For the 6th season, my wife and I are heading to the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project (TeHEP) in Jordan for the holidays. What I do when I am not here at Helping Up Mission is work as an archaeologist in the Middle East. I am currently involved in two different excavations in the Holy Land, one in the West Bank of Israel and this one in the Jordan River Valley.
For me, doing archaeology is the fulfillment of a lifetime dream and the critical tool God has used to make the Bible alive and meaningful to me. As a young man, I needed to find the Bible to be had to be relevant for me, in order for it to have any real value in my daily life. Archaeology helped bring the people, places and events of the Bible to life and that was the hook which caught me. It was interesting and I could see where the Bible could be trusted for history. It is only a short leap from being able to trust the Bible for history (the past) to trusting it for the future (for eternity). And from that vantage point, although it took a little while, I finally realized that – if I could trust it for the past (history) and could trust it for the future (eternity), then I should also trust it for the present (one day a t time).
Not a completely new concept to me, but actually living one day at a time just seemed a little more complicated. And, while I still don’t have this thing down perfectly, I am happy to say that it works really well to live that way. I have been very busy these past few months with some very satisfying activities here at Helping Up Mission. God is doing some very cool stuff here and it is my privilege to get to be a part of it. So I have really not had much time to think about what is laying there under the ground just waiting for me to dig it up – although to be a little more honest about it – just waiting there under the ground waiting for me to tell someone else to dig it up there. They accuse me of just getting dirty for the photos!
So today Gayle and I fly to Jordan to continue that process. On Christmas Eve again this year, I will take our group down to the edge of our hotel swimming pool, along the east shore of the Dead Sea and we will look directly across the water at the lights of Bethlehem. And I will share with them the Christmas story as I have come to understand it.
I know archaeology isn’t for everyone, but God has really used it to bring me to the place I am today in my professional and spiritual life. I know we will have a very special Christmas in the Holy Land. I hope yours will be just as special wherever you will be.
Merry Christmas 2010
Pastor Gary Byers
Spiritual Life Director
PS Last year I wrote an article for Bible Study Magazine about the Christmas story, as I have come to understand it as an archaeologist. It is called “Away in a Manger, but not in a Barn” and you can find it this holiday season on their website at http://www.biblestudymagazine.com/preview/. Also, if you want know something about our excavation at Tall el-Hammam, you can read about it at http://www.bletravel.com/Excavation_Programs.html.