Saturday, May 20, 2017

We're All In This Together!

Hello friends and family!
This week was a pretty good week. I'm trying to remember everything we've done, there's been so much! For our field trip on Monday we went to the Negev.  We visited the Wilderness of Zin where the children of Israel wandered for 40 years.  We also visited Arat, Arad, and Beersheba.  It was really cool to be at these places after having read about the events that transpired there. Seriously it has been such a privilege to be here! My favorite part of the field trip was a hike we did through a small portion of the Wilderness of Zin.  Although it was so hot (we were hiking in like 90 degree weather..yikes) I absolutely loved it! I love just being in nature and getting some exercise.  It was very beautiful.
Classes are going okay. I feel like I do a ton of studying but I can for sure learn how to improve on that.  I feel like I do a lot of reading but I don't really retain the information.  After classes on Tuesday I went into the Old City a bought a beautiful scarf that is Bedouin made, and some camel sandals, and some treats for our flight to Greece tonight.  I'm really excited! I needed to get a scarf because on Thursday we had "Arab Night" we dressed up in "traditional" wear and had multiple events. We had two sheiks come and read part of the Qu'uran to us, and also prayed in front of us.  The reading of the Qu'uran and the Call to Pray made me tear up. It was so beautiful.  As I was listening to these two devout Mulsims share with us their sacred scripture I just felt the love that Heavenly Father has for them, for ALL his children.  I have really come to respect and love the Islamic culture and religion.  It really is very beautiful, and very similar to our LDS beliefs.  I also have really come to love the Hebrew culture more than I already do.  Although the Lord has designated only one way to return to Him, which everyone needs to hear, He loves ALL of us regardless of race, nationality, or religion.  I know He loves those children who have not yet heard the Word but still worship Him to the best of their abilities. How blessed we are to have to gospel of Jesus Christ.  I really feel that I need to be more devout in my own faith, just as my Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters are in theirs.
After listening to the sheiks we had a traditional meal that our kitchen staff spent literally all day preparing! IT WAS SO GOOD! I love Middle Eastern food.  They went all out, we literally had like 8 courses and they decorated the tables and everything. It was so fun to see everyone dressed up (including the faculty and staff) and we were all just laughing and enjoying each other's company.  Then there were some girls that came and taught us some traditional Palestinian dance steps.  It was really fun to dance with everyone.
The highlight of my week was being able to watch my little brother open up his mission call. Even though I had to wake up 1:45 am to video chat it was worth it ha! Though I can't say where yet because he is waiting to reveal it later (my mom told me like 30 times to not say anything about where he was going haha). Needless to say I am SOOOO proud of my baby brother, and really look up to him a lot. He has such a strong testimony, and such a sensitive soul.  He is going to be a great missionary. Love you Bubba!
Well tonight we leave for Greece.  We are leaving here at 2 am.  Two early mornings in a row ahhh. I am so excited to go to Greece but it is going to be NUTS we are doing a lot each day.  Last night we watched Hercules for our movie night and it was so funny. Literally everyone's inner child came out.  People were singing at the top of their lungs, and swaying back and forth it was hilarious!! Disney, Disney, Disney.  Well I think that is all I really have to say.  I hope you all have a great week!


Saturday, May 13, 2017


This week has gone by so fast! My days were all thrown off since we have church on Saturday here and then a free day on Sunday.  All week I thought we were a day ahead ha. Other than being sick this week was great! We went to multiple sights that overlook Jerusalem which was really cool. We went to Nani Samuel which has this old mosque and synagogue on top of a hill. The Crusaders called this place Mount Joy because it was the first place that they could see Jerusalem.  It also overlooks a field where the Israelites fought with the Gibeonites against the non-Israelite Kings.  Another of my favorite overlooks was from the south of Jerusalem called the Haas Promenade (Tayelet).  It was on this hill that Abraham would have left his servants when he and Isaac went up to Mt. Moriah to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.  We read the story of Abraham's trial and the lessons he learned and that Isaac probably learned.  One thing I love is that God knew what Abraham would do but He wanted Abraham to know how faithful Abraham was. The last stop was at the Garden Tomb. That has so far been my favorite part.  We went at a really good time and there was hardly anyone there. It is right by the Old City in a pretty busy and loud area however the grounds at the Garden Tomb are really quiet and peaceful.  The peace there was similar to the peace I feel at church sights.  It was just very reverent.  After the tour all 83 of us gathered together and sang a few hymns.  It really invited the spirit.
Let's see... what else? Um... I got scolded by my father to leave the center and not just do homework all day and to go out to the city.  That was solid advice. Thanks Dad! The amount of homework we have on a daily basis is unreal! I mean I'm pretty used to reading a lot for my major but... I feel like we have 30+ pages of reading each class each day. Good thing I love to read, and thank goodness for study groups!!
I'm still struggling to figure out how to upload pics.  I have to download some app and the wifi here isn't good enough for it to download. I will probably just make a Facebook album.  Overall everything is great!
Much love!

Ash :)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Shabbat Shalom!

Shabbat Shalom from the Holy Land! Wow I've only been here for like 3 days and it's incredible! I wish I was absorbing everything faster than I am, but there is so much to learn and so much to do! The center has really been beating into our heads the rules to follow to keep us safe and how to best be respectful to the various cultures here. I can't tell you how many times we've been lectured on groom and dressing standards haha.  It's probably for the best though, seeing how we want to be respectful and good representatives of not only BYU but also the LDS church.  In Israel the center is known as the "Mormon University," which I think is hilarious.
The first full day here we were able to walk through the old city.  I loved all the sights, sounds, and most of the smells ha.  I loved seeing all the cool shops and all the different foods and spices.  It is like nothing I've ever experienced before.  I wasn't able to take any pictures that day but next time I go to the old city I will. And I for sure have some good shopping to do there in the future.
Yesterday was one of my favorite days so far. Mostly because we started our classes! My professors are amazing. I think my favorite class is going to be my Old Testament class. I got teary eyed at some of the things we learned about. One thing that really resonated with me is that the Lord will ALWAYS keep His covenants to us so long as we do our part. Then in the evening we went to the Western Wall to welcome in the Shabbat with all the Jews.  It was so inspiring and awesome to see the devotion of these brothers and sisters of ours. I loved seeing the people go to the wall and place their hands upon it and give it kisses as they rocked back in forth in prayer.  The wall is covered with hundreds of papers of individual prayers of people from all over the world, and of various beliefs.  Then in the back a couple yards from the wall there were young Jewish girls singing and dancing together in celebration of the Lord's Day. It really struck me how joyful and sacred their sabbath day is to them. It put me to shame knowing that I have a lot to work on in my own sabbath day observance.  Today is Saturday but it is the day that we celebrate the Sabbath here in the Holy Land.  For Sacrament Meeting we sat in the auditorium room that has these huge windows that overlook the JC gardens and the city.  The spirit was so strong as we listened to the testimony of the saints who are here visiting from all over the world, with the city in the background.  One cool thing is that I was able to see one of my dearest friends dad and brother who are here on a tour group trip, Perry and Gannon Montoya. It was so cool to see such familiar faces in a foreign land. After church I took time to be by myself and to write in my journal.  I also took a cat nap in the gardens which was so nice.  There is just so much peace to be found here at the center.  The city of Jerusalem itself is crazy! The cultures here are so fun but it is busy like any other major city. There are cars with their horns blaring (people here are horn crazy!), tons of shops, vast amounts of people, and lots and lots of tourists. I loved going to the Church of the Holy Seplechre and seeing all the different Christian faiths gather.  It touched my heart to see these christians kneel and kiss this stone slab that some believe Christ's body was laid upon and prepared for burial after being taken from the cross.
There is still so much to see, experience, and learn and I am so grateful that I am able to take part in it.
Also the food is amazing here, and the people I am with are great.  I'm still trying to find my way here and find where I fit in but overall it has been a great adventure! I love you all and hope you are well!


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Walk With Me

In preparation for this trip I often thought about what the Lord wants me to learn, and give, personally on this trip to the Holy Land.  This past week I was working on a little calligraphy project for one of my friends as a good bye gift.  I used her favorite scripture which is Moses 6:34 where the Lord says to Enoch "walk with me".  In his October 2014 General Conference "Ponder the Path of Thy Feet" President Monson said
"...physically walking where Jesus walked is less important than walking as He walked. Emulating His actions and following His example are far more important than trying to retrace the remnants of the trails He traversed in mortality." (For the full address click here)
I love that! So my theme for this trip is to walk with Christ, not just where He walked but AS He walked. He is the perfect exemplar. I am so so so grateful and blessed with this opportunity to visit the Holy Land.  I hope that I will learn the lessons the Lord would have me learn, and do what He would have me do.
Currently I am at the Paris airport waiting to get on my connecting flight to Tel Aviv.  I haven't been feeling too well today so it's a miracle that I am staying as positive as I am haha. All I can say is that I am so ready to get to the Center and to shower and go to bed... then tomorrow hit the ground running!