Saturday, September 12, 2009

Heaven on earth?

Woah. My heart is SO full- sounds cliché… but I’m not sure how else to put it. I am overwhelmed. It has been a beautiful last few days. Today especially.

----> You can't really tell... but that's a cannon going off for Ramadan- let the party begin!

I love, LOVE my Modern Near Eastern Studies class. It’s split up into two sections- one is taught by a Jewish teacher about Judaism, and another is a Palestinian Christian about Islam. I don’t need these credits… the grade probably doesn’t technically matter… but studying is such a treat here. I can feel my mind and heart opening and things are starting to make more sense. Learning more about the history, beliefs, and practices of these people cause me to love and respect them more, and causes me to truly reflect on my own testimony and I have become even more grateful for the truths that I love and hold on to.

The Western Wall was a beautiful experience. Beautiful. The moment we stepped into the entrance, we were caught up into a group of Jewish girls and started dancing and singing with them. We so obviously didn’t fit in, and they didn’t care- the joy and love was tangible. Watching the dancing rabbis, the weeping women, and the reverent children was truly moving. I put my prayer into the wall- and I really caught a glimpse of how sacred it was to the Jews. They are such loving and righteous people- I felt honored to witness their devotion and love for God. As I was standing and watching, a French literature professor from Berlin started asking me questions about what was going on there. After talking for a while, this woman, “Maggie” stopped and asked, “What are you? Who are you?” I explained that I was mormon, and she said, “Then what is with you? Why are you like this? What do you believe?” This killed me. I had to explain that we promised not to talk about our beliefs- that is the Israeli law. She continued to say “well… is there anywhere we can meet and talk more? I need to know.” I really couldn’t. I would have loved to. We did invite her to a concert here at the center tomorrow night- and I promised her I would go with her. I’m so excited- she was great.

I love the branch here. Saturdays have truly become my favorite. The students make up a good portion of the members, but the few members that are here are beautiful. They come from all over- some are here temporarily for visits, or business, and some are here permanently at great sacrifice. Our relief society president is a beautiful Palestinian woman that went to graduate school in the states and joined in the states, and has to cross over from Bethlehem every week- sometimes it’s dangerous and just hard- but she does it so gladly. There are a few Palestinians that joined in other countries- and they endure so much to have the gospel- and they are so grateful and dedicated. I am blown away by the mutual gratitude present in all the meetings. Everyone is so different- from all over the world and have so many different stories and backgrounds- and it’s wonderful to feel the unity in Christ. Everyone is so solid- there is not a doubt that this is truth. It’s like a mini-celestial experience to sit in the beautiful chapel overlooking the Old City, listening to beautiful music and beautiful people testifying of Christ- basking in the Spirit. I still can’t believe I’m here. I don’t think this will ever get old. Ever.

We went to the Garden Tomb today. It was incredible. I’m really not sure how to describe it. It was hard to tell which was more impactful- the actual site, or who I was there with. It was wonderful to see so many Christians of different sects making their own pilgrimages- unified in Christ. Everyone sang their own hymns in their own languages- all full of love, devotion, and belief in Christ. The highlight of my whole day was watching a group of Fijians belting out their hymns in their language- full of so much passion, and Spirit- as I found myself being overcome with emotion- I missed my dad so much. Dad- you would have loved it. It was similar to going to the Western Wall- different beliefs, different people, different language- same God. I know that God hears all of our prayers. We are all His Children, and He loves us all- no matter the sect, nationality, or form. I am constantly reminded of this. I am so blessed and grateful to be here with these people- to have the incredible opportunity to witness and experience such faith and love- and to so strongly feel of my Savior’s love. Nothing else matters. I don’t fear the future… so many concerns I had before seem beyond ridiculous. It’s liberating. :)

I can’t believe I have experienced so much in such a short week and a half. I’m still pleasantly surprised to look out the window in the morning and see beautiful Jerusalem. It’s unreal that I live on Mt. Scopus- RIGHT NEXT to Mt of Olives. We were told today that when President Kimball was viewing potential land… that they were taking a detour and walking around on the Mt. of Olives when President Kimball just took off walking by himself and they ran after to follow him. He stopped on this random plot of land and said, “This is the place.” They didn’t know if it was even for sale… who owned it… but through great miracles and severe persecution- this beautiful and sacred center is here. That’s where I live.

My life rocks.

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