Joining the biblical story

IMG_2492On our first morning in Giza, only a few hours after our 30 hours of travel to Egypt ended, our bus shoved its way through the dusty streets. Everyone with a window seat stifled gasps, fearing first that we would ram into  truck full of oranges, then that we would kill the family of goats led by a young Egyptian, or any number of other possibilities leading to a traffic jam across seven unofficial lanes of vehicles. Our panic quieted only after three huge triangles loomed out of the dusty, fogged sky. Our first morning in Egypt, and we had already encountered the Great Pyramids! Many mornings and amazing sights have followed, like the Sphinx in Giza, King Tut’s golden mask in Cairo, the Nile in Luxor, the gorgeous sandstone walls of the Siq in Petra, and the salt crystals edging the green-blue waters of the Dead Sea.

Each site is also part of a story – the pyramids were there when Joseph gained power in Egypt, St. Catherine’s contains the well at which Moses may have met Zipporah, and in the Cairo Museum we looked at the same Pharaoh that Moses pled with to “let his people go.” Another part of what makes each day exciting is the deepening relationships within the group. It’s amazing how close people grow through shared stories of inconvenient diarrhea and Chaco blisters. As we follow footsteps of various travelers in the Old Testament, we have become travelers ourselves, joining in the story in some ways.

Evenings, which are generally less structured, have become a time for tea or soccer games with friendly locals, as well as a time to shop, nap, journal, explore, or play cards. Organic interaction and recovery from long hikes are important components of our evening time.

Despite these amazing experiences, not everything has been easy, as all cross-cultural groups surely could attest to. We have had to maintain awareness of safety concerns, especially through Cairo and the Sinai as violence, protests, and extremist actions continue to boil up in some areas. Our privilege as Americans and tourists is made especially clear by our preferential treatment in customs, by the ‘tourism police’ that accompany us, and by the poverty we see around us which contrasts sharply with our nice cameras, clothes, and hotel rooms.

If there were any one experience I could share with my friends and family back home, it would be the moment while climbing down Mt. Sinai, that I looked up and saw the night sky draped over the endless red desert, and I recognized that the same stars that shone down on me shone down on Moses as he made the same climb thousands of years ago. This moment symbolizes our story connecting with the biblical story in a striking way, and is a feeling I wish everyone could experience.

All of us here are grateful for the continued thoughts and prayers from our various communities, and we look forward to being in Palestine tomorrow and more exciting adventures in the coming weeks and months.

-Ben Mast