The urge to travel and see the world has been embedded in my soul for as long as I can remember. As a child I did not have many opportunities to travel, but I am finding opportunities as an adult to feed that hunger. Just a few years before I entered college at Brigham Young University (BYU) in the 1980s, the university had completed building the BYU Jerusalem Center in Israel, a beautiful learning facility with stunning views of the old city of Jerusalem and The Dome of the Rock, which sit on the hill directly across the Kidron Valley. I had always thought that a trip to the Holy Land–actually walking where Jesus walked–would be a spiritual journey like no other. I had a great desire to participate in a semester-long study abroad at the BYU Jerusalem Center. However, the cost was beyond my means at the time, and I graduated without having that experience. My dream of going to Israel was pushed to the “Someday I’ll go there” file in the back of my mind.
Fast forward to a regular Tuesday evening early in 2007. My husband, Drew, came home with an invitation to go on a 17-day LDS Travel Study Tour (i.e. NOT a vacation) to Israel and Egypt. As I read through the proposed itinerary–which included visiting legendary spiritual places such as Bethlehem, Galilee, Jericho, Judea, Jerusalem (and the BYU Jerusalem Center), the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea, and exotic places such as Cairo, Luxor, the Nile River, and the pyramids, temples and tombs of the pharoahs–my pulse began to race, and it felt like my insides were doing flips. This trip was calling my name! I knew I HAD to go on this trip! Not only would it be a trip to some of the most fascinating places in the world, but they are also some of the most sacred religious sites in the world (probably THE holiest religious sites in all of Christianity). And our guide would be Stephen Halversen, a personal friend and a man who has lived among the people in Israel and has spent his life studying and teaching about Jesus Christ and that ancient world. It was a combination of a trip and a guide together that I could not pass up!
It took some convincing to get my husband to agree to go (he hates going to hot places–after all, we LIVE in the desert!) and to take an unprecedented two and a half weeks off of work. Nevertheless, convince him I did, and after 18 months of preparation, in May 2008, we boarded a plane headed to Cairo, Egypt with a group of 84 people to see some of the oldest and most meaningful places on earth!