It has been a few months since I returned from a life changing study tour to the Bible and Reformation lands. After landing at the end of the school holidays, I have had an incredibly busy Term at school. But now I am putting together my thoughts that I jotted down here and there, and collating photos. It has been fun re-living the experiences, and I would like to share some of my highlights, musings and thoughts!
After 3 flights, 19 hours fly time and 5 hours stopover, we made it to Amman, Jordan. It is an incredibly long way from Christchurch to Sydney, Sydney to Dubai, Dubai to Amman. New Zealand is definitely an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world! (I don’t mind that).
Leaving Dubai for Amman
As we were flying over Jordan and into Amman, I thought it is a very interesting place – it is clear from the air how barren the place really is. It gives fresh meaning to the Israelites wandering in the desert for so many years! Amman is the capital and cultural centre of Jordan, and one of the oldest inhabited cities of the world. It was the centre of happenings for the Ammonites, and in Bible times was called Rabbah Ammon. It was here the King David sent Uriah the Hittite to be killed (2 Samuel 11:1-27)
After meeting our eclectic and humorous local guide, all forty of us got in the tour bus and made our way to Madaba. The air conditioning was welcomed, and it was lovely to meet the rest of the group who we would spend the next 5 weeks getting to know and love.
We continued driving, past pockets of houses, people living in tents, shepherd with their flock of goats or sheep, and an amazing amount of rubbish. It is so incredibly dry and hot, and I wondered how people make a living with their flocks. I give them credit and respect for surviving in such harsh conditions. Finally into Madaba, I noticed the buildings were rough, dirty and in different states of brokenness. So much trash littered the sides of the road, yet there were shops with ball gowns and lovely woven mats and fabrics. In Old Testament times, Madaba was a Moabite city, that the Israelites conquered, today it is a Christian town, and the 5th largest in Jordan.
We visited St George’s Greek Orthodox Church which has an old mosaic map of Jerusalem that was found there. They think it dates back to 6C BC. The mosaics are beautiful and intricately detailed, and I can appreciate the time it took to make some of the large mosaics. I also recognise the valuable stories that they preserve to tell future generations.
Our next destination was Mount Nebo. I was still running on no sleep since leaving Christchurch, but I was pumped and enjoying everything about what I was experiencing. Mount Nebo is the highest point of the Pisgah Range, and is around 1000m high. It was here at Mount Nebo that Moses climbed the mountain and God showed him the lands he had promised. The view was a little hazy but we could visualise Jordan, the Dead Sea and the surrounding areas mentioned in the Bible. On clear days, directly across one can see the Jordan valley to Jericho. Looking west, is a view over the Dead Sea, to Northern Judea. On really clear days Bethlehem can be seen and once can even make out buildings on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem. God truly did show Moses the Promised Lands! It was also here at Mount Nebo that Moses died. It wasn’t until I was standing looking at a view that Moses stared at, that I finally realised that I had made it. I am on a trip that has been my dream ever since watching Dad’s slides of his trip many years ago.
At the top of Mount Nebo, there is a Serpentine Cross, reminding us of when Moses was ordered by God to place a Brazen Serpent on a pole, and whoever looked at it was healed. (Numbers 21:4-9). Also on the top, we took some time to reflect on the Bible stories. It was touching hearing the scripture read out loud of the account of Moses’ death standing on top of Mt Nebo, found in Deuteronomy.
“Moses climbed Mount Nebo. He went up from the plains of Moab to the highest slopes of Pisgah. It’s across from Jericho. At Pisgah the Lord showed him the whole land from Gilead all the way to Dan. 2 Moses saw the whole land of Naphtali. He saw the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh. The Lord showed him the whole land of Judah all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. 3 Moses saw the Negev Desert. He saw the whole area from the Valley of Jericho all the way to Zoar. Jericho was also known as The City of Palm Trees. 4 Then the Lord spoke to Moses. He said, “This is the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I told them, ‘I will give this land to your children and their children.’ Moses, I have let you see it with your own eyes. But you will not go across the Jordan River to enter it.”Deuteronomy 34:1-4
We also visited the memorial church of Moses – built around 531BC. The Byzantine mosaics in there are amazing, and being preserved for future generations. There was also a very early baptisimal font.
After a beautiful buffet lunch we ended up back on the road to Petra. It took around 2 hrs drive, but there as plenty to see on the way. We even saw a bunch of windmills in the middle of nowhere. Now in Petra, I was so tired, since it was 36 hours since we took off from Christchurch. The flat bed was bliss indeed, and I slept very well!