Friday, July 28, 2006

A Day in Gaza

We went to Gaza yesterday for the first time since the soldier was kidnapped from his post outside southern Gaza. It was a day filled with a lot of emotion. Crossing the border was easy. We zipped along in a taxi with a driver that we have known for a long time. We were chatting and catching up on Gaza news when all three of us realized at the same time that not another car was on the road. Bad sign. Abu Yosef slowed down. Just about that time we saw militiamen on the sides of the road....ready for whatever was going to happen next. Then we saw probably 100 men on the left side of the road almost in a line...were they hiding from the Israelis? Hard to know. Abu Yosef got us through that portion of the road and then pulled over to ask what was going on.
The Israeli army was inside the area just to our left. I read this a.m. that 23 people were killed in that area and in Jabaliya yesterday and last night. sigh.
Just past that neighborhood we turned off to the right and found life going as if nothing was happening just four or five blocks away. Right away I noticed friends greeting one another with big smiles. What a stark contrast to the deserted streets we had just driven through.

Abu Yosef dropped me at the Deaf School. Everyone there was doing well. They were having a big sale for the in house staff. I was welcomed to buy but things were being sold very cheaply and I thought it best to leave them for the Palestinians who otherwise don't make enough to purchase items from the Crafts Shop. I have always been struck by the fact that the men and women work so hard to create the crafts and are never able to purchase anything in the store because their paychecks are the only ones in their homes...and must go for other necessities instead. I saw many of our friends. One of our dearest friends had gone home. He is the father of 8 children. The incursion was very near his home and he left early to be with them. I discovered that Gerry Shawa, our friend and director of the school has taken a break and gone to America. She was one of about 85 Americans and Palestinian/Americans who got out recently when the American government help them all to leave at one time. We saw Suhad, one of our old Nursing students. I assured her that all of her old teachers were praying for her daily.

P went to the bank to conduct our business and then we headed for the compound. As we drove through the city, I thought Gaza looked as bad as I have ever seen least in recent years. The garbage has won. It is always a challenge for the city to keep up with it...but it's apparent that it has now won --hands down. Those of you familiar with the area will remember that the garbage near the compound was always rank...but entrails were everywhere. My thought was how terribly unhealthy it was !! Many times during our visit there, I wondered how we lived there for eighteen years. I also wondered why I am not living there now. The need remains so very great.

Everyone was thrilled to see us. We were welcomed with open arms. Most asked why we didn't come before. Well... everyone who was NOT in Gaza is asking why we went this time !! We could hardly find out how everyone was coping because they were too busy asking about us ! NEVERMIND about us, we live where everyday is a vacation in Jerusalem. We wanted to know about them. We were reminded again of just how gracious and wonderful Palestinians are. They are so tenacious. Almost everyone was doing well, ilhumdulillah.
(praise God) A few admitted to being afraid "...but what can we do? " It's true. What CAN they do ? Nothing except try to find a bit of normalcy in their otherwise abnormal lives.

Death is a constant companion. One foreign friend who has just returned spoke of attending a wedding recently. During the wedding celebrations, five loud booms erupted. Nothing changed, no one stopped the celebrations. The next morning he heard that five people had been killed. He was struck with the complexity of celebration amid death. He is confused as to how to manage it all. It is completely a life of living out Scripture as he rejoices with those who rejoice and weeps with those who are weeping....except that it is happening all at the same time. Admittedly, it is a lot to manage emotionally.

The food distribution program is moving on. P spent a long time working with the men who are managing the program now. We continue to encourage them to give out the food in a good way....with a visit and significant conversations.
It is a challenge just now to do that. Of course, the need is overwhelming and they could give out food all day long and not meet the needs of just the desperately poor. Our goal remains not to just distribute food, although that is a worthy goal, but to distribute food with Hope.

The Lighthouse School is preparing for the coming year. The new classrooms are almost ready. Teachers are being selected for the coming year for the two new classes. Volunteers are there leading a worshop for the teachers. That is pretty amazing !! Parents were at the school-- begging for a place for their children. Of course, classes are already filled. It is exciting to see that one bright spot in all of Gaza.

The Compound in general is okay. We have lost several windows due to the tremendously loud sonic booms. The Israelis have quit that for the moment. Thankfully. We are not bothering to replace the glass until this seems to be over. I asked was there any glass left in Gaza. They laughed and said "yes."

As we were leaving, we visited our friend Mahmoud. His continues to be one sad situation. Of the five brothers, he is the only one working. He is fortunate, he works twelve hours per week with the UN. Even teachers who use to consider themselves fortunate to have a constant job, have not been paid now in five months. Mahmoud's wife has literally gone crazy and is now with her family in the middle camps. Mahmoud is left with four great kids. I noticed that the children are all very thin now. That has not always been true. We will see about getting some food packets to them this week.

Finally, we drove to the Library and spoke to Isam. He and his family are doing well. What could we do except tell them that we are praying for them daily.
It is the most significant thing we can do...and yet seems not enough.
His response was that they could really tell we were praying for them. His eyes teared. My eyes teared. Neither of us dared.... If we started crying, we'd probably never stop.

Leaving Gaza was just about as scarey as entering. We eventually found a safe road to drive on and were able to skirt the problems. The frightening thing is that you don't know what you will find just around the next turn. We left with a lot of emotions. Joy in being able to walk through our fears with the One in whom we trust, Grief in seeing our friends struggle to live a tiny bit normal life.... Gratefulness to the Lord for His blessings to us personally.... Guilt that I am not there with my friends in Gaza sharing their burdens.

We feel all these things. Our friends who just left Lebanon and Syria feel all these things as well. Thank you for your interest in our lives and in His work among our people. We continue to covet your prayers for our adopted countries.

Posted by HL

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Palestinian Christians gather in Jericho

We had the priviledge of spending the day in Jericho at a conference sponsored by the Palestinian Association of Evangelican Churches. We joined about 350 church members and their families. The was the first time in about 15 years that they've been able to have a conference like this. The conference has been a great blessing for many reasons. Like Believers everywhere, they are benefiting from this special time of worship and Bible study. It the midst of the turmoil and conflict going on around them, it was great for them to be able to leave that behind for a few days. The number of Evangelical Christians is relatively small and they often feel isolated. They are enjoying this opportunity to fellowship with others of similar belief.

The conference ends on Thrusday. Please pray for them as they return to their homes around the West Bank.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Worth Reading

Martin Accad, Academic Dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, has published a thought provoking article in Christianity Today on the current crisis in Lebanon. Whether you agree or disagree, this heart wrenching article is worth reading.

Student Conference

Wow, this past weekend we had an amazing opportunity to build relationships and encourage Pal believers who are university students! Thursday night we spent time just getting to know the 20+ students by playing games, laughing, and staying up until the wee hours of the morning (some of them never went to bed). Despite the language barrier, we were able to enjoy our time and laugh at ourselves with our language mistakes. At 6:30 AM Friday morning, the group headed out on a short hike . We walked to an olive grove on a hillside and enjoyed a beautiful view. We also enjoyed a time of singing praise songs, a word of encouragement from one of the students, and traditional Pal breakfast foods. Friday afternoon the rest of the group enjoyed an outing to the pool, while we stayed behind and took a much needed nap. Friday evening was filled with more fellowship, sharing, games, and laughs. We hope that the students were as encouraged by us, as we were by them. Although everyone was exhausted by Saturday morning, it was worth every minute.

Posted by J&MM, volunteers from the USA

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Gaza Homecoming

One of our partners returned to Gaza this past week. He was out of the country when the current conflict started. He sent us the following report which I have edited slightly to maintain his privacy.

"Homecoming is always sweet. My neighbor’s boys asked me all over again, trying to use the English they have learned in school, “what is your name,” “how are you,” “what is your favorite sport?”

This past month Gaza’s main power plant was bombed by Israel. Living on the fourteenth flour, as I do and having limited electricity supplies, complicates life a little, but in no tragic way as it does for many people in Gaza. Walking down the fourteen flights my first morning back, I had almost reached the bottom, when a boy that works in the electric appliances shop on the ground floor greeted me with a big smile and gave me a flower. I took it to work with me. The night I arrived, someone that I didn’t really recognize proclaimed, “welcome home.” The taxi driver that took me to work recalled driving me three months earlier and knew where to take me. In the next few days I will make the rounds in my little neighborhood, Mohamed the guard of the building, Saber the shop keeper, Mohamed the vegetable and fruit man, Abu Alaa my landlord, Wesam the internet guy, Ahmed the hairdresser. At the Arab sweats shop, where I bought desserts for my guests, they were using candles in order to invite customers in. It gave the place quite the rustic feel.

For most in the Gaza Strip the many incursions that followed the exploding of Gaza’s power plant, which ironically was bombed likely using U.S. weapons while being built and insured by the U.S., had more severe effects than climbing extra flights of stairs. With the start of another war on the Lebanon-Israel border the world’s eye has shifted away from Gaza, but the destruction has gone on there. Hikmat, his family and his son’s family will not so quickly forget the day their fig trees were uprooted, their front yard destroyed by Israeli army tanks, their walls smashed and what was left standing of the house riddled with holes. For days the family has been carrying drinking water in buckets to their home, while the sewage spews out the now broken pipes. Hikmat’s oldest daughters periodically peaked around corners of blown away walls while I talked to their mother and youngest brother, Mohamed. Hikmat’s grandson jumped out of the second floor window during the Israeli attack and was at the hospital with his father. Mohamed’s siblings played on the old water tank, now blown apart. Israeli troops, reportedly there to look for a kidnapped soldier, left behind them a path of destruction and death.

After seeing these scenes with my own eyes, warfare remains a mystery to me. How can the human mind, especially a ‘cultured’, ‘liberated’ Western mind of an Israeli soldier believe that such a weeding out of state enemies will bring about any positive change? I saw nothing but despair, frustration and renewed hatred in the ravaged scenes I witnessed today. Fields, most family’s only source of income were left behind with crops and equipment leveled underneath tracks of tanks, houses destroyed, a number of resistance fighters are left dead, and hundreds more, only six, seven or ten years of age are born.

I prayed with many families before handing them a box of food. One woman commented, "Hhow do the Americans that subsidize Israeli activities consider themselves Christians?" I remained speechless; every house I entered I saw a little clearer the compassion of Christ."

Posted by PL

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Neighbor with Hemophilia

Recently, a member from the Jordan Pal team had the opportunity to go to a National Hemophilia Conference which drew interested health care providers and persons experiencing this bleeding disorder from all over the country and surrounding areas. An invitation was extended by a local physician specializing in diseases that involve bleeding and clotting disorders. Since the team member had been working closely with some friends who have an eight year old boy with the same disorder, she was able to go to the conference with them. A guest physician and other team members from the Canadian Hemophilia Foundation spoke, and a visiting Canadian nurse held a mini workshop on intravenous training for parents to prepare them in how to handle bleeding emergencies. All persons experiencing bleeding disorders along with one or both parents had to have their blood drawn and examined. This event turned out to be quite a cultural experience. Now please know that the conference itself was very good, but as customary in this culture, there was too much going on at any one time which considerably increased the noise level in the room making it difficult to focus on and hear the speaker. For example…lab technicians were set up in the same room where the speaker was delivering his prepared message and in another corner of the room, a very loud puppet show was being presented all at the same time. You can only imagine the confusion which took place. Also the lab technician had a problem drawing our little boy’s blood as he was very loud and not very happy or cooperative. However, the physician would not let us leave without his blood being drawn, and of course he wanted the member of our team to do it. PTL, our Heavenly Father guided her needle without any problem. The evening concluded with a nice buffet supper where everyone tried to get their food at the same time with some pushing and shoving...again, quite cultural…even humorous. Please continue to remember this precious little boy and his family.
Posted by AF

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Family Picnic in Jordan

Yesterday we visited one of my husband’s friends and his family. C and S were invited as well. We started with coffee in their home and then drove to Jerash for a picnic. The women drove together in one car. This was the wife (L), T and S and the house helper. We had a very meaningful conversation. L opened the conversation and we talked of her views on life and afterward. Then we had the opportunity to share about what our book says about the same topics. We talked of why the cross was necessary. Of each person's individual choice. Of peace in our hearts we live with daily in spite of circumstances in the world. Of our daily reading and how we can know the author through his book. And of our assurance 100% of where we will spend eternity. We talked so much back and forth that her husband needed to tap on the window once we had stopped and tell us to continue talking on the way. We talked of our love for each other because we were loved first. After all that we were still eager to visit again and it was a really easy visit. We had a picnic and played basketball using a branch as our basket. We intended to walk through Jerash, but were having such a good picnic that we never made it in to Jerash after all. We felt very comfortable and are eager for visits on both sides. Our boys did so awesome and also had an easy visit due to the activity even though the children did not speak much English.

Posted by TM

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Volunteer Project in Jordan

Recently part of the Palestinian Team in Jordan had the privilege of having a volunteer group join us as we made our way to an outlying village for the purpose of having a free health screening clinic. Our team partnered with some national friends who acted as our interpreters as well as another team currently working in this village. Twelve of us set up five screening stations to include identification of problems related to eyes, blood pressure, diabetes, scoliosis, and upper body physical assessment. Our efforts were truly blessed in that approximately 70 people were screened. The villagers received us with open arms and even fed us breakfast and lunch. They were so gracious and kind and many relationships were formed. The villagers were encouraged to know that their identified health problems would be followed up by our partners currently working with them. One of the volunteers really enjoyed interacting with the children and they seem to flock to him like he was the 'pied piper.' Another volunteer, our optometrist, was able to identify many eye problems which afforded her counseling several patients and giving some great advice about eye care. One man and his wife had such bad lungs we had to speak very strongly to him about giving up smoking as it was affecting his entire family. Smoking is so much a part of this culture that it will be difficult for him if he chooses to be compliant. Many referrals were made to local physicians... however, the problem may be a lack of money for them to be able to go. It was so rewarding to see how receptive everyone was and to observe our volunteers as they realized that they did not have to speak the language for the village people to know how much they cared and loved them.

Posted by af

Our Volunteer Team

Em Ehab in Nileen

I helped today with food distribution in Nileen, a village of maybe 10,000 in the West Bank. In the first home we visited we found the husband at home. He has a job as a pharmaceutical distributor, but all the chaos has disrupted his business. We sat together in a room that he said was about 350 years old. His grandfather and father were village elders and they used the room in the past to meet with people for village business. (The walls were about 1.5 meters thick.) In the older part of the house was his sons’ bedroom complete with computer. (350 years old was the new part; he claimed the older part was 1700 years old; maybe not, but it was obviously ancient) The new within the old was a striking picture.

We were welcomed enthusiastically in the next home we visited. Our hostess loves Americans… all except George Bush. She was glad that we came because she’d been thinking she’d like to meet someone who could talk to him about the problems we have in the Middle East…

In the next home we met Em (mother of ) Ehab. Abu (father of) Ehab works as a fruit seller and makes about $200/month. They have five children ranging in age from 17 down to 2 years old; 2 boys – twins almost 16 and 3 daughters. Em Ehab measures her life by wars – she was born during the 6 day war; she was engaged a week before the first uprising started, the twins were born around the time of the first Gulf War and so on. She told us that she used to have big dreams for her children. They would be married and build a house; their lives would be better than hers had been. Now it is hard for her to imagine them ever getting big. She goes to bed at night and thinks: Maybe they won’t wake up in the morning or maybe a bomb will hit our house in the night. She hears about the children being killed in Gaza and thinks: They were like a flower that bloomed and was quickly gone. As we left we gave Em Ehab a sack of food. A volunteer was with us and she gave Em Ehab a scented candle. Without a doubt she is showing her neighbors the gift that her new American friend gave her. Please pray with us for Em Ehad. May that candle be symbolic of the witness we left behind. Ask that the light of that witness grow stranger and stronger.

Posted by P.L.

Monday, July 10, 2006


"You, dear children are from God and have overcome them (false teachers), because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (I John 4:4)

We were struck by this verse the past few weeks as we encountered many situations that could have discouraged us. Our volunteer teams arrived from the US in the middle of June and it seemed that there were events around us that sought to derail or distract us from the task ahead of us. We faced issues of transportation, computer failure, no hot water for almost a week, problems with plane tickets, and a leaky bathroom ceiling!

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers...of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God..." (Eph. 6:10-13)

While we don't want to attribute everything to the work of the prince of this world, we want to acknowledge that he seeks to distract, demoralize and discourage us and keep us from focusing on what is important. We are thankful for strength to face these trials and the faith to remain committed to the task. We continue to marvel and be thankful for God's faithful provision. In each of these situations, we have seen God at work.

Posted by G&TM

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Gaza Crisis: Day 14

After being gone for a week and only getting bits of news about the crisis in Gaza, I had the distinct impression that I needed to go to Gaza to pray for all of the people there. We knew we wouldn't be able enter Gaza but wanted to go anyway. We picked up our volunteers and drove south to the border. Prayer Walking has been described as "praying on site with insight". We hoped that being there would help us to know better how to pray. We parked in the lot and were there less than five minutes when we heard the first boom. I have to admit that it gave me a bit of a start. I'm sure our volunteers got even more of a shock. I noticed that they looked at me for a reaction. We were safe stress came from knowing where that shell went and for the people that it threatened. We prayed for a long time, stopping only occasionally when we actually saw where the tank shells landed as red dust rose out of the desert in plumes. It was difficult to realize that we actually knew people who live very near to that place. It was a bittersweet experience to sit there and listen to shell after shell being shot. Bitter because it was difficult to hear and feel them. I can't imagine what it has been like for those living in and near the border towns who listen to it non stop. Sweet because it isn't likely that I will forget to pray as those booms and vibrations are imprinted in me.

As we sat there and prayed, four Israeli soldiers walked by laden down with their backpacks and guns. Tied on the back of one soldier's pack were a pair of tennis shoes. We were all struck by the youth of those fighting this battle...both inside and out. It was privilege to pray for those Israeli soldiers going to fight our adopted people group. We explained to our volunteers that very few people here can understand that we love both peoples and pray for the Best for both of them.

Our prayer for the Believers in Gaza ran along the lines of 2 Cor 1:3-4. Please join us in asking the God of all comfort to comfort them in all of their troubles SO THAT they may in turn comfort those around them who do not know the Lord. Pray that God's strength and overcoming power will shine like a light in their lives.

post by hsl

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Plea from Inside Gaza

The situation in Gaza remains tense and conditions inside are much worse. A friend forwarded the following article to us today. We wanted to share it with you.

Dr. Hanna Massad pastors Gaza Baptist Church - the only evangelical church in the Gaza Strip - while his wife, Suhad, runs the Palestinian Bible Society Bookstore. The church is located in the heart of several terrorist group headquarters as it carries out its Christian Mission to Gaza. Via ASSIST News Service, Pastor Massad sends an urgent message: “Many people in Gaza are without water and electricity. The food supply is limited, and there is no gas... This time we are going through is a very tough time. It is one of the worst times we have had in Gaza. We continue to hear the noise of bombing almost 24 hours a day... This has caused damage in many homes. Even the ceiling inside our church fell down. We are very concerned about our children. It is causing psychological problems, not only for children but for many adults as well. Sometimes, we are not able to meet, and we have to cancel our meetings, especially the children’s ministry. The last few days have been very difficult for me, where I felt the spirit of fear and desperation. But yesterday and today, I felt more of the presence of God in the midst of darkness. I need more and more of His presence and power in order to minister to my people the message of hope and peace. We have only one way. We chose to live for Him and reflect his love to the Palestinian people."

Posted by PL

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Friends in Gaza

I spoke today with several Christian friends in Gaza city. Life is hard. They only have electricity for a few hours per day. Water comes every other day, but they have to have electricity to pump the water to holding tanks on the roofs. Water and electricity do not always come at the same time. One friend said there was food in the markets, but it was not plentiful and only those who have cash on hand can buy it. .

They haven’t been able to sleep much. All night, the Israeli planes fly overhead low to the ground. They often break the sound barrier causing houses to shake and windows to break. And certainly the sonic booms awaken everyone !

Even with the hardships and impending danger, I was surprised at how upbeat they all sounded. They are so resilient. They are truly amazing people. There may be several reasons. Life is always hard; this is only a little bit harder. They have been at this point before – many times. The friends I talked to do not live in the refugee camps or poorer neighborhoods where people are without food and the danger is more imminent. Most of all, they have their faith to sustain them….and friends like you who are faithful to pray.
Ask God to continue to sustain them with a Peace that passes all understanding during this difficult time. Praise Him that they have been able to implement His strength into their lives.

Please continue to pray for these and other friends in Gaza – both Christian and Muslim. Ask God to keep them safe. May a peaceful solution be found to this crisis without further bloodshed.

The picture is typical of may homes in refugee
camps in Gaza.