As the campus is quiet right now and most of my to-do lists are checked off, it is time to write a few more thoughts.

It has been almost three months since I left home and landed back at JUC.  So much has happened, so many lessons learned, and too little time to reflect.  It’s too much to write it all, so here are a few of the highlights…

-New friends.  This university tends to always bring in great students and amazing staff.  This semester is no exception.  It is never easy being far from home, but the community here makes it much more bearable.  My life is daily enriched by the friendships and interactions I have with the staff and students here at JUC.

-Hummus!!!  I know the Pita Pit and a few store brands make decent hummus back home, but nothing compares to that which is found everywhere over here.  Oh gosh, and pitas hot out of the oven!  This could be the manna sent from heaven.

-Kindle.  That’s right, I gave in and bought the latest e-reader.  It has revolutionized my life.  Though I’ve had it for only three weeks, I have read 5 complete books on it so far….Gulliver’s Travels; The Jungle Book; Pride and Prejudice; The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights; The Great Hunt, Book Two of the Wheel of Time; How to Tell a Story and Other Essays.  You can probably notice that I love the free books from Amazon, all those published before 1923.  Woot!

-Oregon.  Two current students are from Oregon, both from the Portland area.  We often reminisce about the beloved state we left behind.  I’ve also met up with three different sets of friends from home.  Jerris and her daughter Katie from Albany were here at the beginning of September.   Carley Kendrick and Jesse Rodli from Salem Bible came in October.  Right now, Melissa and Lindsay from Starbucks are here on a Holy Land adventure.  We’ve trekked all over Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  On Sunday we will drive a rental up to Galilee to try our hand at walking on water.  Oh, and the football in Oregon is as fun and tragic as ever.

-Endless sunshine.  The Middle East is hot.  That is no surprise, but rarely has Jerusalem ever had a fall that has been this warm this late.  It is still climbing into the mid 80s every day.  I’ve had to use a sweatshirt exactly 4 times since I landed here.  At this time last year, David, Kelly, Sam and I were rained on everywhere we went for almost two weeks.  At times I don’t like it, but in looking at pictures from home, I am glad that I’m still in a t-shirt and shorts.

-Al-Beit in Bethlehem.  Every Thursday night I get to join something special that is happening in the West  Bank.  A group of Palestinian Christian young people come together to worship Jesus and just hang out.  Al-Beit is Arabic for ‘the house.’  It is somewhere between a cross of a coffee shop, youth group, and community center.  There is an energy and depth in this group that surprises me every time I can join in with them.

-Successful short-term group!  Perhaps the most satisfying thing I have done so far has been connected to the Pastor & Parishioner group that came through a couple weeks ago.  There were 32 students, ages 16 to 78, but most in their 40-50s.  Half the group was from Canada and the rest were from far-flung scattered states.  They had the most amazing attitudes, endless energy and abundant enthusiasm.  They loved to learn and were so excited to see this land where God touched down.  For two weeks they used their Bibles as maps to explore this land. They reminded me so much of my family at Oak Creek and First Assembly.  You guys would love a trip over here.

-Office plants.  Need I say more?

-Unexpected trip to Jordan.   Because of an expiring visa, I had to make a quick trip to Jordan.  I was able to see many places that I hadn’t been to in almost three years.  In one afternoon, I saw the ancient capitols of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites.

-Bacon & Pepperoni Pizza.  Oh how you have changed my Jerusalem life!

-Stars & Bucks Café.  Good espresso is nearly impossible to find in the Middle East.  This last Tuesday, though, I finally found a spot in Bethlehem that can bring out that perfect flavor in every shot.  Although this café has stolen its name from my alma mater, I am not ashamed to buy their coffee mugs.

-Group skype conversations.  Thank you Ian, Alana, Ada, Seth, and Emily for entertaining me this night.  Here’s a sample

[9:17:34 PM] Seth Andrew Hague: Take that to the back

[9:17:39 PM] Emily Thomassen: haha seth is shorter than me

[9:17:42 PM] Seth Andrew Hague: take that to the bank

[9:17:42 PM] Ada: the back?

[9:17:47 PM] Seth Andrew Hague: the bank

[9:17:51 PM] Seth Andrew Hague: the bank

[9:17:53 PM] crsimon: I saw the gnarliest back hair the other day

[9:17:54 PM] Ada: well, I do enjoy the occassional head covering..

[9:17:54 PM] Seth Andrew Hague: the bank

[9:18:00 PM] crsimon: you could have corn-rowed it

[9:18:10 PM] Ada: EW!

[9:18:11 PM] crsimon: mullet straight into back hair corn rows

[9:18:18 PM] Seth Andrew Hague: Ada… I have a secret…

[9:18:23 PM] crsimon: you’ll never top that one

[9:18:24 PM] Ian Garrett: oh no

[9:18:26 PM] Emily Thomassen: umm i rocked the corn-rows so dont hate