When I was probably eight or nine and our family was living in California, the missionaries came over for dinner one evening. I don't remember what we ate or what their names were, but I do remember that at some point in the dinner conversation one of them mentioned the BYU Jerusalem Center. Until that point I hadn't known about it, and it fascinated me. Very close to that time my grandparents took a trip to Jerusalem as well. When I heard the missionaries talking about the Jerusalem Center I knew that was one place I wanted to go when I was old enough -- which, at the time, seemed to be a lifetime away.
When I was 14 and a freshman in high school, I took Mrs. Schmidt and Mr. Louie's Pre-IB Advanced English and World Studies classes. For my five-page paper at the end of the year I wrote about the Arab/Israeli conflict, and read Exodus by Leon Uris as the literary work that went along with the essay. Again, I was fascinated and have spent the last six years casually educating myself about the Middle East. Sometime during those six years the Jerusalem Center was shut down, due to turmoil in that particular region of the world. I was disappointed, but not surprised, and decided I would just have to travel there on my own.
During the summer of 2006 there was a lot of unrest in Lebanon, something I watched with active interest. It was my first term at BYU, and I discovered that they had decided to re-open the Jerusalem Center. I wondered to myself why it was suddenly safer to be there -- Lebanon borders Israel and there was certainly a lot of danger. However, the why didn't matter to me. I started thinking that maybe it would be possible for me to go.
After a lot of defining experiences during the past two years of college, I am about to begin my junior year as a student at the BYU Jerusalem Center. I will be going to Egypt and Jordan; down into Hezekiah's Tunnel, and up to Mesada and Mt. Sinai. I will sail on the sea of Galilee and swim in the Dead Sea. I will see the Wailing Wall, visit the Garden of Gethsemane, and go to the little town of Bethlehem. I will walk the roads where Jesus walked.
I cannot begin to say how lucky I feel that I am travelling to the Holy Land. I don't know how many people get to say they have fulfilled a childhood dream, but in 17 days I will be fulfilling mine. I want to share my experiences with you, and I hope you will enjoy them.