Hello friends . . . grace and peace,
There is no way to make a day sound routine when you’ve visited the site where Jesus was baptized and where Moses first saw the Promised Land. Those were among our stops on our first full day in Jordan, a day that ended with us at the 5-Star Mövenpick Resort in Petra. Our Jordan traveling team began the day with two important additions – our guide Sami Sahowneh and a Jordanian police office who went with us for any security that might be – but wasn’t – needed. Sami was a first-rate guide and was one of those initially chosen to be one of the men to participate in President Obama’s recent visit to Jordan.
After a buffet breakfast, we boarded the bus and drove for 45 minutes from Madaba to the Bethany Site where John Baptist is known to have baptized Jesus. It is important to note that Jesus was most definitely not baptized on the Palestinian (now Israeli) side of the Jordan River. There are massive excavations on the Jordanian side (see photo below) and archeologists and historians agree that to visit the true site of Jesus’ baptism, one must come to Jordan.
The Jordan is quite muddy but it felt good to step into it as the temperatures were in the upper 70s. A major difference from the time of Jesus was the fact that you could pick up a wifi signal near the site today. Just 20 yards across the river on the Israeli side, a group of people – Jewish we believe – were having a prayer service.
Aran and Fr. Ralph then led us on a renewal of our baptismal vows at the spot where Jesus was baptized. That’s a fact that is hard to grasp as it’s taking place. The site has seen five different churches built – one on top of the other – over the past 2,000 years. As each one was destroyed or fell apart, a new one was built. Archeologists have uncovered remains of the last one. The site is 600 feet below sea level. Near the site, we went into a Greek Orthodox Church, where men are required to remove their hats. Also nearby are the sites that have been given to different Christian denominations to build their own church. The Anglicans have land but no church there yet.
Sami is a fountain of knowledge. He told us that shish-ka-bob is an original Iranian word. Shish means 6 and kabob means meat. So if you get something that doesn’t have six pieces of meat, it’s not a shish-ka-bob. So thought provoking.
From the Jordan River site, we drove 45 minutes up nearby Mount Nebo, and I keep fearing I’m going to call it Mount Nemo. This involved a windy road that took us to the top where there was a spectacular view of Jericho but also into Palestine and then further to Israel. This is where Moses, on returning from Egypt, was able to view the Promised Land before he died. The site is owned by the Franciscans, who helped preserve it over the past 80 years. Every member of our pilgrimage group is managing to take scores of pictures.
We left Mount Nebo and started south. Soon we stopped at a business where those who are handicapped and people with special needs help make mosaics, and the shop was filled with some spectacular work.
We stopped in Madaba for lunch – salad and baked chicken – then walked a couple blocks away to St. George Orthodox Church where a mosaic that dates to the 6th century and was rediscovered in 1884 by Christians, is on the church floor and provides a religious history of the Mideast. Our guide, Sami, tells us it is the oldest map of The Holy Lands in the world. Then it was off to Petra three hours away, where we had dinner that included lamb stew, chicken and every type of salad and dessert imaginable. Afterwards, we met as a group to begin plans for our full day in Petra on Saturday. Walking, climbing and being in awe are on the agenda.
We love that you continue to pray for us. Please know that Jordan is one of the safest countries in the Middle East. We are all doing well and can’t believe it’s only been our first full day. Your prayers are much appreciated but please, also . . .
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” – Psalm 122:6