Qumran Fund Progress

Qumran Support Progress
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Sunday, June 3, 2012

It's a small world, after all.

From left to right: Joshua Cook, Daniel Dixon, Stephen Johnston (me), and Katie Joy Irwin.
There is nothing like international travel. There is also nothing like sharing it with others! In the short time I have been in Israel, I have had the privilege of meeting up with some friends. Some expected, but a couple that were a surprise!

I knew that Daniel and Katie Joy were planning on making it to Qumran. In fact, we had scheduled to have them join me on the dig for a couple of days! What I didn't expect was for Joshua Cook to show up. We had barely talked about the idea, but I was pleasantly surprised to see three friends walking up, instead of two!

We enjoyed great conversations from comparing travel adventures, to the typical verbal exchanges of friends. It was refreshing to take discussions into deeper waters, without having to give lengthy background information that is necessary with strangers.

Sadly, they each had to move on to other things. Joshua Cook just graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), and was about to begin a tour with one of his professors.

Daniel and Katie Joy had just completed an Israel tour with Northwest Bible Church (in Dallas) and were on their way to visit Petra in Jordan. From there I think they were planning to meet up with Daniel's sister and tour Greece.

So here I thought it would be another week until I saw a familiar face, but that wasn't so bad. That's when God provided for a surprise encounter with another friend from Northwest Bible Church, Sarah Margaret!

Sarah Margaret and I had discussed her visit to Israel, but it seemed her tour wouldn't line up with my stay. I had dropped it from my mind thinking that it wouldn't happen. I wasn't looking for her.

Sarah Margaret was touring with her family as part of a group from Dallas, TX. She had visited the dig site and not seeing me, she asked for me by name. I have no idea whom it was she asked, but this individual didn't have a clue who I was. Perhaps he was one of the Bedouin or the geologist that just showed up a few days ago. In any case, she thought that my group had moved on. She was no longer looking for me.

For some reason our group stopped working early today. No one complained, but we all made our way to the cars. As Dr. Cooper started to drive off, I looked at the tour buses and one happened to catch my eye. The group said that they were from Dallas, TX. I found that to be unique enough that I pointed it out to the rest of us in the car. They didn't seem to care. When I turned to tell them, I looked out at the sea of tourists and noticed a familiar head of hair. I looked closer and sure enough, it was my friend! I was caught off guard and excited. I could barely collect my thoughts and asked Dr. Cooper to stop the car. I am sure he thought I had forgotten something. I asked him again and he complied. The group was headed back toward their bus and I was running out of time. In my excitement, I shouted out, "Stephanie"! Once the words came to life, I realized that I hadn't said her name--though it did get the group's attention. (For clarity, I may have an impeccable memory for faces, but names have always been like kryptonite to my memory. I will always get first letters right, but rarely do the names come close...or even sound alike. Please dear friends, don't take this personally if it happens. It just means we should spend more time together to help my memory.)

In any case, as a stranger was rushing up toward the tour group, shouting random names, Sarah Margaret saw me. Though equally shocked, she showed her mental prowess and accurately recalled my name, amidst laughter. That is when I recalled her true name, not her spontaneously created alias, and I apologized. I'm not sure she even understood me. After we hugged a friend from another land, we posed for pictures. I briefly met her family before I had to go. What a pleasant surprise!

Well there are only 5 days left on this trip and I am left wondering if I will still see others.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Feast of Weeks (Shavuot)

So, as most of you know, I am staying at a Jewish Kibbutz here in Israel (just 1 of 267). Originally these were basically a little farming communities that operated on a communal basis. Each person takes turns doing the work in exchange for housing and pay. I understand that now very few (one estimate had it at only 10) operate in this manner. Now the people rent rooms and they are hired for various positions around the Kibbutz.

Yesterday we joined the local celebration of Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks. This is a Festival recorded in the Bible (Exodus 34:22; Numbers 28:26-31; Leviticus 23:15-21) that celebrates God's provision of the wheat harvest. It is also the time that the locals celebrate receiving the Torah.

This is demonstrated by the celebrants wearing white (for the Torah) and flowers (symbolically the first fruits, more traditionally the children pick fruit as their decorations).

Things began with a children's choir singing and yes, there was one child that got plenty of laughs from those watching. When they were done the youngest children came up carrying a piece fruit or vegetable that rhymed with their name. Then these were symbolically offered up by placing them into a basket.

The celebration focuses on provisions and harvest and this includes children. Here are the two children born in Kibbutz Kalia this year. Once a year at this festival the children are presented to the Kibbutz. Sort of like a church's baby dedication.

This was followed by a horseshow including two young foals. (In the right photo you can see the two month old foal and her mom.) There is a stable here on the Kibbutz and the staff showed off their skills. Then they put the young riders on and had them also show what they have learned.

A parade followed comprised of harvest machinery. On each one, older children could be seen throwing candy to the younger children in the audience.

The parade ended with a combine tossing out piles of hay. Once it passed, the children ran to the hay to search for hidden sweets.

As you can tell, I had a great time
celebrating with the locals!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Qumran: The Dig Begins

So we have begun breaking ground in Qumran. The team is a little bit smaller than was hoped and the task is large, but the potential is great. Above you will see the 2012 Qumran dig group consisting of people from Criswell College, Liberty University, Hebrew University, Singapore students, and Bedouin locals.  We hope to have a few more added from Sweden, my friends from Dallas, and a few others.

Because this is expected to be the final dig that Dr. Price will be leading into Qumran, there are plans to bring in National Geographic, CNN, a film crew, and at least one Christian tv station.  The work is hard and there is much to do. Basically a pickaxe is used to break through a layer of soil. This challenge varies by how hard the soil is. Then the wider end of the pickaxe is sometimes used to further break up the soil. Then a "shovel" (a large flat blade that forms a right angle with the shaft.) is used to scrape the soil away and eventually into a bucket. Buckets are dumped into wheelbarrows, which are dumped into a designated "trash pile" outside the area.

After two days of hard work, we are down about 10 inches in our tiny square and I have a few blister spots trying to surface. In reality my gloves are protecting me from the typical places, but the seams inside are causing other spots to form. The sun is hot, but the tents provide plenty of shade. I take plenty of water and we break midmorning for breakfast. Starting by 5:00 AM, we stop by 1:00 PM. It is enough to wear us out!

Well that said, my 4 AM wakeup call is coming before too long and I should be going here pretty soon. So though I will be able to share a lot about the day to day activities, there is a lot that I cannot share. Specifically I can't mention in my blog about what we find. Respectfully, it should be up to the dig director to decide how this information is released to the public. One on one, I can discuss these things in person, but not in correspondence or public posting.

Still, we are digging in places that show good potential. In fact, this is where Dr. Price has wanted to dig for many years, and only now has it been approved. So the prayers include: more workers, that we would be able to completely dig these areas (with the limited resources, and in the brief time alloted), for safety, and for us to have a successful dig.

Thanks again, more details to follow...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Stage 1 of the trip

Showed up this morning right at 5 AM. There was a bit of confusion as an attendant attempted to help...and it only made things worse. My bag weighed in at 40 lbs., this was after my first weighing had me at 20. Courtney said she started with 70 and had to work down. Oh and I like how Dr. Cooper saved the bad news until we were already at the airport. It turns out that Dr. Price had the time schedule off a bit. Instead of starting the dig day out at 7 AM, we will start at 5AM! Ouch.

On the Dallas to Newark flight, we had a backseat pilot. It is a little disconcerting to see a pilot take a seat in the back. You wonder if he passed this flight off to someone else so he could nap. Of course I just liked the idea that we had a backup on board.

There is an unspoken rule: no matter how many tattoos you have, babies cause you to have odd facial expressions followed by strange ramblings. The muscular man next to me on the flight, Exhibit A.

At Newark, I was a bit shocked to find the Eiffel Tower. To my relief I found New York outside my window. So, in celebration I bought an "I <3 New York" item...only because I needed a wallet. (one that doesn't entice pickpockets or coworkers).

We are stalling our time until the next boarding. Two are asleep, one is reading, one went exploring, and I am blogging.

I hear one of the in flight movies is Hugo. Dr. Cooper says we all have to watch it. I know that I just need to get a nap in sometime. I'm running on fumes: caffeine.

Well, until Israel...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Only Hours Remain...

From my vantage point I can see my suitcase. It is splayed with future contents surrounding it--much like vultures, they are ready to decend at any moment. Perhaps they terry since they secretly know that once encapsulated, they will remain confined and untouched for well over 24 hours! 50 pounds is the limit and I find it hard to come close. My first attempt had me at only 20, half of which I figure was luggage. So maybe I can take more and buy less, after all. Still, no reason to take my apartment with me. This is fitting, since I know my apartment well and Israel, little. Why should I take my apartment along, only to see it elsewhere? It is Israel I want to see, not this. It is fine for the turtles, to carry their homes, but not for this creature. This could very well be the reason that they travel so slow!

Well I am making good progress on my readings, but still much to do. Maybe I should just close up after this chapter, get my suitcase closed up, and close my eyes for a spell.

Still, I feel like finishing up this book to free me up all the more on this trip. To rest is like asking a child to wait 8 hours for Christmas morn. Better to hold back the tide than to chide the sleeplessly eager. With this I close out the pre-trip entries. Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Just one week left!

Today marks one week until I should be on my way to Israel. I can't say that my suitcase is packed, but I have things stacked on top of it. Though I doubt that really counts even remotely packing. Yep, I have a lot left to do. There is catching up on a semester's worth of sleep, finding my apartment under a semester's worth of homework, and all with only one week to do it. Such pressure!

Speaking of pressure, there is also the sensation of added pressure that I have in my left hand. It would be wise for one to reconsider actions before engaging into martial arts with machinery. The outcome is never good and the stories are just, plain embarrassing, though after a few weeks they prove to be thoroughly delightful anecdotes. I think there will be some youtube video that the store clerks will someday post about my stumblings. Though I would like to ask for a refund on those 5 seconds of fame. Hopefully it will be fine by trip time. Otherwise, well this will be interesting to say the least.

The lesson learned is to not be hasty. Fast and frenzied are the faulty and fallen. I wonder how many times in life I have gone with the moment when I should have thought things through. Hindsight is 20/20 right?

Patience and trust are two biggies that God is working on me these days. Life is filled with risks, but it is of greater risk to never risk at all. After all, every cub leaves the den at some point and explores the world. Fear is the friction to the wheels of change. Faith is the oil that greases the wheels. Skepticism is the wrench in the system that destroys these wheels (and picks apart simple analogies, including this one). Simply put, fear is misplaced trust. When trust is properly placed, it becomes faith.

I often am asked what will I do after I graduate. I don't know. Does it concern me? Only when I think about it. I wish I knew even what tomorrow would bring. I am not entrusted with tomorrow, all I have to work with is today. To live in tomorrow is to squander today. Today is too rich an investment to spend frivolously. I am consciously choosing to focus on what I have and not enumerating what I wish I had. Oh trust me, I could wish a great many things but these are not the goal. They are but part of a greater journey. I don't know exactly where my journey will take me, but for now it seems to be to Israel. So stay tuned to hear what's around the next bend.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Spring Semester Winds to an End

Today was the last exam for my last class for this semester. Usually the follow-up question is, "How many more of these do you have?" To which I never know how to respond. I am in a 90 hour graduate program with soon to be 66 hours under my belt. If all the classes I need are offered when I need, the best possible answer is three semesters. Sadly I think that rotations may be off just enough that I might be looking at four. I guess I could get extra crazy and try for two, but with Greek III and Hebrew III waiting in the wings for next semester, I think that is out. So, "Three-ish semesters more" it is!

So usually just after I finish my last exam I usually book my evenings solid for the next month until I faint from exhaustion. I think this year I should also wear a nametag when I attend functions to remind my friends what my name is. This might not be necessary, but I think at least one person hesitated before they said my name on Sunday. Though likely a fluke, one can never be too certain. I imagine at least one person thinks I moved to another city, or joined the foreign legion, but it might just be the cashier at Red River. Of course if she knew me well enough, she would know that I am not in the foreign legion, but in 11 days I will be in a foreign region. Yep, Israel is nearly upon me and though I can't recall the last time I had a craving for ham, I figure it will hit me in about 12 days.

Of course I need to start preparing for this trip at sometime soon. It would be wonderful if I could get my assigned book read before the trip. This would free me up to actually enjoy the trip. Besides, I really would like to read for pleasure on this trip.

I tell you, falling asleep with a selected book is very different than an assigned book. I believe it is more than the paper texture and thickness, but even the dreams seem to differ quite dramatically. Speaking of dreams, I think I am going to find a book to curl up with. Then I will allow its flowing words to float my cares away and transport me into dreamland.

Yes, this is my redefinition of "Facebook."

Monday, April 23, 2012

QUMRAN III - Tentative Itinerary

May 12

5:00 am – Meet at United counter at DFW.
6:39 am – Depart DFW on UA 1521.
11:00 am – Arrive at Newark.
3:55 pm – Depart Newark on UA 84.

May 13

9:25 am – Arrive in Tel Aviv.
Visit Caesarea, Jezreel Valley, Megiddo, Muhraqa, Tiberias, Sea of Galilee(Lodging at Golan Hotel in Tiberias.)

May 14

Tour Galilee: Capernaum, Mount of Beatitudes, Tel Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Golan.

May 15

Leave Tiberias; tour Beth Shan on way to Jerusalem. Visit Mt. of Olives and Gethsemane(Lodging at Jerusalem Gold Hotel.)

May 16

Tour Jerusalem: City of David, Western Wall, Jewish Quarter. Depart for Qumran mid-afternoon for check in and orientation.

May 17

Dig begins. We will probably start with breakfast around 7:00 and begin working at 8:00. We will stop for lunch and then work the afternoon. There will be some evening lectures.

May 19

Tour Jerusalem: Israel Museum, Old City, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Church of Flaggelation, Garden Tomb, Ben Yehuda Street after Shabbat.

May 26

Visit Masada and Ein Gedi.

June 2


June 7

Our last day to dig. We will clean up and head out for dinner and then on to the airport.
7:00 pm – Dinner at Abu Gosh.
11:10 pm – Depart Tel Aviv on UA 91.

June 8

4:20 am – Arrive in Newark.
7:00 am – Depart Newark on UA 1217.
9:40 am – Arrive at DFW.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Bye Bye Birdie"

Charlie has officially headed south for a couple months and the apartment is already too quiet. I had been concerned about what to do with Charlie while I was overseas. After talking with the folks, we decided to meet up and give my parents the bird. (No people, I am not referencing a waving gesture using only a center digit.)

The visit was good for us to catch up on what is going on and dad shared with me his Israel photos. I hope to retake a few of his photos on my trip, just for some strange sense of enjoyment. Of course I forgot how much of a photographer he is. For some reason I had envisioned about 5 rolls of film. In reality there were closer to 50 rolls of film, photos, and slides. (Some of my friends are finally starting to understand why I take so many photos.)

So be warned, I plan to bore you with photos upon my return.

For the faint at heart and shorter attention spans: avoid making eye-contact, run for the hills, and remove Jerusalem from your vocabulary (or consider replacement phrases like: "the city found at 31.7833° N, 35.2167° E").

For the remotely-interested and those who find the topic unavoidable: ask about specific places--ten minutes before the service begins. Oh and consider a quick exit after the service. Pew jumping might be necessary.

To those that live life without a net and those that have more than 10 hours free at a time: ask to see the photo flipbook of my trip with a personal play-by-play. Nod often, smile throughout, maintain eye-contact, and use phrases like, "tell me more" and "then what?"

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Only 28 Days Left! (But Who's Counting?)

Only 28 days left, until I spend 28 days in Israel!

With just under a month left, I still feel as though I have a lot to get done. Most importantly is my school work. The biggest task is my research paper and presentation on Alzheimer's disease. Once that is out of the way, I guess my Greek final is the next hurdle.

As far as plans for the trip, I still have to do a little shopping. I plan to visit some thrift stores and find some grungy clothes to wear while playing around in the dirt. There is still a lot to get done and only 28 days left!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Free Class Credit!

As it turns out, all Criswell students that are going on the dig to Qumran will get a free class credit. Yes, you read correctly, free!

Officially the class is entitled: Field Archeology: Qumran III.

Of course this is only possible due to the very generous contributions that friends and family members have made to send me to Qumran. Thank you! Now you are literally helping my education.

I must say, that this is the farthest that I will ever have traveled to attend a class--though I have no doubt that it will be worth every single mile! Oh yeah and besides being awesome, did I mention this class would be free?!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Help Shop Me Away!

I work at a local Christian Bookstore, on days when I'm not at school or in church-no joke. Well not only are the owners of Logos nice enough to let me return to my job after skipping the country to play in the dirt for a month, but they are also hosting a "Shop for a Cause" day.

This means that a portion of the proceeds that day will go toward the Criswell Qumran Team. All that people need to do is mention Qumran at the registers on April 21st. Aggies, that should be an easy day for you to remember, it is Aggie Muster Day. For all you non-Aggies, and I'm sorry you are not among the chosen, you may refer to this day as the anniversary of the battle of San Jacinto. For those that have no idea about what I just said, just come Saturday April 21st.

It was actually quite fun to run into a student on campus that helps in the offices. I had asked her where one of the staff members was and she told me she was in a meeting. Then as I started to walk away, she said, "Oh, are you Stephen Johnston? I feel like I know you, I've been processing all your checks for Qumran. You've had a lot come in!"

Thank you all for your support. Not only have you provided for me to be able to travel over seas, but you have made me famous around campus.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Dead Sea Scrolls 101 - The Discovery

Perhaps we should thank a wayward sheep for the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Behind any lost sheep is a shepherd diligently searching. After all, a good shepherd always goes after the lost sheep...or at least sends his younger cousin.

It was the Spring of 1947, when young Muhammed ed Di’b went in search of one of his sheep. The search took him through an area about a mile from the western shore of the Dead Sea. As he climbed around the steep cliff face, he noticed some caves. Instead of inspecting each one for his lamb, he picked up rocks and began tossing them in the cave. Instead of hearing a bleating lamb followed by the rustling of lamb feet, Muhammed heard a crash.

Though the details vary slightly, what is consistent is that curiousity and perhaps a little bit of fear came over the young shepherd. With the aid of his cousin, young Muhammed explored what would later be called "Cave I of Qumran". Here they discovered a collection of earthenware jars inside of the cave. Some of these jars were broken, at least one by Muhammed's pitching arm. Amidst broken fragments, the boys discovered rolls of leather bound in cloth. The young men gathered up some of these rolls and brought them back to their tribe.

The Bedouin elders inspected these rolls and found them to contain writings of some sort. For a time these scrolls served as interest and boasting rights, similar to a hunter's catch. Somewhere amidst the handling, the scroll was torn in half. This would later become the famous "Isaiah Scroll" of Qumran.

Eventually these scrolls were thought to have value and taken to be sold. The first dealer assessed them to be worthless and likely stolen from a temple. The scrolls moved through the marketplace, where another dealer offered to buy them. Another joined in the conversation and suggested that they take them to Khalil Eskander Shahin, a part-time antiques dealer. The dealer immediately noted their worth, but bought some of the scrolls for about $30.

In time the scrolls would be analyzed and their value discovered. Others would wonder if there were more. This would result in an all out search of the area for more caves, that perhaps might contain more scrolls. In fact, they would find 11 such caves.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Dead Sea Scrolls 101 - Importance.

With 60 days left until I, Lord willingly, leave for Qumran, I wanted to start a series on the historical importance of Qumran.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are easily one of the most significant Biblical Archeological finds to date!

Up until the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest texts dated to the time of the Masorites. (These are the people that every Biblical Hebrew student thanks, because they added divisions and vowel markings to aid in translation Hebrew .)
Since these were the oldest texts and they dated to around the 7th - 10th centuries, many scholars began to question the reliability of these documents.

The basic question came down to textual criticism and transcription over the ages. Some theories professed that like a copy machine, numerous copies of a source would result in distortions and corruptions over time. Such a theory would place doubt upon the entirety of the Old Testament due to possible errors.

With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, came a tremendous breakthrough in textual authenticity! These scrolls came to be dated to around 150 years before Christ! Additionally, the Qumran caves included complete scrolls and portions of every single Old Testament book with the exception of Esther!*

Though other extra-Biblical works were found, it must be remembered that these were a group of fanatical Essenes that had removed themselves from Jerusalem. Also keep in mind that most Christian homes contain numerous extra-Biblical writings in addition to the Bible. The discovery of other materials in no way taints the importance of what the Biblical books contained!

Close analysis of these documents supported a faithful transmittion of the texts over the centuries. No longer was it assumed that gross errors had worked their way into our Old Testament. God had faithfully ensured the integrity of the text over the years. Some noteable discoveries had to do with order and structure. It would appear that Psalms, for example, was not compiled in the same manner. Though the texts are identical in content to what we have today, it would seem that the Psalms had not been combined into one book at their time.

Though we know of slight variances of Biblical documents over the ages, we are able to discern these through comparisions of documents from various regions. These variants are nothing like the childhood game of "Telephone" would indicate. In the game one child whispers a message once into another child's ear. On down the line, the message goes and the last child winds up with a completely different message. Instead of a game, the scribes were devoted to authentic reproduction of their sources. After all, their source document was of highest personal importance. In it contained the Words of their Lord, the very Words of life.

*As to the exclusion of Esther, Dr. Cooper has a great insight. For ages, Christians have wondered why the author of Esther failed to mention God. In fact, it seems like at some times significant effort was taken to avoid referencing God. The reason lies in the intended purpose of Esther. Purim is a celebration that is performed in the household and the reference text is Esther.

The reason that God's name is not mentioned goes back to the intense reverence for the name of God. Some sources claim that when ancient scribes would come to the name of God, they would stop, ritually wash, pick up a new quill to write the name of God, break the quill, ritually wash and then return to writing their text. When talking, the person of Jewish faith will never mention the name of God--it is too Holy! It is noted that even in writings today, that when they need to reference God, they will write it as "G-d." Of course this comes down to a very intentional effort to avoid violating the 3rd Commandment. So the average person of Jewish faith would feel highly uncomfortable saying or even writing the name of God in common settings. Hence, when the book of Esther is to be celebrated during Purim, a problem would arise. So to avoid offending God, the book of Esther was written with effort to clearly infer God's provision, but leave His name out of the text.

That said, the book of Esther then would not be found with the other Holy Scrolls. Instead this book would be found in everyone's household for when the celebration of Purim is to commence. This is the very likely reason that Esther was nowhere to be found in the caves of Qumran.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Big Apple Pizza...in Jerusalem

So when people think of the BEST pizza they have ever had in their life, they obviously are thinking of some place in Italy right? Apparently not!

This is the second time that someone has said, "There is this place on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem that has the best pizza I have ever eaten!" It turns out that this place is called Big Apple Pizza (please note the menu board shape).

I did some research and found this entertaining advertisement about Big Apple Pizza:

"Israel can be pretty iffy when it comes to pizza. Although pizza is as firmly entrenched in the Jewish state as it is everywhere else, Israelis have failed to inherit the appropriate sensitivity to the fine art of pizza-making, meaning a lot of Israeli pizza joints specialize in semi-fossilized slices that have been sitting out for a few hours and weren't much of anything special before rigor mortis set in. Israeli taste in international chains is even worse; a country whose biggest international pizza chain is Dominos is not a pizza mecca.

But fortunately for pie-starved American residents and tourists, there's Big Apple Pizza, which is as close as you'll come to pizza in the style of its namesake in Jerusalem. Somewhat inexplicably divided into two essentially identical locations only two or three minutes apart by foot, Big Apple dishes out kosher pizza by the pie and by the slice (10-12 NIS) with toppings both familiar (mushrooms, olives) and slightly untraditional (corn).

For a true Israeli pizza experience, get a corn slice, skip the garlic powder and garnish it with za'atar from the handy shaker."

Look, I'm not saying that this is now my main reason for going to Israel...I'm just saying it is a convenient bonus!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Trip rescheduled to May 12th-June 8th!

This week we had our first meeting for the Qumran trip! So far there are only 2 other students from Criswell going with us. I am so excited because I know both students from previous classes. This will be so much fun!

Dr. Cooper began to mention places we will go, things we will see, foods we will eat, sleep we will be deprived, sun we will be baked by, hours we will wait in airport processing, and all around joy we will have! What a lot of activity to be jammed into one month!

It was mentioned that the trip was moved to May 12th-June 8th. This was to ensure full sightseeing and reduced airfare. He also mentioned that he had received donations to off-set the cost some and it would remain at $4,000, or less. Much will depend upon fuel surcharges and things like that.

Though there will be a few other expenses along the way, this is all within God's provision. I am excited to see how God will provide. Already many of my friends are humbling me by almost demanding support letters. I am so blessed!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Qumran 2012 is official!

At the beginning of our Old Testament Survey class with Dr. Cooper, said that he had still not received word concerning the Qumran trip. After class I asked to be notified once he heard. He picked up his phone and noticed he had numerous emails waiting. He couldn't go through the emails quick enough. Then as he read one email I waited with deep anticipation. It wasn't until he said those golden words, "The dig permit has been granted," that I was able to breathe again!

I immediately spread the exciting news through every technological means at my fingertips!

Then once I got home I put a pot of tea (yes, earl grey tea) on and started assembling support letters. I worked well into the morning and got some 36 letters ready to go out the following day.

I am thrilled at this opportunity! Now Dr. Cooper did mention a pizza place he likes to go. He said that he looks forward to it every trip because he says, "It is the best pizza I have ever had--and I like pizza!" I must say that he now has even my taste buds eager to visit the Holy Land!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Voting on Qumran

To be able to dig in a national park, you have to go through a bit of red tape. An archeological dig of this nature might be like asking to climb on Mount Rushmore to obtain some rock samples.

There is a board that officially votes on whether or not to permit dig permits to various groups in Israel. For a couple reasons this vote has been delayed not once, but twice. The vote, to determine the dig permit for our Qumran trip, is currently scheduled for February 26th.

Our trip is literally in the hands of this board. I am still praying about this trip and I will keep you updated!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hope rekindled!

The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster, to say the least.

It wasn't until just a few days ago that we even knew whether or not we would be allowed to dig--permit in hand. Still, the professor from Liberty University decided to go ahead and research hotel prices and air fare. Dr. Cooper asked to hear what the current prices were. The answer was higher than he had hoped.
It seems that the delays have caused all the cheaper plane tickets to be sold first. The result is that only the more expensive seats are available on the flights we would be taking.

This was the back story to the uncertain response I received from Dr. Cooper just a couple weeks back. With disappointment overshadowing his every word, he said that the entire trip looked to be at least $4,000, but maybe even as high as $5,000. When he mentioned this to me, I couldn't help but laugh. I told him, "$5,000, or $4,000, it doesn't make a difference to me--I don't have either!
My Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills. $5,000 or $4,000, it makes no difference to Him!" If God is willing for me to go on this trip, there is nothing that can stand in the way.

Well, I didn't hear any more discussion about the trip and I watched hope flicker and fade. That is, until I talked to my manager at Logos. She was looking at the summer schedule and was asking about my availability. When she mentioned the trip and I told her that I thought it had been cancelled. She then that showed me a Facebook posting from the college.

It said:
"Want to be a part of the last Criswell dig on the Qumran Plateau?
Contact Dr. Lamar Cooper or Diana Cooper by Feb 17th.
May 15 – June 9 2012 $4000 (possibly more)"

Though it was only a tiny spark, it was enough to ignite hope's flame.

I don't know if it will come together, but God does. It is all in His hands.

Still, a fella can hope can't he?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Come on, Qumran!

It was toward the end of class that Dr. Lamar Cooper mentioned a potential upcoming archaeological dig. Almost in passing he mentioned the site.


Instantly my mind's eye was whisked away to not only to the sights of the Holy Land, but envisioned unearthing history in that place so drenched with Biblical significance. As my heart desperately tried to keep stride with my racing thoughts, I discovered that I was suddenly captivated by this possibility. As scenes from "Indiana Jones" played in my head, I heard the professor mention the estimated cost. The large cement stone rolled into view as my dreams desperately dashed to seek hope and an escape from the looming reality.

Taking a long breath, Israel faded as Dallas came into view. A dream. That is what Qumran was. An opportunity of a lifetime-type dream, but a dream none the less.

I did my best to sit on the dream. And by sit on it I mean trying desperately to push it out of my mind and bury it away...but it wouldn't go. Finally one day I mentioned the trip to my mom, just to see if I was crazy. She understood the chance that lay in my grasp, but also admitted that without God's provision, well... my plane would never leave the ground.

I began praying to God and pestering my Prof, every chance I got. I asked him for more details and I drank up every word like a sponge. When I asked about the expenses, though he didn't discount the price tag, he afforded me a bit of hope. God had provided for many students, such as myself, in the past. He said that provisions came from many different places, but to ask God first and then ask others.

The biggest hurdle would be my job. As much as I wanted to immaturely ignore adulthood, I knew I needed respond with responsibility. Being gone for 26 days is a lot to ask of any job. So I prayed for not only favor, but an opportunity. When the time came I nervously blurted out details and left them to pray and consider the inquiry. Before I left home for Christmas, I was given the best Christmas gift ever. My bosses presented me with permission to pursue my dream.

Over my Christmas vacation in Brownsville, I collaged images and coalesced words into a coherent letter. Before I could return home, two different sources brought Israel many miles closer with their generous contributions.

Ever since my return to Dallas, I have been waiting with eager anticipation. Children on Christmas morning, along grooms on wedding days, know my plight. As soon as I returned to class I asked my professor about the state of the trip. The news was grave. The gentleman in charge of the dig had lost a relative in the United States. He would be taking a month off to see to his family and to grieve. Sadness upon sadness. Though the travels were still possible, it was still currently up in the air. Certainty was adjourned until the board would reconvene at a later date.

With every week I eagerly inquire of Dr. Cooper for an update. He knew little and heard even less. Time would tell, but he was resorting to acquire alternative destinations--if this one should leave us.

Finally, this week there is the most definitive news yet! The board will meet on February 15th to uncover the fate of this archaeological dig. In addition, it is said that the senior members are favorable about a positive outcome for the trip!

I still don't know if this trip will come together, for me or the school. I am hoping and praying that it might. For some reason I have always wanted to be involved with archeology. I even took a summer class in elementary school about it. Yet this long-held dream can't hold a candle against the burning passion of seeing the Holy Land with my own eyes.

Perhaps this trip isn't for me, but I would like to visit at some point. Somewhere deep inside I feel that visiting Jerusalem would be like envisioning the Bible. As I turn a corner, I turn another page. Every step, a step closer to understanding the words--nay, the heartbeat of the Bible. The smells, the heat, the sounds, the heat, the food, the heat and the culture would burn its way onto my heart. John knew Jerusalem well. He also saw the "New Jerusalem" coming down. I want to see the "New Jerusalem," but I don't have that option now. Today I can only witness the "Old Jerusalem" in all its splendor.

Perhaps it is my flawed human logic, but there is a strong yearning in my soul that as I walk in Jesus' footsteps, I want to walk where His foot stepped. What an adventure this could be!