Hi, everybody! I am currently writing you from a side street in the city of Wadi Musa, just outside Petra in Jordan. Our resident doctor just finished performing a little side surgery on one of our students—but more on that in the next post. That’s part of Petra, and I need to begin at the beginning.
We woke up early on Monday morning. We frantically finished packing, ate breakfast, and loaded up on the bus in time to pull away from the center at 7:00am. We brought along with us the Benches (housing couple/doctor), the Stratfords (ANE teacher+wife), the Schafers (PR couple/Branch President+wife), Brother Schade, and Brother Judd. Sad to say, I and the students in my class are now emeritus members of the Lucky Judd Bus and have become the Schade class. Brother Schade seems great so far, but very different. I hear that Brother Judd is much the same for the other classes.
[Quick Tangent]: Last night we did Halloween festivities. A few of the guys decked out the third and fourth floor boy’s corridors as the “Haunted Hallway.” I was a fortune teller at the back of the fourth floor. I wore a turban and sat at a table surrounded by eerie floating orbs (balloons with glow sticks stuffed inside and suspended on fishing line) and encouraged the kids who came in to reach into the covered bowls in front of me with their eyes closed and see what they found. The kids gave me ridiculous answers—they said it was stupid things like grapes and cucumbers and spaghetti. The students were smart ones—they guessed eyeballs and worms and human bones and the like, which, of course, is exactly what was in there. J We also watched a movie and had a dance party. I discovered 1) that I do not enjoy the movie “Signs” (I found it somewhat irreverent/sacrilegious) and 2) that it is amazing how creative you can get with Halloween costumes when you don’t have much to go off of. We had an incredible assortment—Indians, pirates, sister missionaries, a headless man (Stephen suspended his hat and glasses on wire hangers above his collar and ate dinner through the an opening in the buttons of his shirt), one another (boys and girls swapping signature outfits and acting it up a little), a few JC Professors (generally Stratford) and the head chef in the JC kitchen (Andrew, our best Arabic speaker, somehow convinced Achmed to lend him one of his outfits, which he proudly came out of the kitchen greeting everyone with “Habibi!”). It was a great way to enjoy the holiday in our own little JC way. [End Tangent—moving on].
So—back to the busses. We passed through three checkpoints—one for traffic control, one for customs on the Israeli side, and another for customs on the Jordan side. Good bye Israel, hello Jordan—though to tell the truth they looked about the same to me. All was quite pleasant, though, as I was in great company—especially that of my roommate for this trip, Laurann. More on her later.
Our first stop over the border was a church atop Mt. Nebo--the mountain that marked the place where Moses was said to have died. We know, of course, that he did not die but was translated and was brought to God’s presence at that time. We talked about that some on the mountain top, and how the keys of the restoration have been restored by heavenly messengers whom God has appointed should be kept until that time—Elijah and Moses in particular for our purposes. We remembered how Moses had stood somewhere around that place and looked out over the promised land, but had not been allowed to enter. We stood and saw it, knowing that we could enter, had entered—and would again in a few days. We sang hymns there (which, true to form, several tourists filmed with their cameras and iPads) and got some good pictures.
After that we stopped off at a Byzantine church called the church of St. George that contained a remarkable mosaic—a complete map of the Holy Land from that period, right down to the main streets of Jerusalem. It has seen some wear and damage over the years, of course, but much of it was still intact. Archaeologists have discovered new places they didn’t know existed because they read about their presence and locations on that map. The church was also a lovely little building in general, so it was well worth the visit on all counts. We walked down to lunch from there, I listening to Brother Schade try to discover the places he had been in Madaba while working on his masters and talking with Liesel about horses and such and whether the St. George the church was named after was the one that slew the dragon (it was). Lunch was great—albeit spicy and with much meat, but with fresh pita and hummus who’s complaining?
Our last stop was Machaeus, one of Herod’s six fortresses. Brother Judd gave everybody a marvelous devotional about John the Baptist and his time imprisoned there. We read about John sending a few of his disciples to ask Jesus if he really was the Savior. Brother Judd said that he may have done that for the sake of his disciples, but that it’s also possible that there, in prison, John was having a trial not unlike the prophet Joseph Smith’s at Liberty Jail. He may have been asking a question similar to Joseph’s cry, “Oh, Lord, where art thou?” We also reviewed the strange story of Herod the younger and his wives (necessitating the adoption of such strange titles as Uncle-husband and Niece-wife—weird, right?). We took great pictures (the view was fantastic) and reenacted John having his head cut off on a broken column. The hike was strenuous, but much better on the way back—Annie and I spent it walking together and reminiscing about lullabies our parents/grandparents had sung. Annie is going to be a great mom someday.
We went to our hotel and ate dinner there. I showered and studied Laurann’s scriptures (because I left mine on the bus). Laurann and I talked a for a little while, mostly about the fact that we are both trying to figure out our missions. We are both thoughtful people, so most of our conversation has been personable and meaningful (as opposed to shallow and unimportant). After we had turned the lights out, she suggested roommate prayer, to which I willingly agreed. She said the blessing. I will not attempt to describe a prayer here on the blog, but suffice it to say that the spirit was present and that I was touched by her words, both on her own behalf and mine. There was no more perfect way to end the day.