Monday, June 28, 2010

Here's My Week

Hello family and friends! I know that I say this every time, but I cannot believe that another week has passed and it’s time to write you all again! Actually, as I am typing this to you, I am sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane, contemplating the Savior and His infinite sacrifice. I have been given such a rare opportunity to study here, and I am so grateful for the experiences that I’ve had thus far! This week has been especially full of spiritual moments and awakenings, so this will probably be long. :)

Let me start out with last Saturday, June 19. After I wrote you all, we had a fireside by an area authority 70, Elder Kacher. His devotional was amazing, and one thing that he said really got to me. He said (essentially) that we have to have the faith and courage to say “Thy will be done.” As I said, this struck me. After I wrote that email a couple of weeks ago about not going on a mission, I just had this little tinge of guilt that I hadn’t asked yet. I have been avoiding asking about whether or not I was going to go for the past few months just because I didn’t want to get a yes! After the devotional I called my mom and just started crying because I felt so guilty that I hadn’t asked and scared that if I did I would actually have to go! The more I talked it out, I decided that I just needed to ask, to have this done forever, and just know whether or not I was going to serve a mission. I really pondered about my feelings, and that night I took my question to the Lord. I basically told Him that I didn’t want to go on a mission, and I felt like it wasn’t the right thing for me but I needed His approval before I could move on. I asked for His guidance and spirit to be with me so that I could know His will for me and have the courage to do what He has planned for me. I ended my prayer, and then I decided to read some scriptures. I randomly turned to 2 Nephi 9. The first couple of scriptures I read basically told me that I had the choice and that the Lord knew the feelings of my heart. I felt very comforted at that. And then I read some scriptures towards the beginning of the chapter. Those said that our days should be spent serving God, and that there is a great importance to brings these words to all the earth. Let’s just say that I was super confused! I felt like I was getting mixed messages, so I decided to just go to bed and think about it the next morning. The next morning after my run I read those scriptures again, and it just all clicked in my head! I do have the choice of whether I want to serve a formal mission or not, but whatever I do I just need to make sure that my first priority is serving the Lord. As soon as I had that realization I just had this wave of peace rush over me – it was probably the most powerful peace that I’ve ever felt. I was so touched by the Spirit and so grateful that I now knew what the Lord wanted me to do. That night I also got a blessing from my home teachers, and everything that I had felt that morning was completely confirmed. I was told that God is pleased with my decisions and that I will be blessed with confidence to do the Lord’s will. Therefore, I FOR SURE will not be serving a mission at this time, but it is so nice to just know and not second guess myself about what the Lord has in store for me. I am so grateful for personal revelation and the ability I have to know God’s will for me. It was a great start to the week.

Sunday June 20 was our field trip to Yad Veshem which is the Holocaust Memorial here in Jerusalem. It was a very poignant and sad experience. After the tour, I was very sad and a little burdened by the pain and suffering of the people that I had just learned about. I said a little prayer just asking my Heavenly Father to bless me with peace, to know that there is still hope in the world. As soon as I ended my prayer, I had this thought come to me that I had never ever thought about before: Christ suffered EVERYTHING that those people went through, not only their physical suffering of hard labor, hunger, and death, but also their emotional hurt from losing their families, watching their children be torn from their sides, knowing that they will never see their families in this life again. Once I had that realization the atonement took on a whole new meaning and aspect for me. I am so grateful to know that Christ willingly suffered for each one of us so that He knows how to succor us and bless us with peace. I’m grateful that I was able to learn about the Holocaust and to know that even though it was a horrible time in the world, there is hope through Christ.

This is the Hall of Faces within Yad Veshem. It shows 600 faces of people who died in the Holocaust. They got their pictures from the concentration camps themselves.

Monday June 21 was our free day. I went with a small group to the Dome of the Rock again which was cool.

Every single time I go I am still amazed and how civilizations praise their god and build monuments to Him. I also got a package from my mom that night which was so great! It’s always great to get stuff from home. :)

Tuesday June 22 we had class for seven hours in preparation for our finals this coming week! I have two on Tuesday, two on Thursday, and one on Friday. I should be able to do fine especially because I have started my studies fairly early. I’m feeling pretty ready, but any of you ever think about or pray for me, just pray that I can do well this week. :) That would be so wonderful! Anyways, that night we got to hear a story from a Holocaust survivor!

His story is very different from other survivors’ stories because he was in 9 different concentration camps! He was a worker that just got moved from camp to camp for 5 years. His entire family died in the Holocaust, his dad from starvation and the rest of his family by mass extermination by firing squad. The thing that really impressed me about him is that he is still so happy and positive about life! It would be easy for him to be bitter about what he went through, but he really does accentuate the positive and make his life as best as it can be.

Wednesday June 23 was also full of class and studying, but that night we had a forum from a British journalist who is foreign correspondent over in Jerusalem for a number of newspapers/magazines such as Time, New York Times, Boston Chronicle, Newsweeks, etc. He was hilarious which made the evening fun.

Thursday June 24 was also full of class, but that morning we had our Galilee orientation!

In about a week and a half I will be on my way to the Galilee to lay on the beach for 11 days while learning about my Savior and His ministry there. Super awesome. That night was also our seder meal. Seder is the Passover meal that Jews have every Passover season.

We had a very authentic meal – my teacher said that our meal was probably way more authentic than most Jewish families do. It was really cool to see how this event corresponds to the Lord and how it relates to Him, even though the Jews don’t believe that Christ was the Messiah. Anyways, it was a cool cultural experience that I will probably never have again.

Friday June 25 was a fun day. We had class that morning and then that afternoon I did that service project again. That’s always fun. Later that day a small group of us just decided that we needed to get out of the Center and not study for a while. We randomly went to a place called Absalom’s Pillar which is mentioned somewhere in the scriptures. After that we went to the Church of All Nations on the Mount of Olives. This church claims to have the actual stone that Christ bled and suffered the atonement on. Pilgrims come from all over the world, lay down, and kiss this stone. Some of them were very emotional, and they were just weeping as they were kissing the stone. Even though I don’t personally believe that that exact spot was where Christ suffered, and I also don’t believe that I should really pay tribute to Christ by kissing a stone that He suffered the atonement on, but the ‘tourist’ or ‘pilgrim’ in me got me to lay down and kiss the stone.

That may be irreverent, but it was a cool experience. After that we went to a place called Dominus Flevit which is where they say that Christ looked over Jerusalem and wept. Again, I don’t know how historically accurate that it, but it does have a great view of the Old City and I could totally see Him looking over Jerusalem from that point.

We were only gone for about an hour and a half, but it was a very productive afternoon that took me to some sights that I hadn’t been to yet.

Today, Saturday June 26 has been a great Sabbath, as always. We had a great lesson in Relief Society about the scriptures based on Elder Christofferson’s talk this past conference. It really got me thinking about my scripture study and my testimony of the scriptures. Let’s just say that my testimony of the scriptures grew a ton after my experiences earlier this week. And now I’m sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane writing this to you all. Like I said, Sabbath is always a great day. :) I love being able to totally focus on the gospel and Christ and everything that happened in this land. I am so blessed!

Well everyone that was my week! I hope you’re all doing well! Keep the faith and be good! :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'm Late

Hey everyone! Here is my latest update. Enjoy!

Last Sunday, June 13 was our free day for the week. A large group of us got together and went to the Biblical Lands zoo! Oh man it was so fun because I felt like a little kid again! There were lions, tigers, bears (which were my favorite because they were so interactive), elephants, zebras, rhinos, deer, penguins, snakes, birds, etc. They also had a great kids park with tons of fun sculptures, which we took awesome pictures on, and there was also a petting zoo. It seriously was so much fun to spend that morning at the zoo seeing those amazing animals.
The rest of that day was just a study day because we had a lot to study for this coming week. That night I was able to host a concert and then attend the concert as well. It was an overall great day!

Monday June 14 was our field trip to Bethlehem! This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because we are not allowed to go to Bethlehem on our own. Bethlehem is part of the West Bank, and we are strictly forbidden to go into the West Bank at all due to security reasons. I mean, just to get into/out of the city you have to pass through about 3 checkpoints. And the entire city is surrounded by a wall so that terrorists can't get in/out of the city without going through the checkpoint. It's really sad because it really hinders the lives of the Palestinians who live there, but Israel considers it necessary. Anyways, we were able to go to the Church of the Nativity which is supposedly where Christ was born. Under the Church there are some caves that could possibly be the sight of where Christ was born.
The caves are all adorned with amulets and such now, but it was still cool to think that regardless of whether Christ was born in that specific cave or not, I was within about a quarter of a mile of where it did occur. It was so weird to think about. We also had a great authentic Palestinian lunch. Let's just say that I was thoroughly full afterwords, and I will definitely miss the pitas here. :)

Tuesday June 15 was all study and class. That night we had a forum, but other than that I just stayed in the Center and prepared for my midterms. Oh joy.

Wednesday June 16 we had class and studying all day again. I took one of my midterms that morning and I did quite well, so I was thoroughly pleased with my efforts. But that night was the formal talent show! I sang "All I Ask of You" from the Broadway play "Phantom of the Opera" as a duet with a kid who is here studying with me. I got all dressed up before the show - makeup, hair, new clothes, jewelry, etc. - and that was honestly one of the funnest things about the entire night. Ricki and I did such a great job!
I have really come to love singing again since being here. I am very lucky to be blessed with that talent, and hopefully I can share it more once I get home .And my best friend, Jane, even got me a flower after the show! She is so thoughtful. Anyways, the entire night was so great. I am going to try to send the video of it sometime later this week, so be looking for that in an email (if I can get it to work)

Thursday June 17 was one of the longest days that I've had here at the Center. We had 7 hours of class... Oh man I barely survived, but I did! The awesome thing was that I said a little prayer before I went into my 4-hour Palestinian Historical Discourse class just praying that I could stay awake and enjoy the material that I learned, and I did! I really had a great day in that class. So ya, prayers are answered, even if they are seemingly insignificant. :)

Friday June 18 was one of the funnest days that I've had here thus far I think! That morning I had another Old Testament midterm which I did well on again, so at least I did well and got it out of the way. That afternoon I was able to help with making the humanitarian aid kits again which is always fun. I am the box girl, so all I do is make boxes and tape up the ones that are filled with the kits.
I do that every week. I seriously have no idea how to do anything else in the assembly line, but that's okay because I enjoy it. After that I went out into the city with a couple of my friends to buy some challah bread. Challah bread is what the Jews make every Friday for their shabbat dinner that night. So this bread is only available once a week which makes it that much better! Haha. It really was delicious though... So fresh and so soft! Definitely worth the 30 minute hike to get it! After that we went into the Old City and got me some money and some essentials that I needed. We actually ran into some of Jane's friends who live in the Tel Aviv branch, and they invited the three of us to go to dinner with them! So we got a free meal from a restaurant in the Old City which was great! The food was delicious, and it was fun to get to know those people. After dinner we came back to the Center and had a night of Israeli folk dancing! Oh my gosh this was such a blast! I thought that Arab folk dancing was fun. No. Not in comparison to this! We seriously danced for like 2 hours straight, and after we were done we were all so sweaty! It was disgusting, but totally worth the fun we had in doing that together. That night we had a girls night watching 'She's the Man', painting our nails, and just talking about everything until about 2 am. :) Loved that day!

Today, Saturday June 19, has been great too. I slept in this morning (due to my lack of going to bed last night) and had a wonderful church service. This afternoon we have a fireside from an area general authority so that will be great. One thing I want to note is that today is my half-way point! Can you believe that?! I am half-way done with my adventures here in the Holy Land! I feel like I have done so much and have learned and grown so much, and yet there is so much I still want to do! And guaranteed the time is going to go by super fast after this, especially after my finals are over in two weeks. Woah, time is just flyin by!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I know you are probably all surprised that I'm posting about something besides my adventures in Israel, but I decided that I wanted to write more about how I am feeling while I am here rather than just what I am doing.

The first thing that comes to my mind is my family. I have been surprised at how well I have done with being gone from my family for over six weeks now. It was very hard at first, combined with being in a completely foreign country with a completely foreign culture, trying to make friends, and figuring out what it is I am supposed to do here. The longest that I had ever been away from my family before was 21 days while I was in China, and you bet your buttons that after I had been here 22 days I had a secret party inside my head for making it past that point. Haha. I was so used to calling my mom multiple times a day, seeing my family at least once a week, if not two or three times, being at work with my sister, and just always being with the family. It's been hard being gone for special family events like our Mother's Day dinner at The Roof and my brother's birthday just because those are some of the times that I remember most.
My family at my mom's and my birthday dinner at the Melting Pot.

But, honestly, it is getting easier and easier as time goes by. I only call my family once or twice a week, I e-mail them quite often to just give them updates with what I'm doing, and I am for sure still in a lot of contact with them. But the days don't go by as slowly, the weeks are passing *almost* too quickly, and I feel like I am even growing closer to them because I get to share all of these neat experiences with them. Some days are much harder than others, but overall I am doing pretty well in that field. I miss my family immensely and I can't wait until I can see them in August, but I would never ever EVER change the experiences that I am having here for being at home.

The second thing I have "feelings" about are my friends. Like I said, the first couple of days here were hard, just it would be in any situation like this. Everyone is trying to feel their way around and see who they connect with. The first couple of days I spent with a lot of different people just testing the waters and making connections with everyone. After a while, groups started forming, and I hadn't really established myself with any of them. I was kinda worried about this, thinking that I might not have a good groups of friends! However, I have definitely made some best friends now! One of my very bestest friend is my roommate Jane. Jane and I pretty much do everything together - study, go out, run, study more, sleep, etc. We are so similar in pretty much everything we do, and yet we don't rub each other the wrong way or ever get sick of each other. It's amazing how close we are and how we can still get closer. I am so lucky to have her as my roommate and best friend here!
Jane and I getting ready for the Arab Folk Night

My other roommates, Morgan and Katie, are amazing as well, and we all get along so well. We are all very clean, have never had a fight, and just get along. Our room has been very lucky in that sense. I've also made some really good friends with other girls and guys - Jared Colton, Becky, Bridget, Ashley Maag, Nate, Jake, etc.
Me, Jane, Becky, and Bridget getting ready for the Sabbath synagogue services.

Honestly, I think I can say that I would consider myself friends with pretty much everyone here which is so nice. I never have to be in the same group with the same people, but I have that core of friends that I know I can always go to when I'm feeling "safe." I am so glad that I've been able to make such good friends here, and I know that they will last for a lifetime!

Thirdly is how my feelings about the gospel have grown. While I've been here, I have come to understand more fully what it means to have Heavenly Father apart of everything I do. When I get up in the morning, I pray to Him to ask for His guidance and care throughout the day (especially while I'm running). When I am on my run, I pray all the time that I can just make it up the next hill and survive. Haha. In my classes everything we learn about pertains to the scriptures and the gospel. Every forum or speaker that comes makes some connection to the gospel. I always have a prayer in my heart that God's Spirit can be with me always. I have time to just sit and read the Conference talks and apply what the Prophets have counseled us to do. And I end my days with expressing heartfelt gratitude to my Heavenly Father for all that I have been given and the ways that He has blessed me that day.
I seriously don't think that I have ever felt closer to the Spirit and to my Heavenly Father than I do here, and I think it's mostly due to the fact that I am always thinking about Him and His Son and His Son's sacrifice. It's so easy to do that here because everything that I talk about or see has some direct connection to the gospel. I am so glad that I've learned how much I need my Heavenly Father and how I truly can always have His spirit to be with me.

The fourth thing that I've felt here pertains to a mission. Before I left I wrote a post about sister missionaries and how I felt pressured into going and trying to figure out right then and there whether or not I was going on a mission. As I have been here, I have honestly felt no desire or prompting to serve a mission. There are some girls who are going to get their calls while they are here and others who are starting their papers while they are here. I am so so so excited for them and can't wait for them to serve the Lord, but none of these feelings of happiness for them has prompted me to start my papers or anything like that. I honestly don't think that it is the right time for me to serve a mission, and maybe it will be later, but I think I've figured out that a mission isn't in my near future. It's nice to have that kinda figured out and not weighing on my mind anymore.If I ever did go on a mission, I don't think I'd want it to be at Temple Square. Just FYI.

So there ya have it folks - my feelings about many different things for everyone to see. Feel free to comment. And don't worry, next post will be about what I've been doing this past week. :)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

This Week in the Holy Land - May 30-June 5

Well first off, I want you all to know that I am safe here in the Holy Land. It's been a tense situation the past couple of days here, but we are safe. (If you don't know, the Israeli government opened fire on some Turkish sailors trying to give humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. They killed 9 people and injured about 40. Here's the link to a great article if you want to learn more and haven't been following the news: Anyways, we weren't allowed into the Old City for a couple of days because the vendors were on strike, but as of Thursday afternoon we were able to go back into the City. Things are still tense, especially because another ship is supposedly coming from Ireland, so we'll see what happens. I am safe though and loving life here in the Holy Land!

Okay, Sunday May 30 was a free day.

Monday May 31 was our field trip day. We went to a lot of random and obscure places that are found mostly in the Old Testament, but two of them were notable. We went to teh valley of Elah which is where the Israelites were fighting the Philistines and where David slew Goliath! It wasn't that cool to look at, but just being there has a special feeling to it. I mean, we hear that story from the time we are super young, and I've been there now! How super cool!
We also got to try "slinging" some rocks with slings similar to those that David used. I wasn't too good at it, but I got some good air on those rocks. :) Haha.
The second notable thing was Micah's cave. This doesn't have any Old Testament or spiritual significance, but it was notable to me because it was the first time that I've ever been "splunking." The hole to get into the caves was pretty small, but it was quite spacious once we got in there. It was a good adventure to say the least, and I am definitely excited to go splunking again.

Tuesday June 1 I had my first test here at the Jerusalem Center. It was my Old Testament midterm, and I did well on it. It was good to get the first one out of the way.

Wednesday June 2 I had my Hebrew midterm. I ended up getting 109%! Haha. Too bad it's only a pass-fail class! I love that class just because it's so easy. I feel like a first grader. :) Haha. Anyways, we had 6 hours of class that day. It was super long, but I survived. And that night we had our Arab folk night which totally made up for our long day of classes. Our Folk Night consisted of hearing the a reading of the Qur'an (the Islamic scripture). It's not so much as reading as it is singing, but they don't think of it that way. We also heard the Call to Prayer (which is when Muslims project through a loud-speaker a reminder to pray five times a day) from people who do the Call from the Al-Aqsa mosque which is the mosque associated with the Dome of the Rock. This mosque is pretty much the third most important mosque in all of Islam, and we had the opportunity to hear the men who do the Call to Prayer there. We are so privileged. After that we had a great authentic Palestinian dinner. We then got to learn how to do Arab folk dancing! We had some young dancers come and show us how to do their dances.
We did pretty well, except we didn't really learn the dances. :) Haha. We had a good time though. It was a very long day, but I quite enjoyed it.

Thursday June 3 I had 8 hours of class which included a two midterms! I thought that 6 hours was bad, but 8 hours with a midterm at 8:00pm at night wasn't too desirable either. Let's just say that day all I did was study for my midterm and go to class. Oh so exciting I know.

Friday June 4 included a lot of different things. That morning we had class, and then I made a cake for my friend's birthday. Oh man it smelled so good and like home again! After lunch I helped with a service project. We make about 10,000 humanitarian aid kits every semester and I am able to help organize and run that endeavor. It's way fun to get outside ourselves and have a good time together. That afternoon I worked on my take-home midterm which is going to be about 20 single-space pages, so I wanted to get working on that. Friday evening I was able to go to a synagogue for Sabbath evening services. It was a very different and interesting experience, but it was really cool too. First off, before I came to the Holy Land I just had this stereotype of an orthodox Jewish person as one of those people who wear all black, wear funny hats, and have the hair locks that they never cut. But we went to an orthodox synagogue and no one there was dressed that way. We, as members of the church, wear better clothes than they do when they go their sabbath services. We wear similar clothing, but ours is nicer. So that didn't fit my stereotype. Second stereotype that was wrong was the fact that I assumed that the people who were going to be at synagogue would be older or have families. I was quite surprised, however, to find that there were many single young men and women who attended the synagogue on their own. This shouldn't have surprised me because I practice my religion on my own as well, but I just figured that no other religions did that. (yes that is me in my ignorance) Third stereotype was the building of the synagogue. The synagogue we went to was just a Boy/Girl Scouts building. Nothing fancy. Nothing elaborate. Just a plain Jane building. I expected it to be very clean, very orderly, and very structured, but that wasn't true either. And I would say that my stereotype of the synagogue service was wrong as well, but before I went I don't think I really had a stereotype. The service consisted of reading/singing a lot of scripture led by the rabbi and a little bit of personal prayer time. While they are reciting these scriptures the people sway back and forth for some reason - I think it's because they try to prostrate themselves before God, or something like that. Anyways, it was a different experience. One thing really did impress me however. These people are so devout! They love their God as a personal being who knows them and loves them as well. They follow so many small and, in my view, constricting rules all because they love God and want to serve Him better! They truly do love their Lord, even though their view of their God is very different from my view. They try, with all of their might, to follow God they way they know how to follow Him. I guess this is true of every church, but I am always amazed every time I come into contact with people of other faith. Nevertheless, every time I come in contact with other religions I am always so grateful for my religion as well. I am so grateful for the truth that I have and the blessing that the gospel is in my life. I just took a small moment yesterday during the service to thank Heavenly Father for all that He has given me including the opportunity to learn about other religions and also the great blessing of having the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I am so grateful and lucky to have this gift.

Saturday June 5 was shabbat again. We had district conference today so all of the Saints that are allowed to come were here for the meeting. The meeting was translated into 3 different languages - Hebrew, Spanish, and Russian - which is something that I've never dealt with before. The theme of the conference was about the Temple. Usually in Utah if the topic is the temple the talk usually focuses on the need to go more often. However, there wasn't any mention of that in any of the meetings held today. Most talks focused on the need to hold and renew a temple recommend even if using it isn't feasible. The closest temple to Israel is the Freiberg, Germany temple which is about 1800 miles away! So yes, the large focus of today's meetings was the need to be worthy of and hold a current temple recommend even if the people here can't use it very often. Today just made me really miss the temple, and I probably want to go to temple very soon after getting home.

One thing I'm super excited for is my trip to Eilat tomorrow! Eilat is an Israeli town right on the border of the Red Sea, and I've heard that it has some of the best snorkeling around the world! It takes four hours to get there so we are leaving at 6:00 am and getting back around 10:00 pm. It also costs about $45, but that's totally worth it! I am so excited to go tomorrow.

So yep, that's been my week. Like I said, it was dull because of the amazing amounts of class but yet exciting because of the cultural experiences I had this week. I really hope you are all doing well, and I would love an update from any/all of you! Keep the faith!