Since arriving nearly nine months ago, never has the reality of living at the crossroads of three major world religions been so evident as it has this past month, the first time in years that Passover, Western Christian Easter, and Eastern Orthodox Easter all collided. And by collided, I’m not just speaking metaphorically. Some days we could hardly make it out of the Old City, where we live. Besides the massive influx of Jews from all around the world arriving to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem, and the Christian pilgrims all flying in to celebrate Easter, you also had special Greek Orthodox parades and ceremonies right around the corner from our street, such as the Holy Fire Ceremony. Ten thousand gathered into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the likely site of Jesus’ burial, which happens to be a three minute walk from our apartment) on the Saturday before Easter to watch the alleged miracle of fire appearing to light the Greek Orthodox Patriarch’s candle. The fireworks in the middle of the night, the groups carrying crosses and singing in somber tones down the Via Dolorosa, the parks swarming with Jewish families eating matzah… I don’t think we’ll ever experience another Easter quite like it.
But aside from a few roadblocks throughout the week and a long Passover Seder meal at our church, life basically continued as normal for us. As we mentioned in the last update, we had a great time with the group from our church in Kansas City, and enjoyed taking them to see a few places around Jerusalem after their tour ended. It was an adventure setting up a little restaurant and hotel in our tiny apartment for everyone, but we all thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was such a blessing to have Bryan’s sister and parents stay for a few extra nights.
Church here continues to go well, and we are excited about getting involved in a new home group that started recently. It’s nearly an hour’s walk from our house, but well worth the fellowship and opportunities to be a part of each other’s lives in a deeper way. We’re also enjoying our Hebrew tutoring. After two full hours of intense conversation each session, we are always exhausted but thankful for the progress we seem to be making. Lord willing, Bryan will finish his studies at JUC in a few months. We are still not exactly sure what the Lord has in store for us in the coming months, but we anticipate being here at least through the beginning of August, when our student visa expires.
This past weekend I had the blessing of getting to travel to Jordan with the Physical Settings of the Bible class I’ve been auditing this semester (without Bryan, who stayed home to study and eat leftovers). We went to many biblical sites such as Ramoth Gilead and the capital cities of Moab, Ammon, and Edom. For me, the highlight of the trip was at the end. We stood on a mountain that tradition holds as Mount Nebo, where Moses died after looking out over the Promised Land. As I looked over the Jordan River and saw the land God promised to his people, I couldn’t help but think of how Jesus has led us through an exodus out of this fallen world. Now, like the Israelites, we are passing through this world as sojourners and exiles, straining our eyes to see a glimpse of the inheritance God has promised us. We’re not home yet, but some day we will be.