Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Break from Gaza

Most of you have heard about the current crisis in Gaza. We've been on the edge of disaster many times, but never closer than we are today. This has consequences far beyond the immediate situation. Please be in prayer that a peaceful solution can be found and that the kidnapped soldier will be returned unharmed. Israel’s arrest today of the Hamas leaders only raises the stakes.

In the midst of the crisis, we’d like to tell you about a miracle:

Y & S are friends from Gaza. Y is originally from Gaza; S from Nazareth. They and their four children all have Israeli citizenship. They had permission to enter Gaza, but have not left in 7 years. (It is difficult to explain, but this is a big problem!) They have been on the front line of the conflict in Gaza, but have felt called to be ministering there. Y directs a relief project that has helped several thousand families over the last few years. All are active members of the church in Gaza. So they've stayed when they might have left. Their oldest child, just finished high school. They have planned to leave this Thursday for a couple of months to visit S's family, get their oldest son started in college and just take a break. They NEED this break! This already big problem has been immeasurably complicated by the current situation. The border has been closed since Sunday. NO ONE has been allowed to enter or leave.

The Israeli soldier in charge of Erez (the crossing into Gaza) told them on Tuesday to call him every day. Maybe they could leave on Thursday. Well, they called on Wednesday around 3 PM and he told them to "come right now". They had not expected that so they threw things in a suitcase and were on the way by 4PM. We were on stand-by to pick them up at Erez so they called us. We got there at 5:30. We could see them across the security area having their luggage inspected, but could only wave. Then they were taken inside. Finally, around 8 PM they came out, but that wasn't the end. They had to go with the police to Sederot (about 5 miles away) to answer questions about why they had been in Gaza for so long. We followed with the children and luggage. Finally, at 9 PM, they were released and we headed to Nazareth. We feel like this is really a miracle! God answered many prayers! The situation is worse today because of the killing of the settler in the West Bank and the arrest of the Hamas leaders. If it hadn't happened "unexpectedly" yesterday, it may not have happened!

It was such a privilege for us to be with them for this first excursion out in so long. We went through the drive-in window at McDonald's. The youngest, who is 7, said, "Thank you, you have a nice place." and the older kids thanked us a dozen times for the McDonald's. The kids could not have been more excited at Disney World. "Look at that factory" (which was all lit up), "Look at that bus" (which was very big) JOY! WONDER!

We arrived in Nazareth about midnight. S's parent's hadn't seen the youngest since he was 3 months old. So, it was a joyous reunion. We had planned to come on back to Jerusalem, but they insisted we spend the night. (It didn't take much to convince me I was so tired.)

Please continue to pray for our other friends in Gaza and the West Bank. The situation remains very tense. Women were now coming to the compound begging and crying for food. We haven't seen that in a while. They also told us that an Israeli missile hit a car in front of one of the church member's homes on Monday. Our friends were not hurt, but it was a horrendous experience. (I'll spare you the details)

Please continue to pray for Y & S and their 4 children. Ask God to use this time to heal and renew them. They also need guidance for what's next in their lives.

Posted by PL

Friday, June 23, 2006

An Important Principle

The other day at my work I was reminded of an important principle. I have been preparing for the arrival of two teams of volunteers to assist us with summer camps. I was in a hurry and had many things to do. I quickly walked past one of the offices without greeting or even acknowledging one of the Arab staff members. I was focused on my task. I finished my task and then returned to the office area. The man I failed to greet was surprised and questioned what was so important. At that point I realized my error: my task (job) at that moment was more important than the relationship. For us westerners, we live by the task and are satisfied by its accomplishment. But in this part of the world, relationship is more supercedes the task and people find fulfillment through their interaction with and enjoyment of people. The task still gets done (usually), but not at the expense of investing time in relationship.

The principle I was reminded of is this: people are more important than the task. Building relationships is more important than accomplishing stuff. I am thankful for this timely reminder because over the next few weeks our task is to host camps for kids and teachers all over the county. It would be easy for me to become consumed with the details of getting these camps working but I don't want to lose sight of investing time in the lives of people. Please ask for clarity of thought and sensitivity to opportunities as they arise.

Posted by GM

Friday, June 16, 2006

Tennessee Volunteers # 10

We just got back froom the airport. The Tennessee Volunteers will be flying in another couple of hours (11:30 local time, 3:30 Central Time)

We had a very good last day. Most of the group went down to the Dead Sea. We were blessed to see a herd of Ibex near Ein Geddi (David's Spring - across the road from the Deas Sea)before a quick dip. One the way back to Jerusalem we stopped by Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Very interesting place.

Over supper we had a time of sharing highlights about our project. We made one last stop in Jerusalem to pray together over the city before departing to take the group to the airport. (Below) That is the Dome of the Rock over David's left shoulder.

The team sacrificed much to join us for this project and their efforts were greatly appreciated. We firmly believe that God will build on the foundation that they've help to lay. We also realize that family, friends and co-workers have also sacrificed to allow the team to come and prayed fervently for them and us before and during their stay. You have been an integral part of this project as well. Thank you; we couldn't have done it without you!

Posted by PL

Tennessee Volunteers # 9

We had a great day on Thursday, the last day of camp. The girls have been SO eager and appreciative of everything we've done. We delayed the program for one hour so they could pick up their report cards for school (10 "til 1 rather than 9 - 12). After the girls left we had "tea" with the staff at the center. They gave the team a beautiful memento of Palestine and the team gave each of them a small gift.

We did not get to visit in the homes of our students as we had hoped. The violence that errupted there on Tuesday evening was still simmering and the staff at the center did not think it would be appropriate for families in the refugee camp to be having foreign guests in their homes. Before we left, they did invite us back to have a camp next summer.

After we left the center we went to a village about a 30 minute drive away for lunch. We ate out in a garden. It was a beautiful setting and we ate a great lunch. After lunch we prayer-walked through the village. This is a small village of about 700. It has always been a Christian village, but now about 100 Muslims live there as well. In recent years there has been some friction and persecution for the Muslims villages near-by. Although there are a number of newer homes, this village dates back to Biblical times. In the late afternoon we visited a festival in the village and bought some locally produced olive oil and olive oil soap. (OK, we had some ice cream, too.)

We cut the festival short and went back to the closest city in the West Bank for some last minute shopping. We didn't get back to Jerusalem until after 9 PM.

Posted by PL

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tennessee Volunteers # 8

We are very pleased with the Camp. The girls are a delight to work with. They are so eager to learn and appreciative of everything we do. They have surprised us with their English ability. On Tuesday we started to teach them the “Head and Shoulders, Knees & Toes” Song. They already knew it and the motions. Chris taught them another song with silly motions; they loved it and wanted to sing it over and over.

Yesterday we stay in the West Bank until about 5:30 painting an apartment that will be used for volunteers in the future. H. had taco salad prepared for us when we got back to Jerusalem.

Today we left the West Bank immediately after the Camp. A man was killed yesterday evening in the neighborhood where we are having the camp and there were violent reactions. His funeral was being held near the facility we are using and we felt it would be best to leave immediately. We had to be careful throughout the day not to make much noise out of respect for the man’s family and friends.

We hade planned to eat at a restaurant in the area and visit some homes. Instead we went back to Jerusalem, had lunch in a nice restaurant and did some more shopping and site seeing in the Old City.

Tomorrow is the last day of camp. Today one of the girls said, “Tomorrow is the last day, isn’t it?” When she was told yes, she said, “That will make us sad” Well, it will make us sad, too. Please pray for this last day. We would love to visit in some of the homes of the girls. Pray for peace in their area and throughout the Palestinian areas.

This last picture is painted on the wall seperating the West Bank and Israel.

Posted by PL

Monday, June 12, 2006

Tennessee Volunteers # 7

Our First day of Day Camp went great. We decided to call the week “Joy Club”. We had 32 beautiful Palestinian girls aged 8 – 12. We all met together for songs and a story led and told by our team members. We divided the girls into three teams and they rotated between English classes, crafts and games and refreshments. We were assisted by the women who work in the center. They were so gracious and kind. Everyone had a great time and seemed excited about coming back tomorrow. God is filling our hearts with His love for the Palestinian people.

Posted by David.

Tennessee Volunteers # 6

Sunday morning worship was such a blessing with a church in the West Bank! They graciously provided an interpreter for the message… for the songs, we were on our own. The Holy Spirit was present there.

Later in the day our team had worship in our apartment at the same time that our church family back home worshiped. What a special time for us to give God the glory for what He had done already and to turn the upcoming camp over to Him once again. We are praying that He will speak through us and use us as only He can.

Posted by Jennifer.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Tennessee Volunteers # 5

Today was a wonderful day of service for the Lord. We picked up a 27 year old Palestinian man who is a follower of Christ, and with his guidance took food to distribute to people in villages outside Ramallah in the West Bank. We met a beautiful family and met the grandmother, doughter and sons and grandchildren. We visited with the family for about an hour and got to know each other. The love and Spirit of our Lord was upon the visit. Christian literature was left for them.

Please pray for this family to come to know Jesus. Please pray for the Palestinian people. There needs are many. In the afternoon we discussed our work for the next week.

We love you all. Please keep us in your prayers, too.

Posted by Tom

For more pictures click here.

Tennessee Volunteers # 4

On Friday we traveled to the Galilee Area. We went east to Jericho and then north to Tiberias. On the way we stopped in the desert and rode a camel. Great fun!

We stopped in Tiberias and experienced the opportunity to put our feet in the Jordan River.

We continued on our journey and arrived in Capernaum. This was the home of Peter and the city in which Jesus taught in the synagogue and healed the sick. We also went to the site tradition says Jesus restored Peter after Peter’s denial of Jesus on the night of Jesus’ trial.

We also went to the Mount of Beatitudes where tradition says Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount. We also visited the city of Nazareth; the city of Jesus’ boyhood home. We also visited the Church of the Annunciation; the site tradition says was the place where the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary God’s plan for her to be the mother of Jesus.

We completed the days’ activities by seeing olivewood carvings done by craftsmen from Bethlehem.

Posted by Dennis

Friday, June 09, 2006

Tennessee Volunteers # 3

Here are a couple of pictures of the team. For more pictures, click here. We'll keep adding.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Tennessee Volunteers # 2

Greetings to all!

Day two is winding down for us and everybody is having a great time. So far we have been touring around the Jerusalem area. We got to walk around within the Old City today. It is really neat to see structures that have been around since before Columbus discovered America, and it is extremely helpful in getting a mental picture while reading the bible.

Tomorrow we will be traveling to some of the destination a little farther away.

Please pray for us to get used to the time differences. Most of us are getting along fine, but some of the women are losing energy quickly. We definitely needing to get past this by the time we start working with the kid.

Have to run for now, but we’ll send more tomorrow.

Posted by Chris.

Tennessee Volunteers

We welcomed 7 volunteers on Wednesday morning from Tennessee. They'll be helping with a project in one of the refugee camps. They arrived with all their luggage at 9:30 AM feeling good, but tired. After getting the settled in Jerusalem and having a light lunch, we went to Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity. It was nearly 3:00 by the time we got back to Jerusalem. The ladies decided to take a nap, but the men pushed on to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane.

Everyone was feeling better by supper time. On Thursay, we'll being the Old City of Jerusalem.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fun with Students in Northern Jordan

Students just left - we have had a great time this afternoon and tonight. We did various things using our English skills. One young man was listening to one of our Christian CDs using earphones and then would repeat the words out loud and we could all hear. After a while, he stopped listening and began to ask questions about the words: "walking with Him", "loving us so much"; "loving Him so much"; "the sacrifice", etc. PTL - as naturally as breathing, there we were sharing what that sacrifice meant to us. What a blessing! We just never know what instrument is "the one" HE will use - nor when.

We enjoyed so much one of our favorite things today -- recording the students' voices. We used scripted conversations between students and let them HEAR themselves speaking English -- some had never done this. Each time we use this, it is a huge HIT. The last time I did this at the center, I didn't tell the class and then just played it back. What fun for them! MOST have never heard their own voices!

Some commented as they were leaving: "I didn't know I sounded like that. Everybody else sounds normal, but I don't"; "I have more confidence in how well I speak English"; "thank you isn't enough for what you do for us". Now, we are not "bragging" here; more importantly, pointing to the students: seems like all that the center stands for was being projected in their comments: good grammar, good social skills, understanding enough of our English culture to share expressions such as this; more confidence in their skills. We were very encouraged by their comments and especially happy that we are seeing sheer joy within as they are with each other and us. Just being together seems to be enough for them. PTL for today!

We've had a hard week so we needed a POSITIVE in our lives! HE brought us this exactly when it was needed.

Posted by GA