Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas, baptism, and so much more!

Wow, so much has happened. On the 20th, we went to Beth Shemesh and talked about the Samson story. I showed my family and the Chappell’s some excavations they haven’t seen before, and we explored a huge cistern I have never seen before. Then we went to Azekah, where we explored the excavation dump and found a few stones I think were probably sling stones from the Assyrian siege of Azekah. We had a great time at the site and reviewed the David and Goliath story once again. From there we went down to the Elah Valley, and slung stones and had a great time. Then we went over the rest of the David and Goliath story, and I think it really came to life for them.

We hurried back in time for Julianne to go with the Smiths and pick up BJ from the airport. I took the Chappells out to the Western Wall and they enjoyed seeing that place. Julianne and BJ beat us back by a little ways. It was fun to get him back and visit with him. He was tired out of his mind. It was good to see him again. He really just wanted to go to sleep, so we let him.

The next day we got up pretty early and went to the Dome of the Rock. It is always an incredible place to go. A Jewish group came up there while we were there, and the folks up on top did a lot of chanting of Allah Akbar (God is Great) for quite a while. It was a bit tense, but not too terrible. Then we went down into the Old City and did a few fun things and then the Chappells left for Tel Aviv to get their visas for Jordan. We took BJ around to various places in the Old City and let him choose where we would go. It was fun to see him enjoying being at these places again.

The next morning we left for Galilee. The Fellows came with us because it was also a seminary field trip. Our first stop was Bet Sha’an. I think everyone had a really good time going through the ruins there, and I think I was also able to give them a good feel for the geography of the place and why it was so important and so on. It was fun to see my kids teach the Chappell kids a bit. It is fun to see what they remember. Jacob wanted to take them to see the ancient toilets. Kaleb was able to point out which stones were restoration stones and which were truly ancient. They all knew something about the place. It makes me happy.

From there we went to Ein Harod, a place I have never been before. This is the spring where Gideon had his men drink from the water and the way they drank whittled them down to just 300 men. We re-enacted the story there, and even had little pots for them to break as they shouted and broke the pots. Sitting in that spot and being able to point out the various places where these things happened really made the story come to life. Everyone had a great time, and I think everyone will always remember it. I loved it, I couldn’t get enough. We also went over the story of the death of Saul and Johnathan a little more, adding it to what we had already gone over at Bet Sha’an. What fun!

Our Family drinking from the spring at Ein Harod just like Gideon's army

The Youth with their pots to break at Ein Harod as we reenacted the Gideon story

Then we went to Megiddo. That place is huge and can become a time sucker, and kids can get bored and become very done with it very quickly. We determined to just do it quickly. I think I gave them some real highlights but did not take too long, and in the end I felt like it went spectacularly well. I was really, really happy with it. I think everyone liked the site and learned.

The whole group fighting in the gates of Megiddo
From there we went to Mount Tabor. We went over the Deborah and Barak story, and I think it made more sense to them and made things come to life for them. We also went over the Mount of Transfiguration, which is always wonderful.

We saw a fox at Mount Tabor

We enjoyed worshiping in the church at Mount Tabor
From there we hurried to Nazareth. We got there not too long before it was going to close. A big group was in doing mass, so we went to other parts of the church and had some wonderful moments talking about Mary and Joseph and Jesus. Then we were able to get into the main part of the church as the mass ended. All in all, I think we had a nice time. 

All the girls of the group in front of the statue of Mary at the Church of the Annunciation
The Fellows left and we hurried on to Tiberias.

We got to the church building, where the Hopkins welcomed us. They had an incredible meal waiting for us, and we had a delightful time visiting with them. They were amazing hosts, and made us feel so loved and welcomed. They are such wonderful people. We had a great night with them, and snuggled in, and all slept well.

Julianne woke me up to watch the sun rise the next morning. It was very nice. Then we got all ready and went to Magdala. It was the first time for any of them to be there except Jacob and Sabrina and I. It is so touching to be in a synagogue where I am sure Jesus taught. It is so wonderful to picture the things he did there. I am so grateful for the ministry of our Savior. We are all so blessed by it!

My family at the synagoge at Magdala
Then went to meet our little boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. It was a little boat that could just barely fit us all in. It has an electronic motor, which made it quiet. They let Jacob steer, and most people were able to put their feet in the water as we went (Jacob and Sabrina weren’t tall enough). Kaleb cast a line in and was fishing. Oddly enough, he caught a seagull. We were able to get the hook out of the gull’s beak without hurting it, and it took off and was fine. We went over stories from the Sea of Galilee together. Wayne taught us about the calming of the waters. He talked about the need to leave the shore, but the inherent dangers in leaving the shore, and compared that to our need to leave God and come here, but the obstacles we encounter here. Then he tied it all together in pointing out our need to have Christ in our boat as we move along, because only he can guarantee that we won’t capsize. It was a great teaching moment. We sang and had some touching times, and then some more fun times. The person who was with us on the boat was incredible, and I really appreciate him. Doing this little boat is the perfect way to go.

The little boat we were on at Galilee
The group with their feet in the water

When we accidentally caught a seagull

The seagull was okay and we let him go
From there we went to the Mount of Beatitudes, and had a nice time there picturing how much Christ loves us and how he teaches us how to return to him. Then we went to Tabgha, but it was closed as they prepared for Christmas. Instead we went to their guesthouse and had a great lunch. It is a wonderful, quaint little place that I would love to stay at some time. Then we went to Saint Peter’s Primacy and had a delightful time talking about the Savior’s visit with Peter after his resurrection. Again it is wonderful to see how the stories come to life for our kids. The scriptures are so real and so powerful.

lunch at the Tabgha Guesthouse
Then we went to Capernaum. On our way in we stopped at the Bay of Parables. There we had a perfect little baptismal service for Jacob. We cleaned the beach a little and took some pictures. Then we sang, and Julianne gave the perfect talk on baptism and the Holy Ghost. She tied together all the things we had done that day and tied them into baptism in a perfect. She talked about how we had been following in Jesus’ path that day, and talked about some of the things we had learned, and then pointed out that Jacob was literally and spiritually and symbolically following Jesus’ path all the more by being baptized. He was being baptized in a place I am sure the Savior and his Apostles performed baptisms. As she spoke about the Holy Ghost a little sparrow flitted around behind her. It was peaceful and it was perfect and I will never forget it.

Then BJ and Jacob walked into the water (they said it was a bit cold). They did not have to go out very far to be deep enough. Wayne and I were able to see and hear perfectly from the water’s edge, and I think everyone had a good view. BJ performed the baptism perfectly, and Jacob did it just right too. I am so proud of him. He has entered into a covenant to serve God, and I think he really understands it. I think he really wants to serve God, and loves God, and knows what he is doing. I am so proud of him and so happy for him. It was a wonderful moment.

Jacob and BJ just before Jacob's baptism, next to Capernaum

Our family just before Jacob's baptism at the Bay of Parables

Jacob and BJ walking out into the Sea of Galilee for Jacob's baptism

Jacob and BJ hugging after the baptism

Sabrina taking care of cold Jacob after his baptism
We let BJ and Jacob change, and then we went into Capernaum. I love Capernaum!!! There we went over the Bread of Life Sermon. Then we went to Peter’s house and talked about the Savior spending so much time in Capernaum and how I am so grateful that Peter loved and provided for Christ as he did. It is so touching to be where he spent so much time. I love it, and I think everyone felt it. Then we walked through some of the miracles that happened in Capernaum, using Matthew 9 for our guide. It is incredible to think about what the Savior did! I think we were all moved by the scriptural account. I am so grateful for the life of Christ, for the scriptures that bear witness of it, and for the places that bear witness of him.

We went around to the shoreside of Capernaum. There we spoke of a few stories that happened there, such as of calling the Apostles to be fishers of men, or of the fish with the coin in its mouth. And Jacob saw a place under a tree that seemed to him to be the right place for his confirmation. So we gathered under a tree at Capernaum, the Savior’s city as Matthew put it, and we sang a song and I spoke a little bit about the Holy Ghost, and we confirmed Jacob a member of the church and gave him the gift of the Holy Ghost. He was promised that God had many things in store for him, and that much of it depended on his listening to the promptings of the Spirit. He was told that these promptings would come, and that the more he acted on them the more they would come, and the more he would recognize them, and the more guided his life would be, and the more joy he would have. It was a wonderful blessing, and he is a wonderful boy who will bless the lives of so many people. It was a supernal time at Capernaum for us. Then we went home, after two of the most incredible days anyone could ever ask for.

Jacob and BJ and I just after confirming Jacob
The next day was Christmas Eve. We got up, got ready, the Allreds joined us, and we drove to the border crossing and then walked through to Bethlehem. The place was clean and fairly empty. We walked quite a ways and then we ran into the parade. It had started earlier than we had been told. But we ended up in a decent place to watch it (though there were some parts we didn’t see). We just rolled with the punches and had a great time watching, eating lunch, etc.

Watching the Bethlehem Christmas Eve Parade
Then we walked to Manger Square. There was hardly anyone in the Church of the Nativity, so I took the Chappells there. Then we split up and did some shopping. Finally we walked the couple miles back out of Bethlehem. The kids complained about the walking a bit, but I think it is great to walk in Bethlehem the same way Joseph and Mary would have so many years ago. It made Christmas Eve more meaningful for me.

We drove to our Shepherd’s Field, where we have the perfect view of Bethlehem. A shepherd was taking his sheep through as we came in. We went to the sheepfold, then down to look at the watchtowers, then sat down and sang Christmas hymns and read the story together. It grew dark and we saw stars and could see over into Bethlehem by the light of an amazing full moon. It was perfect. You could not ask for a more perfect Christmas Eve.

A shepherd at Sheperd's field

Singing Christmas hymns at Shepherd's Field on Christmas Eve

When we got back we all got together, including the Joneses, and we had a nice dinner. Then our kids got their Christmas Pajamas, and we sent them to bed, and did our Christmas things, and it was a great day. I was able to think of the birth of Christ so much today. I am so grateful!

Christmas morning the kids slept in longer than I thought they would. We got all the Muhlestein and Chappell kids together and went and had a delightful Christmas morning. The kids were so wonderful. They made so many of their gifts, and I am amazed at the creativity and work that went into it. We also made a great breakfast together. What a delightful time.

Christmas morning

The kids loves what they got from each other.

Then we went to the City of David. There we went over the history of the place, and in the spot where it would have happened we read the Immanuel prophecy, which was perfect on a Christmas day. We had a wonderful time doing Hezekiah’s tunnel. We had a wonderful time doing the Pool of Siloam. Then I came home with my kids while Julianne took the Chappells to do some more in the Old City. That evening we met with the Allreds and Fellows, and we all went to see the new Star Wars movie together. It was very fun. I made sure to spend a little time tonight thinking of the gift of Christ. It was a nice day.

Church the next day was great. We had a sacrament meeting that consisted of just various people talking about hymns that touched them and then singing those hymns. It was a wonderful way to worship. Later that day I went with the Chappells (and BJ and Tashara, who I was delighted chose to come with us) to Gethsemane, where I think we were really able to think about how Christ suffered for our sins. Then we went up to the Upper Room and had some great moments talking about the washing of the feet, the institution of the Sacrament, and the wonderful teachings that happened there. Then we went to Saint Peter in Gallicantu, where we talked about the trial of Christ before the Sanhedrin, and spent even more time talking about the atonement. I was touched, again, thinking about it. I am amazed at what he did and the power of it in our lives. Then we went to look at the stairs the Savior walked up and down as he went to and from Gethsemane. That is always moving as well. From there we went to the Garden Tomb, which is such a wonderful place as well. In all these places the Spirit bears witness of the reality of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. It is real! It saves us!

There was some unrest in the Old City, and it spread a little. Security told us we could not go to Jericho the next day, which was our planned field trip. Ah well. So my family stayed and played and did go karts. I took the Chappells to Wadi Qelt, where we did the story of Elijah and the Good Samaritan. Then we went to Qumran and talked about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Then we went to Ein Gedi and did the beautiful hike, went over some of the David story and some of the Book of Mormon story. The scriptures are so real! Then we swam in the Dead Sea. It was a fun, filled day.

The next day we got up early and the adults went to the Holy Sepulchre. That is always a meaningful place. Any further opportunity to think about the reality and power of the death and resurrection of our Savior, our God, is momentous and wonderful. From there we also went to the Church of the Flagellation, and to Saint Anne’s where we met with Father Peter again, did some wonderful singing, and viewed the Pool of Bethesda. On the whole it was a great time.
We rushed home and we all got ready and then went to our dune buggy appointment. We were able to drive dune buggies in rough terrain throughout some of the Judean Hillside. We went along Emek Ephraim and through some of the Aminadav forest. It was a ton of fun, and at the same time we got a real feel for the Judean Countryside as well. It was an intense, memorable experience. I am so glad we did it!

Sabrina and Eliza with the guide

BJ and Jacob in their dune buggy

Alexia and I in our dune buggy

driving past Emek Ephraim
That evening we spent much of the evening at Omars, buying olive wood stuff. Not much fun, but it is okay. Omar is always good to us. Then the Chappells packed. It is hard to believe the time is already almost over.

The next day we kind of moved back into our apartment as the Chappells got ready to leave. Then we saw them off. We went to a cool museum called the Friends of Zion museum. We also got a whopping parking ticket while there. We thought we had been in an okay spot, but weren’t sure, so after we all got into the museum Julianne ran back out to move it, found a woman about to write a ticket, and couldn’t talk her out of it. Ah well.

We spent the rest of the day working on the house, and then we watched some movies. We are tired, but have so many memories and are so happy. 


  1. Shalom Kerry, I always love seeing what you guys are up to! What wonderful experiences. Will you still be there for winter semester? There are two sisters from my ward coming as students, the Bangerter girls (Brittney and Courtney). Their mom was a student in Jerusalem in 1988, so they're excited. Keep an eye out for them :-) Lehit! Anita

  2. Finally catching up on your blog! So great to see what you all are up to. Love the baptism pics and wish we could've been there! It'll be good to see BJ sometime soon. Thx for sharing.