee and the important points round about. We finished as the sun set, and went down to our bus. As we were finally driving to the place where we were going to stay, our bus broke down. We spent some time trying to fix it, gave up, and had another bus come and get us. We made it to En Gev (the place we stay at) in time for dinner, had a great dinner, and I got to enjoy seeing the students go out onto the Sea of Galilee for the first time. It was great to see them have those “I can’t believe I’m really here” moments.

Teaching class here is great. We had three hours of class on Monday, and it whizzed by so quickly I could not believe it. They seemed to really enjoy it. I spent my afternoon taking a nap I desperately needed, and then getting ready for the field trip the next day. I finally went out to visit with the students on the beach because I wanted to see how they were getting along. I could not believe what they had done. They had decided that instead of making sand castles they would make sand historical sculptures. They first showed me the harbor, light house, theater, and hippodrome of Caesarea. Then they showed me the Temple Mount they had made. They had the temple, with details in it, and the altar, etc. (even with a little cow on the altar). They had made the walls around it with all the right kinds of stones and features. They had made the right arches, gates, stairs, and topography. They knew their stuff and had done it so very well. It was very, very cool. It is great to see them getting so into this stuff, and to see that they know it so well.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Shepherds and Halloween

Another great week! Things are getting really intense, so many things going on at the same time, it is getting a bit brutal to try to keep up. We had a very nice Sabbath. In the evening we watched the Nativity Story, which was pretty good at getting you to think about the way these large events played out in the day-to-day life of Mary and Joseph and others. What an incredible thing.

Watching it was in preparation for the Sunday field trip. The whole family got to come since it was on Sunday. I especially enjoyed that. It was my first field trip with this new group. It was good, but they wandered a bit more and were a bit harder to keep together. I am going to have to work on that with them. We have so much to do in the next while we will really need to all work together.

We went to the Herodian, and talked about Herod. What a crazy life, and what a negative impact he had on so many people. He did build some cool stuff, and we went through some of the grandest today. It was fun to see some bits and pieces of history come together for my family and the students. And my family had a great time with these guys.

When we were done there we went to Shepherd’s Fields for a program of talking about the birth of the Savior. They are great fields still used by shepherds today, and just on the other side of the hill from Bethlehem. We had some great musical numbers, some journal time, many wonderful testimonies, and we sang together. Incredibly, a herd of sheep went through while we were writing in our journals. We also loved hearing the bells from the Church of the Nativity ring while we were writing. I think everyone there was touched by the gift God gave us in sending his Only Begotten to the earth, right there within our eyesight. So many testimonies were about the reality of the and the great love of God in sending his Son. My family was really touched, they were truly edified. And I believe it was one of the best experiences the students have had.

The next day was a day of trying to get a lot of things done. In the next two weeks, before we leave for Galilee, I have to get ready for 8 field trips (these usually take me about half a day or more each), as well as teach my classes, make a midterm and a study guide, and take the students on 4 different field trips on that same time. I hope I can get it all in. Plus I have some guests coming this week and next that I will entertain a little. And on each of my days that are largely clear for working I am ending up meeting with individual students for fairly long periods of time. I love that, and it is the real reason I am here, and is more important than getting the field trips ready (and a lot more fun), but it all adds up to a pretty hectic schedule. Yikes! But we will get it all done somehow.

Tuesday was a great day. That evening the students hosted our families for trick-or-treating. They all bought candy, and all came up with the most creative costumes you can imagine. With hardly any time and hardly any resources they were so good. Our kids loved going around to their homes and had a ton of fun with them. Then we all had a chili and corn bread dinner together, and then a Halloween party that they put together, with so many fun and creative games. Our kids had so very much fun. And they got the best face-painting jobs I have ever, ever seen. You would not believe how good the butterflies the girls received were. Wow!

Other highlights included taking the students, and my oldest two, on a late night tour of the Kotel tunnel, where we could see the full length of the wall that surrounded Herod’s temple, and walk where the Savior very well may have walked. It was very cool. We also went on a field trip along the separation wall with a guide, and talked about some if its politics. Very informative, and somewhat emotionally exhausting. Such a complex issue, and I hope we are helping the students understand how complex it is.

I tried a new experiment this week. The bread here really isn't good, and we don't eat it much. Can't get any without a rye flavor (well you can, but its difficult), and none of us like the rye flavor much. So, instead of French Toast, I made French pita. Same way of cooking, just pita. It may be even better than French toast. Its harder to cut, but more filling, and was a hit. See, we can adapt.

We also went as a family (except for Jacob), along with many students, to a synagogue service. How wonderful, to see so many people worshipping God so joyously. The congregation called themselves conservative, but they seem more liberal than that. They have a female rabbi, the men and women sit together, and they were not the least bit solemn. The rabbi danced with her children during the songs, we all clapped and sang along, the kids wandered around a bit during the service, went downstairs for a little kid time, then came up and sang to us. While it was all joyful, it was also easy to see the real worship in the singing and chanting. We had a great sermon by a congregation member, who gave a wonderful talk about the three religions there getting along and being their very best. It was quite profound. My younger kids could have behaved a little bit better, but all in all it was a very nice experience.

I am also really enjoying my New Testament class. I am getting insights as I study personally that I have never gotten before, and I am enjoying going through these scriptures with the students. This is a great group. I am coming to understand the Savior’s life and love and teachings, and especially his love for his Father, more than I have ever before. Things are really incredible.