Saturday, March 12, 2011

Too much monkey business (or at least Banana Land business)

What an incredible week. I don’t know how we can pack so much into a week. I hope we survive it.
Last Sabbath was particularly meaningful to me. It was the first one after Old Testament had ended. We were fasting that day, and I was fervently fasting for a few things, more fervently than is often the case. One of them has been certainly answered, and I am mindful of how much God loves us and how much he blesses us. We are so fortunate.
Since it was a day of fasting, we also had a testimony meeting in church. I noted that of the many, many people that stood to bear their testimonies, all but two were from my Old Testament class. Without fail all of them spoke about something they had learned in class (often not pointing that out, but I could tell), and how it had changed them or helped them in some way. It was so moving to me. It means so much to see that the things you do sometimes make a difference. I love these people so much it means a great deal to think that maybe something has made a lasting difference for them.
That experience has been coupled with a few other things. One of them was a talk given in church today, in which one of my Old Testament students used an example from the Old Testament to illustrate a point. He was so familiar with it, with how so many aspects came together, with how real it was, with how you can learn from it, with how much it meant to him. I was moved to tears to think that he can use the things we have gone over so well, so powerfully. It makes the whole experience worthwhile to hear someone use the Old Testament like that. Additionally, last week I spent some time speaking with someone who has been troubled by a certain issue in church history. It so happens that it was an issue I have studied and even written about. I shared with him the article I wrote, and we spoke of the ideas in it for quite some time. He later read it and told me it helped him, and helped him so much he has shared it with a friend who has had similar questions. Again it means so much to see that the things I spend my time on really can make a difference. Sometimes you put your whole heart and soul into something, giving it everything you have, for years, and even for a lifetime. You do it because you want to help, because you love and want to help others and because you love and want to help God. But you don’t know if it will end up helping others, and it is really enough just to know that you are doing God’s will. But it can mean a lot when you see it has made a difference. It was a day where I felt like I had come up to a few people in desperate battle, somewhat beleaguered and struggling, and had helped them overcome their enemy. It is a deeply satisfying feeling.

Sabrina lost her first tooth

But mostly this week has been full of fun. We went to a branch activity in Jericho at a place called Banana Land. It was wonderful. Because it is in Jericho, we could get together with people from the West Bank and from Jerusalem. Usually these groups can’t be together. It was so good to be able to strengthen members who only see others once a year. Some of these people I have never been able to meet. What a wonderful thing.

Julianne with a Bethlehem family

Our family with a family from Jericho. Here is a Palestinian Deacon aged boy

We also had a ton of fun there. We had a picnic, we did bounce houses, bumper cars, paddle boats, 4 wheelers, bungee trampoline jumping, small rides, rode a camel, and played with friends. It was more fun than we deserve.

Kids riding a camel

BJ and Jacob in bumper cars

Kaleb on the 4 wheeler!

Alexia on the Bungee jumping trampoline

The next day I took the students to Bethlehem. We started out at the Herodian. The fields are full of green growth, flowers, and blossoming trees. It is gorgeous. We saw baby sheep, and beautiful skies. The Herodian was great, and I really enjoyed my new class. What a welcoming, loving, incredible bunch. From there we went to Bethlehem University, where the students heard a tremendous amount of propaganda, and then were able to visit with Palestinian students for a while. This is a good thing. It is good that we help them hear these various points of view. I feel badly that we are not giving them a fully balanced point of view, that they hear more from the Palestinian side, but we have made it better than it was in the past. They are getting a bit of a balance.

Students visiting with Bethlehem University students

The whole group in Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity

We had a wonderful lunch under a large tent. Then we went to the Church of the Nativity, which is always a highlight. Afterwards we went to our Shepherd’s Fields. BJ and Julianne had scouted out a great place for us to meet, and the whole family met us there. We got together with our Old Testament classes, and sand Christmas songs and had a wonderful testimony meeting. It is incredible to talk so much about Christ, and his birth, right there, right where his birthplace is in sight. Thank goodness that God sent him. Thank goodness he was willing to come. We are so blessed. Without that wonderful gift of the Christchild we would all be lost. But because of the incredible events that happened right there we can all be saved!
The week we started New Testament classes in earnest. How great it is to study his life so intensely, to talk about it and how it applies to our life so much. His life and teachings are coming together so much more for me. Each time I study the Gospels I come to understand a little bit better.
Julianne was the field trip leader for taking a bunch of students to the Kotel tunnel, a tunnel which goes along the western wall of the temple mount. I am glad she got to do that.
We also had a talent show for our family and the Judd families. Many students came to watch, and a few even performed with our kids. It was a great thing for our kids. They got to show off some stuff, and these students give them such positive feedback. They really grow from the amount of love and attention these good students give them. Tashara did some ballroom dancing with some of them and Carrie Judd.

Tashara, Carrie Judd, and the Jackson twins dancing

Alexia sang with Britt Lam while Britt played the guitar, and then Alexia played just a little on her own.

Alexia and Britt playing and singing

Star Wars Puppet Pals

All the younger kids did a spontaneous gymnastics extravaganza together. Our kids did Star Wars puppet pals together, which is always a hit. BJ and Kaleb did a sword fight together. Tashara and Kaleb did a guitar number together.

Tashara and Kaleb playing guitar

And Sabrina and Austin Anderson did a guitar number together. They did two songs where he did the upper hand on the guitar and she strummed it while they played. Then we watched BJ’s movie. It was a huge hit. The students loved it. It was a great time for everyone. Maybe a little long, but a great time.

Sabrina and Austin. Sabrina says they are rock stars! She is right, this number was wildly popular.

We had some students over to make cookies, and we all just played for a while. It was so much fun. These guys are so good for our kids. They play with them in so many ways doing so many fun things, and they build them up so much. It is incredible how good it is for everyone.
I spent a ton of time this week getting things ready for going to Galilee.

Fun with the students at our place.

We also did a luau for everyone. The cooks tried their best to do some Hawaiian food. It ended up being coconut thrown on top of Middle Eastern food, and some decent pineapple upside down cake. We had a lot of the BYU Hawaii students teach the others some Hawaiian stuff. Tashara and some students did a great hula performance. Piers Tueller played the ukulele while we taught them “Pearly Shells” and then Tashara and Alexia taught them the hula to that song. Julianne and Tashara taught them to do Tahitian hula while BJ did the drumming. Piers, Donovan, BJ and I did the Haka. And we watched both Johnny Lingo movies. It was a great time.

Tashara and Alexia teaching Tahitian dancing

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