Saturday, April 30, 2011

Upper Galilee and other cool stuff

Wow, this was a day!

Sunrise over Galilee

Finally we had a day where things went more smoothly than anticipated, and we got more in than we thought we would. We started out by going to Tel Dan.

Mom, Kath, and Mom and Dad Larsen walking along the headwaters of the Jordan at Tel Dan

Our family at Tel Dan

That is the most beautiful place. It rained on us a bit, so we got a bit wet and a lot muddy, but we got over it. The place is so incredibly beautiful, especially where the Jordan springs out of the rock. And the high place there, where you can talk about idolatry, is such a moving place. Plus they have the gate Abraham may have gone through, and they have the huge Israelite gates. All together it is too cool.

Abrahamic gate at Tel Dan

We went to Banias/Caesarea Phillip, but it was raining so much we really just glanced at it. Then we went up to Nimrod’s Castle. It didn’t rain on us too much there, and we had a wonderful time going through the castle. I think everyone really enjoyed that.

Jaker coming into his castle

Then we drove to Hatzor, where we got rained on a bit, but we still saw Joshua’s handiwork and the tower where the Israelites must have met their doom. This is real family history for us. Here we see Israel, our ancestors, being scattered.
From there we went to Chorazin, and enjoyed seeing that important place in the Savior’s ministry. And then we went to Kursi. They were about to close, so we ran in and talked about casting the devils into the swine. I have worked on piecing this story together geographically, and it is really starting to work for me. From there we quickly drove past a place that is a good candidate for the pigs running down into the sea, and from there to Hippos, which I think is both an incredibly likely spot for the city from which the men came and asked the Savior to leave after casting the devils into the swine, and I think a city set on a hill that people could have seen as the Savior gave his Sermon on the Mount. It was raining too much to get out and do stuff at Hippos, but we enjoyed the drive anyway. Finally we went back to the branch house and got all ready for church the next morning. What a day!

Heading up to Galilee

Wow, what a long, tired day. We tried to get out of here early. But it was too hard. I was tired, so tired. We went up to see the students who wouldn’t leave until later and say goodbye to them at breakfast. But Kaleb didn’t want to come up, so some of them came down and talked with him. We visited for so long, I couldn’t make myself stop, I love them too much. But we got a late start, and couldn’t quite do everything as a result. We went to Megiddo, which was great, as always. Then we went to Nazareth, but Nazareth Village was closed for Easter week, and the Church of the Annunciation closed a few minutes before we got there. So we walked around a little and looked at the countryside. Then we drove to Tiberias, where we were warmly welcomed by the Harrises. What a beautiful place to stay, what a great place to be. The branch house is an incredible place.


Today we went to the City of David. It was crazy to get there, roads were shut down, the city was crawling with people, the City of David was crazy crowded. I think every Israeli family in the country was trying to do stuff in Jerusalem for the day after Passover. We had a hard time moving anywhere. But we saw a lot of cool stuff going on at the Western Wall, and we had a great time at the City of David. We toured all the amazing ruins, went through the tunnel, and spent some time at the Pool of Siloam.
At night it was time to say goodbye to the students. We had a great dinner with them. Then we went to their memories show. I was able to speak and give them my last bit of advice. I tried to talk about being born again, about being changed, about making a difference. I hope it meant something to them. We watched a slide show with so many memories. Then we swapped pictures until late at night. We stayed up until the 2:00 am departure time. It is so hard to say goodbye. They are such great people. It is too hard, I don’t know how much of this I can take. I just want to be with them forever, I just want to take care of them for as long as I can. I just want to associate with their goodness, and see them develop into the great people I already see them as. It is too hard to say goodbye.

April 19th

This morning I took the students to the Garden of Gethsemene. We got into the extra area with olive trees, and had a quick reading of scriptures having to do with the atonement, and sang some hymns. I let everyone have some contemplation time and journal writing time. This is what I wrote:
“As I spoke with the students here today and was sometimes looking down at the ground, I could suddenly picture my Savior, Jesus Christ, Redeemer of the world, as he lay on his face in agony, experiencing pain so exquisite that it squeezed blood out of his body. This land, which had been created by him, was mixed once again with his essence, as his blood soaked into the dirt here on this mount, as his mortality was overshadowed by his divinity, and he payed a price for me that is greater and more exquisite than I can understand. While I know I can’t comprehend the great price he payed, I know he paid it, for me. I am so sorry he had to suffer so much for me. But the bold, eternal truth is that he did. Jesus Christ suffered that I might be saved. The angel of death, even death and hell, passed by me because of the blood of the lamb. Of this I testify and for this I give eternal thanks.
“Yesterday as we psoke of his trial I saw the great irony of the high priest, who was supposed to represent Jehovah, smiting and mocking and passing judgment on Jehovah. That he who was sinless and had legions of angels at his command, and who knew what lay ahead, went so willingly, as a lamb, to the slaughter, is a marvel to me. My soul is more filled with gratitude for this than I can express, but I know I am not grateful enough. It is true, it is real, he went to the slaughter for me.”
After the Garden of Gethsemane we went into the Church of All Nations, built to commemorate the agony of Jesus at Gethsemane. I helped the students see some of the symbolism in the place, we spent a little time in there, and we even sang. From there we walked to St. Anne’s, where we sang in the Crusader Chapel, spoke of Mary’s birth, and went to the Pool of Bethesda. Then we went to the Church of the Flagellation. Then we walked to the Garden Tomb, where we had a wonderful testimony meeting. It was great to be able to speak of how the Savior conquered death for us, and hear the students bear testimony of it also. It was a great experience.
Then I took our family through St. Anne’s, Ecco Homo, and the Church of the Flagellation. It is so wonderful to do this all with them. This is incredible stuff in an incredible place.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Upper Room, Last Week

This was quite a day. It was the first day of a two day field trip in which we try to trace the events of the last week of the Savior’s life. We first went to Bethany. BJ and Tashara came with the students and I. There we looked at the church built to commemorate the events there, Lazarus’ tomb, and the supposed remains of Simon the Leper’s house. This place is so important not only because when Jesus raised Lazarus it was the last straw, and that made it so that the plans to kill him really started to move forward, but also because he stayed there during the last week of his life. He was anointed there in Simon’s house by Mary. He traveled from there each night. I think we were all touched by how much the Savior did for us.
I loved being there with our students. They are so great. I was happy to make good on a year old promise. Last year a girl named Bethany visited my class to tell me that she was coming to Jerusalem. I told her that if she did I would take her to Bethany. It was great to be with that girl, whom I didn’t know then but know and love now, in Bethany.
After Bethany we went to Bethphage. It was not as big a deal this time to go there, we had been there the day before with the students on the Palm Sunday march. But we spent some nice time there, talking about what Jesus did on that last week. From there we went to Pater Noster and went to the cave to talk about the teachings that supposedly took place in that cave. So deep and meaningful.
Then we went to Dominus Flevit. We happened to overlap with my family there. We went through his crying over Jerusalem, what that meant, what he prophesied, etc. Beautiful moments. Then we had lunch at the Orson Hyde Garden. After lunch we spoke of the dedication of the land by Orson Hyde, and also about other sacred events on the Mount of Olives. Wonderful stuff.
From there we went to the Dormition Abbey. For me it fits so well to go there. We are right there, and Mary was at the Savior’s side at the end, she finally had the sword go through her own heart. The women in the Savior’s life are so prominent there at the end, it seems to me that it is worth some time to honor the women who were so faithful to the Savior.
Then we went to the Upper Room. We went over many things there, especially how much Jesus loves his disciples then and us now. We spoke of how he invites us all to join him in his relationship with the Father. It is a touching moment to talk about that there. From there we went to St. Peter Gallicantu. I am not very convinced by the arguments that place Caiphus’ palace elsewhere. This place is, in my view, more likely than those other places. I don’t know if it is the right place, but it seems very possible. And the stairs there I believe are very likely stairs that the Savior ascended in bonds as he was taken from Gethsemene. It struck me as so ironic that the high priest, who was supposed to represent Jehovah, smote and mocked and unfairly condemned Jehovah. As we looked at those stairs I was so moved, so deeply touched. I could picture my Redeemer, he who could have called down legions of angels, willingly going up those stairs in bonds, going like a lamb to the slaughter, volunteering to go through all that he knew lay ahead. I was overcome with gratitude and certainty.
I sent the students home, and stayed to take my family through the same place. I think they were also deeply moved and touched. It was a great time and a great moment. How blessed we are.
That night we replicated an ancient triclinium, and talked about the Last Supper in the Upper Auditorium with the Passover Meal set below us. It was Passover that night, it was the right time. The weight of the moment was incredible. The meaning was powerful. The events seemed supernal. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Birthday and Palm Sunday

So much has happened and I am far enough behind with enough to do that I thought it would be best if I work on this a day at a time. That way I can do it in ten minute spurts instead of trying to find a few hours to work on it all in a row.
So, April 17th was a big, great day. It was Alexia’s birthday. We had a fun breakfast, did some presents and cake, and then did a small party with a few of the students. Then we headed out for Palm Sunday, walking there with all the students. It was very warm, but we were all excited. We walked up the street to the top of the Mt. of Olives, and then south and starting down the mount to Bethphage. We were there a while before it started. We bought a few palm branches along the way. Jacob and Sabrina got very tired and very hot very quickly, and were carried most of the way. Jacob was asleep in my arms by the time we got to Bethphage, but he woke up after a while of being there. Fortunately for us, the students love our kids and love to help, and Alexia and Sabrina rode other guys most of the way. For a while, when Sabrina and Alexia were on top of Kevin and Donovan, Sabrina said, “hey, we are like Jesus and these are like our donkeys.” At least she knew what we were celebrating.
We ended up being able to be right at the front of the procession. We were right behind the scout troops that led out the way. We stopped often, but had a great time. We sang hymns much of the way. It was crowded enough sometimes it was hard to keep track of each other. But it was a great feeling to re-enact Jesus’ triumphal entry. We could picture him and all that happened that day. As we walked the long, hot road, knowing we were close to the exact same time of year he did it, we were really better able to understand all he did. It was an incredible experience. I don’t think anyone will forget it. I felt like a true pilgrim. Though it was hot, and much of my time was occupied with helping my children survive and not get lost, still I felt like I was following in the footsteps of my beloved Savior. It doesn’t get any better.
When it was over we lost Tashara for a minute, but she was taken care of by students and Jeff Chadwick, which made it possible to find her in the vast crowds. We had some ice cream, made the very long walk home, and then did a bit more birthday stuff for wonderful Alexia. We told her that not many people get a big parade about the Savior thrown for their birthday. She lit up when she heard that. She is a great girl.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Finals and Family

Family at Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found

When Jacob had had enough at Masada

Sabrina taking Care of Jacob at Masada

On Sunday we had a great field trip. The whole family came. We went to Qumran, Masada, Ein Gedi, and the Dead Sea.

Jacob, Julianne and I at Ein Gedi

Kaleb and Alexia at Ein Gedi

It was cool. I think our kids really enjoyed the field trip. Swimming in the Dead Sea went better than expected. We had some tears, and a few only lasted a few minutes, but it was less crying than I thought would happen. And a few even had a really good time.

Alexia celebrated her birthday at school (a few days early). Of all things, she wanted a cake with the river Nile, crocodiles and palm trees on it. What kind of kid wants that? Only my kind of kid I guess. Julianne is amazing with cakes, even with only a moment's notice.

We also had a good free day, where we got a few things done. And we did our part in the talent show: Pirates of the Caribbean again. We are busy getting ready for our families to come visit, less than 24 hours now. Class has been good. Today was the lesson on the atonement, and I think it went well. As I thought about all the sorrow various people have felt that the Savior suffered, I got a bit too emotional, and had a hard time continuing for a while. But overall I think it was a great lesson.

Arrr! We be Pirates!

We had one more good class, and then spent the day getting ready for our parents to come. Some students helped with cooking and cleaning so that we could be all ready. They take up a lot of our spare time, but they try so hard to give it back. They are wonderful.
Finally everyone arrived. We ran upstairs to meet them. It was so exciting to see them getting out of the van. The kids were so excited. Jacob grabbed Grandma Muhlestein and just started hauling her inside. He was so happy, he wasn’t going to let go of her. He didn’t want to stop and talk to anyone, he didn’t want to pause in any way, and he was not going to let go of her hand. He just kept pulling and pulling, wanting so much to bring her home. Everyone was so excited to see them.
We let them come in and visit and unpack for a minute, but only for a minute. Then we took them on a tour of the building that lasted over an hour. We finally came down and made a dinner. It took us a long time to unwind, and then finally we let everyone get ready for bed.
The next day we hit it hard. We went to the Holy Sepulchre.

Julianne, Tashara, Grandma Muhlestein, Aunt Kathy, Grandma and Grandpa Larsen at the edicule (tomb) in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

What a wonderful place! The symbolism, the devotion, the commemoration there is incredible. I think everyone had some sweet moments there. Julianne did such a great job of preparing us for the place. Then we walked through the Old City (which is always an adventure) and went to the remains all around the temple mount. It is always incredible to be in places where we can be sure the Savior was.

All of us in the shops around the temple

I think everyone really enjoyed seeing these places and talking about the amazing events that happened there. We also went to the Western Wall and saw some Bar Mitzvahs there.

Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall

Then we did some more Old City shopping. Finally we got to come home for a good dinner and bed.
The next day was my final. Julianne took everyone around to stores, pita factory, etc. while I gave my final.

Alexia and Sabrina as we look out from Gibeah of Saul at the areas Jonathan and Saul fought in

Afterwards we went out to Gibeah, where Saul’s palace was. We went through the cool stories that happened there and in places nearby.

Family at Nebi Samwill as we look at maps and try to get a sense of the geography

Then we went to Nebi Samwill and went through the many stories that took place close by there. I think that what everyone is enjoying most is seeing the scriptures come to life. I have been trying, and hopefully succeeding, in telling the stories in the places in such a way that they become even more real. I think it is working a bit. That night we all went with the students to the Western Wall and welcomed in the Sabbath. It was very crowded, the Passover crowds are here. We also saw Patrick Stewart there. Weird, didn’t see that coming.

Family at Nebi Samwill

At night I tried to get some grading done. We are working on keeping up. But it is great to share these things that mean so much to us with our beloved family. I think they are really enjoying it. I hope it is as good as they were hoping for.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Quick update

So, after doing that final and quick Galilee update (see below), I am doing a lightning fast recap of the last two weeks:

So, I am too far behind, I will have to be brief and not get into too many details. Within our first week back from Galilee we went on two great field trips. One was to the areas around the temple that existed when Christ was there. I love this field trip, you can see and feel the Savior at every step. There are so many opportunities to teach, so many good moments to testify, so much availability to the Spirit. We were also fortunate that we were able to be part of several Bar Mitzvah processions. We got to sing and dance with them, and it was great.
We also went to several churches in the Old City. I only got lost once, which was very good for me. We saw the door which bears the name “HYDE”, which has a fair probability of being carved by Orson Hyde when he was here to dedicate the land.

We went to the Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Mark. That was great because the lady there is such a live wire, and because there are a number of interesting things having to do with that church. We do so time in the Lutheran and Russian Orthodox Church, and we spend a bit of time in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Even though the students have been there a number of times I think I am able to help them see some symbolism that they may not have known before. We always have a good time there. All in all it was a fabulous day.

BJ receiving his First Class

The rest of the week was taken up by having great classes and spending good time with the students doing great things. Of particular note was last trip with Kent to see some stuff. I had already been to Gezer twice, so I would not have gone if it was not to go with him. And the saddest part was seeing Kent and Nancy go to the airport. It is so sad to see them go.
I also ran a District Youth Activity. We took them to the City of David, taught them a few things, went through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, and then did a photo scavenger hunt through the Old City. It was great fun. At the end Carrie Judd cut her toe, and I hauled her to a gas station where we caught a ride home to get her fixed up. All in all, I think it was a ton of fun and hopefully a bit inspirational.
This last week we went to Jordan. Julianne watched all the kids so that Jill could go, and BJ came with me. I enjoyed being with him, it was wonderful. We had great weather. It was cool the whole time, and sometimes raining. We had to keep going from wearing jackets to not wearing them, which means that we were able to be the perfect temperature the whole time. BJ and I had an incredible time exploring a tunnel in a castle together. We had some flashlights and led a whole bunch down for a long, long ways. It was the best! I think he and I will always treasure the memory together. Petra was incredible. It rained just a bit at the beginning, which totally changed the color of the rocks there. It was so very beautiful. We hiked to the Monastery, did some touring of the temple, and then went up to the royal tombs. I was tired by the end, but it was wonderful. BJ helped me a bunch. We went to so many great places I wish I had time to talk about them all.

BJ and friends in a tunnel under the castle we went to

BJ and I at the theater of Amman, the largest in the Middle East

I am surprised by how much time Jill and Julianne have to spend doing Nancy’s job. They spend forever going through all the finances and making sure everything is ready for the field trips. It is so crazy how much they work. I try to help, but I am not very helpful. They work so hard, and I am a little worried that it is taking too much away from our family.

Picture of a Dove I took at the traditional site of Jesus' Baptism

Sweet Galilee Final Installment

I am too far behind, I can't really catch up if I keep trying to post lots of photos. So I am going to just put the text in and a few pictures, but not many, and try to get caught up. Here goes:

From here on out it was all doing field trips in earnest. The next day is one of my favorite field trips ever. We first went to Hazor. This is a very important site, the largest in this part of the land. Joshua left his fingerprints on the city writ large. It is also a very cool city for considering the deportation of Israel by the Assyrians, since this was an important stronghold that they overtook and from thence our Israelite ancestors were scattered. There is another large Solomonic gate here. It is so fun to see all these touchstones with history. I think the students love it.
From there we went to Tel Dan. This is a beautiful place, an incredible reserve. We get to see the headwaters of the Jordan springing out. We walk through a peaceful forest. Then we come to the actual high place where Jereboam built the golden calf for Israel to worship. I tell the students we are on ground zero. This is one of the key places that led to the destruction of Israel. We talked about how we may be like the Israelites. They worshipped both Jehovah and false gods, and I think we try to do the same as we follow God and false cultural and educational ideas given to us by the world. We had a really nice devotional there. We also saw the large gates present at Dan (including the spot of the Tel Dan inscription), and a gate where it is quite likely Abraham passed through. That is all so cool.

Tashara, Kaleb and I at Ceasarea Phillipi

From there we went to Banias/Caesarea Phillipi. This is the spot where Peter declared that he knew Christ to be the son of the living God. We talked about the significance of that event, and the setting for it. I think it is beautiful and significant. I gave them some time to ponder and think about things. Then we went on a nice hike to a beautiful waterfall.

At the waterfall

From there we went to Nimrod’s castle, one of my favorite places. Here Kaleb and I pulled out our toy swords, and off we went to storm the castle. We had so much fun running around and exploring. This is such a cool place. Some of my favorite places in it were shut off to the public as they do restoration work, yet still I found places I have never seen. Room after room, tunnel after tunnel, window after window. The most amazing thing is how beautiful all of it looks with the flowers springing up everywhere. So cool. Kaleb, Tashara and I had the time of our life.

Kaleb and I fighting at Nimrod's Castle

From there we drove up onto Mt. Hermon, and then over to an overlook whereon we can see into Syria and almost to Damascus. As we arrived there was a big storm, and the clouds were so heavy that we could not see more than 15 feet down the mountain. Our view was a complete bust. But suddenly a big wind came and blew the cloud out. We could see another big, black cloud blowing in right behind it. But, as we watched, the wind pulled the curtain of cloud away from the valley, revealing in shining shafts of sunlight the view we wanted. For three minutes we had this view, just long enough for Jeff Chadwick to explain what we were seeing. Then the blackness overtook us from behind, the sunlight disappeared and the valley was hidden in roiling black billows, and we were nearly blown off the mountain. We marveled that we had been given this brief glimpse of what we wanted so much to see. As we walked to the bus we looked at the view on other sides of this mountain. Here and there a cloud would part, and sunlight burst through. For a brief moment we could see both Mt. Tabor and Mt. Hermon at the same time, the two likely spots for the Mount of Transfiguration. This was a wonderful sight. The beauty of the storm interplaying with the sunlight for miles and miles all around was awe-inspiring. The magic of our moment was overwhelming. It was really surreal, almost too much to believe had really happened because I would not have believed it possible if I had seen it with amazing special effects in a movie. It was too moving and too good to be true, and yet it was.
I was made nervous by the news that night that Kent and Nancy Jackson would leave us mid-way through tomorrow to go to a doctor’s appointment in Jerusalem. Since Kent was planning on doing major parts of the next two field trips this shocked me. I knew something important was up. That night we had a fun bonfire. It had rained a bit, but we did it anyway, and it ended up being a ton of fun.
The next day Jeff Chadwick led us through Sepphoris. That was great. This is a cool town with a great history, and lots of stuff to see. It is quite possible that the Savior worked there as a builder. In any case, it is cool stuff. And some of the most beautiful mosaics in the country.
From there the Jacksons left us, and we went to Akko. Here I was the guide for everyone. I went through some of the history of the place. It has a lot of cool history, but the most important part is from the Crusades. For some time it served as the capital of the Kingdom of Akko. There are amazing buildings there. This was especially an important place for the Knights Templar and the Hospitalars, two orders I think are pretty cool. I walked the students through many of the coolest places, telling them bits and pieces of things here and there but trying to keep it fun. In the great courtyard I pulled out the toy swords and challenged them to a fencing duel. An extra point on a quiz to anyone who could beat me, two out of three touches. I fenced through three matches, and two of them had even taken fencing before. We went until the swords broke. No one beat me, and I think we had a great time.

Martin and I fencing

We also went through a couple of cool tunnels that were used from escape, transport and sewage. Fun stuff.
We ended at the coast, on the Med. We learned about how they built the harbor there. Then we walked up to a nice beach and spent about fifteen minutes there. Then we went on the long drive home. It was a great day. That night we did another bon fire and roasted marshmallows, etc.
It is always sad to leave Galilee. It is so beautiful, especially this time of year. It is so peaceful. The Savior is so much a part of the place. You can think of him and almost see him in every nook and cranny, in every field and flower, in every bend of the river or curve of the shoreline, in a hundred ruins and a dozen ancient synagogues. Jesus’ imprint is indelibly on the land, and whenever you drive you think of him and his stories. You are amazed at how much he walked, how far he traveled as he spread his love, power and message to a people he loved so much in a place he loved so much. It is a place that you fall in love with, and that is so hard to leave. This is a special place. This is the Savior’s place. O Galilee, sweet Galilee, where Jesus loved so much to be.
But leave we must, and so we did. We packed up and went to Haifa, to the Templer’s cemetery there, where we went over some of the history of some of the saints there. Touching stuff. Then we look over the Bahai gardens and the bay, beautiful stuff. Then we drove to Mt. Carmel. I love this place. We found a little spot and went over the story of Elijah. This is a sacred story, and I loved it. I separated from the Judd class this time so that we could have a time of instruction and peace without the crassness of the re-enactments. I would guess it wasn’t too bad this time, I have tried to teach that class about keeping the sacred sacred. I don’t know what they did, but our time was wonderful. We read through most of the story, stopping and talking about it as we went. What an incredible story. So much faith, so much passion, so many lessons, so many symbols. I know I was touched. When we finished with the story we found the chapel open, so we went in and sang. It was not as amazing powerful as last time, but it was so sweet and wonderful.
Of course the lookout was great, but not as great as I would have hoped. The clouds came around and we could only see some things. Yet it was nice, and I enjoyed it. I think the students did too.
On the long bus ride home we had a very nice time. Kaleb has been the hit on the bus rides. He loves to get on the mike and talk. He tells jokes and stories. They seem to love him. He is a good kid. Today he suggested that instead of a Holi-day we have a Holi-month, a month of celebrating something. So, he declared April to be charity month. This month we will celebrate charity. What kind of 9 year old kid comes up with that? What a good kid he is. I am proud of him. We have had a very, very nice time together.
Our last stop was Caesarea. That is a very large, very cool place. It also plays some significant scriptural role, in that Paul and Peter were there. It was from here that the gospel was extended to the Gentiles. That is pretty cool.

Kaleb, Tashara and I at the aquaduct that fed Caesarea

On the way home I talked to the students about the whole trip. I was overwhelmed with how much I love them. They are such good people. The Church is in good hands with them at the helm of the future. The Lord has sent the best to us here. We try to give them the best, and make them even better. As I look at them I can see how many great people we have that will do such great things. Life is good.
Sadly, when we got home we had a meeting with the Jacksons. Nancy has cancer, and they are trying to figure out how to treat her. So very sad. I think she will have a good recovery, but we will be praying for her. It has turned out that they will leave within a week, and not be back while we are here. This is so deeply sad. We have loved being with them. We have loved everything about them. I cannot imagine better people to work with, this has been a dream team. I am so glad to have been here with them, and will miss them so much. They are the best people in the world. God bless them. God help us.
The next day I just tried to catch up, and did a review and helped my students get ready for a midterm. It is good to be with my family again. I am so behind. But I can’t complain, I have been doing the best stuff in the world with the best people in the world in the best place in the world. It really, truly does not get any better than this.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sweet Galilee Part 3

The next day we had our last day of classes. In a way it is sad. The classes have been so incredible, and I love studying this stuff with these students. They are wonderful. When it was all over I told them that anyone who wanted to come outside for a few minutes more and talk about a few thing could. We went out and looked at Hippos. I talked about how it could be one of the cities people saw as being set on a hill (especially since Gamla was mostly hidden from the side the Savior was on, and since this one would have been so visible. We also talked about the possible role it may have played in the swine story. But what was most interesting to me is that though this was an optional activity, every single student came. They hunger for good things, these students. They hunger and want to be good. They are amazing.

Moon over Hippos

After class we got all ready for a trip, then went to lunch, and then left. I went with the kids to Gan Hashloshah, where we swam with the Judd class (I like to call them my Old Testament class). We had a lot of fun. When we were done it was sadly time to say goodbye to my family. They headed home. Thankfully, Kaleb and Tashara stayed. We rode back with the Judd class on the bus, and had a very nice ride. I enjoyed being able to visit with my old students a bit. When we returned I had a nice time playing around with Tashara and Kaleb. I am so glad they stayed, we are going to have fun together. Glenn Lewis had made a copy of BYU’s game against Gonzaga the night before and left it for us. So my two kids, Kent Jackson, and Frank and I watched the game. Fun. Then we got some good sleep. Nice to not be in that apartment alone, nice to have my kids with me. These two are such great kids. I love them and am lucky to have them.
The next morning we had a great field trip. We went to Mt. Tabor. We were able to go inside the Moses Chapel, where we had a nice little devotional about the events on the Mt. of Transfiguration.

Inside the Moses Chapel

My class inside the Moses chapel as we talked about the Mt. of Transfiguration

I love to read the scriptures in the spot that is significant to them, and I love telling the students that they are in the chapel built for Moses when they read about Peter wanting to build a chapel for him. It may not be the right spot, but it still helps add to the significance. We had some nice songs, and a very nice time.

Tashara and I at the Church on the Mt. of Transfiguration

Then we went outside and saw where the battle took place between Deborah and Barak. That is such a great story, and it is so cool to do the story while we look at where it took place. From there we drove to Nain, but the little church was locked, so we just did the devotional outside of it. What a wonderful story. From there we went to Megiddo. Of course this is an amazing spot. There is so much to talk about there. I especially enjoyed being in these places with Kaleb and Tashara.

Kaleb and Kent Jackson at Megiddo

We covered the story of Thutmosis III attacking the place, and the Solomonic gates (so cool to see Solomon’s handiwork). We looked at the very old Canaanite altar, some storage rooms, some grainaries, the water system, etc. This is a very big, very cool place. So many people conquered it from so many different time periods, it is amazing.

Megiddo in the spring time

From there we were able to point out all the important and cool places all around. We are of course in the Jezreel Valley, and the Hebrew “Har Megiddo” becomes Armegedden in Greek (poor Greeks, never figuring out about “h”’s). So we spoke of prophecies having to do with Armeggeden (most of those that people lump in with it may or may not have anything to do with it), and the difficulty of distinguishing between literal and figurative. We pointed out Mt. Carmel, Nazareth, Tabor where we had just been, the plain between them where Barak chased the men of Jabin right up to Megiddo, then Mt. Moreh and Mt. Gilboa, speaking of both Saul and Gideon. So many cool things that happened in all these places.
Then we went to Gan Hashlosha, and had a really wonderful time. One girl cut her foot on some glass right away, and I took care of her. We had some great rock jumping/diving contests, and a few more people got hurt. But mostly we had a great time. I especially had fun with Tashara here. Finally we returned home for a decent night’s rest. After Kaleb fell asleep some of the students came by and we talked about things until late. I so enjoy these great people.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sweet Galilee Part 2

The next day we did lessons again. The lessons we have here are so incredible. Everyone is so ready to learn, the setting is so right, it works out so incredibly well. I think we had amazing lessons. I felt great about this day. After class Julianne and I went up to Hippos. This is a great big town on the hill right above us. The view was incredibly beautiful. The town is so big. It seems to me that this was a city that was splendidly in view from the Mt. of Beattitudes, and a backdrop for when the Savior spoke of a city set on a hill. It also would be the only city close to where the swine ran into the sea, and when that happened the people came from a city to ask the Savior to leave. I think that Hippos (or Susita, its Hebrew name) may have played a role in some of the stories of the Savior.


After our time there the rest of our children arrived, and we had a great reunion, and took them to the beach where they had a great time. It was so much fun for them to run into the Sea of Galilee and play with all the children. They so enjoy the students, and so enjoy the Sea of Galilee, and we all had a wonderful time. This was good stuff.
The next morning was a very fun field trip. We went to a place called Chorazin, a town in which Jesus did much of his preaching. This place is a great example of many architectural features that the Savior drew on in his teaching.

Jacob in the remains of the synagogue of Chorazin

Chorazin with Galilee in the background

Then we went on a hike up to Gamla. This is always beautiful, but this time of year it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Class with Gamla in the background

From Gamla looking at Mt. Heremon

It is amazing how wonderful it is. And we saw eagles, buzzards, and falcons as well, tons and tons of them.

Tashara at Gamla

This town has an amazing history, especially having to do with the Jewish revolt. But the coolest part is that the synagogue there is still the original synagogue that existed during the Savior’s day. It is virtually certain that he preached there. So that means that those stones were stones he was on, and probably the seats are seats that people sat in who were healed by the Savior. Oh, if only those stones could talk. Oh, what a wonderful place. My kids loved it.

Me teaching at the Gamla Synagogue

Family in the Gamla synagogue

Finally we went to Kursi and talked about the casting out of the devlis into the swine, a lesson we had gone over in class the day before, rich in symbolism. I am coming to understand the geography of it more and more.

Jacob worn out after a field trip

Julianne and the older kids went on a hike. They went to a waterfall, and said it was amazingly gorgeous. I stayed with the younger kids who were tired and needed some rest. We rested for a while, and then we relaxed at the beach. They had a great day.
Sabbath was very nice. We slept in a bit, had a nice breakfast, and then we went out to the beach and had a little family time. We went over the same miracles we went over in class, but this time just as a family. It was very nice, and I love seeing these things become real to my kids. I love to see them as they picture Jesus, as the stories become even more real and they understand their Savior even more. It was a nice moment.

We took the bus to church in Tiberias that afternoon. It was just my class, my family, and me. We had a wonderful time. The speakers were great, the Spirit was strong, I left a better man and a man more determined to be good. We stopped at Yardenit on the way home, a place where many people do baptisms. It is not the most exciting place to me, but the students love photo ops there, so we do it.