Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Bitter & Sweet Goodbye

One of our team members in Jordan shared the following story about a frien'ds goodbye party.

One young man who loves us as family whom we have known for two years, has desired for all that time and more to travel to Australia. Oscar has had a close relationship with us and is around MOST of the time even though he speaks almost no English. We have always been amazed that he will spend so much time with us similar to what some of our students do even though he met us through some students; we were with him as we traveled around Jordan many times and he has even taken us out-of-the-way places that others have never even thought to show us; he even took us on a picnic in the mountains near the new summer palace that is nearing completion for the King. Oscar finally worked out all the details for the journey of his dreams. Two weeks ago, he arranged for someone to come from Amman, pick us up after my late finish at the center that day, and drive us a long distance (to and from) to be with him and his family the night before he left. We had a wonderful time being with this great host of family and friends – all extremely happy and excited for O and this great event. What a celebration!!!! And we were very glad that we had taken a lot of western party sweets (not candy) since there seemed to be sparse goodies for them to serve with the coffee/tea to the great number of guests. There were lots of cousins from just born all the way up to university level since this is a very large family.

Naturally, we were way out in a distant village and it was already late when we began our journey there that night, but we wouldn’t have missed this event. As we joined the “going away” celebration , My husband was with the men and I was in the area with the women and the dozens of children. After the usual cultural greetings to Oscar’s family and friends, the children warmed up to me, relaxed and slowly began to recite all their English words, count from one and say the alphabet for me. Then one little girl asked me to sing and I did; they heard ALL the choruses we sing with western children, my funny “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” “act” with cute motions they can all do (even the adults) , and, finally, the softer, more gentle, sweet songs about Jesus. I ended with the “Love in any Language” song and TRIED to teach them the signing for that song. Of course, they asked for more. We were HOT, tired and yet, “refreshed” by the love we felt with O’s family and especially the opportunity I had to share my faith with O’s older sister (a teacher) who talked at length with me about Islam and her faith. She listened intently at HIS story and how HE lives within and gives us all this “joy for the journey”! We had lots of hugs and kisses as we left late that night. We, too, are thrilled for O as he begins this new chapter in his life. The fact that we probably would never SEE O again pricked our hearts and we shared with each other that perhaps WE probably would never again one-on-one be able to share more about Jesus Christ with O. YET, we are prayerfully confident that HE can and will bring that special person into O’s life immediately upon his arrival to show THE WAY as O continues “seeking” the answers to all his questions and he finds that Jesus IS truly “THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE”.

From Sonnets to the Savior

Rita was relaxing in the waiting area as she prepared for her English class. She had previously asked me to explain some of the Shakespeare Sonnets . As I sat with Rita during a short break and thumbed through her huge English lit textbook, I came upon a section with several different translations (referred to only as “biblical writings”) which were ALL 1 Corinthians 13. I told Rita that I was a Christian and that the text in her lit book is found in our Bible. Rita seemed very interested as I told her how happy my life is because I have accepted the gift of the great love that is spoken of in that scripture – that it is truly joyful to experience that kind of life. I told her that if she would like to do so, I could bring her an English/Arabic Bible and she could compare it to her textbook versions. She wanted to do this and the next day I gave it to her. Even though I had already told her she could have the Bible, she asked me about a week later if she could keep it a while longer since she was reading it. JOY! JOY! Can we ask for more? HE had touched her heart through HIS WORD and she was wanting “more”!!!! I was so happy that HE gave me the great thrill of having Rita ASK if she could keep it and I could tell her that she would always have it to remember our conversation and then I had another sharing time with her. PTL! I/we have thanked HIM again and again for the power of HIS WORD – and the thrill of seeing HIM at work within R’s heart.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Happy Day for Many, but a Sad one for Some

The Tawjihi socres are out. This is the exam that all high school seniors take. If you aren't used to this system, it may be hard to understand. The exams are given over a week or ten days - one subject/day. This score is the only one that counts. If you don't pass, you don't graduate from high school. If you don't do well, you don't get into a university. Choice of college major depends on this score. THIS IS A BIG DEAL!!

One of our team members shared the following article that captures some of the drama.

Palestinians fete school exam scores
The cell phone network collapsed under the load of frantic calls Tuesday, newspapers printed special editions and the streets reverberated with the boom of gunfire.

It wasn't another day of calamity in the West Bank, though.

It was an emotional response to the publication of the results of the "tawjihi," or high school final exams, with pass or fail determining who will be university-bound and who will be relegated to menial jobs.

Many Palestinians are obsessed with education as a ticket out of their embattled existence. They have one of the highest literacy rates in the Arab world and often seek work abroad for lack of opportunity at home.

The release of the scores is an annual gossip-filled ritual that gives no privacy to those who fail.
The names and scores of those who passed are published in newspaper supplements, posted on the Internet and read aloud on local radio stations. It's a national pastime to check the lists for who's included, and — more importantly — who is not.

Critics said there's too much learning by rote and that it's unfair to students and parents to put so much emphasis on a few tests; grades accumulated throughout high school are not counted toward graduation.

"The system puts huge pressure on students because it measures their accomplishments in one exam, which is unfair," said Walid Batrawi, a writer in the Al Ayyam daily. "I can't remember anything I studied for the tawjihi."

This year, there was another twist to the publication. The rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza released the scores on different days, in their ongoing wrangling over legitimacy. Hamas-ruled Gaza published its list last Thursday, while the moderate West Bank government released it Tuesday.

Education Minister Lamis al-Alami in the West Bank said she won't recognize the Gaza scores unless they are forwarded to her, which Hamas has refused to do since it considers the West Bank government illegal.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fired the Hamas-led government and installed a new West Bank-based Cabinet after the Islamic militants seized Gaza by force in June. The fighting between Hamas and Fatah raged as students in Gaza took the exams, which began on June 11.
With the release of the West Bank results Tuesday, few cared about politics, though.
In the town of Jenin, hundreds of students gathered outside the local education department in the morning to get their results. Some adults fired guns in the air in celebration, while others carried trays of honey-drenched sweets on their heads, to pass around to bystanders on hearing good news.

In Ramallah's downtown Manara Square, students set off fireworks, drivers honked horns and vendors sold special newspaper supplements with the scores. Sana Abdullah, 17, bought one and found she'd gotten 72 points out of 100. "I feel bigger than the world. My joy is enormous," she said.

Across the West Bank, the Jawwal cell phone network and Internet service collapsed for more than half an hour under the volume of calls, with everyone talking about the scores. In Gaza, the Internet and cell phone networks were down for several hours after scores were released Thursday.

Tawjihi season is good business for newspapers and local TV and radio, which make extra money for congratulatory ads.

Neighboring Egypt and Jordan have a similar system of high school exams.
In Jordan, results were announced Saturday. Hundreds of students rushed into the streets of the capital, Amman, some in flashy convertibles. At night, camel-hair tents were pitched on main intersections in several upscale Amman districts, where tumultuous celebrations were held.

In the Palestinian territories, the passing score is 50 out of 100, although universities generally only consider applicants with more than 60 points. Many of those who didn't pass — more than 40 percent of nearly 80,000 test-takers this year — were holed up at home.
Mohammed Thabet, a student in the West Bank city of Nablus, failed three out of 10 subjects, including math and English, meaning he won't get a diploma. His parents had spent $250, or about half the average monthly salary, on private tutors.

"One thing that made me fail is that I didn't have money to buy cigarettes," Thabet said, adding that the Palestinian uprising, which erupted in 2000, also disrupted his studies. Thabet said he'd try to retake the three tests next year.

The percentage of those failing was slightly higher this year than last. Al-Alami, the education minister, noted that teachers had been on strike for the first two months of the school year and that students were for the first time tested on a new curriculum.

Girls, in general, do better than boys, she noted. In high schools with an emphasis on the humanities, which have more students than those in the scientific stream, the top 10 scorers were girls. Al-Alami said girls often study harder because they tend to go out less than boys, a result of conservative social norms.

In the Ammari refugee camp on the outskirts of Ramallah, Wala Abu Musallam's 92.9 score made her mother, Alia, cry with joy.

Alia Abu Musallam distributed sweets in the local mosque, and has already made plans for her daughter to go to law school, despite the tight family budget. "The joy of the tawjihi is even bigger for me than the joy of a wedding," the mother said.
Associated Press reporters Mohammed Ballas in Jenin, Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City and Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
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