Whew. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind! Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve last updated, this has been my first chance to sit down and write. So much has happened since my last update. Not only has it been my birthday this week, I’ve also been able to spend time with my church who is on a 10 day tour here and spend 3 days on a field study to Judah, Philistia, the Negev and the Dead Sea. This past week and a half have been the best I’ve had since I got here. I have learned so much about myself and God and I’ve had a chance to express it to a few people, which has in effect made the changes more apparent to me. I love seeing how God is molding me and shaping me while I’m here. 

I’m going to start out with the field study. Since it was 3 days long and there were many more stops than usual, I’m just going to briefly touch on all of them and only give details to the ones that really hit me the most. The first day we were off to Judah and the Shephelah. While we all excited for our first overnight trip, the weather was terrible. It was cold, rainy and windy, and that combination makes being outside all day not very pleasant. However, I was determined to not let it put a damper on my day. Our first stop was to the tel of Beth Shemesh, where we talked about Samson and all his stories that happened in the area that we were in. Our next stop was to a lookout of the Elah Valley, where we got to talk about the Phillistines battle with Saul and their different tactics they would have used. There’s two opposing ideas about where the Philistines would have camped, and debating them was my favorite part of that site. 

Anna & I at Lachish

My favorite part of that day was when we visited Lachish. This was a battle that we had talked about in my Old Testament class last semester, and being familiar with it definitely added to the experience. For those of you not familiar with the story, King Hezekiah had fortified the city of Lachish when he was expanding outward to gain more resources in a time where he thought he was not under threat (Sargon of the Assyrians had just died). However, to his dismay Sargon’s son Sennacherib was more powerful than even his father had been, and he began to conquer Hezekiah’s cities. We find out from the letters found inside the gate that they could not see the signal fires of Azekah anymore, which means that Azekah had fell and they were next. The Assyrians did a siege, therefore starving them out and while they did that they built a ramp in order to get up to the city. The Assyrians did eventually take the city, and the battle became Sennacherib’s pride and joy. He had an entire room in one of his palaces made to depict the battle. Knowing this background, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to see where the Assyrians would have built the ramp and the view that the people in the city would have had of the army below them. It was one of those places where I just could not even begin to imagine what it would have been like to be stuck on top of a city and look down at the brutality of the Assyrians. It would have been one of those moments where you put your hands in the air and trust that God had a plan. 

Mediterranean Sea

Our last stop of the day was to Ashkelon, which is right on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It has stopped raining, so we were able to spend a good 45 minutes there just enjoying being by the sea. A lot of us walked a ways down the beach and climbed on some of the rocks of the cliff. This wasn’t an educational stop, it was just a place for us to wind down after the day and enjoy the view. 

We stayed the two nights at the Arad Youth Hostel. It was like a hotel, just with two sets of bunk beds. The showers were the best ones we had all had since we got here, and we would take at least 2 showers a day! The food was okay, but they served the same thing both dinners, so it was a little disappointing. All in all though, the hostel was much nicer than the ones we had stayed in the UK, and it was cool to be off campus for awhile and spend time together. It was almost like a vacation!

Tel of Beer Sheba

On the second day we started out at the Tel of Arad, but it was the windiest day yet and being on top of the tel was so cold. This place had a temple on top, with an altar (which I got to be sacrificed on) and there had been remains of two standing stones. Those stones have led archaelogists to believe that the temple had been a place of worship that had been mixed with pagan worship. Next we went to the Tel of BeerSheba, which was definitely a cool place. It was very elaborate, with us being able to see the remnants of the city itself and the houses. There we talked a lot about Abraham, and how he would have made diplomatic relationships called a dimorphic relationship with some of the city states on his way through this area. Being a traveling clan, they would need resources in case of a famine, and the city states needed protection out on the frontier. This is why it makes sense that Abraham was allowed to build a well here because without that relationship he would not have gotten the permission. 

Zin Wadi

Our last stop of that day was my favorite part. We did a hike in the Zin Wadi, which was absolutely beautiful. We were walking at the bottom of the canyon and there was actually water running! The last part of the hike you actually have to climb up ladders to get up the cliff face, and it’s the coolest hike we’ve done since we’ve been here. When we got to the top we had a fantastic view of the wadi below us and it was a great ending to our day. 

The last day was definitely the best! It was 70 degrees and sunny, and we went to Masada, then swam in the Dead Sea and the waterfalls of Ein Gedi, and finished the day at Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found). Masada was just awesome! We hiked up the side of it and the weather just made the surroundings incredible! When we got to the top we could see the Dead Sea in the distance and the Negev desert behind us. I really loved the teaching on Masada because the story is so powerful! It’s about a group of Jewish zealots who holed up on Masada and were the last ones to fall to Rome. They ended up committing mass suicide so that they would not be taken into captivity by the Romans. That story just resonated with me, and I found myself dwelling on it for a while afterwards. 

Waterfall at Ein Gedi

Next we drove down to the Dead Sea and we all changed into our swimsuits and hopped in. However, getting into the Dead Sea was not fun! There was no beach, just rocks and then salt deposits which were so sharp! But once we got in we were all laughing and having a good time. We just couldn’t believe we were actually floating in the Dead Sea! After a while though it started to get in our eyes, and then you can’t see for a few minutes, so we ventured out of the sea and back up to by the bus where Dr. Wright was grilling us hotdogs for lunch. Finally an American meal! After lunch we went and swam in the waterfalls at Ein Gedi, which was awesome! The water was refreshing, and we were able to clown around and have a good time. Finally we went to Qumran and got to learn about the Dead Sea Scrolls. I knew a lot of this already from my class last semester, but it was still cool to see where the scrolls were found. 

And then we came home! Driving back and seeing Jerusalem in the distance was so cool! It really felt like we were coming home. It’s crazy that seeing the Dome of the Rock can feel like home to me. I am so blessed! 

Dead Sea

Well, this was birthday week. I have been counting down to this week since I arrived! My birthday was definitely the best one I’ve ever had. Amber gave me gifts the night before, so it was already off to a great start! I had a test in the morning, but I felt really good about it so that started off my day great. Then a few of us walked around the Old City and then visited an Ethiopian Church. After lunch I laid out in the sun on the roof, it was definitely the most beautiful day we have had yet. Then I had class outside (another plus of great weather) and after class I went to go skype Jenni. However, my friends came and put a hat over my head and carried me into a room where a bunch of JUC people turned on the lights and screamed surprise. They then gave me a cupcake with a candle on it and say happy birthday and we all got to enjoy some treats from a Jewish bakery. After that I finally got to skype Jenni, which was great because I have missed her! It’s the first time we haven’t spent our birthday together, which was pretty sad. But at least I had people here to make me feel so special and loved! 

That night I got to meet up with Josh and Sara (my youth pastor and his wife) and Michael Holcomb (a friend from church) and Amber and I took them into the Old City and showed them around. Then we ate dinner at an American restaurant in the New City and were able to just catch up on our lives. It was so surreal seeing them here! I’m so used to not recognizing anyone, and then there they were! That night was just great, and I am so grateful for the time I got to spend with them. I think they could definitely tell that I have changed for the better, and it was great to see that my hard work at getting over my bad habits/attitudes is paying off! 

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect this week, and I’ve come to a big conclusion. I don’t want to plan my life anymore! Before I left I could tell you my plan for the rest of my life. I knew when I wanted to be engaged, married, have kids, live, etc. But the thing is: why should I put my life in a box? By planning my life, I’m telling God that I know better than He does what my life should be. But that’s so not true! God’s plans are always better than my plans, and from now on I’m letting life come to me. I’ll get engaged when I get engaged, no need to to plan it out to the day. And I also want to be open to the idea of maybe living in a different country for a few years. I know that I love traveling, and I have a heart for the people in this area. So I’m seriously going to consider moving somewhere after I graduate and spending time in a different country and culture. Yep, so that was a big lightbulb. There’s been more, but this one kinda is the overarching theme of them all. I just want God to be in control of my life, not me. 

Soccer has been going great! The girls have been very motivated and I’ve started to look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays when I get to coach! They are already improving, and it’s so great to see that they get better each practice. 

Well, that’s it for now. There’s so much more I could write about, but that would take ages to get all those thoughts onto here. I hope everything is going well back home and I can’t wait to see all of you in a few months. I’ve tried to upload pictures twice and my internet has died in the middle each time, so I will see if I can post some pictures when I have good internet. If not, they’re always on Facebook.


Maktesh Ramon – biggest erosion crater in the world

Coming down Masada

Qumran – cave #4

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