Saturday, January 9, 2016

Here we go again!

What a week! On Sunday (remember that here we celebrate Sabbath on Saturday) we worked on getting the kids ready for school. I also spent a bit of time cleaning and organizing in the house. Kaleb and I spent many hours working on his big school project of making a lego stop motion picture. We took several hundred pictures. It was fun to work with him, though I was quite tired.

The next day we got the kids up and got them ready for school. After several weeks of going to bed later and sleeping in, it was really hard for them to get up on time and get going again. It was a hard morning, but still, off they went. Then Julianne and I worked on things we needed to. I spent a lot of time trying to coordinate things to make it so that the calendar worked better for the students. It took way too much time, but I got a lot done. When Kaleb got home from school we worked again on his movie. Then we went out with the service couples, etc., to celebrate Joyce and Susanne’s birthdays. It was a nice time. When I got back we met as a Branch Presidency to start issuing callings. There were a number of times I felt like we were really directed by the Lord. This is going to be a great bunch of callings and opportunities for service.

The next day the kids still struggled with going to school, but off they went. We met up with everyone else at the JC and went on a walk to get everyone ready for taking the students on the orientation walk. It was so delightful to have Andy Skinner with us. He taught me some things I had never known before. He is so fun, and he did a great job of helping me learn. Somewhere along the line something finally clicked for me, and I started getting the layout of streets in the Old City better. After a long time of trying, I think that suddenly I can find my way around pretty well in there. It is exciting. It was a wonderful walk.
When we were done most people went home, but Phil, Jennifer and Julianne and I stayed out to do some exploring. We walked around and enjoyed various things. 

A Coptic procession we saw as we walked around

We had Lina’s hummus and pita, which I think is so incredible. Then we went to the Ecole Biblique, which I have always wanted to go to. 

Phil and I at the Ecole Biblique

Inside the chapel at the Ecole Biblique

It was nice. As we walked along we found that the Muslim cemetery above the Protestant Golgotha was open. So we went up. That was another place I have always wanted to go. It is a huge cemetery. 

Looking down at the Garden Tomb complex from up on top of Golgothat

Jul and Jennifer in the Muslim cemetery that is on top of Calvary/Golgothat

It goes on and on. Up there somewhere are some 1st century tombs that are pretty good candidates for being the tomb of Christ, but they are all covered over now. Phil and I had a great time exploring and getting around to find views of Golgotha from up there. I also set a cinderblock on the wall so that I can see how long it stays there. We had a fine adventure.
Looking at Golgotha from up on part of the Muslim Cemeter
We got back just in time for hours of meetings that were important, but that conveyed information that could have been conveyed in about half the time. Ah well, that is the nature of meetings. When that was done we hurried down to help our kids. They wanted to tell everyone thank you for being so nice to them, so we made a big breakfast-dinner for all of them. I helped them cook it and bring it all up. Then we let them serve us as we ate. They did a great job, and it was a nice evening for everyone. I think everyone was touched.

After that I stayed up late helping Kaleb finish his movie. I think it turned out pretty well. At the dinner the kids made they gave us parfait, and it was so good but I forgot to take a lactose pill with it, so I got sick during the night. I really didn’t feel well. Additionally, BJ started texting me about losing his wallet. It had all the cash in it we had given him to help him get by. He also has no way of getting cash so he can’t go to the doctor or get a coat to replace the one he lost, or anything like that. And someone may have his debit card. It is a bit stressful, and I worked on it for a while. As a result of that and being sick, I only got about four hours sleep. Too bad.

That morning we went out on a field trip prep. We went to some of the same sites so that Andy could feel comfortable with them. We also went to a new site, Ramat Rachel. I have seen it a thousand times but have never been there. There are some great ruins there from a Judean palace. It was clearly a large building. It was quite fun.

The edge of the Judean royal palace at Ramat Rachel

Replica of a proto-Aeolic capital found as the palace was excavated

We got back with just an hour to get ready to go get the students. Off we went. They got in 50 minutes early, and only took about 25 minutes to go through customs, get their luggage, and get out to us. I have never seen it go so smoothly or quickly. We got them back to the JC quickly. By the end of the bus ride I could already tell this is a special group. We are going to have a great semester. But there are so many, I am struggling with getting to know their names. We did call aside four people that night and issue callings, and ask them to be ready to teach on Sabbath, just a few days later.

My meeting in class with the students went really well. It is going to be a great semester!

The next morning we got the kids off and got ready and took the students on the orientation walk. I led the way, and it was a lot of fun. I think this is the best I have ever done. I think I did a better job than ever of helping them understand just enough history of the place, of helping them get that feel of “oh wow, I can’t believe I am in the place where that happened!”, and of helping them find their way around. We used some maps, etc. I enjoyed being able to set the pace, and I had a wonderful time. I think the students did as well. We had dinner afterwards with them and I got a feel for how much they all loved the walk. It was a fine, fine morning, with perfect weather, and wonderful things accomplished.
The afternoon and evening were spent in going to meetings I didn’t need to go to but was required to go to. Mid-level bureaucrats love their meetings. It was boring, but I survived.

On their first full night here there was the most gorgeous of sunsets over Jerusalem

The sunset cast a beautiful pink on the Mount of Olives

That evening we all had dinner with the students, and then we went to a get-to-know-you game. I am really struggling with getting to know names, but it is coming along. The games were useful. I am enjoying myself.
BJ has still been struggling with not having his wallet. We started moving towards getting him all new stuff and just figuring out what to do with that money being gone. We prayed as a family that he would find it. Suddenly we got a call, and learned that BJ’s wallet had been found, with all the money in it. It was a happy day!

Friday I did my first day of class. It went so very, very well. I loved going over the Abrahamic Covenant with my students, and a day later I keep getting them coming up to me and telling me how much they enjoyed it. I felt like it went very well.

When the kids got home we worked on some things together. Then we watched a Star Wars movie together. I kept falling asleep. Then my mom called. They are really struggling. I am so sad about that. We had dinner, and I got ready, and went upstairs to meet with students. We extended a whole bunch of callings to them. Then we met together and decided on a whole bunch of new callings. I updated our list of callings, made a list for interviews, posted it, called a few more people, created a Family Home Evening group list, did a few other church things, and finally fell asleep at 11 pm. I woke up at 7, did more church business, got ready, then went upstairs and issued more callings until church started. I conducted today, and we sustained over 40 people in church. We have been busy. Then I went down and ran the primary since our primary president is sick and everyone else is new. But it went super well. Watching those teachers with those kids I could tell how inspired it was to have those people in those positions. They will bless the lives of those kids, and it is clear how much God knows what he is doing.

After that I ate a very quick lunch, and we took the students to the Garden Tomb. It went really well. It is a special place and it is so easy to feel the spirit there. We had a wonderful time. I am very grateful to have opportunities to do that. It was also fun to look up at Golgotha and see the cinder block that I put there five days ago. It is still there. I will have fun over the years seeing how long it can stay there.

Walking to the Garden Tomb

Listening and learning at the Garden Tomb

On a corner of the wall you can see the cinder block I put there to help me figure out where I was standing and as a way to remind me of my visit there
Finally I got to walk home, enjoying my visit with this special group as we went, and then I was able to visit with my family. I am blessed to have a wonderful family. I can’t believe all the wonderful things we get to do here. We are blessed!

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