SUNDAY, May 18, 2008THE STRANGEST/LONGEST SUNDAY OF MY LIFE
Today was one of the strangest Sundays that I’ve ever experienced. Having grown up, not only being AT church, but also actively participating in the activities, it was especially odd to just be sitting in the bus, driving down the road towards Sinai.
This morning we got up around 6:30 a.m. and loaded onto the bus around 8 for an 8:15 departure towards Mt. Sinai on the Sinai Peninsula, in the Asian part of Egypt. Mike Petersen led the challenge in the bus, to utilize our time to the best of our ability, since we had a 7 hour drive to Mt. Sinai. It is a very desolate terrain out there in Egypt, once you pass under the Suez Canal and head into the desert. We did stay near the Red Sea for a while, as that’s the way that the road went. As well, this path traced the path that the Israelites took 3,500 years ago. As we stared out at mile after mile of “God-forsaken” desert, we were overwhelmed at the grace of God that kept the Israelites alive by providing manna and quail for His chosen people.
We stopped for a brief visit at a rest stop for the use of the “water closet” (known as the W.C. or “toilets” to our guides)… (It’s interesting how they use that word so freely when we would tend to use the word ‘bathroom,” even though there’s no spot to take a bath in these places. This was just before we went under the Suez Canal and took a look at the map of the Red Sea and where the Israelites probably crossed 3,500 years ago.
As we drove along, we were impressed by how much the Lord had to take care of the Children of Israel.There's no way that 2 million people could ever have gotten enough food or carried enough food without the Lord doing wonders for them.
When we turned a corner and found the palm trees and the lone acascia tree, it was truly a site for the eyes, since all around us was only miles and miles of desert.MARAH
We stopped next at Marah, which means bitter. The spot was called this because the water that the childen of Israel found at this spot was bitter.
We looked into the well that was there, and it was almost dry.
At this spot, Ken had us all gather under and acascia tree and we were challenged us about bitterness. We could look out and see the Red Sea, in all its beauty during the challenge.The Red Sea was off in a distance.
We had the wonderful privilege of buying goodies from the Bedouins who have a small bazaar spread out under tents. They had quite a few tables of trinkets, doodads, scarves and necklaces for sale for all of those who stopped at this spot.
Then, after one of our group passed out candy bars for the Bedouin children, who acted as though they had never seen a candy bar before in their lives, we climbed back into the bus for another hour or so of driving through the wilderness.OASIS OF ELIM
We stopped for another WC visit and then stopped the bus at the Oasis of Elim, but didn’t climb out.
Our tour guide said it was probably not a good idea, because there were so many Bedouins around and really nothing else to see, other than the palm trees and the spot where Moses had his arms propped up by Aaron and Hur during the battle against Amalekites, wherein Joshua was winning when the arms were up.THE MT. SINAI MOTEL/HOTELHere's a good view of the outside of the hotel. It was a pretty impressive site from the outside.. all made of rock.Evidently Ken and I got the only clean room in the whole "state owned and run" motel. Each one of us had our own little individual unit. It was kinda cool. Except for the fact that most of the people said that something was broken with theirs. My only complaint was that my bed, besides being a single bed, was as hard as sleeping on the floor. However, after climbing the last 40% of Mt. Sinai and all the way down, I didn't care. I could have slept on the floor.Here's the girls in front of their room. Yes, there's a "motel room" behind that rock wall.Here's a pretty nice overall picture of the motel in the Sinai Peninsula region. It's pretty desolate.
We landed finally in Mt. Sinai at our hotel around 2:30 and prepared for our climb up to the summit of Mt. Sinai. At that time, a group of about 20 of us decided to either walk or ride a camel to the top of Mt. Sinai. Another overview. We're at the base of Mt. Sinai.THE MT. SINAI CHALLENGEAs we prepared to grab our camels or start our ascent, we had to pass St. Catherine's monastery before we got to the base of Mt. Sinai.This camel was exceedingly uncomfortable. They got me a larger camel after about 20 steps.Here I am on a camel.
7 of us rode a camel about 60% of the way and then we all joined the energetic, “in shape” people who hiked the 5 miles to the summit. Approximately 20 people started or made it to the spot where 750 steps (the term is used most loosely here) began.
Her we are, some of us on camels, others walking.
Bedouins who could scale the mountain very easily surrounded us. Thankfully, I had Andy and Jeremiah to protect me and keep them away from me!On the way up, I caught a pretty good glimpse of the view down below. I can imagine that there would have been room for the entire nation of the children of Israel down in the valley and surrounding this Summit, while Moses climbed the summit to get the 10 Commandments.The guys ALL walked ALL the way.Peter rested!Here's a pretty good view of what we were climbing.
We had to dismount from our camels to start our intense last 40% of the climb to get to the summit. Once we managed to get up there, we had another little service, looking at some more Scripture and we sang about 4 hymns. It was truly breathtaking looking down the 7,000 feet into the valley below. We took tons of pictures and stayed there a while, trying to catch our breath and recoup from the climb.
Here we are at the top:Here's the Woodard clan that made it!The Petersen clan that made it.We had a mini-Singspiration at the top.Somewhere near the sign at the top.At the top, there's a small chapel.
Her I am, clinging on for dear life. In the background, you can see the valley.These are what they called 'steps'. I was envisioning really STEPS..... Wow. Just rocks put together in some sort of semblance of order. They were very uneven, but at least we had a path.Even at the top we see the Egyptian free enterprise system at work as they try to capitalize on the FEW tourists who make it to the top. No wonder candy bars are $3 apiece!On the way down, here's the only shade that Daniel, 8, could find!
On the descent my left knee decided that it simply did not appreciate the continual jarring and by the time I was down to the bottom of the 750 “steps” (still had the “easy” 60% to walk down), my knee was about at the “refusal” point. So, Mike (my BIL) gave me his cane to use, to help relieve the pressure during the step downs. It took about 2 to 2.5 hours for us to get down the mountain as it was a pretty intense descent and my legs were about turned to rubber at this point. By the bottom my nephew, Jeremiah, and Mike, were both supporting me, as my thighs had pretty much turned to rubber and everything was refusing to work. I had tried to take the pressure off my knees and put it onto my thighs, and they were not used to such a workout.
The last flat 1 mile walk, I barely limped on in. However, Jeremiah let me use him for support on my left, and Mike on my right and we sang our way through the last mile to keep our minds off our physical pain.
Yes, it was torture. And yes, I’m glad I did it NOW, but I was NOT very glad I did it then. In fact, two days later, as I’m writing this, I’m still in a lot of pain as my muscles, totally unused to any such abuse, are still trying to recover.
They had us go to eat supper at 9:30 p.m. and then we collapsed onto our VERY hard beds at 11 p.m. and even with our lumpy pillows, we fell asleep. I heard later that others had horribly dirty rooms and were totally unsuccessful in sleeping well. However, the only thing that kept me from sleeping well was the pure pain in turning over.