America, Culture, Family, Funny, Uncategorized

Off the Map

Is it weird that I figuratively drop off the map when I’m home? But when I literally drop off the map, I’m the most plugged in?

Is it also weird that I bake a batch of cookies and then don’t eat any of them? I told my friend the other day that I needed to bake cookies, not for the end result of the cookies, but for the therapy of baking them. So, I did. And I didn’t eat a single one. Weird, right?

I think I’m weird sometimes til I meet a truly weird person. Like Glenn, for example. Great guy. I called him to come fix our printer in the shop. He was pleasant on the phone, called me to tell me he was going to come to the shop on Monday (while also detailing to me multiple times that he was currently en route to another shop in Arkansas but they didn’t tell him it was at the Louisiana border, so it was taking him sooo much longer than he expected, etc., etc,..) and I told him Monday was great.

The thing about it is: I usually don’t have to meet these people face to face. I sit at a desk, call them, give them directions, then let them handle whatever problem they’re coming for. So, I warned the guys that Glenn was coming and I thought he’d be a little eccentric. You know how you just get a feeling about people sometimes?
Glenn arrived on Monday. I looked out and saw his van pull up. Good, he’ll fix the printer and leave. Jake comes in 7 minutes later, asking to sit at my desk, so I turn around and there’s Glenn. It wasn’t Jake who needed my desk, but Glenn.

Not only did Glenn need to sit at my desk, he set up shop there. He kicked back, shuffled all my papers around, set up his laptop among my work in progress. And he stayed. For a long time. Mind you: my desk is no where near the printer that needed fixing. I thought about asking him if I could get him some coffee? Maybe run to town and get a nameplate engraved for him? I would’ve had time.

Finally, he relinquished my desk rights back over to me and I was able to continue what was a very hectic Monday. And, lo and behold, the printer couldn’t even be fixed. Which he informed us of, then spent the next 46 minutes regaling us with the details of his life and all his cats. No, I’m not kidding.

And all he left me thinking was: can I drop off the map again?

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Uncategorized

Dream a Little Dream

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin..” Zechariah 4:10

I read that verse the other day and marveled at how true that is. I have seen so many small beginnings in my life. Ministries that began because of a seed the Lord planted in one person’s heart.

We visited a tribe out in the middle of the desert in Israel. Their tribe name is Abu Juda. In Arabic, abu means father. So, the original father of this tribe was Judah. These people are Bedouins, and they have been living in this particular place for 80 years.

There are two women from Nazareth that serve as “missionaries” to the tribe. This surprised me because these groups are very closed off. They have one leader, the Shah, who is the village chief. He has two wives and 20 children. There are about 3000 total people in the tribe and they are all related. No one new comes and no one leaves.

So, how did two women gain “missionary” access to these people?

It all started with one woman.

A woman at a church in the city nearby noticed all of these Bedouin people coming and going. Her heart was burdened for them and she and her church began praying for a way to reach these people. The trouble is: the city is Jewish and they only spoke Hebrew. The tribes only speak Arabic. So, they prayed. Finally, the Lord sent them a woman who spoke both languages. But, there was still no connection, no way to reach this tribe.
So, they prayed.

One day in the supermarket, the woman from the congregation who spoke both languages met one of the wives of the Shah. They struck up a conversation (in Arabic) and at the end of the talk, she was invited to the village. And from there, the work began.

This is in Negev and when we arrived, we were given a brief orientation. We were told that these were forgotten people. See, the government of Israel does not recognize these tribes, so they are not provided with anything. No running water, no electricity. Nothing.

The work that was begun there was a kindergarten for the children. If the kids want to go to school, they can. But they have to find a way to get there and it is 20 minutes away by bus. The kindergarten was a good ministry. They were able to meet the children and work with them. But, no mothers would come. Finally, they sent a note home with the children saying if their mothers came, they would receive a gift. The mothers came and that was the beginning of their women’s ministry.

Soon after, the Israeli government “asked” for the kindergarten to be shut down. (The alternative option was that the two women would be put in prison.) But, the Lord had already opened the door to minister to the women. So, they began teaching the women to read, which is how they minister now.

They are not able to openly share their faith (as per Israeli law), so they do so in secret. Currently, there are 3 secret believers in the village that they do Bible study with. 3 believers. Out of 3000.

The men and women are separated. No pictures were allowed to be taken of the people. We were told that if a man takes a picture of a woman, she can be killed. We shared tea with the Shah. He was dressed in all white, with a white head covering. He is the “peace leader” among a few different local tribes, so when there is a conflict, he is called in to hear both sides and decide on the solution.

We were able to visit openly with the two women who minister here and we asked them questions about the situation and their needs for ministry. They said: “The harvest is white, but the workers are so few. The same as in the time of Jesus. We need men to minister to the men. The men of the tribe request that all the time. Someone to help them, to teach them. And we need people who know the Arabic language.”

As I have said, these women work with the children and we asked about their conditions and what their lives were like. One of the women said: “We asked the kids what their dream was? Most of the girls said their dream in life was to clean house like their moms. One boy simply responded: my dream is to have a toothbrush.”

I have a hard time in these situations. I question myself, I question God. What can I do? Am I doing enough? There are so many people in the world, so much hurt, so many in need of healing. And time and again, I get the same answer. “Seek Me. Do what I call you to do each day. I will take care of the rest.”

These may be considered a forgotten people, but the Bible assures us that no one is ever forgotten in the eyes of our Lord. Of that, we can be assured. He sees us. He hears us. He cares.

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Art, Middle East, Religion, Travel

Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem

I can officially mark Palestine off my travel list. We ventured over there to see the Nativity and where some believe was the site that Jesus was born. (Everyone knows Bethlehem is located in Palestine, right?)

Entering Palestine

 

It’s neat to see these sites, but a lot of them are now located in old churches, which built buildings to commemorate these events. So, for the birthplace of Jesus, you climb down into this church to a small room where they believe the manger was and where Mary birthed Jesus. As a traveler to the Holy Land, I expect to see these sites. However, do I really believe they can pinpoint the exact piece of ground where our Lord was brought to Earth? No, honestly, I don’t.

 

Commemoration of the Nativity

 

Some of these things, I understand how they can confirm. We went to the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Kidron Valley and the city of Jerusalem. I understand how they can know for sure that these are the correct sites. They’re specific geographic locations.

As we were passing from Israel into Palestine to go to the manger site, we saw the wall that separates Palestine from Israel. Our modern day Berlin Wall. I honestly can’t tell you how I feel about the wall. I don’t know enough of the exact political background and I don’t live here. I don’t know how I would feel about it if I did live here, so I can’t give an opinion one way or another.

What I do understand is that there are Palestinian radicals that do crazy things and the wall is supposed to offer protection. However, by building it, innocent Palestinian people get caught in the middle of the conflict.

I took a lot of pictures of the wall. And I was thinking after we visited the manger site: I came here to see these holy sites and yet, I’m interested in this wall. Why? The Lord spoke to me about this. We come to this place to see where He was born. But the point is, He was born. He lived in this place. He gave His life for us. And, because of that, we can have life abundant and eternal.

To me, when I see this wall, it reminds me of the lost people Jesus came to save. It reminds me that only 1.5% of Israel’s population is Christian. And only 3% of Jordan. It breaks my heart. So many people walking through this world without knowing the greatest Joy there is.


Don’t get me wrong: I love seeing these holy sites. They’re truly moving. But, I don’t want to worship the site that Jesus stood on.

I want to worship Him.

I want to remember the reason why He came. And I want to live out that Gospel calling to the fullest.

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History, Medicine, Middle East, Religion, Travel, Uncategorized

Checkmate

We’ve officially crossed into the Holy Land of Israel. I’ve crossed a few land borders: America to Canada, Hungary to Romania, and Germany to Poland. But, crossing from Jordan to Israel definitely reminds you that you’re in the Middle East. The security is tight. Which is good to know. It should be tight, especially in this part of the world. 
They sent my backpack through the x-ray scan, and when I came through the metal detector, I saw it had been held back and two people were discussing it. Not a good sign. They brought it over and started pulling everything out. Apples, phone chargers, my iPad, magazines, a scarf. Then, started the questions: where did you get the scarf? How much did you pay for it? What did you bring with you? What did you buy in Jordan? Finally, after they had flipped through every page of my Glamour magazine and my Bible, they declared I was not a security threat and let me in. 

Jake asked our bus driver where we could get a phone card for our wi-fi and the driver said, Bethlehem. So, we decided to follow a star and see where it took us. 

As it turns out, there wasn’t a wi-fi card to be found in Bethlehem. We did, however, find an inn with an open room. Ironic, right? 

  

We moved on to Jerusalem and found the card we needed there, then headed south toward the town we would stay in for the night. As is normal, I was sitting near the back of the bus, with my headphones on, so I had no idea where we were at. It was dark outside and dark in the bus, so to be honest, I didn’t care where we were. 

Apparently, in this darkness, we crossed from Israel into the West Bank (a shortcut to get us where we needed to go)  What I also didn’t realize was that when our bus came to the border to enter back into Israel, we would be checked. Again. 

Jake passed back my passport to me from the front of the bus and I was ready for the standard check. As the woman boarded our bus, she passed by a few people, not taking one look at their passports and picked one of the women on the bus to ask a couple questions to. There was a man behind her who followed and as he came closer, you could see his gun, not hanging casually by his side, but finger on the trigger and ready for aim at a moment’s notice.

The woman passed by everyone else and came right towards me. Immediately, she started firing questions at me. Where was I going? Where had I been? “Do you have a weapon, maybe?” How were all these people on the bus related? Were we all from the same church? The questioning ended with a search of my backpack. The very same bag that had been searched earlier in the day. So, out come the apples, scarf, snacks, cords, books, and everything all over again. Finally, she was satisfied and exited the bus without looking at anyone else. 

Are we there yet? 

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Culture, History, Middle East, Religion, Travel, Uncategorized

Trader Joe

The rumor is true. You can only float in the Dead Sea. It is seven times more salty and you literally just float like a bobber. There’s no swimming, just floating.   
This trip has been part mission, part sight seeing. So, today was a sight seeing day. We’ve been to Mount Nebo where Moses looked over the Promised Land, to an ancient Roman city that was part of the Decapolis that the Apostle Paul travelled through and by the river Jabbok where Jacob wrestled with the angel. 

City hall at Jerash

And to the Dead Sea, where we were covered with mud and dried out and floated around. My skin has never felt softer. You go out in the water so far until you can’t touch the bottom any more. It’s such a weird sensation to stay above the water without any of the effort of swimming. There were waves, but because you float, you can take your phone or camera out in the water and float around taking pictures. So, a selfie seemed appropriate. 

  
Along with touring comes souvenir shops, which are not my favorite. And this is the reason why:

  
They are always trying to dress me up. All I want to do is browse and I end up getting fully clothed in the local style. 

First, it was the Bedouin skirt. I tried to explain that I was fully aware how it was supposed to be worn, but he insisted on putting it on me anyway. 

Next, it was the Bedouin scarf. These are harder to tie and I didn’t ask for a demonstration. In fact, I hadn’t even looked at the scarves. But, he found one and brought it over and tied it on my head. 

  
Then, it was the face covering, just to complete the look. 

  
And the cherry on top, he brought out some Arabic kohl, which he put on my eyes to give me the real look. When he finished his work with the kohl pencil, I thought we were done and I could take off the garb and leave. Nope, not quite done yet. 

Let me explain who the Bedouins are. They’re tribal people who travel in caravans, making their home out of animal skin tents. They’re nomadic. They have herds of sheep and goats and camels, so they travel where the animals can graze. Let me give you a clearer picture: Abraham was the original Bedouin. As in Father Abraham. The one who had many sons. 

 

Bedouins at Petra

 
So, once I was dressed up in traditional Bedouin attire, the man asked my brother if I was his wife or girlfriend? (Take note: he didn’t ask me, he addressed the male, which is the norm in this culture) Jake said, no, I was his sister. Next question? 

How many camels will you take for her? 

I’ll shortcut the story for you. No deal was made, no camels were exchanged, but it left me with a question I’ve never asked myself before.

Just how many camels am I worth? 

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