Wow - I must say that it is interesting to try to log into this thing, when the instructions are all in Hebrew, but I am glad I managed so I can get down some thoughts. We are staying in Jerusalem, just outside the Old City at Jerusalem University College. It is a beautiful building that was built in 1853. It has a garden with fruit trees and vines, roses, and a pretty yard. The building is just gorgeous, built entirely of stone, with courtyards and flowers. You can go out on the roof and look out over the New City of Jerusalem, and the view is incredible. White homes and buildings dot the rollings hills and sparkle with lights at night. It is hot here, but it is a dry heat, which is bearable if you don't mind feeling like a dead mosquito trapped in Vasaline (at least this is the best analogy I can formulate to describe it). But seriously - it is not bad at all, and we are required to wear skirts covering our shoulders and knees everyday, so it is pretty cool.
I am overwhelmed with things I could write because we do SO much each day - usually twelve hour days, mixtures of lecture in the classroom, and walks around the city of Jerusalem to various significant locations. I'll touch on the important things, most forefront in my mind as there is a line behind me to use this computer. : )
Yesterday we went through Hezekiah's tunnel, a really touristy tunnel set up by King Hezekiah as a way to bring fresh spring water into the city of Jerusalem. The way they carved out these tunnels, and discovered the shafts with such primitive tools is simply amazing. This is a quote from my journal:
"It was black, pitch black - probably the darkest dark I've ever been in. You couldn't see a thing - be it a person or a rock wall right in front of you. Ice water flowed at my feet and ankles. Though I was in a dark place and wasn't sure if danger or a low rock or a turn lie ahead, I was not afraid. I could hear my own voice mixed with others as we sang praise to God, echoing through the tunnel as we walked along. I know that no matter what comes, God is faithful. He cares for his people. I know this. I feel that the Israelites came to know this as well - they saw that when they clung to God, they were inm good hands, and under their own guidance, they fell. That has always been true in my life too. I love seeing and experiencing this place with all my senses."
Last night I was able to spend the night in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with 11 other students and the Armenian Orthodox priest, Father Sammie (Samuel). We were locked in the church after its closing and were able to talk to Father Sammie and get a tour of the church without the tourists and craziness of the daytime. I saw the tomb where they believe Christ was buried, touched the rock from Golgatha, kneeled at the foot of the cross at the Skull, and smelled the oil and incense on the rock where his body was laid. It is too much for words. I will need to process this for a while to come. I was moved, but at the same time I wonder how Christ wants us to approach these places. Some of the Greek and Armenians and Catholics that come to this church worship and kiss these things. How am I to approach them? After all, the angel told the women that Christ was not in the tomb. It's not about these THINGS, but why these things became imporant, what they remind us of, and about why they are remembered. It was a humbling experience for sure.
After we left the church we decided to walk over to the Western Wall of Temple Mount in the Jewish quarter of the Old City. The girls and I went to the women's side and were able to pray and then walk up to the wall, touch it, and leave prayers on paper in its cracks. You can not walk away from the wall - you must back away. It is such a holy and precious place - facing the Holy of Holies of the old Temple. It was beautiful to watch these women worship. I prayed to Jesus. He probably doesn't get many prayers at the wall. This is at 1 am mind you, and there were still so many people there in the cool and peace of night. BEAUTIFUL.
Okay - well I better go study and finish journaling before tomorrow. We have a busy day ahead of us - Bethlehem, Mt of Olives and then Jericho on Sat, among many other places. Thank you for your love and prayers. We serve a God who is GOOD. He is FAITHFUL to His people. Our help comes from THE Lord, the maker of heaven and earth - I was able to lift my eyes to the same hills the psalmist saw as I read that yesterday. He is God, here and there, always and forever. Amen.