Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Summer Camp!

I just got back from a week-long summer camp for Palestinian orphans and disabled children. And by orphan, they mean missing at least one parent. They go to the beach for a week of swimming and activities and dancing. And very little sleep. I am still recovering, but I had a great time and made lots of new friends! Of course, it’s always easy to make friends with kids. After a few hours when people got used to me, I began to feel like the Pied Piper. I had my own special entourage of little girls braiding my hair, teaching me dance moves, and fighting over who got to hold my hand. It took me a little while longer to make friends with the boys, but after doing hand-stands and flips in the water, crossing my eyes and playing with their bugs, I was in. I received endless bouquets of nicely arranged flowers (that were not supposed to be picked). I spent hours in the water, which I loved except for the sunburn on my face that is now peeling (but this is the first time my legs actually got whiter while I was at the beach), and many many hours dancing. My girls tried to teach me, but I don’t think that’s my special gift. I did learn how to do the dibkeh, a traditional dance of my people which strongly resembles the hokey-pokey when I’m dancing it, but looks really cool when they do it. Man, those kids can dance! I had such a good time getting to know those kids-the little girl who cried for her mother everyday, and the boy who could dance like nobody’s business who almost missed the performance at the end of the weeks. I also got to talk to a boy who told me about his father’s second wife, and how difficult that was for his mother (he wasn’t an orphan or disabled so I’m not sure why he was there, but I liked him). And of course, the little deaf girl who finally got up and danced with me on the last night was really adorable. We both had no idea what we were doing, but it was fun! Then there’s the shy little boy I stalked with my camera because he was so cute. He always pulled his pants up all the way to his chin. I can’t wait to see them again next year. Maybe some of you will be there too!

I am so not good at blogs! Sorry about the oddly placed photos. Hope you enjoy them anyway.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

North Carolina Volunteers # 2

Day 1

Things are all in order! Checked the bags over and over and made final changes. Phew! Everything was okay and checked within limits by the grace of God. The flight, though delayed, went without a hitch. First stop to take a picture in front of the fountain. Here we go!

Day 2

Got the much needed rest and were ready to go about 4:30 am….wait there was no place to go! A few hours later we were prepared to meet and greet the first children we were to see. We enjoyed hearing the plans and dreams of the school for the girls. The girls baked cookies with the kitchen crew, then charmed us with their hospitality, and finally showed creative talent at jewelry making. The idea started simple and then grew to fashionable sets to share with friends. We were asked to be friends and accepted beaded jewelry gifts. Of the finest jewels we will wear, these will be thought of as priceless gifts to never part with.

Day 3

This day we walked where the Lord walked, envisioned where the Lord suffered, and finally saw where the Lord rose! The amazing scenes that we have only known by words, now have been seen, touched, and experienced. There was definitely a moment held between the savior and his believers then and now. After traveling through, we were able to shop. We were greeted by many people ready to help us choose not only one, but quite a few things to enjoy.

Day 4

Church in Arabic! The songs of worship and a sermon spoken for all to receive, was an experience to relish. After the service we were met with warm hearts and gentle hands of grace. We learned of the area’s tradition as well as how the Lord was working among the people. The evening of this day was the day of final preparation, before starting the English camp. We spent some time organizing craft supplies, tying up story lines, and finally finishing up the gift bags. The excitement and anticipation were in full swing....

Day 5

Today was the big day! The first time to meet the girls that would be having fun with us for days to come was finally here! Things went well, and the group was able to meet changes in plans with creative solutions. One impressionable thing that was provided, was a child to translate the puppet show. How could we have asked for a better translator? Even in translation it was difficult for her not to laugh while telling the story! Hugs were plentiful, songs rang through the halls, and English was taught through the international language of love.


North Carolina Volunteers #1

The day was beautiful with bright sunshine and a cool breeze. Our destination was situated on a steep cliff in a small village outside Jerusalem. The houses are surrounded by olive trees, grape vines and beautiful flowers in bloom. We met with the girls home director who shared her vision for the girls over cups of sweet sage tea. When we lingered longer than their excitement would allow, the girls started to drift into the room. And the fun began…..
There were 15 girls of all different sizes and ages. We divided up the girls into two groups, one making jewelry and one making cookies. The cookie group started mixing the ingredients and rolling out the dough. Flowers, teddy bears, circles, and butterflies began to appear. One by one, each girl shaped her cookies. An excited buzz filled the small room and a wonderful fragrance filled the air.
The other group began the careful process of selecting just the right beads to make a bracelet….. then a necklace, a ring …. and more jewelry than they could wear. As everyone began to prepare for lunch, one little girl grabbed a bowl of beads and slipped around the corner. There, she sat on the steps, quietly stringing more beads to make yet another lovely necklace.
We ate lunch with the girls and then had to say goodbye. Leaving was hard because the girls didn’t want us to go. Where there had been laughter, now there was sadness. They invited us back again next year…..…and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Later, we visited the Mount of Olives, the Church of all Nations, and the Garden of Gethsemane.

Arriving back at our home base, we walked down the street for a traditional Middle Eastern meal…Shawarma, chips and salad.

The day ended with everyone tired, full and eager for more.


Friday, June 15, 2007

The Latest News from Gaza

I am currently on a trip out of the Middle East, but I’ve just talked to several Palestinian friends in Gaza. The last three days have been extremely difficult, but today (Friday) is quieter. One man from the church was injured when a bomb went off near him, but I didn’t understand that the injury was severe. Most said that as long as they stayed inside they felt safe, but one friend said that bullets came through his window and three people from his neighborhood was killed in the fighting. They were all from one extended family – 2 were Hamas and 1 was Fatah.

No one knows what is going to happen next, but they believe that the next few days will be critical.

We just got an e-mail from a friend – edited below. If you’d like to know more, I recommend his blog:

“I just wanted to let all know that I am well and safe. I am still with my friends in Gaza City. Hamas now has full control over the Gaza Strip and all parties involved (the PA in the West bank, Israel, the US, EU and UN...) seem to be scrambling to adapt to the new realities. Despite all the uncertainties for the future of Gaza, the up-side of recent events is that internally the situation is safer than it has been in a long time because there are not two governments and not multiple security bodies fighting for control here. My friend who works at a big government hospital here has told me many times that Hamas has always been best at keeping his hospital safe and well controlled.The borders remain closed…, but I feel very safe and can even move around which I am keeping to a minimum.”

Pressing On In Gaza

We received the following last Tuesday from a partner in Gaza.

Gaza streets are again under the control of gunmen as the violence spirals out of control. Security forces loyal to different factions took up positions at major intersections in the early hours of the morning and Gaza awoke to the sounds of war. The route to school this morning took me past numerous gunmen and a detour into an area I would have rather not gone. Arriving later than normal I was happy and surprised to see that most of the staff had already arrived.

Students at the School officially ended the school year last Thursday but returned today to receive their certificates and report cards. What was supposed to be a time of celebration and fun was overshadowed by the tension of renewed fighting. Exchanges of gunfire could be heard as certificates were passed out to each class. The students were quickly put back on the bus and sent home as the violence spread throughout Gaza City. We are thankful to the Lord that despite all the obstacles and difficulties, the school year ended successfully and the children all made it home safely

They will spend the beginning of their summer vacation indoors, off the streets and hopefully out of harms way. We pray for the Lord's protection upon each one of them and upon their families.

As always your prayers for Gaza and the people here, for our family and the ministry God has called us to, are greatly needed and much appreciated.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Helping people to see

A couple of our team members recently helped with an eye surgery clinic in northern Jordan. Below are some of their reactions.

After screening over 400 patients, around 75 were chosen, along with a long waiting list, to have cataract surgery. The patients chosen did not have any means of financial help or insurance to pay a local physician for the surgery. Also, the ones chosen had very mature cataracts and have had to wait for many years to have the surgery. The team was able to do approximately 17 patients per day with a total of 73 persons having the cataract surgery.

The team represented several different countries… Jordan , Korea , North America, South America , and Malaysia. I felt so blessed to be a part of such an awesome team. Everyone worked together like a well oiled machine. Teamwork was initiated from taking the vital signs to instilling the eye drops to measuring the eye for the lens implant to inserting the eye blocks to performing the actual surgery to assessing the patient after surgery. The patients were so excited the next day as they returned to have their bandage removed. Shouts of joy could be heard when many patients were able to see for the first time in many years. Our doctor stated that all of our service was done in the name of Jesus and none of us received any money for what we had done. One man kept saying over and over that he just could not understand why anyone would come and help people like him for free. God is so good! As patients left to go home there were many hugs and kisses and along with a few happy tears of praising God for a successful operation. WOW, what an awesome experience to participate in.

The gate is opening

Those of you who have been reading this for a while know of our desire to have work among Palestinians in Lebanon. Well, last week our first team member went there to live.

While our commitment to begin this work has not wavered, we were uncertain of the timing. With the on-going violence in the Palestinian Camp in northern Lebanon, we were uncertain of what we’d find. In faith we flew from Amman to Beirut. The next morning we went south. We were fortunate to have friends in the country working among other people groups to point the way.

For the next 48 hours we searched for an apartment. Our first stop was at a barber shop. The barber has a side job as a “real estate broker”. He called a friend/agent who showed us an apartment. It was the only empty furnished apartment that he knew. Other people showed us a total of five apartments, but, in the end we took the first apartment we saw. On Friday morning we went to sign the contract. Sounds simple. Well, it took 2 hours. First we had tea and sweets. Then we had to see the apartment again. We met the neighbors. We translated the contract and renegotiated the contract. It was pleasant, but exhausting. When we thought we were finished there was a major argument between the agent and the owner over the agen'ts fee. We just sat and chatted with some realitives who had dropped by and pretented we didn't hear the shouting int he hall.

Then we went to open a bank account. More than money is needed. Too many questions. (This was an international bank and they want to make sure that the money is not used for evil purposes.) In the end, we had to gather some more information and go back later.

Everyone we met – Lebanese, Palestinian, expats – were friendly and helpful. We were very encouraged by the reception we received. Around 200 Pal families have fled the fighting in the north and we'll start our work in the area by helping these families with some food.

Then we were back to Beirut on the public bus. Now I know how sardines must feel.

Thanks for your continued prayers for AD as she begins her work among Palestinians in southern Lebanon. She will move into her apartment on Tuesday.