Thursday, July 10, 2008

Christian Pilgrim

After crossing into Jerusalem last Friday and again on Sunday with our group, the atmosphere was and is different.  Now, we are in a large city with the abundance of life all around.  We could be Christian pilgrims with relative ease.  Of course, the cost of everything was that of a large city... much higher!

The top picture is of the Lord's prayer in Cherokee.  After our mission in 1998, one of the team members who is Cherokee inquired about how the Lord's prayer is placed in each of the languages, after talking with the people, it was relatively easy, first one must raise some money, and then provide the Lord's prayer in the script of the language, so that was accomplished through the Cherokee people and now, since 2000 it has been on display at the Church of Our Father on the Mount of Olives.  Each time I see it, I am pleased to see the Lord's prayer in so many languages... and each time there are some new languages displayed.

The second picture is at the Church of Mary's birthplace.  Mary's parents lived in Jerusalem at one point, and this is the place traditionally believed to be here home.

The third picture is an old olive tree in the garden of Gasthemi where Jesus asked the disciples to say awake with him and pray...

The last picture is the entry to the empty tomb!!!  Jesus is not there, for he is RISEN!!!  It was taken at the garden tomb just outside of the walled city of old Jerusalem.

It is important for Christian pilgrims to be present and walk the journey of Jesus, and it is even more important for Christian pilgrims to meet the people, talk with the local people and learn from their stories how important it is to them to be Christian living in Palestine and in Israel.

It is my hope that during my time here, that is what I am doing.  Through learning the language, the culture, and living with a family... through engaging people in conversation, worshipping with the local Christian community etc.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Passing through the check point

Leaving Bethlehem to go to Jerusalem takes some planning and more time that you would expect, because one never knows how much time will be needed in order to go through the check points.  Yesterday I went to Jerusalem with a fellow participant.  This was the first time I have gone to Jerusalem on my own, i.e. not with the organized group.

Parts of the day were challenging and frustrating, other parts were very plesant.

Going through the check points one sees how people are treated.  Based upon the whim of the soilders doing their jobs... to the people wanting to go to Jerusalem for work or whatever is on their schedule for the day.

For us, we were pilgrims going to see the churches on the Mount of Olives, but first we had to pass through the check point.  It makes one feel as though you were in prision, or a rat going through a rat maze.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Life in Palestine

Life in Palestine...

In the evenings we have different types of gatherings, sometimes to learn more about the current situation. This week we saw a video about the life situation of a women whose husband was killed in 1967 shortly after the 6 days war when their village was forced to flee to a refugee camp... it was very powerful and very sad.

The next evening, I was invited to spend the evening with a friend's family. The traditions here when someone marries, several days before the wedding there is a gathering of family at the grooms home to welcome the brides family, including food, music and dancing. If someone in the close family dies, then the wedding is postponed by at least one month.

Last night we gathered at a place which used to be an Isreali military camp, now it is a park and a gathering place where people can have cookouts at watch sports on a big screen with friends etc. We gathered at the park to watch the European Cup for football/soccer, last nights game was Russia v Spain 0-3!!! It was a good game, especially for Spain fans... there are two games left. Russia will play Italy to determin 3rd and 4th place, and Germany will play Spain to determin 1st and 2nd place!!! All will be over on Sunday night.

Friends and family are very important for the people of Palestine. The people are very resiliant. Despite the current living challenges and difficulties of the day, they care greatly for each other and when there is a chance to forget about some of life's challenges through sports, music, laughter, they come together.

Arabic lessons

Ahlan wsahlan,
Ahlan wsahlan fiikum,

Welcome one and all,
We have Arabic lessons 4 times a week Monday through Thursday. This week we have learned 7 letters of the alphabet, how to write our names, how to count to 10 and the days of the week. We have learned greetings and responses, some verbs, and words which we hear during the day. Slowly we are learning.

There are about 15 people in the class from the USA, England, Scotland, Austraila, Italy and Switzerland! It is fun and very challenging.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Volunteer Work at Al Basma Center

The volunteer work I am doing is at the Al Basma Center for Special Needs youth and young adults from ages 15-35. The center was established in 1987 when a need was acknowledged and acted upon for the people with special needs.
The center currently works with 30 young people. They learn how to take care of their basic needs, they learn how to interact in society, they learn a trade and can earn a little money for themselves and their families. The clients make recycled paper to be used as Christmas cards, in many languages, and they are currently adding other market options through the cards with wedding invitations and sympathy cards. (I am helping design the wedding cards and sympathy cards!)
The clients use a loom to weave some beautiful rugs, purses and pillow covers. They also make olive wood cross neclaces and olive wood ornaments.
The Al Basma Center recently received funds from Germany to begin a green house where they hope to grow some vegtables, herbs, flowers, etc. for the local area.
Recently an engineer created a gadget to produce recycled paper and olive wood shavings into chunks to be burned which can be used in winter to heat people's homes as an alternative to coal.
The clients participate in group therapy through drama. The are learning "Little Red Riding Hood" I have seen their skit a few times, and always it brings a smile to my face, and of those around as well!!!
They are always looking for ways to reach both their clients and the local people of the community. I have met some great people. God is using their lives to make a difference in the world. Al Basma means to smile, it is a center where there are many smiles and encouragements.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hard Day

Sunday was an emotionally hard day.

We visited several sites today.

We began the day by going to the wall. We visited a house which is surrounded on three sides by the wall. The family is not allowed to open the windows or shutters of the second floor. I walked around the house. We were told that if the family opens the shutters, they will be shot, or the house will be demolished. As I walked, I was in tears. This is no way to live, and it is so hot here.

We then visited the Greek Orthodox housing project, new appartment homes given to members of the Greek Orthodox church. The place has been there for more than ten years. In the past three years a new Israeli settlement was built very close by, and now the Greek Orthodox housing neighbourhood is in jepordy of being demolished. Our friend, Elias, is completing this appartment, it is in the final stages as he will be married on Sunday. It breakes my heart to know that all his labours could be demolished at any time.

In the afternoon we visited the Daheshia refugee camp. We learned that Daheshia means croweded in a language (I don't remember which language!), someone passed by the area in Bethlehem many years ago and commented upon the number of trees located there, it felt croweded. Today after 60 years of being a refugee camp, there are more than 11000 people living on less than a square mile area, talk about crowded! As we walked around the camp, my heart was crying because of the conditions people are living in. After ten years of living in tents, the United Nations helped the people to have 3m x 3m x 3m box rooms for houses... many times more than 12 people would live in the room/house together with no bathrooms, no electricity, and no kitchen... the restrooms were in areas where more than 100 people would share two toilets! Today, after 60 years, they live in bigger places, but this is not human diginity.

I have pictures, however, I am not able to post them at this time as they are on my laptop, and I have not found a place where I can have wireless access. The famliy home has a great computer with internet access, so I am able to post and check e-mail, etc. When I figure out the picture thing, I will add some to go along with the story.

I am now connected to the internet with my computer!!!  So I have loaded a few pictures to this update.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Arrived Safely

After a long journey, I have arrived safely in the Holy Land, Palestine, Israel!

I am staying with a wonderful family in Beit Sahour, the shepherd's field, near Bethlehem.

I have not been able to post until now, as the log-in parts of blog spot are in Arabic, and though I am here to learn Arabic, I have not had a lesson yet, and I'm sure reading will come much later...

Diane helped me this morning.

This morning we had pancakes, the children of the family were very excited to have some pancakes!!!

Yesterday we finally gathered together with the group and met all the participants and the people of the Holy Land Trust. This is the fifth year for this emmersion experience.

Today is a free day, tomorrow we will have a tour around Bethlehem area, then on Monday we will begin with our volunteering in the mornings, and in the afternoon we will have Arabic lessons. The evenings will be a time to learn about the country, the culture, including dancing and cooking!

Thank you all for keeping me in your prayers.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Preparations for Travel

As the days draw near, the preparations become more hectic!
Have I done all that I needed to do before I leave?

This morning, when I woke up, I experienced big pains in my lower back and in my neck!
I called the chiropractor, and was able to obtain an appointment! Thank God for small towns where people know you and are able to work you in!!! Now, I hope I will not agravate my back any more...

Last minute shopping, packing, sermon writing, and a hair appointment before I can leave Weatherford...
Monday, campus ministers will have a meeting in OKC... then in the evening, I will board the airplane for Houston, London, then Rome, and Tel Aviv... and then on to Bethlehem!

blessings to all,

Monday, June 9, 2008

Why Woman at the Well?

Last year, when I visited Jacob's well, I encountered the well in a new way.  John 4 relates the story of Jesus coming to Jacob's well with his disciples.  Jesus has a conversation with a woman, not unlike any of us, a sinner who has fallen short.  Jesus gives her the "living water" and asks her to go and tell the people of the "living water."

To this day in the city of Nablus, formerly known as Schechem, there are churches and part of the Christian Community.  We all have the same challenge, to go and tell the people of the "living water."

As I prepare to return to Palestine, I am reminded of my call...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Woman At the Well


In 10 days I will begin a journey towards Bethlehem for a one month study leave.

There are many things to do before I can leave. One of them was create a new blog site!!!

I will be posting reflections, observations, and pictures of my journey.

please keep me in prayers,