Sunday, April 27, 2008

He is Risen

He is Risen Indeed!

If you think we're a little late with this Easter proclamation, we are celebrating Eastern or Orthodox Easter. (Who knew there was more than one Easter? There is more than one Christmas, too!)

Several of our team members had the great privilege to worship with Evangelical Arabic Churches this morning at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. It was a great time of worship together. A pastor from Palestine, Texas brought greetings from his congregation. (Most of you probably didn't know there was more than one Palestine.)

One of the local pastor's spoke. He reminded us of the joy we have in Christ because of his death and resurrection. Because of that joy, we have a responsibility to share the story with others. No one needs to hear it more than Palestinians. Please keep them in your prayers this Resurrection Sunday.

A Busy Day

One of our team members in Jordan shares a recent experience about shopping, Burger King and how God is redeeming a bad experience.

Because of our being so busy I have missed spending time with one of my closest Palestinian friends. Finally, last Sunday we got to go shopping together. She is always my best shopping buddy, and she knew that I needed to buy something new to wear for Easter! (We celebrate Greek Orthodox Easter in the Middle East. This year on April 27.) I had thought I probably would not have time, but she told me we must go shopping. Also on Sunday I had arranged with my women’s English class to meet for lunch at Burger King. Because one of our English units was on food, including the history of certain foods, like the hamburger, we decided not only to read and talk about it, but to experience it. I had asked them if they wanted me to have hamburgers brought to our class or if they wanted to go out, and they wanted us to go out. So, I invited my shopping friend to meet with us. I knew she would enjoy meeting my students.

My shopping friend had an interesting experience to share with me. We had an accident a few days after Christmas, when we were on our way to make a visit. I had felt that somehow God must have a plan for me to meet the young man who hit me and his family. I had already told my friend that we must visit them. As we sat down to eat she told me about a school trip she had made with one of her classes, and guess who was the driver of the bus they had hired!!! He turned out to be the father of the young man who had hit me! He told her how grateful he was that I had been forgiving and did not press charges. He told her that he wants us to visit him! Imagine!!! Of all the hundreds and hundreds of buses and bus drivers there must be in this city, God arranged this encounter! For sure, he has something special for this Palestinian family.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fun with Arabic

Learning Arabic is a life-long process. Just when you think you've mastered a few words, they change. The following was posted by one of our team members who can laugh - today - about some of his learning experiences.

Learning Arabic can be fun and frustrating at the same time. I have to admit that I hated taking English grammar classes when I was in school as a kid. I think most people agree that grammar is boring with not much use in the real world. Well, I am leaning that might be true in your native language, but when trying to learn a new language, learning grammar of that language can be very helpful and even fun at times. For any of you who have attempted to learn Arabic you know there are very few things that are fun when it comes to the language.

While living in one part of the Middle East, I learned to say to the gas station attendant (there is no self-service here), “fillilha.” I kept trying to figure out what Arabic verb the word derived from. In Arabic, you can take a verb and add a pronoun to create a direct object of the verb. For example, the word “suft” means I saw. Therefore, if you add the pronoun “ha” for her, she or it, to form “suftha” it now means I saw her. Well I knew that the “ha” apart of the “fillilha” corresponds to the car, in Arabic words have gender, and the word for car “sayyara” is feminine. See I told you grammar could be fun.

However, for the life of me I could not find the verb “fillil” anywhere, not even in the dictionary. I finally asked my Arab tutor what verb in Arabic this came from. He looked at me quizzically and said “how I don’t know it is English”. I said “English!”, and then it hit me the word that I though was Arabic was just the English word “fill” with the Arabic object for it attached. The il might come from definite article meaning “the”. So “fillilha” means fill the car or fill it. I guess the word could be called Engbic or Arablish, some might just call it Gibberish.

Now here comes the not so fun part, as soon as you think you understand the rules for Arabic some Arabic speaker will change them on you.

After moving to another part of the Middle East, I had to learn many new rules and I am still learning. On a recent youth outing with a Palestinian friend, we stopped to get gas. Now I have stopped to get gas with this friend many times. After I told the gas station attendant “fillilha” which my friend had heard me say numerous times, he finally broke down and said emphatically “you should use Arabic.” I told my friend that I learned to say it that way and in fact, I have heard many Arabs say the same thing. He said yes but it makes you sound like a foreigner. I quickly pointed out to him that I am indeed a foreigner. “No you sound like you are from Jordan” he said “that is a different kind of foreigner than the kind of foreigner you are”.

He also lectured me that if I was going to live here I should talk more like the locals. Wanting to learn as much as I could and not wanting to appear to be the wrong kind of foreigner, I relented, putting aside a trusted and familiar often-used phrase for a new one. So I said to him “OK what do people here say”. He replied “full”. “Full” I said excitedly “that is not Arabic nor does it even sound right in English.” He said “yes but they know what you mean”. Needless to say I don’t go to gas stations with him anymore.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I was in Gaza two weeks ago.

A lot has happened since I was there, but I wanted to give you an update of what I saw in Gaza. Every time I go to Gaza I think, “It just can’t get any worse”, but then the next time it IS worse. There were few cars on the street. The taxi driver that took me from the border, Erez, to Gaza city told me that he was using diesel fuel that he got when the wall at the Egyptian border was broken. He had one more container and then he didn’t know what he’d do. A limited amount of fuel has been coming in on Mondays. I was there on Sunday and when I left in the late afternoon that were cars parked for several blocks in front of the gasoline stations in anticipation of the fuel coming the next day. Yesterday, I talked to a friend in Gaza who told me that gasoline was selling for about $8 per liter. Yes, liter – NOT gallon.

The situation with gas is just an example of how life has become. (Friends did tell me that the electricity supply is more stable.) There is less and less money and food and other essentials (if available) cost more and more.

And yet, people carry on. Friends that I talked with were doing well. I worshiped with a small group at the local church. It always amazes me how resilient and strong our Palestinian friends are. Please continue to pray for the Believers in Gaza. Next weekend is Orthodox Easter. Many of the Christians have applied for permission to leave Gaza to celebrate Easter in Jerusalem. Pray with us that the necessary permission will be granted.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Church “Outing”

One of our team members who lives in the West Bank shared this recent experience.

Recently forty-five members of the Palestinian Church I am attending went on an outing to Jericho to a picturesque park located at the base of the Mount of Temptation. On Fridays, thousands of Palestinians go there to barbecue, relax, and socialize with family and friends. When we arrived at the park, all of the places where a large group could gather were taken. The only remaining place was under a large Bedouin tent conspicuously in the middle of the park. The reason no one was sitting there was because you have to have your food catered from the restaurant to sit there but like everyone else, we had brought our own barbeque. Therefore, we should not have been allowed to stay there either, but God had other plans. For reasons, only God knew at time, the owner let us all use the big tent in the middle of the park without buying any food from the restaurant.

Well this location in the middle of the park made us very conspicuous and of course everyone was wondering why we were able to sit in such a privileged location and to be honest, so were we. After we settled in, we began to sing Christian songs and praise the Lord. In a very short time, we noticed that we were attracting a crowd. It seemed we were the main attraction at the park. As we sang, I saw children in the audience singing with us. Many adults and children stopped by that day and enjoyed the music and the short sermon given by our pastor. After we had finished singing, many people came to get out of the hot sun to talk with us. Many where asking questions about the songs we sang and what the pastor was saying.

I asked my friend why so many people were interested in us. He said that they don’t see many Christians worshiping outside of a church building, he said “we hide ourselves in the buildings too much”. Many here are afraid to come into the church buildings, and many Christians are afraid to come out, so what we are and how we worship is a mystery to many.

On this day, we all thought we were going on an outing but in reality it was our worship and love for Jesus that was being exposed for all to see. We were faithfully revealing our light just as God wants us to. Many people saw that light this day not because we spent hours and hours preparing some outreach program but because we were faithfully showing our love for Jesus. God made all the arrangements; he booked the stage, invited the guests, and arranged the music. All we had to do was be faithful. We may never know what impact we had on our audience that day, but God does. Our Church is planning more outings.