Saturday, July 2, 2016

Jordan with those I love

Sabbath last week was nice. We just spent a lot of time together as a family. We had some nice gospel discussions, and together we planned out how we would do things together as a family. All in all it was a wonderful day.

The next day we just got lots of things done to get ready to go to Jordan, and I worked a bit also. We mostly just got everything squared away for Tashara to be able to take care of Jacob and Sabrina while we were gone. Tashara was able to spend the day with her good friend, Eliana.

Kaleb, Alexia, Julianne and I left early Monday morning for the trip to Jordan. It took a bit to cross over the borders, but we eventually made it. Then we went to Mount Nebo. I tried to help everyone there picture Moses renewing covenants with the Children of Israel before he left them to go into the Promised Land without him. The importance of making and keeping covenants as a group and as individuals is something I really hope I can get them to understand. I think it went fairly well. This is actually my first field trip with this group, and that was my first thought with them on a field trip. I hope it helped them.

The Plains of Moab as seen from Nebo. It was here that Moses said goodbye to the Children of Israel who were camped below
My class on Mount Nebo
My class on our first field trip
From there we went to Madaba. On the way I read to them about how the Israelites came into that area and how they conquered Madaba from Sihon. I tried to give them a real feel for how much Jordan is also part of the Holy Land, and how many Biblical stories took place there. I think they were getting it a bit, but they were also so very, very tired. They were falling asleep within seconds of getting on the bus, and it was a bit hard to teach them that way.

I was having a good time. The guide I got to work with was Mahmoud, who I worked with last time. He is really fantastic, and I so enjoyed working with him. I also loved having Julianne and Kaleb and Alexia with me. I have been on this trip so many times, and have always wanted Julianne to be with me. To be able to share it all with her and the kids is a little dream for me.

Kaleb and Alexia at lunch at Madaba
Kaleb looking at the famous Madaba map
From Madaba we went to Machaerus. This is the place where John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded. We spoke about how dedicated John was, and how he just wanted to turn people towards Christ, which is what we need to be doing as well. We talked about how Christ, when he learned of John’s death, said that he must suffer even as John had. That makes Machaerus to John what Golgotha was to Christ. Both Pilate and Herod killed these men because they gave in to pride. We contrasted that with John, who had no pride but just did things for Christ, and I tried to help us all commit to be more like John.

Kaleb and my class climbing up to Machaerus
Students thinking at Machaerus
From there we had a very long bus ride. On that ride Julianne and I shared the story of how we got married. That is the last time we will do that with students for a long time. It seemed to go well. Finally we got to Petra. Our hotel was nice, and it was just right next to the entrance to Petra. That night we four went on the Petra at Night tour. It was pretty cool. The canyon was very, very beautiful in just the starlight. The stars were amazing. It makes me wish I didn’t live near a big city so that I could see the stars better. They had candles lit all around the Treasury, and it was beautiful. We looked and listened to some music they were playing, and had a wonderful time. Walking in and out under the stars was gorgeous. What a great time. But I was certainly tired by the time it was all over.
Approaching the Treasury at Petra at Night
The Treasury, or Kazneh, at Petra, at night
The Treasurey, or Kazneh, at Petra at Night
The next day we hiked all over Petra. It was so fun to do it with Julianne and Alexia and Kaleb. It really wasn’t that hot. Even so, Alexia often seemed to get too hot, and just kept dragging along. We really struggled to get her to go to some places, she just seemed ready to give up rather than take on a challenge. It didn’t seem much like her, but when she needed to, she really came through and we had a great time seeing all sorts of cool and beautiful places. I had a great time with all of them and loved showing them the places they hadn’t seen before and we really enjoyed that amazing place together.

Julianne, Kaleb and Alexia crossing a bridge at Petra
Some of my students at Petra
A fallen column at Petra
A shop at Petra
Kaleb, Alexia, and Julianne at the Monastery at Petra
The tomb of Aaron
Mahmoud teaching at Petra

Kaleb and Alexia leaving the Treasury behind
Then we went on our long bus drive back. It takes forever. We had the Heiners share the story of how they got married, and then just some good advice about marriage. They are so great, and we love being with them. They are a lot of fun.
Just as we got to the hotel it was time for BJ to be able to call us from the airport. We had figured out that he could call us on his old cell phone, and we had had my mom call us to make sure it worked. So we sat in the parking lot of the hotel without checking in, making sure we had good cell coverage. We waited and waited, but no call. After half an hour we called Tashara to see if she had heard from him (we told him to call her if he couldn’t get in touch with us). She hadn’t. So we waited half an hour more, and called her again. He had called. He said he had tried us, but we never answered. Julianne cried. She was quite sad. But we are glad he got to talk to Tashara and Jacob and Sabrina. A few hours later we got an email from him saying he was safely in Montana. I am glad. We are praying for him a lot.

The next morning we got up and went to the Jabbok River. There I spoke about Jacob wrestling with an angel. I talked about how he was going through an Abrahamic Sacrifice at that point. He had shown that he was willing to sacrifice even his family if necessary to do God’s will. And because of that he was blessed with coming into the presence of God. God wants us all to put him first, because he is the only being that can exalt us. He does this because he so much wants for us to be with him, just as he wanted to be with Jacob. I think it went well. Then I gave everyone some time to sit and think, and it seemed like they really had some nice moments. We sang Nearer My God to Thee, and I believe that everyone learned and was edified there. I am so happy that my kids are learning this stuff too.
Some of my students pondering at the Jabbok River
One of my students pondering at the Jabbok River
Julianne at the Jabbok

All four of us at the Jabbok
From there we went to Jerash. We went in and started to explore the city. We did the spiritual thought part a bit earlier than we normally would, because we couldn’t get fully into the city because the guys who did tickets were late getting there. I think that Ramadan makes this kind of thing happen.
My class at the Hadrian gate at Jerash
I taught them about Abraham and his journey to the Promised Land, and how he stopped and worshipped everywhere he went. I talked about how the Bible, the Book of Abraham, and archaeology all work together to give us a more clear picture of what Abraham did and how he lived. I talked about how real the scriptures are, and how there is such power in them when we realize how real they are. It was meaningful to me, and I hope it was to them.

A horse in the Hippodrome of Jerash. I did my devotional here.

We had a nice time exploring Jerash together as a family. It was a lot of fun.
Jerash, with the temple of Artemis behind

Ladies at the Nymphaeum
the Cardo of Jerash
Kaleb doing some GoPro filming in the temple of Artemis
From there we went to Ajloun. This is at one of the highest points of the mountains of Gilead. That makes it the most likely candidate for the spot the Bible calls Ramath Gilead, or the height of Gilead. So we found a nice balcony in the castle and looked out on the hills and read some stories about Ahab dying in battle at Ramath Gilead, and about Jehu being anointed king there and going back and killing the wicked king of Israel and Judah. We also talked about how Elijah was from that area. I tried to tie it all together by talking about how important it is to listen to true prophets, and how when we don’t we will die spiritually in the same way the wicked kings of Israel who didn’t listen to true prophets died there physically.

The hills of Gilead from Ajloun Castle
The hills of Gilead from Ajloun Castle
The four of us at Ajloun Castle
Alexia and one of her YW leaders, Ashlyn, at Ajloun Castle
Kaleb inside the castle
Going across the moat of Ajloun Castle
Kaleb and Alexia in front of Ajloun Castle
Then we explored the castle. It is a cool castle, and we had a lot of fun doing it. It was especially fun to watch Kaleb and Alexia do some exploring together. I think sometimes they forget how lucky they are to have each other.

Kaleb locked in the keep of Ajlouon Castle
Alexia in Ajloun Castle
Kaleb and Alexia exploring Ajloun Castle with the hills of Gilead behind

Ajloun Castle
From there we drove back to Amman. We went to the Citadel, which is biblical Rabbath Amman. This is the city that served as the capital of the Ammonites. It was there that Uriah met his death. We went over that story, and tried to learn a lesson from David. I believe that if David had repented quickly after Bathsheba that we would not even be reading about that story. But instead he tried to cover up his sins, which led him further and further into wickedness, until he got to such a terrible point. I hope we can all learn the lesson and repent quickly.

Kaleb, Alexia and I all epic at the Temple of Hercules
We are with Hercules at his temple
My class in front of the Hercules Temple at Rabbath Amman
That evening we walked around and saw a bit of Amman, and bought some Jordanian treats. We also played games together as a family.
The next morning we went to a mosque. It was very nice. Mahmoud (who is great) taught us about praying and everyday life as a Muslim. It was very nice. It also raised some questions about the place of women in the world, that I will have to address later with the students.

The ladies in their dementor robes in the Blue Mosque
Julianne as Obi Wan Kenobi and Alexia as a sith master at the blue mosque

From there we went to the museum. This is a great museum, and I think everyone learned a lot. I think even Kaleb and Alexia got a bit out of it.
Alexia inside the Jordan Museum
Then we went down to the baptismal site. It was fun to be with Alexia and look across the way at the place where she had been baptized. She bore her testimony of baptism and of following Jesus. I tried to add to that a bit, and then stressed how the Spirit helps us know how to follow the Savior. I also talked about how we don’t need to be rebaptized because we can renew our covenants each week as we partake of the Sacrament. I sometimes think we underestimate the importance of doing that.

The Jordan River
Alexia with the place she was baptized in the Jordan River behind her
Finally we went to the border crossing. It took forever. I served as a DJ for a while as we waited. Finally we got through the Jordan side, and sadly said goodbye to Mahmoud. Then we drove to the Israel side. Or we almost did. Just as we were on the Allenby Bridge, with our bus literally straddling the Jordan River, the line stopped. We stayed there for over an hour. It got hot. Additionally, we had eaten lunch, drunk a lot, the bathroom at the Jordan border control was out of order, and now a bunch of us needed to go to the bathroom but we were stuck on a bridge between countries. It got a bit miserable, but everyone handled it well.
After a long, long time we finally got to move a bit, then a long wait, then some more. It took us several hours to finally get through. On the way from the border to Jerusalem we had the Heiners come up and we did a question and answer session about marriage, where students asked questions and the four of us (the Heiners and Julianne and myself) took turns answering. I think it was helpful for them. This is the topic that is really on their mind.

When we got home it was so good to see the other kids. I loved being with them again. It was a happy reunion. I spent a bit of time that night on the phone with a tour company who wants me to help them do tours in Israel. Interesting. We will see.

The next day I taught class. It is weird to think this was only our second class, since I just spent a pretty intense week with my class. I feel like class went well. We especially talked about how the birth of Christ was the beginning of bringing us back into the presence of God, and of how Christ only does the Father’s will. It was a beautiful time together.

I spent most of the rest of the day doing all sorts of busy work, catching up on emails and all sorts of other things. I need to spend more time on my commentary, but so many things keep taking up my attention. I will have to overcome this.
That evening we tried to go over to the 7 arches to look out on the area of the Dome of the Rock to see everyone as they did their prayers and broke their fast on the last Friday of Ramadan. But there were too many people, cars and busses, we couldn’t get through. So instead we went up to our eighth floor balcony and looked over as best we could. The people thronged all around, and it was fun to watch. These are a dedicated people.
A family eating when the fast ended on the last Friday of Ramadan
Cars parked near the Dome of the Rock on the last Friday of Ramadan
The masses at the Dome of the Rock on the last Friday of Ramadan
Masses at the Dome of the Rock on the last Friday of Ramadan
Buses parked all the way from our road to the Dome of the Rock on the last Friday of Ramadan

The next day we went to the Garden Tomb early and had a very short but nice time together there as a family reading the Resurrection stories. I am convinced that my children are having their testimonies of Christ strengthened and their understanding deepened. In testimony meeting Alexia bore her testimony about how much she is learning here and how it helps her come to Christ. She is the one that I have wondered if she has ever been paying attention. I guess she has. It is comforting to know that some things that it seems like aren’t working in the end really are. I am glad for wonderful opportunities and small comforts.

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