Friday, June 24, 2011

Important Roads, Cities, Rivers, and Canyons

Church was great, but kinda sad. It was the last Sabbath with the Lewis family. Brother Lewis has been the other counselor in the branch presidency the whole time I have been here, and his family has done a lot with us, and we have had a lot of fun with them. It has been wonderful. I will miss him and his family.

Most people were better, but a few new ones got sick, including some Judds. Hope that does not mean that we all get sick too. We had a nice Sabbath, I even had a nap, and some students came over to play games with us and we really enjoyed that. They even brought me a few Father’s Day cookies, along with a very nice note from a student about how I have been a kind of father to her. I am grateful to have helped her, and can’t help but think that being a surrogate father for someone who has lost their father and helping her feel her dad’s presence is really what we all should be doing for our Heavenly Father for all his children. I love these students.

Sunday was a cool day. First, I got to sleep in (which I usually can’t do even if I have the opportunity), and had breakfast in bed and got some wonderful Father’s Day signs, cards, etc. We decided to try to put together how the Road to Emmaus went. We drove out to Motsa, which is probably the site of Emmaus. From there we started walking back towards Jerusalem, trying to discern what was the most likely route. We took a few wrong turns, but I think we pieced together that lower part pretty well. ( We went from 1940 ft., N 31* 45.026, E 034* 58.538 to 1909 ft., N 31* 47.539, E 035* 09.822).

Walking the Road to Emmaeus

Finding Herodian Period stones on the walk

All the way to Jerusalem is a bit far for our whole family to walk, especially on a very hot day. But we got up to where we could see the city and guess how the route went from there from what we already know of the roads in that area. Julianne and I hope to go back some time and explore it further when we can hike a little harder. But it was a great day. We even got to talk to our fathers to wish them a happy Father’s Day.

The next day we headed out to Jordan. I was so happy because Tashara was coming with me this time. It ended up being a great time, the best Daddy-daughter date the world has ever known. On the way down we talked about the children of Israel crossing the Jordan in some spot near to where we were. We also talked about Elisha and Elijah crossing over the Jordan and Elijah’s translation. We sang “Swing Low” and had a great time. The border crossing went faster than any of us had ever seen. Then we went up to Mt. Nebo, and had a little devotional about Moses, the children of Israel, Elijah, and the snake being lifted up on a stick for Israel to look at and be healed (there is a monument to that built on Nebo). We compared that to Christ, reading from 1 Nephi and John 3. I am so very grateful that Jesus Christ was lifted up so that I might be saved, and my family, and these good people here we have so come to love. (I forgot to take a gps measurement until we were on our way down from Nebo. It is above 2900 ft., that’s all I know).

Driving around we talked about how we were in Moab, and pointed out plains where they had successful agriculture and called to mind Ruth. We also talked about how Moab had been part of the Kingdom of Israel at times, and read from the Mesha inscription about how King Mesha, from Dibon of Moab, threw off Israelite control. We drove through Dibon, and stopped for a while in Medaba, the first city he battled in. There we had lunch and we went to the Church of St. George, where there are so many beautiful mosaics, including a very important mosaic map of Byzantine Jerusalem.

The Church of St. George at Madaba

Learning about the map mosaic at the church

From there we went to Machaerus, the fortress of Herod where John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded. (2578 ft, N. 31* 44.268, E 035* 46.540) Frank Judd gave a great devotional about John the Baptist there. It was very good, and I think it touched a lot of people. As we drove further south around we also pointed out that we were going into Edom. We arrived at our hotel late. Dinner was good, the room was okay, I was tired, and Tashara and I slept very well.


The deep pit in the big tower At Machaerus. Typically they kept prisoners in the pit in the tower. Could John have spent some time in here?

The next morning we awoke to learn that several of our students were sick. That is bad since we were hiking into Petra, which is probably the coolest day they will have here. Happily they all got better as we went along. Shelby, my little Hawaiian, almost didn’t make it. She had to be helped up to the Treasury/Kazneh/tomb of Aretas IV (that is the real thing it is)/place where Indy found the Holy Grail. I didn’t think she would make it any further. But as we went, she got feeling better and better, until she was running around and hiking around keeping up with all of us. She ended up having a great day. I am so happy for her.

Hiking up towards the Siq/Canyon of the Crescent Moon (it only has that name in the movie

We stopped to sing in a tomb on the way up

Tashara hiking up

In the Siq

First view of the Treasury

The Treasury/Kazneh/Tomb of Aretas IV/place where Indy found the Holy Grail

The Three Musketeers at the Kazneh. Frank Judd, Me, Jeff Chadwick

We moved very, very fast. Our good guide, Odeh, took my suggestion to heart and got us up to the Basin in less than two hours. From there we were able to let everyone go where they wanted. There was enough time left for everyone that they hike to all the major sites if they wanted to. Everyone was able to do whatever they wanted, and had a great time doing it. I think it was the most successful Petra trip ever. The key is moving fast and having free time to explore. Tashara and I hiked to the Monastery (its really a tomb). Then we had lunch, went to the temple of Dushara that was built at the same time and in a similar style to the temple of Herod. We also went to the palace (which is incorrectly labeled the great temple). Then, while Tashara went to the Royal Tombs I went off to the temple of the Winged Lion and the Byzantine church. Finally we all hiked out together. We had an incredible time.

Tashara and I at the Monastery (not really a monastery, just a tomb that got that name later

Temple built by Aretas IV, contemporary with the temple Herod built

The palace at Petra

The Royal Tombs of Petra

Tashara was almost held captive by the Petra guards. No worries, I busted her out. No sweat. (actually we all sweat a fair bit there)

Temple of the Winged Lion

Mosaics from the Byzantine church at Petra

Tashara and Carrie riding their horse out of Petra

For those who are interested, here is the gps info for the places we went: hotel: Entry to site: 3393 ft., N 30* 19.546, 035* 28.043. Siq entry: 3153 ft. Kazneh/Treasury: 2983 ft., N 30* 19.631, E 035* 26.904. Monastery: 3373 ft.. Temple of the Winged Lion 2840 ft., N 30* 19.802, E 035* 26.555. Royal Tombs: 2922 ft., N 30* 19.633, E 035* 26.907.

Once we got on the bus we it did not take us long to arrive at Shobak castle. This is a great place, lots of rooms, tunnels, etc. We searched forever for a particular tunnel which I had been in twice before. We finally found it. We also did other kinds of exploring and had a ton of fun. I gave them part of Aragorn’s speech just before they went to battle at Mordor before we went in, and then we stormed the castle together. What fun.

Getting ready to storm the castle

Fun inside the castle

On the long drive after that we stopped once to see the remains of the ancient Kings’ Highway, mentioned in the Bible and lots of other sources. We even found a little road that went off of it to a Roman Waystation, built to protect the highway. Cool stuff.

Youseef, the other guide, and a great guy, showing us the Kings' Highway

Late at night we got into our hotel in Amman. This time I ended up in the huge suite. We were slotted to share it with the Huntingtons, but they graciously thought that Tashara and Carrie Judd, who so love to be with each other, would like to be in that suite together. So, Frank had one room, I had another, and Tashara and Carrie shared a room. In our suite we had four bathrooms, a washing machine, a full kitchen, a dining room, a front room, a balcony, and tons of space and beautiful furniture. It was nice. We slept well.

The front room in our sweet suite

The dining room in our suite. Behind it you can see the nice kitchen.

The next morning we started out to go to the big mosque there. But the bus was late, we were running behind, and then they wanted all the girls to wear the big black robes that we affectionately call dementor robes. We fought with them about that, lost, and so we didn’t want to lose all the time it would take to get them on and off, so we skipped the mosque. Instead we went to the citadel, which is the site of Biblical Rabbat Ammon, the high place of Ammon, or the capital of the Ammonites, which is where Amman got its name.

Tashara and I at Rabbat Amman

Tashara found herself feeling Herculean as her arm ended in the remains of the hand of Hercules at the Temple of Hercules at Philadelphia, which is the Roman period name for Rabbat Amman

It was Rabbat Amman that David and Joab conquered. It was here that Uriah lost his life. We showed the students the proto-aeolic capital that lies just outside the entrance in a little plant area, clear architectural evidence that Solomon did some building there. We went on a nice little tour, and had a devotional about David and Uriah, stressing how we need to repent quickly instead of falling as David did. It is a sad devotional, and sad to look down on the area where Uriah died due to David’s treachery. But it was a good devotional. It is an important place in the Bible.(2731 ft., N 31* 57.253, E 035* 56.186)

Looking up at the citadel, or Rabbat Amman

The walls of Rabbat Amman

Odeh teaching the students inside the Ummyad Palace at Rabbat Amman

From there we drove to Jerash.

We stopped to see the plant from which the Balm of Gilead was made. We were traveling through Gilead all this day, thinking of the Balm, of Elijah being from there, of the men of Jabesh Gilead who keep showing up in the Bible, and other great stories.

On the way we stopped at the Jabbok river, where I did a devotional for all the students about Jacob wrestling with an angel there. I felt like things really came together well in that devotional, and that the students understood what I was trying to convey to them and were touched. We gave them some time to write in their journals and think there.

The Jabbok River

Tashara and Carrie at the Jabbok River

Tashara and I at the Jabbok

Then we went on to Jerash. Jerash is a Decapolis city from the time of Christ. It is probably Jershon, the place the Book of Abraham tells us was visited by Abraham as he came down to Canaan. Its location and name make it a perfect match for that story. It is a fun place.

The triple gate entry to Jerash

Me half way up the triple gate at Jerash. I tried and tried to figure out how to get the rest of the way up, but didn't. One day, one day.

Downtown Roman Jerash

Again, Odeh moved us through quickly, and then the students were able to do lots of exploring. Jeff Chadwick and I took those who wanted to go with us through the temple of Diana/Artemis, and to the theater, and then some also came to the temple of Zeus there. I loved being with Tashara. For a short time she went with some of her friends and I explored a little on my own. I climbed into places I hadn’t been before, crawled into new places, saw some new things, and had a great time. It couldn’t be better. (2731 ft., N 31* 57.253, E 035* 56.186)

Nymphs at the Nymphaeum

The forum at Jerash

Hmmmm. Two of my students worshiping either another of my students or Diana/Aretemis. Sometimes its better not to ask questions.

Hmmmm. I found two of my students, holding hands across an altar in a holy of holies, but it was in the Artemis/Diana temple. Not sure I want to know more about that.

Sara Siddoway the Seasider learned how to make sand art while waiting in the shops of Jerash. She made the bottle she is holding. Very cool!

We got back to Amman pretty early. Frank and I took Tashara and Carrie to an area we had been before. But it was pretty plain and boring. The sad fact is that there isn’t a lot of excitement in Amman, and the students end up being pretty bored by the time they are all done. Ah well. We shopped, had ice cream, and got back for dinner. I thought I might go to bed early, but something much better happened. We showed a few students our nice suite, and a bunch of them ended up staying to visit. I love visiting with them, and it was a highlight of the trip to sit in our front room and visit with them for several hours. I have also loved our bus time. Rides that have typically seemed very long went very fast because I was so busy visiting with the students and talking about all sorts of things. It was a great trip that way. These are such great people, and I love being around them.

Tashara on the bus

The next morning we went to the big, big theater there in Amman (at that time named Philadelphia). It is an amazing place. When you stand in the sweet spot there and say something you can hear yourself in dolby surround sound. The acoustics are really a bit freaky. But it is cool. We sang there, and had a wonderful time.

The theater in Amman

Tashara and Ray Huntington looking down from the top of the theater

Then we took the students on a walk through Amman’s down town. We saw a nice mosque, and did some shopping. We kept it very structured, and it went well.

The mosque in downtown Amman. The moon is barely visible behind it.

You never know what you mind find for sale on the streets of Amman. Here are ducks, turtles, chickens, rabbits, geese, and more

Radioactive chicks for sale on the streets of Amman

I already said it. You really never know what you will find for sale on the streets of Amman.

From there we went to the traditional baptismal site on the Jordan River. It was great to look across to where Alexia had been baptized. I talked about that during my little devotional, and about how lucky we are to have the Savior set the example for us, and to have that real and powerful ordinance available to us. I am so grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ, and his willingness to come to earth and condescend to set the example for us. As we sang a primary song about baptism, and I was just going to give them free time, it seemed to me that we should let some people have a moment to bear their testimonies. Several did, and it ended up being a very nice moment. This was a powerful place. I especially enjoyed being there with Tashara. She is such a great girl is so many ways. She is really a special girl.

Looking across the Jordan to the spot where Alexia was baptized

The border crossing went more quickly than ever, and we got back in good time. It was so good to see the rest of the family. They are a wonderful bunch. Julianne does so much for them, and I think they don’t really realize it. But it is always a blessing to be back with them.

We had class the next morning. Two hours of it! We did Ezekiel, and I think it went better than ever before. I feel the Lord really directed me in what to say and talk about. Beautiful. I had a ton to do, and I am not sure I got it all done. But I tried. Lately I have done a lot of visiting one on one with students who are struggling with this or that, or have questions about this and that. Each time I am overwhelmed with how much the Lord loves these students. They are amazing people, and the Lord loves them. Giving them a blessing gives me incredible glimpses into how he feels about them and how amazing they are. It is a privilege.

When I got home I learned that the email announcement from the college had been made. My colleagues now know that I am the new associate chair for Ancient Scripture. I feel very awkward about it. I am happy to serve, but worried about my ability to do it well. I worry about the time it will take away from other things, especially my family. I worry about its impact on my pride, and hope I will just do things with pure intent. I don’t know how to respond when people tell me congratulations, and I don’t like the attention, I am very uncomfortable with it. But this too shall pass.

Sabbath was different but fun. First I was surprised to learn that they will make me the first counselor, and we won’t have a second counselor until I leave. That will be interesting. Second, Ashley, one of our most wonderful students from the first semester, was in church. She is here for a two month Ulpan (intensive Hebrew) program. So, after church she came to our house for dinner. We then visited with her until it was time to skype, and then for Julianne’s visiting teachers to come. Before they left some students had come by to play games. Before they left Frank Judd came by so that he and I could do tithing together. By the time that was over it was time to take care of just a few things and go to bed. No breaks, a few surprises, but one great day with so many great people.