This past week I've been pretty homesick, but now that we leave this Thursday, I'm really sad to be letting this go. Never again will I be surrounded by such amazing children of God that have the same goals and focuses, where we are all learning about ourselves and our Savior, in the very place that the Bible took place. I know it will never be like this again. But, I can carry this feeling with me, along with all that I have learned and my strengthened testimony... When Elder Holland visited here last April, he said something that I heard a few times, and it's really stuck with me. It was to the effect of: "Shame on you if you are not changed by this experience forever and go right back to the way you were before." That just really struck me, and it has bee the motivating force behind my actions here, that I will be a changed, improved servant of my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, my Lord and King. I am determined to be changed. I am resolved to keep progressing and learning and becoming each and everyday a better disciple and true follower of Christ. When He comes again, I will know Him because I will be like Him. I have, over this semester, come to know Jesus as my friend, truly my elder brother and protector, my Savior and comfort. I know that He was born just a few miles away in Bethlehem, in a humble manger, to a young and pure virgin Mary. I know He taught in the temple, raised the dead, fed the multitudes, calmed the storm, and walked on water. I know He entered the Garden of Gethsemane, just on the Mount of Olives, and pleaded with the Father, bled from every pore, suffered all my pains, felt all my loneliness and trial, was comforted by an angel, then submitted His entire will to the Father. I know He then was arrested, falsely accused, mocked, burdened with a cross, and crucified. I know He died for me, and most of all, I know He rose on the third day and now lives for me. I couldn't be more grateful for anything else. I truly stand all amazed at His love, and it is so wonderful and joyous to me. I am so blessed to have had this opportunity to study in Jerusalem and come to know my Savior as a person and friend... I am so richly blesses, I really don't deserve it. But, that just places a responsibility on my shoulders to fully internalize this and incorporate it into my life, so much so that my testimony and light are apparent to all I come in contact with. I want it to be obvious that I am a true believer and follower of Christ.The final two weeks in Jerusalem were probably my favorite. Classes were basically over, all the finals were done, and we just went on field trips and talked about Christ all the time. What could be better, honestly? I loved walking through the last week of Jesus' life and spending time in the Old City and West Jerusalem for the last few times. On my last day, I had a few places that I was determined to visit, and I got to do just what I wanted :) We started off by going to the Church of St. Mary Magdalene (wasn't on my list, but that's ok), then I went to the Garden Tomb. This was the main place I wanted to go. We got there at the perfect time too--usually it is full of tour groups, but for some reason, it was perfectly peaceful and calm. It was just the way I wanted to remember it as my last time. After having lunch back at the JC, we went to the Garden of Gethsemane. I was feeling a little stressed about packing and cleaning and leaving and sticking to a schedule, but as soon as I sat down in the private garden, I felt at peace. My worry melted away, and all I had to think about was Christ. My experience there was definitely one of the highlights of my entire semester.
Leaving the JC was very surreal. I didn't cry, I didn't really say a lot of goodbyes, I didn't really feel like we were leaving at all. Even the plane ride home was calm for me. In fact, I still don't think it's truly hit me, and it's a month after the fact. Maybe because the whole experience just seems like a dream. I mean, I just lived in Jerusalem for three and a half months... Who does that??? The first time it really and truly sunk in was when we had our first JC reunion in Provo and I realized how much I truly missed living on top of everyone and talking about the amazing experiences we had. It's crazy how influential something so short can be on your entire life. But it happens, and it definitely happened to me. And I couldn't be happier about it :)