Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I don’t know what I like more—the inherit history of a site, or the history I make while I’m there. Every site I visit has a remarkable story, with remarkable people in remarkable times. The history of a particular site paints a beautiful picture which I can then hang on the walls of my memory, but can’t I throw in a paint stroke of my own? History is a collective memory, a painting in a museum. I’d rather take that painting home, play with it, and then hang it up on my own walls. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

I'll never forget seeing the supposed Garden Tomb where Christ’s body was laid. The garden tomb that lay at the feet of Golgotha, where Christ hung miserably. The garden tomb that’s open and empty, which is precisely the reason why graves are emptied and gates to immortality are opened.
But even more, I’ll never forget joining a large group of Christian Nigerians, who gathered in an arena near the tomb to listen to their pastor praise the Lord. I heard them singing Gospel songs and clapping their hands so I approached them timidly, secretly jealous of their joyous, rhythmic worship style. They immediately pulled me in, along with four other students, until I was sitting between two Nigerians who put their arms around me. I caught on quickly to the Nigerian songs, swaying patterns, and Hallelujahs—who would have known that worshipping could be so exhilarating? We ended with big long hugs and lots of picture taking (they went crazy with their cameras) and the guy next to me gave me his phone number. On the outside, these people were as different from me as it gets—literally, black and white. However our one common denominator was a belief in Christ, which sets aside all differences.

The Tomb

I’ll never forget exploring the ancient walls of Jerusalem. I walked on top and looked down at the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim quarters. I ran my hands across the embrasures, slits in the wall through which archers shot their arrows at invading armies. I explored underneath the Western Wall through deep crevices that revealed sections of the original wall that existed during Christ’s time. I saw the road (buried several feet underground) on which Jesus must have walked and the gate he passed through to get to the temple. I explored Zedekiah’s Tunnels, which are manmade caves underneath the city where they excavated rock to use in building the city.
But even more, I’ll never forget reenacting a chase scene—perhaps Nephi being chased out by Laban’s servants—where Josh and JJ pursued me across the very top of the wall, leaping over sharp breaks in the wall. Or making friends with the tour guide underneath the Western wall, who gave me his email address so that one day he can take me out to some hidden oasis springs outside of Jerusalem. Or hiding alone in a dark cavern during a game of Sardines in Zedekiah’s Tunnels.

Exploring the original temple wall, beneathe the Western Wall

I’ll never forget visiting Jericho, the city that the Israelites conquered just outside their homeland. Jericho is not only the lowest inhabited city in the world (1300 ft. below sea level), but it is thought to be the oldest continuously-habited city in the world. I saw the Jericho Tower, the oldest manmade structure in the world (10,000 years old) and Herod the Great’s summer vacation home.
But even more, I’ll never forget reenacting the destruction of Jericho’s walls. I built a small wall out of rocks, then Steve and JJ marched around the wall (the Israelites circled the wall 7 times) while Josh blew the Ram’s horn. The wall then miraculously fell apart (JJ kicked it).

I’ll never forget seeing the valley of Elah, where David slew Goliath. The valley where two armies, the Israeli and Philistine, met and watched a small shepherd boy, who was ordained to be the next prophet and king by the Prophet Samuel, take on a 9 foot 9 inch (or 6’ 9”—depending on whether you consult the KJV or the Greek Septuagint, which is probably more accurate) military giant. Young David dropped everything and raced toward the battle, offering himself as the player in what was sure to be a suicidal combat.
But even more, I’ll never forget standing forty yards from Goliath (a painted cardboard box stuck on top of a 9 foot pole) with a sling in hand. I took special care in selecting smooth, golf ball size rocks, then launched them in an attempt to hit the Goliath in between the eyes. Lined up with thirty-five other students, we barraged the beast with sailing rocks until he was left with a hole in his face. Chris, the victor, ran to Goliath and severed his head with a stick. Good times.

Goliath. An exact replica

History comes alive when I do more than just read a textbook, or visit the site, but when I make it not only his story, but my story.


  1. Jeffery,
    I was able to walk your walk a thousand miles away by reading your adventures and turning on my imagination. What a wonderful experience with the Nigerians. It brought tears to my eyes (not hard to do) Thanks for sharing those moments with the folks at home. Maybe some day...
    When you was in Egypt were you able to go to the Temple of Carnay? I heard in my class there are many symbolic carvings of temple ordinances the we still use today. OXOX mom

  2. I've just been recently reconnected with your blog. I guess the first time I bookmarked it it just bookmarked the first entry so every time I went to it that was all I saw, even when hitting refresh. So here I've been thinking you havent' written anything since then and wondering if you had fallen off of one of the pyramids or something...
    Anyway, I obviously finally got it figured out and have caught up on your fantastic experiences and love reading then. I am in total agreement that the true memories when traveling come not so much with all the historical sights, but with experiencing the people and culture. You're doing it right bro!

  3. Sure beats spending your college years gettin slammed in the bars every Saturday night- aye.

    I remember that line about Jericho being the longest inhabited city. I still have my hemp slingshot from Elah and if I close my eyes, I can hear Jenny Oaks (Baker) serenely playing her violin "Oh Redeemer" in the Garden tomb.

    Loved thinking of you running from Laban- too funny.

    All is well back here. Wait, except the kids have come down with ringworm. Thank goodness they don't have to shave their head like Aunt NormaJean. Just a little cream and it goes away. Thank-you Luna. (they all sleep with her and hold her every breaking second they get) And I wouldn't dream of making her a strictly indoor cat- for the love!

  4. We love being able to look in on your blog every now and then. What a fun experience you are having!