Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Dead Sea and Baptism Site

The most beautiful two days of our trip to Jordan was at the Dead Sea. After our first night in the dumpy hotel, when we stepped into the Movenpic Dead Sea Resort Hotel, we felt like we had walked into paradise.

Our room overlooked the deceptively beautiful Dead Sea. At night we could see the lights of Jericho and Jerusalem from our eastern viewpoint. The weather was blissfully cool, and the breezes that blew in through the window were calm and hypnotic. I don't think I have ever slept so soundly.

The food was decadent and we ate way too much. There was a man in the lobby one day, dressed in traditional Turkish attire, pouring wonderful lemonade from an elaborate golden flask for anyone who wanted some. The gardens at the Movenpic resort reminded me of what I imagine the Garden of Eden to be. The photos here do not do it justice. We also saw an olive tree that is 1400 years old. Amazing!

There were four different swimming pools plus the Dead Sea to conquer. There is no way to describe what it feels like to float in the Dead Sea. The harsh, salt covered rocks were well worth the torture, because I have never felt so buoyant as I did when I finally reached float depth. Because we live so close to the Great Salt Lake in Utah, we thought we knew what it would feel like to bob around in the Dead Sea. This was nothing like that brine shrimp pool in the U.S. I could have stayed in there all day trying not to let my backside pop up and tip me head first into the salt water, but Abbey didn't care for the salt very much.

So after the salt water, we investigated all the pools at the resort. The beach pool was the most interesting, because we could walk into the pool from a man made sandy beach and then dive in the deep waters at the other end. Brett mostly investigated the shade and took pictures of his feet relaxing. Our two days at the Dead Sea ended all too quickly.

After leaving the Dead Sea we traveled about 30 minutes to the site by the River Jordan where scholars believe John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ. We definitely wanted to go there since Abbey had just been baptized herself a few weeks ago. The River Jordan has receded so much over the years because of diversions for crops that there is actually no water at the actual baptism site. So our guide took us to a point beyond the Greek Orthodox Church where there is a narrow part of the river that remains.

We were only a few feet across from the Israeli border and could see the flag waving on that side. We asked our guide what the Jordanian soldier posted there would do if someone tried to cross into Israel. He told us that he would give sufficient warnings and then use his weapon. That was quite a contrast to the actual purpose of the site.

One of the more interesting parts of our trip happened at the River Jordan. When we were at the river's edge, with our guide's permission, three women from our group went into a small changing tent and changed into white baptismal gowns. Then they proceeded to go down into the river and they baptized themselves. This picture of Abbey looking on is very significant given her recent experience. I later asked her if she knew the difference between her baptism and theirs. She said that the water was cleaner in the Arabian Gulf. She smiled and then knew the answers I was looking for. As we got onto the bus to leave the site I noticed the women who baptized themselves got on with some pop cans full of water from the river. I guess they wanted their own kind of souvenir.

The Greek Orthodox church was interesting to see, but very different from my idea of what a house of worship is. I took this picture of Elijah for my grandson Thomas Elijah. It is quite striking, but gaudy.

The whole experience of those two days really left us with grateful hearts. We were grateful to be walking the earth in the same land that the Savior walked. To see the glittering lights of Jerusalem was an almost reverent experience, maybe even more so than if we had actually gone there. We could look at the city where Jesus Christ walked with a distant view and pull back from the intricate details that make up Jerusalem and focus on the most poignant, life-changing parts of the city - our resurrected Savior was tried, crucified, and then lived again in that city on the hill.

1 comment:

adrienne said...

Man alive, Dianna--What an amazing adventure you are having! I know parts of it are hard and that you are often homesick, but you are amassing memories that will last a lifetime.

Think what a broad world-view your little girl is developing! I love reading all about it. Sorry that I usually just lurk.

Merry Christmas to the wonderful Kearney family. We love you.