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.
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
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.