On Record: We’re not having a Great Flood here. It has been rainy, however, and it has been quite the adventure. Allow me to elaborate:
Friday dawned clear and wet. I went out to join my Hawaiian friends for the last time, as they would be heading to Jerusalem later that day (home sweet home!). As I approached, a little old oriental-like gentleman with whom I had conversed previously looked up at me from across the beach and called out “Oh, look! The Mormon’s here!” I think I like that label quite a bit. I stayed for the songs, then slipped away between music and Bible class to get ready for the day. The best part, however, was that a huge, bright, beautiful rainbow (with a faint double) had appeared in the sky, spanning all the lake that we could see. It was magnificent. I read the scriptures in Genesis regarding the rainbow and remembered the covenants Heavenly Father gave me.
Friday was a field trip day. The day had looked threatening when we left, and by the time to Gamla (which means Camel, because the hill looks like a camel’s hump) it was pouring. We all tumbled off of the bus and ran to a nearby picnic table shelter, where we huddled together to keep warm while we listened to Brother Schade tell us about the city. When he finished his devotional, we all stalwartly sang “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today” before charging out into the rain.
We hiked down the hill we were on and up the next hill to the ruins—in the rain. It was muddy and slippery and very, very cold. I only took an involuntary slide once, but my pants and once-white jacket did not survive unscathed. Gamla was still cool, though, despite the rain. I wandered about the ruins with Hannah and Stephen mostly, though we blended in and out with other groups. We saw a huge gap in the Eastern wall where Roman soldiers breached the Jewish fortifications after months of siege. We walked along the edges of the cliffs where hundreds of Jewish defenders had thrown themselves to their deaths rather than be slain by the Romans (earning Gamla the very appropriate title, “the Masada of the North”). We looked at a mikva (ritual bath) and took bathing/showering pictures in it—with wet hair and everything. We also sang a few hymns, since Hannah and Stephen also like to sing. The highlight, however, was the remains of a first century synagogue. The scriptures say that Jesus taught in the synagogues of Galilee. Gamla is not part of what was formally known in the Roman Empire as the Galilee, but it has always been considered part of the Galilee area. Conclusion: this may be our best bet for a synagogue that Jesus Christ taught in.
Our next two stops were shorter and less wet, though still cold since we were all now officially soaked. We stopped in at Kursi, where we saw the remains of a church dedicated to the miracle of Jesus casting the legion of devils into the swine (consequently we also took a class picture of everybody making pig faces, but we’ll leave that for another day). Brother Schade gave us a great devotional, and we wandered around a bit to see the lovely mosaics (many of which were conveniently defaced by the Muslim conquerors, who would not abide animal or human images in holy spots) and looking for frogs and tadpoles in one of the deeper puddles (they really were there). After that we also visited , where we walked through an old army tunnel from the Six Days War and saw many Roman remains—from columns fallen together in an earthquake to old dwelling places to the ruins of Byzantine churches.
When we got back we were very cold and very wet. Each of us girls in my apartment took it in turns to take a hot shower. A good lunch also did much to improve everyone’s spirits. Although we had the option to swim that afternoon and a group did invite me along to see the kibbutz, I ended up curling up in a warm blanket and joining Ellen and Katie and Abby and a few others in Ellen’s apartment to watch one of my favorite song-and-dance type shows, “Newsies”—a warm, wonderful way to spend a chilly afternoon. After that I did some homework, all the while wrapped in a blanket and attempting to maintain my coziness level. I know I sound like a complete wimp, and maybe it’s true. Maybe I’m downright spoiled and accustomed to being warm and should think of such amazing figures as the Martin handcart company and the Shackleton expedition and count my blessings—but darn it all, I was cold. So there.
Saturday was Sabbath, and the two classes took it in turns to bus over to the chapel in Tiberias for church services. My group was in the afternoon, so I spent most of the morning pouring over my scriptures and Preach My Gospel and enjoying the significantly improving weather. Stephen made me teach him street contact style with him playing and interested Catholic, and we made an appointment for Sunday night (I guess with the non-proselytizing agreement being what it is, this may be as good a practice run as I’m going to get).
Church was amazing, too, there in the little Tiberias chapel—we got there just as it started to rain again. The chapel was the top floor of a building overlooking the sea, the lower floors being used for classrooms and such. I got to see Katie’s great Aunt and Uncle, who are serving a mission in Galilee (Brother Graham presided over the meeting). The service was wonderful, featuring some really good talks about gratitude and one of my favorite hymns, “A Prayer of Thanksgiving.” Afterwards we stood on the balcony outside the chapel and enjoyed what I am convinced is the most beautiful view in all of Christendom. The storm had made the sky clear and the air sweet, and the sun was going down, bathing the Sea of Galilee in soft pink and gold light. I could have stood there looking forever. Unfortunately, though, we had places to be. We stopped off at the Jordan River on the way back, at a spot used as a baptismal site for anybody who wants to be baptized in the Jordan. There we took some great pictures and observed the tile copies of Jesus’ baptism story lining the walls in at least fifty different languages (Paul read aloud to us from the one in Hawaiian Pidgin—yes, they had it, true story) before going home to dinner. I also went to mission prep that evening, then went over to the Judds’ afterwards to tell a bedtime story to the girls (The Smile of a Rose, Lydia). Sister Judd gave me a bag of marshmallows and a water bottle-turned-vase containing three gerbera daisies as a thank you. Sister Judd is the best.
Sunday was once again a class day for us lucky Schades—though happily for us, from here on out our field trips are to be combined, so we will actually see something of each other. Hooray! I woke up very early to finish my paper for New Testament (handwritten—ugh. It made me very grateful for my fantastic word processor). I had good intentions about getting in some of my homework between class, but one look at the beach put all of that on the back burner. I spent the next two hours wading in the water, playing with the Judd and Stratford children, collecting sea shells, learning to skip rocks (thank you, Andrew) and making a turtle out of sand and shells with Lisa Judd. I did not want class to start again—but, dutiful student that I am, I managed to tear myself away from the sunshine and surf to go learn about Jesus’ teachings before the Last Supper.
I went out that afternoon as well and played some more. It was a swim day, and although it had become a wee bit cloudy I wanted to participate—but there was one small problem. No bathing suit. Yep—Rachel managed to be extremely intelligent once again and hand her swimming suit to the cleaning lady along with the dirty towels on Sabbath morning by accident. Brilliant, no? I did check in with housekeeping, but it hasn’t turned up yet, so instead I wade. Fortunately, however, Sister Judd had a spare swimming suit just in case, so I borrowed her spare (which fit very well, thank heaven) to use for our swimming time on the field trip the next day (about which I will write more later). In the meantime, however, I wore a skirt and t-shirt to play shallow water ultimate Frisbee and got thoroughly soaked and had a great time.
That afternoon I caught up on a little homework and prepared for the lesson that Laurann and I were going to teach to our new “investigator,” Stephen. The session went quite well, I thought, and Stephen and McKay gave us really good feedback afterwards. Conclusions reached: I need to talk less, ask more questions, and make sure I’m checking for understanding. Additional conclusion: Companionships are awesome. Where I wasn’t very good at remembering to ask questions, Laurann had one handy almost every time she took a turn talking. Thank you, Laurann.
That night we had ANE in the basement of the main Ein Gev resort building, our second class this trip. I learned much about Constantine and Justinian and the Byzantine Emperor and early Christianity. I also learned that it is dangerous for me to sit with Katie on one side and Mary on the other because it means that
I get very pleasantly distracted very quickly. I have some fun notes and messages to and from both of them written on a spare page in my notebook, right beside my surprisingly comprehensive notes on the Byzantine Empire.
All is well. Galilee continues to be one of the most (if not the most) beautiful place I have ever been. I love every minute, whether with my group or on my own. I have more adventures to tell about, so I will write again very soon. Love you all!