As I write this report, I can hear Josiah and Sarah K. mixing mortar for the brick wall Thomas and Rachel are laying to cover an exposed sewer pipe. Christa, the undefeated arm wrestling champ amongst the girls, is hauling the bricks for them to lay. Mike says they are just shy of being a 1/4 of the way completed. Bella is balanced safely on a ladder, cutting the paint along the seam where the wall meets the ceiling. Sara W., Michalla, Victoria and Leisha are sanding the walls smooth to prep them for the paint that will soon cover them. All four girls are quite the sight to see since they are covered in dust from the walls. Leisha was sanding the ceiling, so she looks like she has aged quite a few years with her “white” hair. So funny! Nellie is on her knees in prayer for the team, fulfilling this hours’ prayer closet slot. Jacob is playing hide n’ seek and a whole bunch of other games that involve using the imagination since he is helping me with my girls today so that I can be in the kitchen cooking up a storm (and writing this report to you all:))! If my girls do his hair, I will be sure to take a picture so you all can see the finished look.;) While I am writing this, Natalia is in the kitchen chopping up a variety of fruits and vegetables for our meals today. She has graciously and lovingly chopped and diced every onion this summer because I cry like a baby after the first slice into an onion. (I know that I am not alone in this!!!!) Aubrey will be joining us in the kitchen after the clean up from the morning meal is complete. She is on KP today. Samuel will be heading down the hill in a few minutes to buy and bread for lunch and post letters that some of your sons and daughters have penned out to you. He is the team’s “mail man”.
We are all still glowing from yesterday’s dip in the Dead Sea and hike up to David’s Waterfall in the Ein Gedi National Park. Ein Gedi is located on the Dead Sea coast and is one of the locations where David hid from and was sought after by Saul (1 Samuel 24:1-2). It is an oasis in the desert. On the way to the waterfall, we stopped at one of its many natural springs and, in our traveling clothes, went for a swim. It was so much fun and a great way to have “natural” air conditioning. So many good pictures were snapped to help us remember the moment. After Ein Gedi, we took the short ride to the Dead Sea where we all laughed in amazement at our natural ability to float. We had so much fun posing in all sorts of “impossible” poses, like the Superman and the ‘resting-on-you-side’ poses. One team mate brought a book in to get a picture of her reading in an almost upright position! The Dead Sea is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. Its surface and shores are 423 metres (1,388 ft) below sea level, making it earth’s lowest elevation on land. It is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water which is why it makes swimming similar to floating. Many of us also afforded ourselves the luxury of having a Dead Sea spa treatment by rubbing its mud all over our bodies. We looked like Amazon women! Of course, this might be a contributing factor to why we are all still glowing today.:) Our last stop before returning back to the school, was a look out point from the top of the Mt. of Olives. It is one of the most impressive sights in the world and is Jerusalem’s most iconic view. From the Mount of Olives, we could see the area between east and west Jerusalem, between the Old City and the new, the Jewish Quarter and its buildings, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter, the Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock, and the al-Aqsa mosque. The sealed Golden Gate (also known as the Beautiful Gate) stood out in the eastern wall across from us. It is the most important and most impressive gate in Jerusalem, and the only visible entrance to the city of Jerusalem from the East. It is the oldest of all the gates to the city and was the only one not rebuilt by Suleiman the Magnificent in AD 1539-42. The Golden Gate was walled up by the Arabs in the year 810 and has remained closed now for nearly 12 centuries. Some of us paid a few shekels to ride a camel that was waiting there to give visitors a memory of a lifetime: a camel ride on the top of the Mt. of Olives!
Today marks exactly 1 week until our time here in Beit Jala, Palestine is over. I know this is cliche, but I can’t believe how fast our time has gone! Everyday, we all try to make it a point to take in the view of the Valley of Elah and the other sights and sounds of Palestine and Israel and to appreciate them all and not take them for granted. This land is beautiful. We are honored to have been given the God-given opportunity to come and serve in the Holy Land, and not just be tourists in the most popular tourist spot of the world. The people we have met and the sights we have seen and the team we got to do it all with, will for ever leave footprints on our hearts.