Saturday, January 16, 2016

Good and tough

What a week, good and tough. The week started out with a day of cleaning, getting ready for other things, working on homework with the kids, etc. The next day Kaleb finally got clearance from the doctor that his ankle is healed and he can have full use of his foot again. That was exciting. The kids left for school and Julianne and I left for our field trip with the students. 
My class on the bus on our first field trip
The first field trip of the semester is always exciting. We went first to Augusta Victoria. The person that opens the church was not there, so we hung out for a while and I taught them about the geography of the Holy Land until we finally got someone to come and open it up. Then we had a great time teaching about the church, and then we climbed the tower. It was a beautiful, clear day. We could see all the way to Amman, and all the way to Bethel. It was the best visibility I have ever had. I think the students got a good idea of what they were looking at.

My class in the church of Augusta Victoria

From there we went to the 7 Arches Hotel overlook. There we showed them where the City of David was, and how the valleys of the area formed the city and where the spring was. I think they got the basics of it. Then we went to an overlook that is nice. It isn’t significant, and they don’t get a tremendous amount out of it, but it is nice enough. From there we went to Mar Elias. It is next to the separation wall, and from the hill there you can see both Jerusalem and Bethlehem. It was still clear, so we could see over into Jordan, or ancient Moab.

We talked about Ruth coming across the way from there to Bethlehem, and helped them picture the terraced hills she would have gleaned in. We talked about David being crowned king in Bethlehem. And, of course, we spoke of the birth of the Savior. David Whitchurch bore a very nice, powerful testimony of Christ there. It was quite nice. I talked about Rachel’s tomb and tried to help them feel how Rachel is their mother, and to feel a connection with the people and the place. I told them they were in the place of their ancestors, and that as we read the scriptures together we were doing our family history. I think it struck them, I think they were moved. We gave them time to think and write and ponder for a while.

My students spreading out to ponder while looking over Bethlehem
When we had gotten to that hill it was quite warm, too hot for anything but short sleeves. But suddenly a cold wind came in, and within a minute or two the temperature dropped ten degrees or more. Crazy.

My class with the storm moving in and Bethlehem behind them
From there we went to Nebi Samwil. We taught them about the stratigraphy of archaeology, and showed them a place where you can see structures from the time of the kings of Judah, from the time of the Greek rulers, and from the Roman era. On top of that was crusader structures. I also gave them a little primer on the crusades. 

Then David taught them a bit about the crusader structures there. There really are some cool things. We then went up on the roof of the combination mosque/synagogue. The clouds had sent in a little, so we couldn’t see to Bethel or the Hills of Ephraim. Still we could see enough to give them an idea of where it was, and we talked to them about that being their homeland, the place of their ancestors. I welcomed them home.  We also looked over to Gibeah, and I went over the various stories of Saul, David and Johnathan that took place there. I think they were really feeling the reality of the scriptures and the power of the land. I think they were feeling connected in a way they have never felt before. It was going really well.

We went down to look over Gibeon. I had already pointed out where Jericho and Gilgal would have been from on top, so as we looked at Gibeon we were able to go through the story of Joshua 10, where Joshua marched all night with Israel up to fight the Canaanites outside of Gibeon. From there the Canaanites were struck by hailstones as they fled along the Bet Horon ridge, which we could see from there. Then Joshua commanded the sun and moon to stand still, and they did, so that he could continue to defeat these Canaanites before they could retreat behind the walls of their cities. I impressed upon them the miracles of the stories we were going through and how those amazing miracles happened right where we were looking. I was passionate, and I think they were feeling it. We were all caught up in the moment, and taken by the place.

Then I turned the time over to David Whitchurch. He had them all come over from where they could see the place we were talking about, and sit down, and then talked to them about how he once met the Papal Annuncio. He acknowledge that it had nothing to do with anything there, and that he just wanted to tell them about himself. He went on for a while about how neat it was that he did that, and showed them the little commemorative coin he had gotten and had them pass it around. The amazing moment we were having was dead and gone. Ah well. He tried to bring it back a bit by finally getting around to the scriptural story of Solomon receiving wisdom.


Then we went to the synagogue, and had a nice experience there. On the way home the students asked questions the whole way. This is a very, very inquisitive group. They really, really want to know stuff. They asked me for fifteen or twenty minutes questions about Gibeah. Clearly they would like to have gone. 

All in all it was a great field trip, really great! There was one downside. While we were at Mar Elias we got a call from the kids’ school. Alexia had hurt her arm, and they though it was broken. Ah well, we had four hours with no injuries in our family. 

We took Alexia to see the doctor here at the center. He checked it out and told us he was sure it was broken. So he and Alexia and I took off to buy her a brace. We drove out a long ways, and then there was no parking. So I dropped them off, told them I would find a place to hang out, and would call and let them know where I was. I found a place, and called, and found out that he had left his phone in the car. And they had a hard time finding anything that would work, so they took over half an hour. I kept driving around looking for them, but I didn’t actually know where they were. Eventually Alexia saw me and yelled loud enough for me to hear, and we were able to come home, but without a brace for her arm. Sad.

The next day I got to teach class again. It was only the second time, yet it seems like we have been together forever. I taught a lesson that finished up understanding what the Abrahamic Covenant is and why it is important and how it affects us. Then we did a lesson on Abrahamic sacrifices and what they are and why they are important and why we have to go through them. It was a really wonderful lesson to be a part of. These students are great!

We left right from the lessons to downtown Jerusalem to go to the Brit for Ophir’s new son. Everyone else was already there, but Phil and I went late because we had to teach. We had an adventure finding a place to park, but made it in to see much of it. We had a wonderful time visiting afterwards. Ophir and his wife Sarah spoke after a while and talked about why they chose the name Isaiah for their son, and they touched me deeply. It was a wonderful ceremony and experience. 

Ophir, Sarah and kids singing songs of joy after the Brit
Julianne and I ran out and found a gift for the baby. Then we found a brace for Alexia. Then we finally came home. We had more meetings. We had some nice time together as a family. Then we had a branch presidency meeting, and extended some more callings, and we prayed and found out more of whom the Lord wanted to call to various church positions. It is amazing to me how much He is involved, and how often we find little confirmations about how much the Lord is at the helm. It is a great experience.

The bad news is that I was starting to feel quite sick. Lots of people are getting very sick, and I could tell I was getting it. I had terrible aches and chills and felt terrible. I slept horribly, but could feel the fever break during the night. The next morning I felt worn out, but largely over it and ready to go. That is fortunate since most people have had this for days.

Despite feeling worn out, I was able to do two lessons on Jacob. The students want so much to learn, and are having such a great experience in their learning. I so love being in class with them. I came down and took a long nap. It helped me feel a lot better. I had a lot of fun with the kids when they got home, and also worked with them about homework a lot. Kaleb is really struggling with doing homework right now. We are working with him on this, and hopefully making some progress.

I ended up having to stay up until midnight because at 10 pm I had a skype meeting with the SSEA in Toronto. I didn’t contribute a lot to that meeting, but I got some stuff done during that time, and I was glad to be a part of it and glad that they know I am supporting them. It did make me tired.

The next day was a fun day in class as we went through the story of Joseph. Such great material, such powerful teaching. I am loving the class here. Immediately after that we were supposed to leave on a Faculty Field Trip Prep. Instead we had a meeting and learned that we are postponing our trip to Egypt. It turns out that we were going to be there during the five year anniversary of the revolution, and there are a lot of serious protests planned for that time, and it is not a good idea to be there during such things. So we are going to try to go to Jordan during that time, and hopefully go to Egypt in March when we were planning on going to Jordan. It is disappointing, but wise. I think it will all work out.

Finally we left on our trip. All the wives came too. We drove down to Beer Sheva and spent quite a bit of time looking for the new location of the weaving center. They have moved, and they don’t look ready for us. We will hope that they get ready by Monday.

Andy Skinner at Arad
Then we went to Arad and looked around and got Andy feeling all ready for going to that site. I have to say how much I enjoy having Andy around. He is a true gentleman and scholar and just a delight to be with. I love being with him. Phil and I explored the Canaanite complex together and had so much fun. He is so enjoyable and I love every minute I spend with him. I am blessed to be with such good people.

Then we had a lunch. We went to McDonalds to be fast, but then we sit and eat and take forever. When we finished we realized we did not have enough time to go to Ashkelon, which is what most of us were looking forward to going to. But we did have time to go to Gerar, a place that Isaac spent some time. It is pretty rough terrain, and we got there just as the sun was setting. We drove around a bit and had a decent time enjoying the beauty of the place, but couldn’t explore too much. The first poppies of the year were out there, and it was quite nice. Then we tried to leave taking a new route out. The GPS unit told us to go one way, and it ended up being on really rough, dirt roads. We had an adventure getting out of there on crazy dirt roads, but we made it. We got home late and helped the kids do what they needed.

Canaanite temple at Arad.

Gerar, where Isaac spent time

Panorama of Gerar area, where Isaac spent some time

The next day was another great class. We did the Exodus, and I feel like it went really, really well. I also attended Andy’s class, because he is teaching about Egypt and I will also do some teaching about Egypt, so it is useful for me to know what he has done. I got some other stuff done, and eventually was able to go meet with someone, who wanted to meet with me.

I won’t go into all the details, but to make a long story short, due to someone's bad memory I was unjustly accused. Not fun, but it is life.

I have since had a lot of time to think things over. I cannot decide what I should do now. I do not want to escalate things, and I do not want to hold a grudge, and I do not want to react the wrong way. I don’t want this to become a bigger deal. At the same time, if the misperception is not cleared up, it could come and cause me problems again. I keep praying and thinking and trying to figure out what to do. I don’t know yet, and I haven’t been able to talk to Julianne yet.

Instead we worked with Kaleb on his homework. We had to have a great big talk with Kaleb about how he needs to do his homework. He talked to us about how nutty some of the teachers are, and how they often act the wrong way and that he hates working with them and doesn’t think it is worth doing the work they assign him. I can remember very clearly having some teachers I thought were complete idiots and didn’t know what they were doing. We explained to Kaleb that he would spend his whole life having to every now and then work with people who are not fully competent and who are very difficult to work with, but that he just needs to learn to get along with them and do what needs to be done. It was like I was giving a lecture to myself about the situation I am in right now. It was good for me.

When we were done with that Phil and I led the students to the Western Wall. My family decided not to come. My family is not very engaged right now. They all hate their school, a lot. They aren’t feeling motivation to do anything with the students to get much out of the program. They are having a tough time right now. I wish they had felt like going to the wall, but it wasn’t a good idea to make them. Fortunately Julianne and I had a great time, and I think the students loved it and got a lot out of it. They were impressed with how much the Jews look forward to the Sabbath and love to welcome it in. It was a good experience.

After that I went up and we extended a lot of callings, and decided on some more callings. It is a tiring, but great experience. We are very close to finishing the whole thing. It is a blessing to be a part of.

I was able to watch a movie with the kids and Julianne. It was a nice evening. I was feeling pretty at peace with things and not too worried about the garbage I am going through with unjust accusations. Still I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and couldn’t sleep forever. So I finally took a sleeping pill and got about six hours of rest.

The next morning I had a nice time with Julianne and the kids. I then went up and extended some more callings. In the last week and a half we have issued 75 callings. It is a wonderful thing.

Church was very nice. I spent much of it instructing people about what they were doing in their callings. During priesthood I read a quote from President Hunter that talked about how sometimes we are unjustly accused and our motives are unfairly maligned, and that we need to handle it as Christ does. It seemed again like I was being spoken to. I feel without malice about it, but still am not sure what I should do.

Then we spent an hour or more setting people apart, which is a great, great experience. I love the direction the Lord has for people. I hope, truly hope that I am doing the Lord’s will. I feel so directed as I do blessings, though I am often amazed at how much the blessings are similar.

We played some games as a family and had a lot of nice family time together. It has been a very pleasant day. I hope I can talk to Julianne about things soon and that I can find direction from the Lord about how to resolve this soon. I also keep praying to know how to make things work out for my kids. In some ways things are wonderful, but also we are so blessed. They always find joy when they have fun with each other. Sometimes life is tough, but wonderful at the same time. It is only really tough when things are rough at home.

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