I Need Them Forever and a Day Interrupted

Technology is a blessing and a plague. I know traditionally we say curse, but I’m going to say plague. Plagues are no respecter of persons, they spread quickly and into everything. Technology has replaced traditional forms of communication, courtship, travel, medicine, and so forth. Some times these advancements or changes are exceedingly beneficial. Instead of walking on foot we now use airplanes to travel great distances. This, I think, is a benefit of technology. But in other areas like interpersonal relationships or intimacy, technology has created some hidden dangers.

I don’t really want to focus on technology, but today I am grateful for technology because of a really awesome experience I had.

Saturday, the Sabbath, we went to the Sea of Galilee. This is where Peter, James, and John were found fishing on two separate occasions, Christ calmed the waters during a voyage, and Christ walked on this water and Peter was saved from drowning here. In October 2012 General Conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk in which he took some creative license in interpreting the story in John 21. We had the opportunity to listen to this talk again as we sat near the shore of the Sea of Galilee. As we sat, I felt the Spirit so strongly, just as I had the first time I heard the talk in 2012. There is a gentle power in the words that Elder Holland delivered that just trigger something inside of me.

“Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.”

How amazing it was, to sit near where these men sat with the Savior and think about this story. The Savior wants us to be his sheep, but also his disciples forever.

Today, was also another amazing day! While we have been here in Israel we have had the same, wonderful, bus driver. His name is Ata. He’s quite amazing and maneuvers the bus expertly. Earlier in the day, the air conditioning on our bus started cutting in and out. No one really noticed it when we first got on the bus because we weren’t on the bus for very long before we took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee… Yeah, I “sailed” the Sea of Galilee, but more about that later. Once we got back on the bus it started to be a little more noticeable. It got a little warmer and continued to come on and cut out pretty regularly and the air was no longer cool. Well, we made it through about half of our day. We had been to Capernaum where they believe Peter’s mother-in-law lived, we saw Syria, marked by the Syrian flag, then we stopped to have lunch in a Druze village and had Druze pita with olive oil and olives {It was pretty good, though I’m not sure I would get it again…}, after lunch we drove to Banias (Ban-yas) or Caesarea Phillipi where they have ruins from a pagan temple to Pan {It used be called Panias, but Arabic doesn’t have a “p” sound so it became Banias} and explored. We walked around, had a nice time looking at the sites there and then we all congregated near the parking lot and decided we should go because we were going to go to Dan next.

Well, our fearless leader Stewart went to talk to Atta and Joseph { our guide} and came back looking a little sheepish. He told us that our bus wouldn’t start, but there was another bus, with just the right amount of seats on it for our group, and they were heading back to Tiberias right then. If we didn’t go with them and we waited for another bus to come, we wouldn’t get back til dark; we could’ve waited there for another mechanic, but we really wouldn’t get back til dark. Either way, we weren’t going to Dan anymore. How blessed we were to be in a place where Heavenly Father could bless us with people to help us.

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Jordan River, Elisha Spring, Gideon’s Spring, Bet She’an and Nazareth

Today we started our adventuring kind of early. A 6:30am wake up call, 7am bags out and headed down to breakfast. We loaded the bus and were out of the hotel gates by 8am. We headed first to the River Jordan. I have realized that I don’t know a whole lot about the bible stories that happen in the Old Testament. I mean, there are several stories about the River Jordan that I didn’t know. Anyway, as we were walking to the river, we had to pass some fields where old churches have been built to mark a “holy” place or places. These fields and their ruins if you’ll allow me to use that term a bit loosely, are gated in with barbed wire on the fences and little signs.

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Danger. Mines. We thought about how strange it is to us that there would be mines in a location like this.

While we were at the Jordan River, we had a quick scripture discussion. It was interesting to see soldiers sitting nearby, to have mass going on behind us, and to have another Christian group down by the river singing all at once. It was very easy to feel the Spirit there with us. I even put my feet in the water before we left.

After the river, we went over to Elisha’s spring then to Bet She’an. Bet She’an is an interesting site. It has a lot of Roman ruins (columns, bath house, theater, ancient commode…) and some Byzantine traces as well.

Following our time in Bet She’an, we went over to the spring and stream where Gideon may have led his troops before their battle. As the story goes, Gideon brought his men before The Lord before he went to battle against the Midianites. God said that there were too many, so Gideon said whomever was afraid to fight or who wanted to go home should go and 22,000 of the 32,000 left. But there were still too many men. So God told Gideon to take his men to drink water from a spring; those who lapped the water like a dog (with their face to the water) should be sent away and only those who scooped water to their faces should stay and so the story goes there were only 300 men who stayed to fight the Midianites who were like locusts in the valley.

We also had the opportunity to go to this neat mini-Nazareth replica village today. It is in Nazareth and they claim to be built where a farm had been standing during the time of Christ. It was neat to see the olive press and the what the wine press would look like at that time. We also received little oil lamps as part of our ticket. It will be a cool little reminder of the trip!

I was debating whether or not to write some of the thoughts and feelings I had today, but I think I will share two things…it might end up being a bit more than that…but my intentions are good.

1. Going back to yesterday, which now I can’t remember if I wrote very much about, when we visited Masada. Joseph (our Palestinian Catholic guide) said that the people who died at Masada, the ones who killed their families and then themselves, were making a statement. They were trying to convey that they did not die from natural causes, from starvation, or from dehydration; these people chose to die, to take their own lives, in order to send a message that they took their lives and they would rather take the punishment of God for what they did than allow themselves and their children to be enslaved or their women abused. They had such strong convictions to their faith, that they would not surrender to the will of the Romans.

2. At the morning devotional, we talked about “receiving” things. We talked about how it takes faith and action on our part for a gift to be truly received. We compared this to how the Holy Ghost, the gospel, and Christ must also be things we have faith in and take action in behalf of.

3. Lastly, thinking about Gideon and his men, there was a point made that the 300 chosen to stay would have to have a lot of faith. But it doesn’t say that the other 9,700 men were bad men or that they were chastised and sent home. These other men just didn’t go into the initial battle. Additionally, the men who were not among the 300 and other things to do. It doesn’t matter when you are called or what you are called to do, as long as you take courage and drink deep. You will find a task that has been set aside specifically for you and your experiences will have prepared you for it.

Greetings from Amman

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So, after about a 17 hours of flying time (about 9 to Paris, France and another 8 to Amman, Jordan) we were welcomed by his majesty Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein (Arabic: عبد الله الثاني بن الحسين‎, ʿAbdullāh aṯ-ṯānī ibn al-Ḥusayn). Okay, so he didn’t great us personally, but there was a big sign in the baggage claim area.

It’s hard to describe exactly what Amman looks like on first sight because it was about 8pm and I was pretty tired. But I was, stupidly so, kind of surprised by how many lights there were.

People don’t really give you any cushion when you’re stopped at stop lights. We’re in a big bus, but I looked over at one point and the truck next to me was probably less than an arms length away from the car in front of it. They have a lot of the same cars we have here; I guess I anticipated it being a little more like Italy or France where they have smaller cars.

Our hotel is very nice; there was even dinner waiting for us when we got in last night. So far the food has been very good. There seems to be a mix of Mediterranean and American food, but I haven’t asked if what they serve in the dining room is “traditional” or not.

We did learn some phrases while we were on the bus and a lot of cool information actually. First the word for thank you is “shukran” pronounced shock-run. If you want to tell someone let’s go you say, “yassa havibi.” That’s probably not how you spell it, but it’s the way I hear it.

Haha, anyway…it’s about time to go down to breakfast and get packed up for the day. We are going to a place called Jerrash (I’ll spell it right later). And we’re going to drive through the mountains Gillead (like the song Balm in Gillead).

Ma’a salama مع السلامة