Chatham’s Pyrtle shares insights from Israel experience

Posted 7/12/19

Editor’s note: Siler City’s Alanna Pyrtle, a recent graduate of UNC’s School of Media and Journalism, was part of a 14-student team which traveled to Israel as part of a “Documenting the …

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Chatham’s Pyrtle shares insights from Israel experience

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Editor’s note: Siler City’s Alanna Pyrtle, a recent graduate of UNC’s School of Media and Journalism, was part of a 14-student team which traveled to Israel as part of a “Documenting the Dig” course, related to UNC’s archaeological dig site in Huqoq. The class documented the work of archaeologist Jodi Magness, who is the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism in the College of Arts & Sciences. Since 2012, Magness has been conducting a dig in Israel in the Lower Galilee region, discovering unparalleled mosaics adorning what was an ancient Jewish synagogue. The depictions of Biblical stories shed new light on life in this area during the early 5th century. Pyrtle produced the following story for the UNC Media Hub and shared it with the News + Record.

HUQOQ, Israel — I grew up in a house full of love. Make no mistake, a home that held five children and a single mother was full of chaos, but more than anything else, there was love. I gave it, I received it, but most importantly, I was pointed to God’s everlasting love every day.

My mom has been a teacher for 29 years. She’s given me countless life lessons, but the greatest thing my mother taught me was to live a life that honors the Lord. There is no lesson I’m more thankful for than that one.

Faith is the most important thing in my life. It’s even my middle name. So, when I graduated from the University of North Carolina in May, I felt a lot of things, but more than anything else, I was so thankful for the Lord’s provision over me. I know God has a plan for me and I’m so grateful Carolina was part of it.

But I was also overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the future. Many nights, I spent tossing and turning, wondering what my next step would be. Closing one chapter without knowing what the next one would hold, unsure of exactly what I wanted it to hold, was hard for me.

In June, as part of my final UNC course, I went to Huqoq to report on an archaeological excavation, its findings, and famed archaeologist Jodi Magness. There I was, in the Holy Land, walking where Jesus had walked, ministered and performed miracles. When I wasn’t reporting, I was excited to visit scenes from the Bible. I waded into the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized. I swam in the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on water. I prayed at the spot where Jesus was crucified, which is now in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

As I talked to archaeologists about the artifacts they were finding and the history of the people who once lived in Israel, watching them try to piece together the past, something struck me: I already know who was. Even more than that, I know who is, and is to come.

Just when I needed it, I was reminded of the only truth that matters.

I may not know what my future holds, but I know who holds it. The only thing I need to know about God’s will is that it is good, pleasing and perfect, no matter where it takes me. I was reminded that the Jesus who walked on water is the same Jesus who bled and died on a cross for me — the same Jesus who lives in my heart and tells me He will fight for me, I need only be still.

Physically walking in Jesus’ footsteps enabled me to see God’s grace from a new perspective. It reminded me that I can make my plans, but ultimately, He determines my future. What a blessing — one I sometimes lose sight of. I’m working on it, though, and I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for me. I know my future couldn’t be in better hands.

For more about the trip, go to and


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