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Day 0: I'm leaving in t-minus 9 hours

25 Apr

 


I take off to NYC tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. Yes, I love early flights. Because I’m most definitely a morning person. Love them.


With the encouragement of a certain mother I made four lists of things to pack in my two suitcases, ranging from my portable fan to bedding to an umbrella.


Today I celebrated Easter with the Dwyer family in South Jordan, Utah. Shout out to my favorite little kids Sarah, Daniel, Ashley and Ryan!

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Kingdom of Jordan!

1 Nov











Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve posted.
We arrived back from Jordan several days ago. I was able to spend nearly an entire day exploring Petra, which was stunning. Petra is about 4-5 hours away from Jerusalem, not counting the hours spent going through the border. We stopped in Madaba on the way to Petra. This city has the oldest map of Jerusalem in the form of a mosaic on the floor in a church there. It was pretty cool.

The Petra Palace Hotel we stayed at…was not a palace. And if you ever plan or dream about going to Petra…I would say go with the Marriott or Crown Plaza. It was the craziest place ever. To get to my room I had to take the lobby elevator to the third floor. Then I would walk through the third floor out to the pool/outside area and on the opposite side I would walk into another building and take an elevator..4×4 dimensions with only three sides (if it was even working) up another three floors. Where the hall proceeded to smell like a barn and our bathroom even worse. Thankfully we stayed only one night.

We began early and arrived at the beginning of the walking path around 8:15am. You have to walk a little ways (maybe more than 1/4 mile) before actually seeing parts of Petra. They had a water system that ran from the entrance up to the Treasury. At one point our guide made us form five lines and look down at the ground and walk a little ways. When we looked up, the Treasury was infront of us. It was almost breathtaking, because I was not anticipating seeing it already. The ability of acient peoples to make such detailed and perfect monuments never ceases to amaze me. They made this tomb out of stone, with its perfect dimensions and smoothness. The Treasury, like many of the remains at Petra is first and foremost a tomb, but it was said that the King/Pharaoh kept his money in the urn on the second story. You can tell that it is the spot, from random holes in the rock resembling shots.

From the Treasury, we walked through more of the mountains until it opened up to hundreds of tombs. There was also a Roman/Nabateeaen Theater, which was not used for plays, but religious ceremonies.
Bedouins are the natives of the area and some even live in the old tombs at Petra. They reinacted a Nabateeaen market and sell many of the touristy souvineers as you walk through Petra. (The typical stuff = jewelry, books, pictures, sodas, chips, and little carvings or statues.) Some very little children were selling rocks on the sides of the monuments.

I hiked up the mountain to the Monastary, which was worth the wonderful view of the country. (It was around 800+ medieval-like steps to the top…and also dodging donkeys coming up and down so they dont run you off the path) It was hazy that day, but supposedly on a clear day you can see into Israel. Petra is in Southern Jordan and is near the border which we visited when we stayed at that Kibbutz Yatvata on the way to Egypt. Sometimes Israelis would sneak into Jordan in that area to get a quick peak at the ruins in Petra. After lunch at the “Basin” restaurant in Petra I wandered around with my friend Kellie, who also goes to Provo and is from Oregon. We bought some earrings and a nice cold drink while exploring more tombs on our own, mainly the Tomb of the Kings, Urn? (i cannot remember the name).
There was this book that I wanted so badly, but it was so pricey at Petra. It is called “Married to a Boudin” and was written by a woman who married a Bedouin man and they lived in a cave near Petra I believe. She was not Bedouin, T think she was from New Zealand. Anyways, she sells copies at Petra. But this book is famous in the area. Maybe I will purchase it later online.

After visiting Petra, we drove to Amman, the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Amman is a beautiful, relatively clean city compared to Egypt, or even Jerusalem. Jordan was overall cleaner, which was very nice.
Down the road from our hotel in Amman, The Ambassador Hotel, was a little mall with a actual grocery store. Many of the students and faculty visited a movie store that sold pirated movies for 1 Jordanian Dinar. ($1.50) I may have bought a couple.
We ate dinner there one night at “Texas Chicken” but really the logo and everything was the same as Church’s Chicken. I couldnt bring myself to eat at McDonalds, even here. From Amman we drove to Jerash which has very well preserved Roman ruins, nearly an entire city, which was the ancient city of Jerash. At the South Auditorium there, we had some girls sing opera and hymns. It had wonderful acoustics. There as a reinactment which we had to pay $10 to see, but it was hilarious. There were “Roman” soliders dressed in supposedly authenic garb as well as gladiators and chariot races. Pretty cheesey, but hilarious and fun to see. I think Chad would have loved it. There were little French kids who were yelling at the gladiators the whole time and giggling like mad.

In Amman we also visited their second largest mosque, King Abdullah mosque. It was there that us women had to put on a black robe with a hood and wear a scarf around our face so we did not show any of our body while in the mosque. It was so strange to see, because the boys were in their blue jeans, t-shirts and ball caps.
After that we went to the ruins in downtown Amman, where the ancient Roman city of Philadelphia was.

We were also able to visit the Church’s “Educational Center” aka the branch meeting house for members in Amman. It was so neat to actually see the church in the Middle East and its leaders. The Branch President in Amman was Pres. Hoffmire, from Norman, OK. He works for the government. I think there are service couples in every Middle Eastern country. One of the service couples that came to district conference in Jeruslame this weekend was serving in Afghanistan, but his wife was not allowed to go there.

This was pretty much our trip to Jordan. It was very short. We only stayed a total of three nights. On our way back to the Israel border, we stopped at Bethany and I stepped in the Jordan River in the area where Jesus and John the Baptist were baptized. The state of the river is so sad. I wish that we had more time to spend there but I do not think we were at t
he actual site for more than 30 or so minutes. I did happen to save some of the purified water from the Jordan River in an old water bottle.

As we arrived to the border crossing near Jericho, we were detained for two hours, because the officers…police…Israeli soldiers..whatever you want to call them didn’t understand that we had tourist visas and not student visas. Anyways, they refused to let us through, and wouldn’t call our main director in Israel. So our teachers called our director of the Jerusalem Center, Mr. Hiyat, who called Israel’s Minster of Internal Affairs..or something like that…who then had to call the border to let us back in. It was crazy. They are so protective…and I personally think many of the soldiers/workers in the borders are just on power trips. Looking back, I realize I shouldn’t have been as frustrated as I was, but whatever.

The center celebrated Halloween a day early, since Saturday is our Sabbath. We had the most awesome Hallowen party and dance. I’ve never seen people be so creative with their costumes. With such limited resources, I think it was pretty fantastic. The little kids of our professor went around trick-or-treating at our student apartments. They’re 11, 9, and 4 years old. I dressed up with my friend Lauren as ninjas.

District conference this weekend was amazing. We had several area general authorities speak and the distict presidency, which happens to consist of some of our teachers and the “Dr” in the center. We had the most amazing impromptu fireside last night, that was spontaneously organized by some of the students. It was a random program of piano pieces and singing solos, along with testimonies in between. The spirit was so strong, I do not know if I have felt it stronger in my life. I hope I never forget that night.

My Talk in the Jerusalem Branch

17 Oct

So I thought I’d just post my talk that I had to give in our branch last week. We watched the rest of conference after church today.

Spreading the Gospel through Good Works and Actions
What have you done for someone this morning? Perhaps you haven’t found an opportunity within the last 2 or 3 hours? Maybe you performed some act of kindness yesterday? Or earlier in the week? Are we making a conscience effort to serve others around us daily, and not just when the weekly humanitarian activity rolls around or scheduled church callings?
This is so important, because in a place where we are not able to share the gospel with our words, we must depend upon our actions. That is what will bring people to Christ. This requires us to first make ourselves worthy, second follow the commandments, and lastly express love through charity or good works.
President Monson said in his talk which we will be listening to this afternoon “How many times has your heart been touched as you have witnessed the need of another? How often have you intended to be the one to help? And yet how often has day-to-day living interfered and you’ve left it for others to help, feeling that “oh, surely someone will take care of that need.”
It is imperative that we realize the importance of our actions, and how those actions affect those around us, especially non-members. In Jerusalem this is particularly crucial, since we cannot proselytize. When you walk around the Holy Land, your work, school, a grocery store are the people able to notice something different or special about you? Do you reflect the light of Christ?
This topic is personal to me. My patriarchal blessing tells me to “Recognize the importance of your behavior and conduct. You are an example. I remind you to be humble but I also remind you to stand tall…and represent those things you know to be true. Truth is eternal” “and you will learn and share through your behavior the understanding that you have [of the scriptures] and you will be a light to those with whom you associate and work”
While this is specifically a way for me, it can apply to many others. All members must recognize the importance of our behavior. We are examples. Always. There is never a time when we do not represent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We are representatives in every country, every home, in the day and night. In the presence of members or non-members.
Perhaps you have once thought in your life, that “I can do whatever I want. I am my own person. This decision or that decision will only affect me. The places I go to, the people I associate with do not affect any others.” This kind of thinking is false. And I know that it is the adversary trying to draw that light of Christ away from us, and away from those that would be impressed or influenced by our example.
In order to be most effective in our service, we need to put our own lives in order. Then, as we live the gospel, our lives will reflect the righteousness and virtue, and we will be a powerful influence for good in the lives of others. This is why it is not enough to be righteous for the sake of our own salvation. We must let our goodness radiate to others, that through our example and reputation they will lift their lives and have the desire to follow the Savior’s pattern of living.
Elder O. Leslie Stone said ,“We should do all we can to establish for ourselves a worthy reputation, for such is of priceless worth. It is often the key to influencing others for good, and can be the means of bringing the gospel into their lives. it’s not only what we are that’s important: what others think of us is also important. In order to be truly effective as missionaries, we need to be known for our good qualities, to have an unspotted reputation in all things. We have the privilege to represent him to others, to bear his message to his children throughout the world, to be missionaries. We have the responsibility to be worthy of his name, to represent him well in every way, to every person we meet—to so live that our lives are Christian sermons in operation.”
Be worthy at all times to represent Christ and His name. When we follow all of the commandments and direction of our prophet we will be worthy representatives and examples.
D&C 90:24
When we are searching the scriptures diligently, praying to our Lord and Savior, we will always be able to remember the covenants we have made with the Lord and with others, and we will not stray when the adversary tries to mislead us. When we keep the commandments, the Lord will bless us and our efforts. As revealed in another scripture.
D&C 35:24
The greatest way to expose people, especially in countries such as Israel, to the gospel of Christ is through good works or service. In section 18 of the D&C the Lord revealed how the newly established church was to search out and find the new twelve apostles.
D&C 18:38
As disciples, can others search for us by our desires and works? We all have been taught, some since primary age, and others later that Christ’s life on earth revolved around serving the people here and by his works, showing people to the gospel.
I love this statement President Monson made in his talk this conference, “I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives.”
Are we whittling away our time on things in our life that do not matter in the overall plan? It is easy to become caught up in storm which is the busyness of our day to day lives and forget. I do it all the time. I sometimes do not establish service and good works as the real priority it is. Too often in the past and presently have I put my school work, jobs, personal problems or wants before this.
Just this week I did. I found myself trying to justify my desire in wanting to leave early from our humanitarian kit project in order to get to the beach an hour earlier. But that one extra hour doesn’t matter. What does matter is that one hour which will provide the simple supplies of toothpaste, towels, combs, and soap to poor families with children all over Israel.
D&C 12:7-8
And no one can assist in this work except he shall be ahumble and full of blove, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be centrusted to his care.
We cannot assist in the work of spreading the gospel if we do not humble ourselves and make good works and charity a priority. How can we serve the Savior or others if we do not set aside time to do so?
I am so thankful I have parents who realize the importance of good works. So much can be benefitted from service. It seems since I was in primary, my father has always served in different capacities within young men’s and also Boy Scouts. Being the only girl in my family, I always seemed to find myself tagging along with my dad at the many service projects the boys were involved in and Eagle Scout projects as well. I remember picking up trash on the side of streets adopted by our ward alongside my family and seeing whose bag was the fullest. The winner got a slurpee. Or waking up early on Saturday mornings bundled up in our thickest jackets to help the scouts scrub graffiti of monuments and signs or plant flowers at the parks I played at, or restore run-down cemeteries and prisons in our area. These are some of my most favorite memories as a kid.
You cannot underestimate the power of service. Children, adults, members and non-members notice. The influence of our actions might not be revealed to us, but it is there. When we do this, we embody the light of Christ. The Light of Christ is the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things. It can influen
ce people for good and even prepare them to receive the Holy Ghost. Through good works, all members, primary age and adults can expose the light of Christ to family, friends, or strangers.
D&C 115:5
There are so many wonderful and talented people in our branch. We all have a purpose here in Israel. I know each individual can be a light to this country. In Elder Brent Nielson’s talk “A Call to the Rising Generation” He talks of the answered prayers to open borders made by past saints in countries that are now able to receive the gospel, such as parts of Russia where his son is serving.
He states, “You of the rising generation are the fulfillment of prophesy that in our day ‘the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated dry continent, visited every clime, swept every country. Sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”
The Church Newsroom website reports The Church and BYU have established rapport with many in the Chinese academic and policy-making communities through educational exchanges, the entertainment of the Young Ambassadors and BYU’s ballroom and folk dance troupes, as well as BYU’s earned reputation for its sophisticated language training programs.
The LDS Church has also published a translation of the Book of Mormon and other publications in Simplified Chinese, the script used in Mainland China. Chinese officials attend the annual International Law and Religion Symposium in Utah each year, planting a seed for the Chinese government to understand the importance of liberalizing its religious laws to allow proselytizing missionaries.
Positive relations such as these between the church and countries currently closed to the sharing of the gospel benefit greatly from good impressions and charity.
The church has donated $900 million to humanitarian aid and materials all over the world. Welfare Services is the essence of the gospel in action. It is a blessing for the church to be able to help those in need. Are you aware of the humanitarian aid provided by the church at present?
Currently, the church is extending humanitarian help to the Islands of Samoa and Tonga, who were the victims of a tsunami last week. The church’s newsroom reported that a cargo plane was flying to the Pacific Islands on Tuesday containing 60 tons of food, kits, and clothing and is being helped by the Islamic Relief Worldwide to distribute the supplies.
Floods devastated the Philippines two weeks ago, resulting in many deaths and the fatality of nearly 30 members. There the church has sent food, water, hygiene items, and clothing as well. Missionaries and members there have helped to the best of their ability.
We can be a part of this. As members of the church we can contribute our time, materials, or donations which will benefit the children of God everywhere.
-We can do the kits, help and beautify the local hospitals, donate clothing to the poor, among many more things.
-Opportunity I have had to help with the humanitarian kits sent to Bedouins in Bethany, etc. and also hygiene kits in Utah.
“Who Have I helped today?” I challenge each of you, to be able to answer that question daily, and I know that if you will, the spirit will bless many in the process.

Hope yall have a wonderful Sabbath!

Sheep and Pitas

13 Oct

Well we are officially allowed to go into the Old City again now that the holidays are over. Yay! It’s been…maybe since before Egypt that I was in the Old City, so you can imagine the feelings of joy from the rest of the students.

Sunday I went to Tel Aviv, probably for the last time on the trip. It was the last week the beaches were open. Unfortunately the waves were non-existant which was disappointing, but it still managed to be a very fun day. I didn’t go shopping like last time. I just stayed on the beach till sunset. A large group of us swam out to some rocks and looked around there. Then we attempted to play a game of red rover in the ocean…which doesn’t work. It was very funny to try though. There was also a mud-fight and I am still trying to scrub the sand out of my hair. That night, we found a pizza eatery for dinner and I bought a giant slice for 12 shekels. Those of us who ate pizza were pretty satsified that we didnt end up spending 30 shekels for our dinner. (Thats around $10)

Yesterday was field trip day. We visited a Bible Landscape Preserve, Neot…something or another. I have the name on my calendar…but it’s downstairs. It was probably one of our top five field trips. I got to herd sheep!!! And goats. I found the trick was to just simply run alongside them so they run as well! My stick was pretty useless. It took nearly 20 of us students to round up 10 or so sheep and goats. 🙂
We also made our own zaatar, which is hyssop in Hebrew. Hyssop is mentioned several times in teh Bible, in Psalms I believe, and also it was the plant used to wipe blood above the doors of the children of Israel during the Passover. It’s a very tasty plant. Many people here put it on bread or pitas.

We also made our own pitas and fried wheat(?). This was awesome! Some of our group went and gathered firewood, built a fire, then some of us made the dough (flour, salt, water, and olive oil) then flattened a little ball as much as possible and stuck in on the fire for 20 or so seconds onto a giant concave-like cast iron bowl. It was very delicious. We dipped our homemade pitas in an olive oil mixture with zaatar. Our park guide also made us fried wheat. He poured it into a skillet over the fire and added some oil and a couple spices. It was like eating the kernals from popcorn. But tasty.

We also met a Torah Scribe that worked at the preserve. Torah scribes must be kosher in all things. They write holy texts by hand, made with kosher ink and parchment. There at the preserve they have a Torah scroll that is nearly 200 years old that was saved from an Ashkenazi synagogue.

Hope everyone is enjoying the cool weather in the states! It’s still pretty toasty here.

Hezikiah's Tunnel

8 Oct

This week has gone by rather fast…except we have not done much. Because it is the Jewish holiday of Sukkat here, the city has been off-limits and many of our classes are not taught. We have only had Old Testament classes a couple hours each day and one language class. Sukkat or Tabernacles is the holiday that celebrates the children of Israel’s journey out of Egypt through the wilderness. It is fun to see all the little “tabernacles” built outside homes and restaurants for the Jews to eat in.

Our field trip this week was to Hezikiah’s Tunnel which is located in the City of David, or South of the Temple Mount. This was amazing. This tunnel was built by King Hezikiah to direct water from the spring and bring it within reach when perhaps the city was under siege. The tunnel is fairly long…I think we walked through it for 20 or so mintues with water above our ankles and at some points reaching my mid-thigh! (although I am short…so that isn’t too deep). This tunnel was dug by people thousands of years ago and it was so neat! Many of us students want to return when water levels have risen so the tunnel will be deeper. Outside of the tunnel is the Pool of Shiloh, I believe. (Or maybe not…i should have written this on Monday when I remembered the names of everything…but..I didnt)

I visited the Israel Museum yesterday. It was a very good learning experience. The museum houses some of the Dead Sea Scrolls under this strange white-looking fountain. There is also a huge replica of Jerusalem during the 2nd temple time period. It was wonderful to see what the temple mount might have looked like and the way things were situated then, because it is so hard to imagine now when other things have been built up on these places. The museum also had the oldest mask in the world (all of the students were sarcastically making a big deal about this) but it is actually 9,000 years old. Pretty neat. So now I’ve seen the oldest building in the world and the oldest mask.

The students put on a formal talent show last night. I was blown away by the talent we have here. All of the other students are of such a high caliber. There were piano performances and duets. Singing solos, songs written by the students and performed. After events like this, I always walk away wishing I had some sort of musical talent…and then I remember that it’s probably better I didnt. The problem with liking to write is that it is not performable (a word?) and anyone can write. And I don’t really write poetry..or short stories, etc. I can barely keep up this blog (though I am proud I have managed to write in it almost every week).

Tomorrow morning I am waking up at 5:30am (10:30pm central time) to walk to the Western Wall and watch the Jews beat their willows against the ground. It is a part of the Sukkat tradition. I hope to get some awesome pictures. This is the only time we have been allowed into the city in the past 2 weeks…and we have to be back before 8am and people start moving about to their work and schools. I cannot wait until this holiday is over so that perhaps there can be more peace or serenity in the city. Being restricted to the Jerusalem Center is becoming unnerving..and there is only so much to do in West Jerusalem. I hate taxis. I think I’ve spent too much money this week just taking taxis everywhere. (because we are not allowed to walk anywhere right now.) This adds up quick. I’ll write again shortly. We get to herd sheep on Monday! We also get to see the rest of conference this Saturday during church.

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