Jerusalem Still Has My Heart

It’s funny how things that happen in the past have a habit of being part of the present. I went to Jerusalem in 2013. It’s been more than five years, and those four months still mean the world to me.

One evening while at Cambridge, I saw someone post about their Jerusalem study abroad on Facebook. I was curious and looked at the cutoff for applying for the coming year. The application was due in three days. I brushed it off and reminded myself I wasn’t planning on going as a sophomore, but a junior.

The next morning, I remember waking up with the words, “If you don’t go now, you’ll never go, ” clearly ringing through my head. I felt a kind of urgency that I’d never felt before. I had 48-hours. It was a mad dash coordinating transcripts, notarizing paperwork, and writing answers to essay questions. My parents were incredibly supportive all the way through.

Those two stressful days put me behind in school work. A month or so later, I was taking a study break with a friend on the terrace of our little apartment building in Cambridge outside of Kings College. I remember telling her that prompting must have been a mistake. I must have made it up. Why would God put me through stress for nothing? Obviously, if I hadn’t heard back by now, I wasn’t in.

Not ten minutes later, I walked back into my room and read a message from my family telling me to video chat them immediately. The second I hopped on the call, I saw all my family on the other side of the screen with really big smiles holding out an envelope from BYU-Jerusalem. I was in.

That was probably the longest lead-in of a lifetime, but those moments are so significant and memorable for me. I was meant to go to Jerusalem. That was God’s plan for me. I felt it then, and I feel it now.

While I was there, I felt hyper-focused. I didn’t want to miss anything I might need to be learning, seeing, or experiencing. Now five years later, ten memories stand out the most:

  1. Sitting outside the Jerusalem Center accepting my sins really could be forgiven, and I could be worthy to enter the temple someday.
  2. Being on the shores of Galilee reading the gospels and writing in my journal. I felt called to my mission like the original twelve apostles were called to walk with Christ.
  3. Standing alongside faithful, spiritual women praying at the Wailing Wall. Their clear devotion and love for God will never leave me.
  4. Looking out through the windows overlooking Jerusalem listening to President Uchtdorf describe what it would have been like for him to be an apostle of the Lord during the last supper. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt the Spirit more powerfully in my life.
  5. Standing alongside the separation walls feeling the gravity of the conflict at hand. The Israeli and Palestinian conflict is real and affecting countless people. These people are just like me.
  6. Singing “With Humble Heart” during sacrament meeting with the unmistakable impression I was meant to serve a mission soon.
  7. Sharing my testimony in along the Sea of Galilee about how I knew my feet had been where Jesus had once walked. He is real. He lives.
  8. Spending countless hours with dear friends. The people I met there were genuine and kind. They taught me more about the kind of friend I want to me. 
  9. Exploring and learning about new places, cultures, and peoples all day, every day. Our professors taught us so much.
  10. Running the Jerusalem half-marathon. During the last two miles, my friends ran ahead, and I slowed down to walk up an intimidating hill. A kind Jewish man put his hand on my back and pushed me forward. “No, no, not now. You keep going. You’ll run with me.” We talked and ran the last two miles together. He felt like some kind of angel helping me finish the race. He was a poignant reminder Heavenly Father loves me and will help me reach my goals.