The End is Drawing Near

I can’t believe that I leave two weeks from Saturday! I mean, it feels like I just arrived here. People told me this semester would go by so fast, but I always figured I would at least feel like I was gone for months. I look back at my time here and see that I have experienced so much, been to so many places and have so many memories and lessons to bring home with me. Now that I’m back from Jordan, my last field study, and just have papers and tests looming, I’m started to turn my gaze towards home. No matter how much I love this place, it will be good to be home. I think if I was staying longer I would not miss home as much, but since I’m leaving soon I’m trying to enjoy my last few weeks her but also prepare myself to going back. It’s going to be a tough adjustment, but I have trust that God will help me through it, just as He did here. It just feels surreal that in a few weeks I’ll be sleeping in my own bed, waking up in my own home with my family and not being able to just walk for five minutes and be in the Old City or see the diversity that I’ve come to love in this city. And to not see the people that have become my family for the past 3 months…it gets me emotional just thinking about it. However, I know that God has such great plans for us and He is going to scatter us to share what He has done in our lives and the radical things He has done here. All good things must come to an end, but there’s always more good things around the corner, and no matter how much I will miss this place, I am going to be content with being in America, because that’s where I need to be right now. 

Jordan this past week was incredible. It was definitely my favorite field study that we’ve done all semester. I think it was because it was so much less touristy that anywhere we’ve been in Israel. We would drive through villages where no other tourists would be and where the children would run up to us to get pictures. The culture seemed so genuine, I felt like I was walking through everyday life of the Jordanians, not just the National Parks of Israel. Not to say that I like Jordan more than Israel, because I don’t, I just appreciated being able to see a bit of what real Jordanian life would be like. 

We left the school at 6am (there was a lot of sleeping on the bus on the way) and headed the few hours to the border up by Beth – Shean (in the Galilee). The border was a lot more difficult to get through than I thought. I mean, it felt like airport security, which I wasn’t expecting. They were more thorough than I thought they would be, but I guess that it’s normal when you’re going out of Israel. Anyways, we made it through the border in about two hours and then headed to our first site called Deir-Alla, or Old Testament Succoth. This first shows in the Biblical text in Genesis 33 when Jacob builds a house at Succoth and it becomes his camping ground for his livestock. He also travels from Penuel (a place on the route) to Shechem (in Samaria), and he would’ve passed through Succoth on the way. In Judges 8 Gideon chases the Midianites and Ishmaelites through the Jezreel Valley to Succoth. He then has a man write down the names of the elders in the city so that he can know who is in charge and who to punish for problems in the city. There is also mention of Succoth in Numbers 21 – 23 when it speaks about the ‘seer of the gods’ named Bilam. The King of Medeba had asked Bilam to come down from Northern Jordan and curse the Israelites, but instead God intervened and Bilam only blessed Israel. A text about Bilam that was carved into stone was found during the archaeological digs at Succoth and it is a testament to Bilam’s popularity, even when it was written a few hundred years after him. 

Our second stop was a quick one, just to get a look at one of the Decapolis cities named Pella. This spot shows up in the Bible when Saul and his sons are killed at Beth – Shean and the people of Jabesh-Gilead pass through here to obtain his body and give them a proper burial. It also is the place that Jesus was referring to when in Matthew He said to flee to the hills. When the temple did fall, the Jews took this advice and fled to Pella, not only because it was away from Jerusalem but also because it was a Roman Decapolis city. Therefore, they were essentially fleeing to the ones they were running from, but that also kept them safe. 

Amber, Anna & I rocking it in Gadara.

We then headed to Gadara, another Roman Decapolis city where we were able to eat a late lunch. This place was unique to the other Roman cities we have been to because instead of the Cardo (main road) running North – South, it runs East – West, and instead of the Decumanus (the other main road, splitting the city into 4 quarters) running East – West, it runs North – South. Another unique part of it was that it had a church shaped like an octagon, not like a basilica which is common in Israel and Jordan. It is one of the five octagon churches in Jordan and that is not many considered that there are hundreds of ancient churches. This place was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 794 AD. 

Our last stop of the day was Ramoth – Gilead, which was a frontier chariot force city that served as a fortress during the time of Ahab. It is an easy way to enter Jordan from the North just by following the flat desert land to the West and then heading East through Ramoth – Gilead. At the time of 1 Kings 22, Ahab is king of Israel and Jehoshophat is king of Judah. This city was under the control of Damascus at this point, but Ahab desired to have it under his control. Therefore he asked Jehoshophat for his help, but Ahab was quite the trickster and dressed up Jeho (an easy nickname for him) in kingly robes and sent him in first, knowing that the Assyrians would think that he was Ahab. The Assyrians did see him, and came after him first, but the battle did not go as planned and Ahab lost his life in the battle. This place serves as the frontier that Israel could never quite get ahold of, even though they tried. 

Herculean Temple at Amman – I have a tendency to climb things and get myself in trouble!

We spent the night in Amman, the capital of Jordan and the biggest city, with over 2.5 million residents. We were shocked by how Westernized it was! There were Subways on street corners and Starbuck’s! We even saw Chevrolet dealers – see Grandpa, even the Jordanian’s know what a good truck is! 🙂 We stayed in a 5 star hotel, and the food was wonderful and we definitely lived in luxury that night. A group of us went out on the town and walked into the shopping center, stopping at Starbuck’s for the first time in 3 months! I really loved the city, just because it was such a cool city that almost felt like home. 

The next day we drove just a few minutes over to the Amman Citadel, or the ancient city of Amman. It is situated on a limestone plateau with wadis on three sides, just like Jerusalem. It is almost identical to the ancient City of David, except it didn’t have a spring close by because it was about a mile away. It’s Old Testament name is Rabbah and this name was given to it because it represents the deity of the city, which was the chief feminine deity of that time. There are heavy Roman, Byzantine and Islamic footprints on the site, and one of the coolest ruins there is the Herculean Temple. There was also a cool museum on the site, of which my favorite artifact was this skull with three holes bored into it, showing the ancient surgery that was done to help with brain injuries. I mean, could you imagine getting holes put in your skull thousands of years ago with no anesthesia? I know I couldn’t! In the Old Testament David conquers this city and even conquers the fortification around their spring, which is the evidence we have to prove the archaeological finds. 

Entrance to Jaresh

Next we spent about 4 hours at a Roman city called Gerasa, or Jaresh. It is nicknamed the city of a thousand pillars, and it was absolutely huge! We had a lot more free time to explore this site than we have other places because it didn’t have a Biblical story and it was a place that our Jordanian tour guide taught us at. This site seriously just kept going and going! We could turn a corner and just see more of it! There was a hippodrome, a theatre, a church, a meat market, and more! There was even a huge fountain that stood two stories tall! This was one of my favorite sites of the trip just because it was magnificent, it definitely had a shock factor and I enjoyed being able to explore it. 

These two sites took up most of our day and we had about a 3 hour drive to our next place. On the way we stopped at a mystery site, one which we were supposed to take the analytical skills that we have learned through the semester and apply it to these remains. It was quite a hard task, because this place was unlike any other we’d seen before. It had thick walls and arrow slits, but it was not shaped like a fortress. The inside looked like it could have been a house, but why would a house need such fortifications? Then there were animals carved out of the rock all around. Anyways, we were all stumped. It turns out that this was a pleasure house for an outcasted Jew who got kicked out of Jerusalem. Theories are that it was supposed to be surrounded by water, making the outside a huge swimming pool. That would be sweet! 

Jabbuk Wadi

On the way to our hotel that night we stopped at an overlook of the Jabbuk Wadi. This was a lot like the other wadi’s we’ve seen in Israel, just deeper and more awe – inspiring. Dr. Wright spoke about the story in Genesis 28 – 32, where Jacob fights with God at Penuel, which was somewhere in the wadi below us. He gave us some great background on Jacob and the significance of his name, which means deceiver. His character is rooted deeply in His name, and when God changed His name to Israel, it wasn’t changing His character, it was changing what He did with it. Instead of grabbing the heel (the original translator) he was not running with God. Dr. Wright also talked about Jeremiah 17, which speaks of how a heart is more deceitful than anything else, and he told us about how we ourselves are Jacob, with deceitful hearts. It was one of my favorite talks he’s done all semester, just because he brought a new twist on the story that we knew, and we were looking at where it happened! 

The Treasury!

We stayed that night at a hotel about a five minute walk from Petra, so that in the morning we could get an early start. We left the hotel at 7am and made the walk into Petra. You walk for about a half mile down a gravel path and pass a few gravestones and then enter the Siq. This is a pretty narrow path that goes on for about a mile, and just at the end you get a glimpse of the Treasury, and it’s incredible! There are no words to describe it! It’s this magnificent structure carved out of a stone face, with elegant Corinthian pillars and it’s over two stories tall! We took a bunch of pictures there and then climbed 600 ft up to the High Place, which was a place of sacrifice for the Nabatean people. After that we began the climb down and got to see more tombs and animals carved out of rock on the way down. Next we climbed up 800 ft (or 900 stairs) to the Monastery, which is a tomb front bigger than the Treasury but not as exquisite. By the time we got up there we were huffing and puffing, but it was quite worth it! And we hiked up a bit farther to get a great view of the Edom Desert. On the way back three of us took camel rides, which was incredible! I’ve been wanting to do that since I got here. All in all, Petra was my favorite place in Jordan! I can completely believe that it’s one of the seven wonders of the world. 

The Monastery

The rest of our day got postponed because one of the girls in our group tried to follow us down from the High Place but went the wrong way and ended up falling off a cliff and breaking her leg. It was quite scary for all of us, but the Jordanian’s did a great job of taking care of her and she was able to get patched up at a clinic while being accompanied with a few of her friends and our tour guide and Dr. Wright. All praise belongs to God though because she fell from about 30 ft, and God had his hand on her because she should have been a lot more hurt. It put our entire day on hold as we spent the afternoon in the hotel waiting for news and then she took an ambulance with one of her friends back to Amman where they were able to take better xrays and cat scans to make sure there was no brain damage. She was flown home to America and is now waiting for the swelling to go down before they do surgery. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated. 

Riding a camel at Petra!

After that we arrived at our hotel in Karak. The moment we walked in we heard this loud music coming from a party downstairs. Many people weren’t excited about having music on because it was so late, but I got really excited! I’ve missed dancing, and this was my opportunity! At dinner I kept saying I was gonna go join the party, but no one seemed to believe me! However, I  proved them wrong! Our room was down by the party and when I was walking past some of the girls came out and grabbed me by the hand and pulled me on the party. Then I got to dance with about all the Jordanian boys and little girls in attendance and it was the time of my life! I got to dance to Arabic music and learn how to dance to it, and everyone was so friendly and inviting. I got introduced to many of the parents, and I even got to dance with the grandfather of the soon to be bride, which is a huge privilege! This was one of my favorite memories that I will have of my entire semester here. Interacting with the people makes me want to do that more often, just with the genuine culture and the people! I wanted to stay there all night and find out about their lives and what makes them tick! Definitely solidifying my desire to come abroad at least a few more times. 

The next morning we started off at the Karak castle, which was basically just next door to the hotel. It’s a Crusader castle, and it looked pretty similar to the one that I saw when I was in Acco. By the way, last week I went on a field study for my Islamic Thought and Practice class to Acco, Israel which is right on the coast. We went to a mosque, saw the Old City market, went to a Turkish bathhouse, and saw the Bahai Gardens, which is the holiest site to the Bahai religion. It was a pretty relaxed field study and we just got to wander the sites and enjoy them. I especially liked the gardens because they were so wonderfully landscaped. 

Bahai Gardens

Anyways, after the Karak castle we headed to the Church of the Map, which is an old church with a mosaic of 2.5 million pieces that depicted a map of Jordan and Israel. It was a great mosaic (and I can say that because I’ve seen hundreds of them this semester) and we’ve seen the pictures a lot in our travels, so it was good to finally see it in person. I can’t imagine how long it would take to make that! I would have lost patience a long time ago! We then headed on to Dibon, which was the capital of Edom. It shows up in Judges 3 when the king of Moab, whose home was in Edom, showed up in Jericho. Also in 2 Kings, there is the narrative between Mesha, king of Moab and Ahab, king of Israel. Mesha was said to be under Ahab’s thumb, and when Ahab died the Moabites rebelled and completely pushed the Israelites out of the Mishor and regained it as their land. The site itself was not much to see, just a mound of dirt with rocks on it. The archaeological situation is a lot different in Jordan than it is in Israel, so a lot of sites are left like this, unexcavated and vacant.

Our last stop of our last field study of the semester was on Mt. Nebo, where Moses went up to look into the Promised Land and where he died. Boy, this was a heavy one. I mean, this is the end of my favorite class, the one that has brought me all over Israel and Jordan and given me a new perspective on everything I believe in. It’s been taught by one of the most incredible men I’ve had the chance to study under. And just looking out and seeing what Moses saw before he died…it was powerful. To know that Moses had this same view and just trying to understand what was going on in his head got to me. What would I do if I knew I was going to die? And had come all that way and not been allowed to go in? Then Dr. Wright talked about how our life can look a bit like this, with a haze in the distance making it hard to see all that’s in front of us, but we need to just take a step into that haze and trust God to do the rest. It was very relevant to my life because I’m really nervous about going home. Things have changed a lot since I left and I’m really scared to go back and things not be familiar anymore. But I’ve changed a lot, and I’m definitely not the same person and I just need to trust that God is going to be with me every step of the way, and all the changes that have happened are for the best, no matter how hard it will be to go back to. 

This may be my last post until I get back home because I have 3 papers to write and finals to study for and I’m already struggling with finding time to fit those in. So if I don’t post, I’ll be sure to post one last one when I arrive home. Thanks for following! 



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