Why Hello There, Real World

Be content. Just looking at that phrase almost brings tears to my eyes. Back in January, before starting the most tumultuous six months of my life, I would never have guessed how much weight that phrase would carry. I chose content as my word for the year, desiring to learn how to be content in all my life. I definitely think that God has a sense of humor, because He threw my way many many many situations in which I would need to learn to be content. Looking back at my life a year ago, where I am at right now is exactly the place I would tell you I would never be. No way that I would ever want to be a missionary. Absolutely no way that I am single. And I’m a social work major….HA, that’s a funny joke.  Sometimes I wonder how it is that such a short time can change so much. These past six months I’ve been to five different countries, lived in two, interacted with three completely different cultures, met lifelong friends, started a new job, and changed my worldview. And that’s just the beginning of it! My friends joke that I’m a completely different person since coming home from Israel. I guess that’s to be expected. I mean, there’s no way you can go to Israel without changing. Someone told me there that living in Israel is like taking every paradigm, or belief that you have about the world, and throwing them on the floor. Now you’re standing over them, staring at the broken pieces and trying to figure out how to pin them back together. However, that process is hard. Sometimes it got me to the point that I was ready to throw up my hands to the sky and despair at God for why I felt that nothing could be certain. But I’m here to say that it gets better. Through prayer and intentional reflection, my experiences began to shape who I am not only in Israel, but here in America. It’s been a journey, but I’m ok. I truly believe that our greatest growth comes through trials, and the result of my hardships have formed me to be stronger than I ever thought I could be, and with bigger dreams than I ever thought possible. But, let’s go back a little bit. 

The last time I blogged was two weeks before I left Israel. I was planning on doing a final blog, but let’s just say a few days after this blog, my world was rocked and I was not ready to admit it or even process it at the time. For those of you who had been following my blog, I spoke openly about my relationship with Gerrit and his support through my time there. However, the long distance was difficult, especially with the lack of communication that the distance allowed. Things fell apart, and we ended up breaking up over Skype. Needless to say, those next few weeks were excruciating. Although I didn’t sit and mope around due to the nagging of my friends and their incredible support, I still struggled. How do you even wrap your head around being without someone who you had been with for three years? Especially when engagement was right around the corner. I didn’t really know what to do with myself. How do I just pick up and move on, especially when I’m still in the world of Israel? Coming home, I did end up seeing him, but things got worse and I finally had to come to terms with the fact that things were done. For good. 

Let’s just say, those few weeks were the most emotionally trying of my life. I tried to wrap my head around the fact that there was no engagement in my future. And I can’t even begin to explain how weird it was to come back to my home, which didn’t even feel like my home anymore, and not have him in my life anymore. See, in Israel, it was easy to go to the Old City and get my mind off of it. But at home, where there were memories everywhere, it was almost suffocating. But I reached down deep and pulled out a strength that I didn’t even know I had. And now I’m happy. Truly happy. I think it’s mostly because I just feel free. I have my whole life ahead of me, and now there are endless possibilities. And I have the peace that this is God’s plan for my life. Instead of placing a relationship in front of Him, He wants me to rely on Him. 

After the initial breakup in Israel, a wonderful South African woman named Hermana pulled me aside one day. She has been coming along side youth for many years, and she knew that I was hurting. She sat on the ground next to me, took my hand in hers, and prayed. She allowed me to cry, to hurt. But she prayed with me, lifting up my life to God, the Healer. After the prayer, she looked at me and said that the Holy Spirit had placed an image in her mind that she wanted to tell me. It was that of a mother eagle, with a next of almost grown chicks (is that the word?). When the mother thinks they’re ready, she starts to pull away sticks from the nest until eventually a baby falls. She allows the baby to fall, but then flies underneath them and catches them on top of her wings. And she relayed to me that this is what the Lord was doing to my life. He was taking away all that kept me from truly unabandoned worship and surrender of Him and letting me fall. Not to worry though, because He was going to catch me. I can’t even begin to describe how much this helped me. Knowing that everything at home was different: my church, my friends, my love life, almost crushed me. But when I rested in the peace of the Lord, I was okay. And now I’m working to remove all the other ‘sticks’ that stand between Him and I. I want to jump into His wings, leaving all else behind. Now, that’s not easy, and it’s pushed me. But I need to step up to challenges, not shy away from them. 

The Greek word for content is arkeo. It is such an incredible word. It means to be content, to have unfailing strength, and to be fulfilled/satisfied. These are all words that have come to define who I am and who I strive to be. I hope to one day get this word as a tattoo. Yes, I know that many of you will dislike that idea, but don’t worry: it will be my graduation present to myself. If in two years that is still what I want, then I figure then it will actually mean something putting it on my body. 

Now, those are all the lessons that I am learning. Let’s get back to some of the logistics of what my life has been the past few months. I came home and returned to my job at Panera Bread, which has been both a blessing and a pain. While I have really stepped up my work ethic and learned a lot more about the company, I have also gotten frustrated with the demanding clientele and drama that has gone on with the staff. Last week I was offered a job at Appletree Learning Center, which is a daycare really close to my college. I started last Monday and am really enjoying it. I get to spend time with kids all day, including babies as young as 6 weeks! I also won’t work nights and weekends, and my schedule will be the same. It is a blessing to have this job and I am so excited to see what comes of it. My last day at Panera is November 10, and while I will be sad to not work with my coworkers anymore, I will be happy to leave. 

I am living at home this semester. I made that decision because I wanted to save money and also I didn’t enjoy living at Kuyper that much last year. It was quite the transition at first, because in Israel I was used to complete freedom and not having anyone ask me where I was going or when I was coming home. But it’s been great because my parents have really accepted that I’m growing up and allowed me to have all the freedom that I want. I also am so busy that I am only home to sleep, so I don’t have much idle time to worry about what’s going on at home. I really miss my sister, but that’s something that I will have to live with forever, because she isn’t coming home in the summers anymore. I’ve really learned to cherish time I get with her, and I love being able to talk to her a few days a week. 

I have been attending a new church, which is quite the change for me because I had been attending Banner of Christ since birth. It’s been a really good change for me. I get to spend the day with my friends from college and worship with them, strengthening our friendship in our praise to the Lord together. We usually spend the whole day together and then attend Cornerstone’s worship service at night, and it allows us to discuss the sermon and pray for each other. Plus the worship at Impact Church is incredible and I feel connected there. 

School this semester has been tough. My classes are quite demanding, and having two jobs on top of that has made it hard to keep up. I had a few mental breakdowns in the beginning weeks, but I have adapted to the commuter lifestyle and accepted my busyness. It’s just something that I had to get used to, and now I’m excelling in my schoolwork and finally feel like I am in control of my world again. I was also asked to tutor, and also to be a Teaching Assistant next year. It feels awesome to be recognized and asked to step in roles to help people. My switch to social work has been pretty good, and I really do feel like this is where I need to be. And now I have Ecuador in 2014 to look forward to! 🙂

Well, that’s about it for now. There’s so much more I could tell, but this is long enough. I hope to keep blogging, just about life and things that come along. I might even take some of the philosophy that I’ve been struggling with and put those struggles on here, just so that I can get them out. 



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! 


Holy Week

This week has been Holy Week, and let’s just say, it’s been one of the best weeks here in Jerusalem. There’s just something exciting about being in Jerusalem over this time! I mean, this is where it all happened! It’s also really overwhelming, because I keep trying to make it feel real, and yet I can’t. I mean, how can I really comprehend that this was the road that Jesus walked on when He went to die? Or that I visited the place where He rose from the dead? It’s all just so powerful, it’s hard to soak in. And I’ve tried to take in every smell, every sound, every song, but yet I still feel like I haven’t gotten enough of it. But no matter what, no Holy Week will ever be able to top this. Just all the festivities, the joy and excitement, and the events have made it incredible. To celebrate it with Christians from all over the world who all come to worship Christ our Lord, together in one holy city is incredible. I just want to package up these memories and put them in a storage box that I can take out whenever I want to, because they’re memories that I want to cherish and come back to. 

Abraham’s Tomb

I’m gonna start back before Holy Week, since it’s been a little while since I last posted. A week and a half ago a group of us went to Hebron. For those of you not familiar with the place, it’s a city in the West Bank that is still occupied by the military. There are 400 Israeli settlers in the city, and there are 2700 Israeli there protecting them. This makes the Palestinians really angry. Plus the Israeli settlers are pretty cruel in the area. When we walked through the Old City, we saw that the Palestinian shop keepers had put up wire about the walkway because the settlers above them throw trash, eggs, etc on them. It was a pretty sad sight. Definitely gave me a different perspective, but I’m taking it with a grain of salt, trying not to let my emotions decide how I feel about the issue. Anyways, we went to the Abraham mosque, which is where the tomb of Abraham and Sarah is located. This is the first mosque I’ve ever been into, and it was quite interesting to see all the elements that I have been learning in my Islamic Thought and Practice class. Then we walked around the Old City for a bit, followed by a stop at a kaffiye making factory. Our final stop was to a glass making shop, where we got to see some employees blowing the glass into beautiful cups and shapes. It was incredible to see their skills! And our tour guide named Majdi, a Palestinian shop keeper who we met in Bethlehem, kept us entertained with his interesting conversations and jokes. We also got to ride in his little car, all 4 of us scrunched in, but it felt so good to be in a car again! After riding buses for the last 3 months, it was awesome to finally be in a car again. A funny moment of the trip was when we were in the car, and Majdi looks back at me and says, ‘Liz, what did Adam give Eve for Christmas Eve’? I think for a bit, trying to figure out if it was a trick question or if he really had an answer, and finally I answer with ‘an apple’. He laughs and says, ‘NOTHING! There was no Christmas! HAHA!’ And then he just bursts out laughing like it was the funniest thing he has ever said, which of course made us laugh as well. Oh Majdi…

Glass Factory

On Sunday was Palm Sunday, and thousands of people from all different countries made their way to the top of the Mount of Olives for the Triumphal Walk into Jerusalem. We’ve been excited about this for while, so on the way we were all pumped up and just anxious to be a part of it. We ended up walking down the East side (away from Jerusalem) to the start of the parade, where we met up with a Latino band, with about 20 people with instruments and traveling microphones/speakers. They sang Latino worship songs, but after a while we caught on to them (or at least the chorus) and got to sing along. The parade was led by Girl and Boy Scouts, then we followed behind. There were so many people! And it was so awesome to just see everyone so excited about Jesus! I mean, thousands of people marching towards Jerusalem is just something amazing to be a part of. And the band got a lot of attention, so it was fun to walk beside them and be a part of it. It all lasted about 3 hours, but it definitely didn’t feel that long! Plus it was a beautiful sunny day, which made it even better. 

I went to Beit Jala twice this week to volunteer at the Jerusalem School in Bethlehem. I was coaching the girls soccer team, but since that was done now I’m just helping in the library and teaching some classes. I love being at the school because I already have good relationships with the girls that I’m coaching, and I love spending time with them. And I also loved teaching this last Thursday, so I’m looking forward to have more opportunity for that. I just feel so fulfilled when I’m serving at this school, because I have such a passion for creating good relationships with these girls. They’re such fun girls and I appreciate their easygoing personalities. I really hope I have more time to spend with them before I leave. But spending time with them is really solidifying my desire to be a counselor. It seems like that has come up so many times in the past few months. I find myself looking at situations from a psychological standpoint, wondering what I can do to help. And I also think in terms of compassion, which is different than usual. I’ve also had a lot of opportunities to talk to people about my dreams of being a counselor and why I want to be one, and that has really been good for me to express those and by expressing them they’ve really become real. I know that it’s my calling, and I have such a passion for working in people’s lives.

Clara, Anna & I at Garden of Gethsemane

On Thursday, a bunch of us went to a Maundy Thursday service at Christ Church, which is an Anglican church in the Old City. It was definitely the best service I’ve had since I left. The music was contemporary, and that is the first time in a few years that I’ve gotten emotional during worship. The Spirit really moved in my heart that night, putting on my heart the enormity of that night and the next day and what that means for my life. It was a very liturgical service, but I find that I’m starting to love the liturgy and tradition here. It just adds so much to the service. After the service most of the church made the (about a mile) walk to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was betrayed that night about 2,000 years ago. We did a devotion there, and then had time to reflect and wander the Garden. Whew, there’s no words for what I was feeling when I looked at Jerusalem from the Garden. I mean, this was the last view that Jesus would’ve had! Granted, different walls, different temple, but this is his last view before being taken into custody. This is where Jesus sat in turmoil, asking for the cup to be taken from Him. This is the start of those events that changed history. Right there, where I was standing. I just sat there, overwhelmed, trying to contemplate how blessed I was to have a Savior that willingly took on our sin, and allowed himself to be taken. I mean, a ten minute walk and He would’ve been in the Judean Wilderness, safe from harm. But He didn’t turn and run, He stood up and took it head on, knowing the suffering that was ahead of Him. If that doesn’t hit you, then I don’t know what will. 

Tricinlinium Meal

On Friday, Amber, Peter and I went to Christ Church for their Good Friday service and then went to do the Via Dolorosa Walk, which was really cool. This is the Walk that thousands of Christians come each year to walk because it’s the path that remembers where Jesus walked on the way to Golgotha. There were a lot of groups carrying crosses, which was a cool thing to see. We were there in the afternoon so the crowds had died down a bit, but it really made things real. However, I didn’t have any huge eye opening moments during that time, but I can’t expect those at every event. I guess I had just been thinking this would be one of those events that would really get to me, but since I walk that path a lot and have been there frequently, it really didn’t mean as much as I thought it would. However, I’m still glad I did it, for it allowed me to picture the street in a different way.That night we did an ancient Triclinium meal, which celebrates Passover, but it just so happened that it was Good Friday as well, which only happens like every 20 years! We all dressed up in togas, ate Biblical food, reclined on the floor and ate ancient style! It was great.  

Via Dolorosa

Saturday was a homework day. I finally started on one of my 10 page papers, and got a good amount done, which takes my stress load off a bit. I’m writing about the Dhimmi, which is the Christians and the Jews that were under the Muslims. It’s something that is not very well known in the West, and I’m really glad that I’ve come across it here in my studies because it’s really opened my eyes to the roles of Christians here in the Middle East. I’ll definitely post my paper for future reference if any of you want to learn about it. 

Last night we watched the Passion of the Christ. I had never seen it because I was too young to see it when it came out. I knew it was going to be intense, but the reality and brutality of it really got to me. I seriously cried from the time the whipping started till the end. I just couldn’t stop! I mean, it’s one thing to hear a story and read it, but it’s totally different to watch it unfolding before your eyes. I just can’t imagine what it would have been like to really be there. I know I have a better understanding now that I’ve been here and visited those places, but I still have a hard time picturing what it would’ve felt like to see your Savior beaten, whipped, and crucified. And I have such a greater appreciation for Mary too. We in the West tend to try and stay away from everything Mary because of the tendencies of the Catholic and Eastern Churches to put so much emphasis on her. But I think she deserves a lot of credit (at least as much as given to Paul, etc). I mean, she was the mother of Jesus, and she watched him die. I can’t imagine what that would’ve been like. That’s your son, who you tended to when he was a kid and got scratched up, who you followed on his journeys. I mean, that love of mother and son gets lost a bit. And I also just couldn’t get over the suffering that Jesus endured, for us. For ME! He suffered and took on my sin. I don’t deserve any of it, but Jesus laid down His life for me. What a powerful thought. 

Sunrise Service

The next day was Easter. Best day of the semester, by far. I mean, there was no big field study, no awesome ruins, but just the day itself was perfect. I woke up early and left by 5am with a group of us that went to the sunrise service at the Garden Tomb. We had to wait in line, and when we got inside it was packed! For those of you not familiar with it, the Garden Tomb is a place that is a possibility for Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified and buried, but it is unlikely. Archaeological evidence greatly credits the Holy Sepulcher as the more likely place, but the Garden Tomb is a beautiful place that I enjoy going to more than the Holy Sepulcher. Anyways, the service was wonderful. It was definitely a Western service, which made me feel so at home. We sang songs like How Deep the Fathers Love For Us and Might To Save…definitely songs I haven’t heard in a while! And it was just great. The speaker was great, and it was incredible to be in such a powerful place. I’m in Jerusalem…Jesus resurrected here! I mean, how am I so blessed to experience that? It made Easter really come alive! 

Hezekiah’s Tunnel

Then a group of us went to SamBooki, our favorite bakery located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. We got lattes (yes, I’m becoming a coffee snob, even starting to like black coffee!) and sat for two hours in the early morning, just enjoying people watching, the view, and talks of life, future, and theology. It was one of those moments where I look around and say, ‘Wow! I am so blessed. I mean, pinch me!’ It felt so wonderful to spend time with friends just reflecting and thinking about the future. And the Jewish courtyard is such a wonderful place to relax. After that we headed back to campus for a brunch with homemade cinnamon rolls! YUM! Then a group of us went to Hezekiah’s Tunnel, which King Hezekiah built that connected the spring outside the city into the city walls so that they could have water during the siege. It was so cool, and it was incredible to think of how much work it would’ve taken! The water was to my thighs at one point, but the water level was mostly mid-calf for most of it. I think I am going to go again before the semester is over. 

That afternoon we had a campus wide event outside, and since it was 91 degrees, it was wonderful! We played some group games like egg on a spoon and water balloon toss, which turned into a water fight! Then we had an egg hunt, and finally we had a barbecue. How good it was to eat American food and spend time in fellowship with each other. We have become a big family after spending 3 months together, and it was so great to play volleyball, talk with each other and just spend a beautiful Easter day in the sunshine celebrating that our Savior was alive! 

Oldie but a goodie – picture from the Dead Sea 

Well, that was Holy Week. It was such a good week. I’m so grateful I chose to come here for spring semester to have the opportunity to be here for it. It really gave me such a real perspective of Passion Week. And the weather the past 2 weeks has been so warm! It’s been in the 80’s, with a few days reaching the 90’s! Now this is what I have been waiting for!

Volunteering at Beit Jala has been good, I’ve had the opportunity to teach a few classes, which has been good. The middle schoolers are definitely a handful, but it’s good for me to have some more responsibility and have to crack the whip a few times! I really miss soccer, but I get to see the girls a lot, which makes it worth it. And it feels great to be helping them out. 

Today I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. It was a great way to spend the morning. It was better than I thought it would be. I mean, I was expecting to walk in and be pelted by graphic images and have my emotions tugged at every turn. But it was refreshingly balanced, just giving a good historical timeline of the events. I could’ve spent all day there, but we only had a few hours so we made the best of it. So glad I went. 

Tomorrow we leave for Jordan for 4 days…our last field study of the year! Only 24 days till I leave Israel, and 29 till I’m home! It’s gone by so fast, but I’m starting to get ready to come home. Can’t wait to see you all in a few weeks. 



I know I just posted a few days ago, but so much has happened that I just need to tell you all about it! Geez, God is showing up in so many huge ways! I have never felt more driven or purposeful in my life. It’s like He’s giving me purpose, giving me HIS dreams. I am so excited about this! 

To start out, I went with a group of other students to Succat Hillel (a part of International House of Prayer) across the valley two nights ago. Let’s just say, I had no idea what I was getting into! I thought it was going to be a normal worship and sermon deal, but it ended up being a charismatic healing service. I have never been around that before! The worship to begin with was fantastic! People had no inhibitions, and were just worshiping God with their whole heart. It was so amazing to watch people dance because of the joy of the Lord in their hearts. People were just letting go and allowing the Spirit to move within them. It was amazing, I’m telling you! I was able to just praise God freely and let my emotions show! I have such respect for that kind of worship, although I don’t know if it would be where I would go every week. It was just a great way to let my joy of the Lord come out and praise Him. 

After that, things got interesting. The pastor started talking about his healing school that he is the head of in Bethel, California, and the people that he had healed. I mean, I started getting really critical. I guess that’s just my nature because everything he was saying was unfamiliar to me. Then he called people up to say words of knowledge, and people said things like their back was hurting or their eyes felt like they were twitching, and then the pastor would turn to the congregation and ask who had that problem. Then people with that problem would stand up and he would ask them if they felt better, and a lot of them said they did. That’s when I got really critical. I mean, were these people faking? Were they truly healed? How am I supposed to know? I really didn’t like the way the pastor went about it, but who am I to tell the Holy Spirit what He can do? After that service, I went back to campus reeling. I could not get it out of my head. Maybe it’s just because it’s so new of a concept, but I had no idea what to feel about it. I mean, the disciples were given the same Spirit as us, and if they healed people, can we? Or is that only for them? But yet, God does amazing things, beyond our comprehension, and we can’t even begin to say that we know. I believe that God can work through things like words of knowledge, but we cannot take any responsibility for the healing, because it is the Holy Spirit working through us. Since I was so confused about the subject, I turned to a few of my friends to see what their takes was on it. And one view that I really appreciated was that we have to look at those services with discernment, because God can use them to teach us and to work through. But we have to look for what is Biblical, and what is not, and ask God for discernment to figure out what He wants us to get from it. We cannot discredit that the Spirit dwells within us and moves and still works. So that’s why I can’t just say that those people weren’t healed, because who am I to say what the Spirit does? However, this is not the kind of church I think I will attend. It really opened my eyes, though, which I appreciate. Being open minded is one big lesson I’m taking from living here. 

Being from America, I think we are so engrossed in our American paradigms and beliefs that we look at every other sect of Christianity, like the Eastern Church or even the Charismatic as lower than us, or even heretical. But I think I have learned that there is so much more to Christianity than the contemporary church of America. There are so many lessons we can take from these other churches. I mean, there’s definitely issues with both, but we can learn from them how to worship without inhibitions, or how to worship through tradition. I know that I will be coming back with a different perspective on what the church really is and our mission as Christ followers. 

Then today a group of us went to visit a lawyer named Calev Meyers, a Messianic Jew who is part of the biggest law firm in Israel. He has helped get the prostitution bill into the Knesset (Israeli government) and he works for the discriminated religious population and also for human rights. This guy was so profound! He spoke truth into many of the issues that I have been struggling with. He spoke of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, which is something that I knew nothing about before coming here, but after living here I’m not sure what to do with it. He spoke that he is not pro – Palestine or pro – Israel, but he is looking to bring dignity to all people here. He said that the best solution he can think of is to have the Palestinian Authority start to attack itself from within, with righteous Palestinians challenging it, trying to bring around social reform. Because most of the injustice of the Palestinians is from the Palestinian Authority itself. Calev is working on challenging the Israeli government and the religious radicals in order to bring social reform to Israel. By each side turning within and not to each other, we could have reconciliation in the future. This is the first solution that I’ve heard that actually has promise. 

He also spoke of why he is so passionate about human rights. He said that Jesus came and brought dignity to people. Jesus came into a time where the sanctity of life was almost non – existent. Men were torn by lions in front of crowds, babies were thrown away like garbage, and women were treated as property, even in the Jewish realm. Jesus showed that the sanctify of life is important, and that women should be treated with love. Jesus sat down with Mary and Martha and shared Scripture with them. He was bringing dignity to their lives! And that’s what Calev is trying to do with his work. He’s trying to bring the Kingdom to the people here, helping to remove them from social injustices and show them their worth in God. And this REALLY spoke to me. I’ve always been passionate about human rights, and I want to be a counselor and work with abused children, trafficked childen, broken families, etc. And listening to him made me so inspired! He is making such a difference, and so can I! Even now, in college and broke, I can still make an impact. I really want to get involved with this when I get back, maybe just by raising awareness at my college about persecution in the Middle East or the Palestinian conflict. I just am so joyous at this moment, I can barely contain it! God is showing me His purpose, and it’s so much bigger than I could even imagine! I hope someday I can use my counseling practice to work with injustice issues and serve an international purpose. I can’t wait to see what plans God has for me…I’m only getting a glimpse! 

On a sad note, soccer has been canceled. The girls have been complaining and giving lots of excuses to not come to practice, so yesterday it was a bit cold and rainy and a lot of the girls had complained to the principal. He was tired of it, and he told them if they didn’t show up to practice he would cancel soccer. So Ian and I get there, and only one girl showed up. So Terry (the principal) stuck to his word and canceled soccer. It’s a bit frustrating because I’ve spent so much time investing in it, but I have to trust that God is in control and hopefully something redemptive can come out of it. Now I have other opportunities to help the school in other ways, and I’m going to throw myself into that and serve where I can. 

Well, three blog posts in three days! I hope you have enjoyed them! I just had to write about this, it’s been taking over my brain waves for the past few days. I just thank God for the clarity I’ve gotten this week, and the reassurance of His love. He is amazing.


Galilee: Part 2

The third day began at Hazor, a city north of the Sea of Galilee located in the Huleh Basin. This was a very critical city in ancient times and even today. It was considered the greatest among equals (of the Canaanite kings) and is the largest archaeological tel in Israel. The Bible story that we focused on was the story in Joshua 11. This was when the King of Hazor called together the other Canaanite kings in the area (since he was the head) and asked them to help him ambush Joshua and the Israelites. The kings met at Mt. Hermon (which we got to see, all covered in snow) and then headed to Mt. Meron (highest mountain in Israel) where they planned to ambush Joshua when he took Hazor. However, God intervened and delivered the kings into Joshua’s hands, and he ambushed the ambusher. The site itself was huge and very interesting, and it had one of the three six – chambered Solomonic gates found in Israel (the other ones are in Megiddo and Gezer). 

Ancient Mud Brick Arch

After Hazor we traveled on to Dan, which is located at the top of the Huleh Basin, north of Hazor. Dan first shows up in Genesis 14 when Abraham went as far as Dan in his travels. This place was the top of the Basin, which served as an international ground that was full of conflict throughout the years. In ancient times, it was the Hittites and the Arameans pushing through there to get to Israel. In modern times (even back in the 1960’s) it was the Syrians who tried to come through there, but instead of chariot warfare it was tank warfare. At the site we got to see a mud brick arch that dates back to the time of the patriarchs (middle bronze age) which proves that the Romans were not the ones to invent the arch! The site was beautiful, full of vegetation, almost felt like we were walking through a jungle (although I’ve never been to a real jungle). The spring at Dan is the most powerful headwater spring to the Jordan River, with about 2,000 gallons a minute! 

Caesarea Phillippi 

Then we went to Caesarea Philippi (or Banias) and got to see a bit of New Testament history, which was great because we have focused so much on the Old Testament. This place was where Jesus came and where Peter acknowledged Jesus as the living God. It was also a place full of pagan worship, with the pagans worshiping the god Pan in the cave and some of the temples were built for worship of the emperor. When Jesus asked who He was, He was declaring that He was not the pagan gods or Caesar, but the true living God, the Messiah amongst rampant idol worship. We had a great time climbing up onto some of the capitals there and then we got a chance to go for a hike. We went beside the spring (that comes out beneath the cave) for about an hour, and got to enjoy the wildflowers and vegetation along the trail. At the end we stopped by the waterfall and enjoyed the powerful mist that it created! 

Mt. Hermon

We ended the day on the edge of an extinct volcanic cone looking into Syria. I don’t know about you, but when I heard I would be standing on a volcano I pictured Lord of the Rings, open gaping hole volcano. But it was more just like a mountain with a cone – looking top. That was a bit disappointing, but it was awesome to be able to look into Syria and get an idea of what the land north of Israel looks like. 

By the time we got back to Ein Gev Resort, it was already dark and the sunset had come and gone. However, we were determined to swim in the water, and since we hadn’t had a chance thus far, we were going in despite the darkness and the cold air. So we put on our swimsuits and waded in, and boy, was it cold! It more of a numbing cold, so when we were in for a while it wasn’t as bad. A few people went in waist deep and went out, but Amber, Anna and I had a blast just running around in the water and being goofy. It definitely felt great to let loose a bit and then enjoy a hot shower later! The food at the resort was fantastic! And the dessert was amazing, I have missed dessert so much! We get it very rarely, so getting cake and brownies made everything better. 

Our boat!

We woke up the next day and said goodbye to our resort, a bit sad, but I knew that the rest of the day was going to be great. We started the day off going on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, which was fantastic! I found myself leaning over the side, feeling the breeze against my face and just enjoying being out on the water. I was able to imagine Jesus out on the boat with His disciples, and the story that ensued. I could see in my head the waves crashing against the boat and the wind whistling in my ear. And I could imagine how terrifying it would be in such a small boat in that kind of storm. That was really cool. And just being out on a boat felt great, and it was an awesome start to the day. 

Synagogue at Capernaum

The next stop to Capernaum was my favorite stop the entire trip. There was just something special about the site. Jesus spent a lot of time here, and to see the place where He might have stayed and to see the area where His disciples would have been when He called them…WOW. We got a lot of background information on Capernaum, such as it was a huge fishing industry for the lake and had great agricultural area. It was also had a deep Roman footprint, with Roman buildings and at the time, Roman soldiers stationed there. The Sea of Galilee was just a clashing of mindsets and cultures, and this is where Jesus did most of His ministry. It’s way different than the provincial area of Nazareth where he grew up. Dr. Wright read Matthew 4 to us, the story of the calling of the disciples, while we were all sitting on rocks gazing out at the Sea. You could tell that it was a powerful moment for everyone, because we could see it, feel it, imagine it! To know that Jesus walked along this shore, that the disciples were catching fish right here. Then we got some time to just sit quietly and reflect, and that was perfect. I was able to read the passage against and praise Jesus in my heart, praising Him for all that He is, and was, and is to come. I prayed that I would have faith like those disciples, and that I would live my life as a disciple for Christ, giving up everything that I have to follow Him. It was a bit of a turning point for me. I decided that materials don’t matter to me, serving God does. Nothing in my life matters as much as He does, and my life needs to reflect that. My career choice needs to reflect that, my words need to reflect that, everything does. I’m not going to do this half way, just letting myself be complacent and do enough to make it to heaven. I want to service Jesus and His Kingdom, putting Him first. 

Our stop for lunch was at Chorazim, where Jesus writes in Matthew 11:20 that it was one of the three places that He did most of His miracles, yet they did not repent. That is the only mention of Chorazim in the Bible, which surprised me that He did most of His miracles there, yet it wasn’t mentioned. Anyways, the site was really interesting, with a 5th century Byzantine synagogue, complete with an image of Medusa inscribed on the rock. Now that threw us for a loop! Not sure what the explanation of that is, but I’m sure it’s a good one! We ate our last bus lunch of the semester (sad day!) and explored the site a bit before we headed for our last stop. 

The final stop of the trip was the Cliffs of Arbel, where we were able to talk on the top about our trip and the view, and then we got to climb down the cliffs to the bottom where our bus was located. This was definitely awesome, because I am a daredevil, and I have been itching to do some climbing! Granted, there were handholds and a trail, but it satisfied my desire for a bit. Then we got to go climb up into some caves and explore, which I loved! Two weeks before that one of the short term students had actually found a Roman coin in one of the coins, so that gave us all motivation to look for some! Unfortunately, we weren’t that blessed, but it was still great to explore them anyways. 

On the bus ride home, I was sitting next to one of my friends and was just reflecting on the past few days and the impact it had on me. This whole experience has changed me, molded me, and shaped me into a different person. I see things differently, I experience things differently, and I think about things way differently. I see it as when I’ve grown up, I’ve kinda lived in a box. An American box, a Vogt family box, a homeschool box, etc. Everything I am has been shaped by that box, but coming here allowed me to step out of that box and see who I am without all that. When everything is unfamiliar, when all that I know is stripped away, what is left? And that’s what I’m figuring out. I’m realizing who I am without all that is familiar, without all that has shaped me in the past. I’m finding out that there are a lot of traits that I’ve had that I don’t want anymore, and I’ve purposely gone out of my way to put myself in situations that will change that. For example, I’m a really impatient person. But I’ve been waiting for everyone else to eat before me so that I have to be patient and let others go first. But I’m also realizing that I’m losing a lot of my American paradigms that I came with. I see the Middle East differently, the church differently, my faith differently, etc. A wise woman that spoke said that living in the Middle East is like getting every American paradigm you have shaken up and thrown onto the ground, then trying to pick up the pieces. And believe me, it’s not easy! What do I want to come back to America with? What do I want for my life when I go home? Is all this change going to go to waste, or will it last? These are all thoughts that have been occupying my mind. God has really been working with me, and I can’t wait to see what else He has in store with me. My heart is full of such joy as I grow closer to Him everyday and my passion for Him and His Word grows each day. 

Coral Reef Reserve

On another note, two friends and I went to Eilat right after this trip for 2 1/2 days because we only had one class last week. Eilat is a resort town at the southern tip of Israel, right on the Red Sea. It was very Americanized, with a lot of casinos and resorts and many many MANY tourists walking around. We stayed in a hostel and actually got a room to ourselves, which was great! We went out to the coral reef reserve and got to go snorkeling on the coral reef (which is the 2nd best in the world!!). We got to see jelly fish, barracuda, eels, and so many beautiful fish! They were so bright that I didn’t even think they were real!! It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had, one that will go down in my memory book for awhile. That night we got to go out on the town and eat at a cute little sandwich bar, where we met these paratroopers who just got out of the army. It was cool to chat with them for awhile, and then we went to see the Hunger Games…8 hours before it came out in the US! Talk about a win! The next day we went to the beach and laid out and then went shopping at the mall (I walked in and was like…’THIS FEELS LIKE HOME’) before taking the 4 hour bus back to Jerusalem. 

The next day was our student activity day (let’s just say, by this time I was exhausted — going on 6 full days of nonstop activity) at Gan Hoshlosha, in the Galilee area. It’s a beautiful park (rated in top 20 in the world) with natural hot springs that are used for pools. It was great to finally be in fresh water and to enjoy time as a group without the worry of notes. A few of the guys ended up throwing us into the water by having us step on their hands and then pushing up. I was the smallest, so I got lots of air and was able to do back flips, which was awesome! We also got to grill out, which also made me feel miss home. Hamburgers and hot dogs, yes! 

Me getting thrown!

I got to watch the KU game last night, which was so good! I can’t even describe how happy it made me to watch some basketball. It’s been killing me to not be able to watch March Madness, and even though the game froze about every 10 seconds and the quality was so bad we could barely even see the ball, it was so worth it to see my Jayhawks win! Ugh, ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK! 

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll post pictures when I can, but 4 hours of blog writing is enough for one day! I hope everything is well in America, I’m a bit isolated over here so I have no idea what’s even going on. Going back is going to be a culture shock, that’s for sure! 

Love you all! 

Galilee: Part 1

Oh boy, the thought of writing this blog has been looming the past few days because so much has happened over the past 2 weeks and I’m really not sure where to start. God has been showing up in huge ways, and I can’t even begin to describe how joyous I am to be seeing God in an entirely new light. Not only have I seen where my Savior grew up, but I have seen the place where He spent most of His adult ministry and did many of His miracles. Over those four days I spent in Galilee I really felt like I could feel and see Jesus, not only in a figurative sense but also in a literal sense, because I could sit on a rock in an area that He had been and try to imagine what it was like in His time. There were many moments where I sat there, pondering the enormity of the place that I was standing on, and somehow trying to wrap my head around what that means for me in my life. Let’s just say it’s been a reflective few weeks! 

I think I’m going to split this field study into two blogs, the first two days on the first blog and the second two days and my trip to Eilat on the second blog. That way I can tell you all more about what happened in detail, rather than just a brief overview. Well, here goes. 

The port is in the background.

Our first stop was to Caesarea, a port city located on the Mediterranean Sea (more specifically on the Sharon Plain) that was build up by Herod. As I’ve said before, Herod is a genius. There were already ports at Dor and Acco, but Herod wanted a port that was more Jerusalem oriented rather than Galilee oriented, and he also wanted land that he could make Caesar friendly, with no previous ties to other people groups. The issue with Caesarea is that it was a swampy wasteland, not fit for any port. But Herod, just being himself, tried to one – up the Creator by building there anyway. He took this wasteland and turned it into the most used port in the time of the New Testament, and also brought to it many archaeological innovations never seen before. Herod actually had men dive underneath the water with pillars and cement them underwater in order to keep the debris from the current from getting in. I mean, who would’ve thought they had underwater cement back then, or who would’ve thought that it was even possible? Good ol’ Herod did, that’s for sure! In relation to Biblical stories, Paul was held in Herod’s pretorium (located behind the palace) for 2 years by Felix. 

Aqueduct at Caesarea

Our second stop was to an overlook on top of Mt. Carmel. Here we had a fantastic view of the Jezreel Valley before us, with looks to Mt. Tabor, Mt. Gilboa, and Mt. Moreh, all which have Biblical stories attached to them. Up here we discussed when Elijah build an altar where we were standing (maybe not exactly, but general area) in order to prove the power of YHWH (God’s personal name) in direct contrast to the pagan worshipers who were expecting Baal to light their altar. God showed up in a big way that day, and it was amazing to know that this all happened right where we were standing, and that Elijah saw the same view we did, experiencing God’s blessings on the valley beneath and the mountains on the horizon line. 

After lunch, we headed to the Tel of Megiddo, a very important ancient city located at the neck of the Megiddo pass, which led into the Jezreel Valley. It is the only city that had a complete view of the Jezreel Valley, and it also was the shortest route into the Valley, giving it an advantage to the other Valley cities. Pharoah Thutmose III spoke of it, saying that taking it would be like taking a thousand cities, because having Megiddo is having control of the Valley. King Josiah had control of Megiddo after the Assyrian’s lost it, but he ended up dying at the hands of Pharoah Nicho there, his dying breath taken in Jerusalem. 

Our last stop of the first day was to Jezreel, another Valley city. This city serves as the backdoor into the valley, and was an important city to King Ahab, the son of King Omri. Ahab wanted access to all the people groups he had made treaties with (Phoenicia, Judah, etc.), and Jezreel served as the middle point of his kingdom. Ahab most likely felt at home in Jezreel, since it was very similar to his hometown. However, Jezreel became a site that symbolized the decay and corruption of Israel, complete with King Jehu killing King Jorim and Jezebel in this Valley. 

That night we stayed in Nazareth at the St. Gabriel Hotel, which was a great break from campus! A group of us watched MegaMind (great movie!) and got to relax and not worry about homework for a bit. The food was also pretty good, and the stay was a good one except for the power going out at one point after dinner. But I got to room with Amber for the night, and it was great to have the room to ourselves for the night, minus two roommates. 

Theatre at Sepphoris

The next morning we began our journey at Sepphoris, or Zippori in Hebrew. This is a city located right off the International Route, therefore was a home to many different groups of people. Here we saw a Roman theatre, a Jewish synagogue full of mosaics, a Crusader tower, and a Roman villa. At this place we talked a lot about whether or not we could tell if the place was more Greek or Jewish, a problem we have with many places in Galilee. It came down to a question that Dr. Wright asked: ‘Well how Jewish was Jesus? How Greek was Jesus?’ Do we really know the answer to that? Yes and no. We know that Jesus was a kosher – keeping rabbi, but He also spoke Greek, and He had many opportunities for interaction with Hellenists. Even in the synagogue, the middle mosaic was of a zodiac, surrounded by four corners of the Jewish agricultural calender. Does that mean that there was syncretism here? Or were the Jews there so hellenized that it didn’t even matter? The explanation Dr. Wright gave is that this could be Torah, because the images in the Zodiac are of moon and sun, with a man in the middle who could be Elijah. It was an interesting take on it because my first thought was to jump to conclusions and talk about how terrible these Jews were doing at keeping Torah. But then someone brought up how a lot of our churches have Christmas trees in there during Christmas, but do they really know that the Christmas tree is a pagan symbol? Or remember when guitars in church was considered secular? Things change, and we can’t just assume that the ancient culture was any different. This place definitely pushed my ideas and worldview a bit, which was great. It was also a cool place because it was most likely that Jesus worked with Joseph here, rebuilding the city after the Romans burned it down because of the Jewish nationalists. I couldn’t believe that Jesus might’ve helped build some of the ruins I was looking at…WOW! 

Nazareth Ridge

My favorite part of the day, and one of my favorite parts of the entire trip was our time on the Nazareth Ridge. This is where Jesus would have grown up, where He could’ve played as a kid with his friends or came out to pray. We sat on the top of the cliff and looked out into the valley, just like He would have. Jesus had this view of the Valley, where so many of the Old Testament stories had taken place. He could see the story of Barak and Deborah, the stories of Elijah and Elisha, the stories of Saul and Jonathan. This was a provincial area, content in its own customs and cultures and a bit of a backwater town. Jesus did not perform most of His ministry here for a reason, and Dr. Wright alluded that He needed to move out into a more international area that facilitated the spread of the gospel. However, this was where Jesus was brought up. I just couldn’t get over that fact. I stared out into the Valley, feeling the wind in my face, and just let myself be enveloped by the joy of the Lord. I could feel His love and mercy, His fondness of the land before me, and His grace that He washed over us. It was a powerful moment, to say the least. I have never felt so at ease, so peaceful. It’s like Jesus was reassuring me that He has my best interests at heart, and I just need to let go and let God. He has my future in His hand, and all I have to do is follow Him and He will lead me. What a great reassurance that I will treasure. 

Side note: When we were walking back to the bus, Hermana (one of the graduate students and a major role model for us young’uns) walked over to find out what this big balloon was that we had seen. Ian and I followed her, and we walked over to where these three men had their trunk open and a computer in the back. It turned out they were hired by the Israeli government to use their camera (attached to the string of the balloon) to keep everyone safe and keep an eye on what was going on due to the terrorist threats on the event. They were just using an off brand Xbox controller to move it around, and we could see the whole ridge! It was really cool. 

Communal potties!

Our last stop was to Beth – Shean (New Testament Scythopolis), an amazing site packed full of Roman ruins. There was the Tel, with an ancient temple on top. Then there were the Cardo, with Roman pillars lining the sides, an ampitheater, a hippodrome, Roman communal toilets (where everyone would poop and talk), and tons of pillars and intricate capitals strewn along the ground. I loved this place because there was so much to it and we really got a sense for what a Roman Decapolis city looked like. It was one of those times where I really felt like I was walking through history. 

Sunset over Sea of Galilee

That night we got to stay at Ein Gev, in these cute little ‘cottages’. Seriously, it felt like a vacation! I got to be with my best two girl friends, and we hungout and watched movies as a group and got to spend quality time together. It was awesome to be right on the beach and see the sunset over the Sea of Galilee, which was incredible! That night I felt like I was walking on air, just high on what I had seen/felt that day, and just the joy from being able to be on a little vacation break. 

I have really come to love the two verses in Psalm 26 that say, ‘Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.’ Isn’t that great?

That’s the first two days. More to come! 


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