I had the opportunity to go to Israel a couple of summers ago and had a marvelous time! Not only did we visit the places where the Savior and the Apostles walked and taught, but we learned so much more about the Savior’s life and what it would have been like to have lived during His time here on the earth. It’s different than just looking at a map of the area. I’m one to notice my surroundings and to comprehend the distance from one place to another. Just to travel up to Galilee and cross the Galilean Sea where we read about so many of the Savior’s teachings and callings of His Apostles was thrilling to me and to all of us. It makes the New Testament come alive!
I loved the time we spent in the Garden of Gethsemane and also at the Garden Tomb! Both places have been preserved and well taken care of. There are a few places in Jerusalem that are believed to have been where the Savior was laid to rest, but this is the one that our Prophets seem to feel best about. There is a very serene and peaceful feeling there. Whether or not it is the exact spot, doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t change the fact that those events took place there, in and around Jerusalem.
We were quite surprised to see how green and lush the surrounding areas were. I have always imagined it to be quite dry and barren. I believe it might have been that way at the time that the Savior lived on the earth. It was, although, quite hot and barren as we traveled down by the Dead Sea and passed through Jericho.
We visited so many wonderful places, including attending a Shabbat Day Meeting at the Jerusalem Center with Pres. Uchtdorf and his family. I loved feeling the beautiful spirit that attends all of these places that we read about in the scriptures. My intent for writing this though, is not to give you a travelogue, but rather to share a marvelous and most unusual experience that happened to me while in Jerusalem. We just never know when the influence of the Gospel will touch another’s life. Or maybe I should say, when happenstance puts you in a situation that you can share a moment in time with someone, which can speak a myriad of different things all at once. Like introducing someone to family members and the kind of people you associate with. Let me explain…We were down to breakfast a little early one morning and while I was waiting for my omelet to be cooked a man passed by that reminded me of a friend from high school. I just saw his profile as he sat down at the table in front of me with a Jewish man, his back facing me, so I really couldn’t tell if that was actually him. And then, would you believe, that when he got up to leave, he turned just enough so that I could recognize that it really was Bill! How absurd that you would run into a friend from high school at breakfast in Israel!!! I just looked up absurd in the dictionary— (wildly unreasonable or illogical). That’s exactly how I felt about the unlikely encounter. It was so bizarre! I jumped out of my seat and stood right in front of him and he, of course, was speechless! Well, after the excitement and introductions of why we were both in Israel, (he being there with his wife for the wedding of a friend), and I being there with my son and wife on a tour of the Holy Land with Dorothy Bryson and friends, we took pictures and visited in the short amount of time that we had together. He told me about our high school reunion that would be held in Denver in August and asked if I would be attending. Since they didn’t have my email address, I was not aware of it. I told him I would try and then we said our good-byes … marveling at the experience we had just had.
So that brings me to the reason why I am relating this experience. I was able to attend our reunion, as I have done in the past and was so happy to be aware of it. I am still in contact with many of my friends from high school. Because Bill is on our reunion committee there at South High in Denver, he was conducting a portion of the evening. He, in his Greek enthusiasm, excitedly told of our meeting in Israel and while doing so, he said that I was there with a “Christian” group touring the sites of the life of Christ. It thrilled me that he referred to us as a Christian group, because he is aware that I am of the Mormon faith. It opened the door for me to bear a simple testimony to other friends during the evening. A friend of mine (he being a Pastor in another faith) asked me if I had always been a Mormon and was I a Mormon when I was in high school? There were several friends surrounding us at the time and that’s when I was able to explain the reasons why I became a member of the church. Like being able to express to them that when the missionaries taught me, I immediately related to them, and that what they were teaching me was everything that I had always believed to be true about the Savior and Heavenly Father and our purpose here on the earth. It was a very wonderful and unique opportunity to discuss briefly a little bit about our faith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I’m convinced it was not by accident that I ran into Bill halfway across the world in Jerusalem. Whatever comes of it, I have no idea, but I do know that the Lord provided that moment in time for a reason. I’ll tell you the “Rest of the Story” when it unfolds — if it does in our lifetime. I know the Lord provides a way for all who have “ears to hear and eyes to see,” to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in His own special way and in His own time. We just need to do our part and be prepared when opportunity knocks at our door. We are all in this work together! It will be most interesting to see Heavenly Father’s plan unfold in all its Glory!!!
I bear you my witness that I know the fullness of the Gospel is upon the earth at this time (The last Dispensation of Time) and that the work that we are all involved in is true!