Friday, January 21, 2011

Jericho and more Jericho

Sabbath was great. We sustained 49 people in church. I only missed three names the first time around, and had a chance to sustain them later in the meeting. The meetings were great. Though I was feeling a lot better, I still got worn out, so President Ohman told me to go home for the last half hour. I did, and got in a half hour nap, which was just what I needed.
After church we took the students down to the Garden Tomb. There we had a little tour of the place, and then a short spiritual meeting. I thought it was a great experience.

Dad's Class and our family at the Garden Tomb

There is nothing like testifying of the Savior in such an important place. Whether it is the right place or not (and I suspect the tomb is not, but he hill just might be), it is a place that makes it all come to life. What a privilege to witness of Him there, and to see them respond. The songs were great, they wrote in their journal afterwards, and all was wonderful.
We got home and had a very quick dinner before I ran upstairs to spend a little over an hour setting people apart. What a great experience. These are amazing people, and the Lord loves them so much. Several times I had experiences where I know the Lord was speaking so directly to these people, and they were told things that only God could tell them. I believe each of us was touched deeply, and I will remember it for a long time. What a great bunch!
The next day we decided to go as a family on the field trip I was about to take the students on. We did stop quickly at the Good Samaritan Inn. Then we had a wonderful time going all over the Herod’s palace.

Family at Herod's Winter Palace near Jericho

Kids enjoying Herod's Winter Palace (after taking the picture I told them to get down and not climb on the antiquities)

The kids thought it was a wonderful place, and enjoyed having some freedom there.

We didn’t fully do tel Jericho because we will do that with them more fully later.

Family at tel Jericho

So we saw a few things in Jericho, and then drove out to the site where Alexia will be baptized (we checked that out as faculty too).

Family at the Qasr al Yahud baptismal site, where we will baptize Alexia in April

It looks perfect, and we are excited to take her there. Jacob slipped into the Jordan river once, and we found out just how amazingly muddy it is. I don’t think our clothes will be very white when we come out. But it will be great. Our family had one of those amazing, magical days. Sometimes there was some bickering, but it was one for the memory books. What great kids!
Fortunately I am feeling a lot better, so I could do all this stuff. My voice is largely back, but not quite. I also think I know all my students’ names by now. Not bad, after just a week and a half with them.
The next day the kids headed off to school, BJ and Tashara ready for their big exams. Julianne went with me as we took the students on the field trip. We went first to Herod’s palace.

Looking down on Herod's Palace

Jeff Chadwick was with me, and he is always so good to work with. He brings things to life in so many ways. We had a great time at the palace, seeing all three phases, and reading both from the scriptures about Herod’s death and from Josephus about both his death and the way he murdered his brother-in-law there. I think the students had a great time.

Dad teaching at Herod's Winter Palace near Jericho

From there we went to a big sycamore and talked about Zachaeus and some other scriptural stories.

Mom and Dad at Zachaeus Tree

Again they came to life. Then we did Jericho. Jeff led them through that, and did a magnificent job, really incredible. We read the story there, and talked about a few other things. Then we went to the spring that Elisha healed, and again had some wonderful moments. I had bought a little cruse to bring with us as a visual aid when I read about him pouring a cruse of salt into the water. But of course I forgot and left it home. So I borrowed one from the shop and it went very well. Finally we went up Wadi Qelt, did an overlook, hiked along to another overlook, and did some more.

Students hiking along Wadi Qelt

Between the two overlooks and the hike we talked about the parable of the Good Samaritan, the temptation of Christ, the feeding of Elijah by the ravens, and sang some songs. At one point we could see both Jerusalem and Jericho, and were able to seriously talk about how the Savior went from Jericho to Jerusalem for the last week of his life.

Dad teaching the students from above Wadi Qelt

We also could point out Amman, Gilead, the Dead Sea, and remind them of the places we spoke about last week when we were telling them how Joshua came from Jericho to Gibeon, etc. I think the geography is coming to life for them. Overall, it was an incredible field trip, I think we had a great day!
Later that day we had a group of students over for Family Home Evening. Our children so love to show off and share with them. It was great fun, and nice that the younger ones could have their confidence boosted and the older ones could hear that someone that Dad’s stories about the scriptures were interesting!
The week was full of great classes (I love teaching the students here, they so want to learn and the setting is so good for teaching), lots and lots and lots of church work, preparations for Egypt, and helping various students and children with various things. It is tiring, but fun to serve such great kids, especially my own, who certainly need a lot of service. They are starting to make some good friends among the students. A few have even befriended Jacob, and have taken him to play in the bomb shelter/nursery, where his walls start to melt and he lets himself feel like they are his friends, thanks to Megan from last semester. The students dance with our kids, have princess parties, and do all sorts of other fun things with them. Of course we also have some stress living here. We break lights that don’t belong to us, we have lights burn holes in recliners that don’t belong to us, etc. etc. Sometimes it does feel a bit like a fishbowl. But at least it is a beautiful fishbowl with a lot of nice fish in it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Callings, First Field Trip, and Classes

Great week, again! Sabbath was wonderful. We were able to get to know the students much better today. As our new Young Men’s teacher taught, Taylor Henderson, I was thrilled. He will be great with these youth. I was able to have a short nap as I tried to continue to get better. Later that night we met as a Branch Presidency for about three hours and I feel we received some good direction as to whom the Lord would have serve where. I think that we decided on about 45 callings or so. Later that week I went to the line where the students were exchanging laundry and grabbed almost all those I was supposed to issue callings to and made appointments with them. I just had two come every five minutes, and after almost two hours I had issued all but one of the callings I needed to. I am amazed at the quality people we have, and their willingness to serve. It is a wonderful service-oriented culture we are part of, and the Lord blesses all these people who are so willing to serve.

Family and friends on the ramparts of the walls around the Old City of Jerusalem

The next day, besides cleaning house, we decided to walk the ramparts with the Lewis family. As I went out to get ready to go, I found one student in the Center. He had thought a group was leaving at noon, and studied until then, only to learn that he was the only student left in the Center. That meant he couldn’t go out anywhere, because you always have to be in a group. Poor Donovan, I felt badly for him. So we invited him to come with us, and he seemed happy to do it. We walked around the ramparts, and had a great time. There are a lot of cool views, and the kids always have fun together, and they seemed to have fun with Donovan. We ended up in the Jewish quarter, where we saw just a few things, treating Donovan and our kids to some little local pastries. Then we also took him to the pita factory, and we got some good, warm pita, which is always a hit. It was a bit chilly, but was nice to see some aspects of the Old City we haven’t seen before.

Our and Lewis' kids on the rampart above Zion Gate

The next day was a great field trip. We did it a little differently than before. The first stop was Gibeah. It was eye-opening for the students to get a geographical feel for all the sites around us. We spoke of coming up from Jericho to Ai (within eye-shot), and of Samuel’s circuit, and of the tribe of Benjamin, etc. We also looked around us and read some of the many stories that took place there, like Jonathan going out from there to storm a Philistine garrison, Saul trying to kill David there, David escaping with the help of Michal, and David and Jonathan’s friendship, including when they parted after Jonathan shot arrows out into the field. It was a great introduction to how real the Biblical stories in these Biblical places are, and also the real human element of these stories. The people in those particular stories seem so real, that when you are in the real place, everything becomes very real.

View from Gibeah towards Ai and Michmash

From there we went to Nebi Samwill, where we could look down on the place where Solomon had his famous vision and received wisdom from God, and where Joshua beat the conglomeration of armies and chased them into the valley, asking for the sun and moon to stand still. These are less the human stories and more of the miraculous kind. Between the two sites it is a pretty good one-two punch that makes the students say “wow, I’m really here, this is really the place of the Bible and its amazing events!” I think they loved it. We also went to a few overlooks and through Hebrew U, where there is another great overlook. It was a really fun field trip, and a great eye-opener for the students. They seemed to really enjoy it, and we had a lot of fun together.
We finally really got into classes this week. We cover the most amazing stuff here in the first few weeks. Between Abraham, Isaac, all that happens to Jacob and all he does, and then the incredible Joseph and Moses stories, you have the best material in the world. It is so fun to help bring the scriptures to life for these students. They seem to really be getting into the groove.
The faculty members went on a field trip prep. We went to a few new places, or explored old places a little more fully, trying to figure out if we were doing things the best way possible. We decided to make a few changes. We spent more time at Herod’s palace, after having explored it more. They have also opened the road that takes you down further into Wadi Qelt, so we decided to utilize that. In order to have time, we decided to cut out the Good Samaritan Inn, which is a cool place, but we gain more than we lose with these changes. We also went to see a mosque that is the supposed burial place for Moses (odd to bury a man who did not die), and the site of Herod’s theater and hippodrome.

Me at the mosque of Moses' tomb.

It was great to see these incredible places.

Moses Tomb

We decided not to go to Moses’ tomb, and we won’t go to the theater, but now I know where it is and can point it out from one of our other sites. Since Herod had decided to kill a bunch of people there at his death it is a part of the story I usually tell, and it is great to be able to point it out and talk about what it is like.

Frank on the backside of the theater. You can see the bricks if you look carefully.

As the week went on I got more and more sick. Finally, on Friday, I was dragging and achy as could be, sometimes having a hard time moving. So the docs put me on antibiotics, and by the end of the evening I was feeling quite a bit better. Thank goodness, we have a lot ahead of us in the next while. I was too sick to go to the Western Wall with them. I hated to miss it, but I really needed it.
These students are great. There is just one bad habit they have which could ruin everything. I have already been talking to them about it, but if things don’t change we will really have to do something drastic. They just keep talking to each other when they should be listening to others. So many of them do it that it can be hard to teach. I can handle it in my classroom, but it is turning out to be a problem for other teachers and especially guest teachers. It will ruin field trips, guest lectures, spiritual moments, and a host of other things. We will really have to work on it, or what should be a great semester will turn out problematic. Other than that, we are having the time of our lives!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year and New Students

It has been so busy the last while, and I thought this is when it wouldn’t be as busy during this time. One of our highlights was going to the YMCA tower to help President Ohman play the Carillon bells.

President Ohman playing the bells.

It was great to watch him, great to see the bells as they played, and he let the kids help him ring the Noon Chime. The view from up there was incredible too.

Family at the bells.

View from the tower of King David Hotel and the Mt. of Olives

Another highlight was our trip to the zoo. We had a lot of fun there. It is a cool zoo. With some of the animals, like the kangaroos, we got to go right in.

Family with Kangaroo behind (if you look closely)

With some parrots, we could even feed them and have them land on our arms.

We also had a great trip to Tel Afek, or at least some of us did. We all started out, along with a lot of other youth from our Branch. But one van started making horrible noises, and it sounded to me like it was having a serious problem somewhere along the drive train. I was not confident we could make the trip. So I took all the younger children and came back. It turns out that the drive shaft was coming unhooked, and we probably would not have made it. The older ones who went had a great time, it was a great youth activity. Those of us who stayed a bit of fun as well.

Youth at Tel Afek

New Year’s Eve was fun. Lots of people from the Center came and joined us playing games, but only for a short while. Most of them went to bed at about 8 or 9. So it ended up being just us and our children and Rebecca Call staying up ‘til midnight. I was ready to die from being tired by then. I’m not sure when I got so old.

Sometime in there the faculty and their wives ran out to Gibeah of Saul and looked around, for fun and to decide if we should take the students there. It is cool, so we will.

All of us at Gibeah

The kids started school when the weekend was over. They didn’t really want to go back, but back they went. At that same time we started to get ready for the new students in earnest. We had meetings, made assignments, made sure syllabi were ready, etc. On Tuesday I led the folks who hadn’t gone through the orientation walk last time through it this time. It was the Bentleys, Ohmans and Harrises, along with Julianne and Jill. It really was a fun time, I enjoyed it very much. We made some good relations with the folks at the Austrian Hospice, and had a nice lunch together on Ben Yehuda Street.

Julianne and Sabrina shopping as we get ready for school and regular life again.

On Wednesday we went to get the students. Frank, President Ohman and I were on the bus while the Chadwick family went in a van. It was good they did. First, the bus driver thought he was supposed to be taking students on a tour, not go to the airport. We had to talk to his boss on the phone for a while to convince him there were no students anywhere to go on a tour, there were only students in the airport. Finally we got that worked, out, and were hoping that the second bus that was supposed to meet us at the airport actually knew to go there. Then our bus got pulled over at the airport for extra security check. That took forever. They searched every inch of the bus, the cargo area, and under the bus. They did a thorough search of our driver, and they did chemical tests all over the bus. Finally we got through. The students were supposed to be there about then, but Jeff and family had gotten in, and no one was there yet. Good. Except not, because our driver took the wrong turn, we ended up outside the airport again, had to drive back, and go through security again. This time they put us through more, finding it odd that we were right back. The driver went through the same security, and this time I went through it also. Fun stuff. By the time we started they had students there, and we couldn’t find the other bus that was supposed to meet us. So there were lots of students and nowhere to go. I was very glad Jeff had gotten in, so that they weren’t just wandering around wondering where to go. We eventually got there, found the other bus and got students loading on. It is always so exciting when they see for the first time the Dome of the Rock and the JC and realize they are really here, that it is the real thing.

They seem like a great and fun group. I am doing horribly at learning names. I keep calling people by the wrong name and the more I try the worse I seem to do. But they seem like a great group. As they were being shown around the center I had to take Lexie home for a while because she just got too excited about having students and went a bit too wild. She got better. That night we introduced our family to the students, and then I met with them, etc., etc.

I have been fighting off a cold a bit, and have not suffered really from it at all. But having to yell at the airport to various groups so that they knew where to go, I lost my voice. About 13 students didn’t end up with any luggage. We arranged for them to use some of the clothes left behind by other students for a while. When I tried to announce this I could not speak at all, my voice was totally gone. Bad news.

During the night I prayed to be healed so that I could lead a group around the city tomorrow. I woke up not 100%, but with a pretty good voice. I led the group, being the first group so that we led the way. By the end my voice was not great, but still okay. I feel I was blessed. The students loved what they saw and learned. It is a very, very cool place to be.

Class the next day went well, though I could not speak very well. My throat has gotten worse and worse, and my cold is really starting to hammer me. Julianne arranged for me to take a short nap, bless her heart. That helped. She has had a lot to do, and I haven’t been much help lately. I spent most of the day working on Church stuff, especially arranging for people to teach, working out who should have what calling, etc. I have been fasting and praying about that, and went to the airport fasting, and feel like we have been receiving some good direction. I was worn out by the end of the day, and didn’t have a voice again. But things are starting to come together. Jeff came and found me and offered to give me a blessing with one of the students. Thank goodness, I needed that.