02 September 2011

BYU Jerusalem Center, on Mt. Scopus

Dearest Desiree,

By now you should be in Jerusalem, or at least very close to it. I've been thinking about you and the City a lot this week. Funny coincidence that you arrived the same day I did three years ago. I wish I was right there with you. The traveling was exhausting (yours was worse, I'm sure), but when you come over that hill and suddenly see the city—man. Nothing like it.

It takes a couple weeks to acclimate (after Egypt (or Turkey for you), like I said, you'll be totally comfortable with anything Jerusalem throws at you), but at least to me, I felt like I was coming home on the first ride to the Center. And every time we'd come back to the city after a trip somewhere else, I'd feel it again.

One of my favorite parts of the city was the holy sites. And not just the Christian ones, either—I think my favorite place in all of Jerusalem is the Western Wall. Go spend some time there on a Shabbat afternoon. Take your Old Testament and read for a while. One of the best things I ever did.

You will meet some incredible people there. Take the opportunity to ask them questions. We had an amazing conversation with some Orthodox Jewish girls by the Wall one evening. And someday I will tell you the story of the Palestinian man who tried to talk to us about how he read the Book of Mormon. It was the first time I was actually forbidden to talk about the gospel, and it was one of the hardest conversations I've ever had.

I know there's a lot to do and you'll feel like you want to do everything, but take time to go back to the places you loved best. You don't want to feel rushed or obligated to do everything new. Spend time where you want to spend time, and see the things that mean the most to you.

I love you, Desiree, and I'm so incredibly excited that you're on this adventure. The time will fly by, and tomorrow it will be Christmas and you'll wonder why everything around you is so clean. You'll notice the absence of the prayer call at 5:00a.m. You'll be amazed at how many clothing options you have. You'll respond with, "Shukran," when someone hands you something. You'll crave falafel, and pita even more since you ate it at every meal. You'll think of a story you want to share with one of those wonderful eighty people that will know everything about you, and suddenly they won't be right there after four months of constant companionship.

Because this place gets inside your heart, Desiree, and it will never leave you. And for the rest of your life you'll be a little homesick for it.



  1. My heart seriously aches reading this. I want to go so so bad.

  2. I bet you miss those friends.

  3. Thank you for the beautiful message - I know it wasn't for me, but it touched my spirit and heart - I know it will mean so much to Desiree, too.

  4. Wow. You made me cry. You should be a writer . . .

  5. Allie, thank you so much! I hope you don't mind, I just printed this message (on an an extra long sheet of paper), and will probably put it on the cork board in my bedroom. Your excitement on my behalf has definitely helped me prepare for and appreciate this adventure.
    I love you!