Tag Archives: Abdali

Signing off from Amman

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (June 16, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
II Samuel 11:26-12:15; Psalm 32; Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7:36-8:3

This week we said our last goodbyes in Jordan. On Monday, Wafa Goussous of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate hosted a lovely farewell gathering on behalf of MCC Jordan partners.

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On Tuesday we traveled to Karak to say goodbye to our friend Mamun Tarawneh, who has introduced us to many Jordanian families during our time in the Middle East. We enjoyed the Jordanian national dish, mansef — a meat and rice dish served with nuts and yogurt.

Cindy enjoys mansef at the Tarawneh home in Karak

Cindy enjoys mansef at the Tarawneh home in Karak

On Thursday evening the MCC office staff took us out for a farewell dinner. To use a Middle Eastern expression, we feel generously “fare-welled.”

Cindy at farewell dinner with colleagues Suzi Khoury, Nada Zabaneh and Kristy Guertin

Cindy at farewell dinner with colleagues Suzi Khoury, Nada Zabaneh and Kristy Guertin

This will be our last posting from the Middle East. We plan to fly to Washington, D.C. on Saturday, June 15.

Thanks to those who have journeyed with us during these six years. According to WordPress, we have had readers from 127 countries during the past several years. Many have taken time to send notes of encouragement. Our friend Mike Charles from Arizona, our small group from Washington, D.C. and Don and Lurline Campbell from Brisbane, Australia, deserve distinction as “encouragers-in-chief”!  We are still trying to decide whether we will continue a blog — obviously under a new name — when we return to Virginia. If so, it will be at this same site.

There have been significant changes during our six years in the Middle East:

  • The aftermath of the 2003 Iraq war uprooted some 5 million Iraqis. By some estimates, up to 70 percent of the Iraqi Christian community left the country since the 1991 and 2003 wars.
  • When we arrived in 2007, as many as 700,000 Iraqi refuges lived in Jordan, seeking resettlement to third countries. While the number of Iraqis in Jordan has decreased to tens of thousands, more than 560,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in their place. UNHCR estimates the number could swell to 1.2 million by year end, severely straining Jordan’s infrastructure.
  • As a result of the Arab Spring, four governments in the region have been toppled in the past two years – Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. A major civil war rages in Syria.
  • Long-simmering tensions between the minority Bedouin tribes of Jordan and the majority Palestinian population, which arrived as refugees in Jordan after the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967, are now threatening to split the country apart.

Amidst the political upheaval in the region, a new "downtown" is rising in the Abdali section of Amman

About a third of the high-rises are now visible in a new “Abdali downtown” that is rising in Amman

  • When we arrived in Amman, a large construction site near our flat was a patchwork of large holes in the ground. Today tall buildings are rising from the ground, comprising the new Abdali downtown.

MCC has also seen major changes.  A strategic planning and re-structuring process known as Wineskins has resulted in MCC Canada and MCC U.S. now jointly administering MCC international programs.  MCC has also adopted a more rigorous planning, evaluation and monitoring system for partner-implemented projects around the world.

Mamun with his bug-eating pet porcupine.  Cindy says it's a hedgehog and she's probably right!

Mamun with his bug-eating pet porcupine. Cindy says it’s a hedgehog and she’s probably right!

The Common Lectionary readings this week offer still timely reminders about the connections between confession, forgiveness and restoration.

The prophet Nathan confronts King David after he commits adultery with Bathsheba and has her husband killed.  To David’s credit, he acknowledges his sin. While God forgives David, the long-term consequences of his actions haunt him for the remainder of his days (II Sam. 11:26-12:15).

Reflecting on this experience David writes: “While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.  . . . my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.  . . . Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’, and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Ps. 32:3-5)

In the Epistle reading, Paul acknowledges that we cannot be made right with God by “doing the works of the law” (Gal. 2:16), but by placing our faith in Christ who loves us and gave his life for us (vv. 16, 20).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus commends a sinful woman who has demonstrated her repentance by washing Jesus’ feet, while he criticize a religious leader who neither shows hospitality nor recognizes the depth of his need for God’s forgiveness.  “I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love,” Jesus observes, “But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” (Luke :47)

Farewell picture in MCC Jordan office (photo by Gordon Epp-Fransen)

Farewell picture in MCC Jordan office (photo by Gordon Epp-Fransen)

It will be special to arrive in Virginia in time for Father’s Day. We plan to spend time this Sunday with Holden, Heidi and granddaughter Sydney.

Thanks again to all who have journeyed with us!

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Grace to help in time of need

20th Sunday after Pentecost (October 14, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15; Ps. 90:12-17; Heb. 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31

This week we welcomed Evanna Hess and Jean Peifer from Lancaster, Pa. and Hagerstown, Md., respectively. They will volunteer for three weeks with MCC partner Caritas Jordan, providing training to women at a Caritas center in Husn, Jordan.  Caritas is seeking to boost its capacity for local collection and preparation of items such as school kits.

Wafa and Cindy at Orthodox Patriarchate office in Amman

We also enjoyed visiting with our friend Wafa Goussous, who is now serving as director for the Orthodox Initiative – the Syrian refugee response on behalf of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

In the region this week:

  • Jordan’s King Abdullah appointed a new Prime Minister, who immediately extended the registration deadline for participation by the Muslim Brotherhood in upcoming elections.  Brotherhood leaders responded that they still plan to boycott the elections, citing their belief that the government is not serious about reforms.  Tension is mounting between the protesters and the regime.
  • The leader of Hezbollah announced that his organization was responsible for sending an Iranian-built drone into Israeli airspace as a response to repeated Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace.  Israel shot down the drone.
  • Some 4,000 Syrian children attended school in 14 temporary tent classrooms in the Zaatari Refugee Camp near Mafraq. Workers are preparing more durable classrooms that are expected to open in November.

Syrian boys attend a class at the Zaatari Refugee Camp (Jordan Times photo by Muath Freij)

The Common Lectionary readings this week juxtapose God’s judgment and God’s grace.

In the Old Testament reading, Amos prophesies that those who “trample on the poor” will build stone houses but not live in them and plant pleasant vineyards but not drink their wine. (Amos 5:11).  “Hate evil and love good,” challenges Amos, “and establish justice in the gate. It may be that the Lord … will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” (v.15)

“Turn, O Lord! How long?” a weary Moses pleads in Psalm 90.  “Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us . . . Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands . . .”

“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-sword,” the writer of Hebrews asserts. “It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12). Indeed, “all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” (v.13) Still, Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses, the writer encourages. “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (v.16)

Amidst the political upheaval in the region, a new “downtown” is rising in the Abdali section of Amman

In the Gospel reading, Jesus encounters a man who is weighted down by his possessions. He invites the man to sell his possession, give the money to the poor and then come follow Jesus. It is more than the man is willing to give up. Jesus promises his disciples that those who leave everything to follow him will receive a hundredfold in return – albeit, not without persecution (Mark 10:17-31).

The Middle East is undergoing dramatic changes.  Those in power seek to hold on to the old ways, while those at the margins are demanding governance that listens to a broader spectrum of voices.  We are watching human judgment play out before our eyes. We pray that God’s favor and grace will ultimately win the day.

We do not control God’s grace.  Still, we place ourselves in a space to most abundantly receive God’s grace when we act justly, surrender fully and plead boldly.