Friday, March 25, 2011

Sweet Galilee

I am a bit behind, things have been so busy I have not been able to get posts up of what we have been doing. The Galilee trip is always that way. To busy doing incredible things to write much about those incredible things until some of them have faded from memory a bit. I will try to do some of my recalling now. I will have to post these accounts piecemeal, but at least here is a piece.

We were fortunate to be able to work out with the wonderful Judd family a trade. Julianne came with BJ and I on the first part of this trip, while Jill Judd watched the kids, and then they switched part way through. We had a great day on the way up. We went up the Jordan Valley, tracing the route that the Savior took from time to time when he went back and forth between Galilee and Jerusalem. It was incredibly beautiful, the flowers and greenery transform the country into a never-ending vista of surprise and beauty. It is easy to see why the Savior loved this place. It is somewhat hard to recognize this place as the same place we came up four months ago when it was all brown.
Our first stop was Beit Sha’an.

Julianne,Julianne, BJ and I at Beit Sha'an

This is a great place, with a huge tell that witnessed Egyptian occupation, Philistine and Israelite occupation, and eventually spread out into a huge Roman town during the time of the Savior. This is the place where Saul and Johnathan’s body were taken after they were killed, and then the men of Jabesh –Gilead came and took them down. We enjoyed some time talking about that, and then went through the town for a while. These are the most spectacular Roman ruins in this country.
From there we went to Nazareth Village, where the students were able to see something of life at the time of the Savior. It is a great place.

Julianne, BJ and I at the Nazareth Village weaver's house

Then we went to Nazareth. We first went to a church that commemorates the synagogue, and talked about the Savior announcing his messiahship there. Then we went to the Church of the Annunciation. Whether it is the right place or not, it is always inspirational to think about the amazing gift that God gave us in sending his son, and how it began with the announcement to Mary. I am always overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift of the Son.

My class inside the church that commemorates the Nazareth Synagogue

From there we went to Mt. Arbel. This would have been roughly the same route the Savior would have taken as he went from Nazareth to Capernaum. Arbel affords us a great overlook, we can get a sense of the geography of the entire lake and the places the Savior was wont to go from there. It is a beautiful vista. We also had the chance to talk about the crusader defeat at the Horns of Hattin, which is visible from there.

View of the Sea of Galilee from Mt. Arbel

And then we go on to En Gev and make ourselves at home. It really does seem like a home away from home, and it is so beautiful and so peaceful. It is fun to see the students experience the lake for the first time.

Class at En Gev, next to the Sea of Galilee

The next day we had three hours of class. Class was great, some of the best we have ever had. We had such excellent discussions. It is also such a wonderful experience to say again and again “we’ll talk more about that when we are at that place.” We closed class by going out to the lake. Sitting on the side of the sea we did a short lesson on calming the storm, walking on the water, and mostly on feeding the five thousand. It was great, it really touches you when you do it at the right place. You are more fully able to try to picture how it really happened, and then it becomes more real to you, and then it becomes more applicable in your life. It was a great class.
After class BJ hung out with the students, and Julianne and I went with Kent and Nancy to check out some places we had not been before. We figured out where the Bay of Parables is, a place that is a good candidate for the spot where the Savior delivered the many parables that are in Matthew 13.

Dr. Kent Jackson and me at the Bay of Parables

Then we went to explore the wonderful Orthodox Church of Capernaum. What a beautiful setting, and what wonderful ways they have of depicting these important stories. Then we went to Kursi, the remains of a Byzantine church built to commemorate the casting out of Legion devils into swine. Examining this text and trying to understand it more became my hobby while I was up there.

Julianne and the sunset at Galilee

That night we went to a restaurant where they served us St. Peter's fish (very yummy). We got to know some of the students better, and heard some amazing stories about their lives. We also went in to Tiberias and had a nice walk along the boardwalk, etc.

Julianne and her St. Peter's fish

The next morning we went on an incredible field trip. We started out on a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. Part way we across we stopped and talked in earnest about the miracle of calming the sea, and of Peter walking on the water to the Savior, and the Savior saving him there. We took some time to write in our journals. This is what I wrote:
3-16-2011, Sea of Galilee: I just had a wonderful devotional with the students. They are so wonderful. I can’t believe I am here, again. I feel so strongly how much the Savior wants to pilot us, how much he bids us to come to him. I know he can help us walk across all obstacles to come to him. And when I falter, Jesus will lift me up and guide me safely home. There is no storm so great my Savior can’t calm it for me. There is no wave so large Jesus can’t help me walk over it. He bids me come, he bids my family come, and we can, with his help, walk over the deep, over death and hell itself, to come to him. We may not know when he will awake and calm the storm, but we know he can and will. O, Jesus Savior, pilot me.

The boat and the devotional

Afterwards we went to see the ancient boat they found, the kind that the Savior may have been in oftimes. From there we went to Capernaum. I love being in Capernaum. It is such an incredible place. Since we were last there I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what all happened in Capernaum. It is positively the most amazing place, because so many of the most amazing things happened there.

Students in the synagogue of Capernaum

This is where, at least according to the Matthew account, he one day preached, healed a man with palsy, went to call Matthew as an apostle, ate with him and argued with the Pharisees, left from there to heal Jairus’ daughter, on the way healed a woman who had been bleeding for years, raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, and then healed blind men. That was a great day. It makes me wonder how many other things he did there. We only know so few things of the many mighty mercies he performed in his life. He was so full of love. And yet so alone. There, in the city he dwelt most often, the best he had was as a guest of Peter. He had no home. One of the things that hit me most strongly during this Galilee trip was how much the Savior traveled, how much he walked. He spent all his time going from place to place, doing good and helping all, with no place of his own. I am so grateful for this sacrifice, as all others that he made.
When done with that we went to Tabgha and learned about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

Students in Tabgha

Then to the Church of St. Peter’s primacy. There are so many great things to talk about in all these places. And then we went to the Mt. of Beattitudes. We spent a long time there going over the great Sermon on the Mount. We spoke of it, and then the students took their time to speak about what they learned about the beatitudes.

BJ and friends at Mt. of Beattitudes Church

We went for a little while to Bethsaida, one of the three town Jesus preached in the most. We talked about the people there who would have known the Savior, the places he would have visited. We spoke of the Iron age Israelites who lived there and would have been scattered by the Assyrians. In this town a man who was blind was healed, and we likened this to our spiritual healing. It was a pretty good place, and we had some very nice moments there. All in all, it is one of the most incredible field trips you could go on. No where will you come to understand the events of the Savior’s ministry so well. I loved it, I loved having BJ and Julianne with me, and I think the students were deeply touched. It was a great day.

Me comparing a mote and a beam at Bethsaida

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