In Islam, the Koran instructs that every Muslim should make pilgrimage to Mecca at least once before they die.

Every Christian should visit this place at least once in their lifetime.

Today, we drove to Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Archaeological and biblical scholars agree that this is where John the Baptist lived and where he baptized Jesus.

Standing directly across the great Jordan Valley from Israel, we could see to the west Jericho and faintly on the hills above the city of Jerusalem. To the east stood Mt. Nebo, where Moses viewed the Promised Land.

Following the wadi (valley) from the mountains to the River Jordan, we saw the waters of the mountain springs, which intersect with the river just a mile or so to the west.

The Jordanian government has taken great care to preserve this place, and to make visiting it both convenient and ecologically sound.

Today, I stood in the Jordan River and received a blessing from Father George, the priest of the Greek Orthodox Church at the site. My godmother was Greek Orthodox, so the significance was holy for me. I stood in the river as Father George poured water over my head and blessed me in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Everett Thomas, editor of The Mennonite, reflected later that this place is the lowest elevation on earth — several hundred feet below sea level. Yet this is the place where the Holy Trinity manifested to humanity in a way unprecedented and unrepeated in human history. In our darkest places, in the depths of our doubts and sadness, God is with us.

That reflection means so much to me tonight. Just a few days ago, terrorists attacked this holy land. Yet this is the place where God manifested God’s self to humankind. In the last few days, our small group of journalists has felt the great weight of human sin, the consequences of humankind’s inability to live peacefully together, even in a land such as this.

Today, the waters of the River Jordan poured over me, and over my friends. We were refreshed. We were humbled. We were cleansed anew, to return to our own land and spread as best we can the healing words of the Christ, who traveled in this land and in the land just across the Jordan River. Jesus Christ ministered to the lepers, to the tax-collectors, to the prostitutes … Jesus Christ ministered to those who were “unclean” in his time.

My prayer for America, for Jordan, for the Middle East, and for the world is that we can remember Christ’s message, delivered in a time of occupation, danger, and great uncertainty, and that we will work unceasingly, tirelessly, and bravely to bring about Christ’s wishes — to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven to this hurting, needful world.

Salaam,

Sherri

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