Tag Archives: Arab Episcopal School

Second chances

Third Sunday after Pentecost (June 9, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
I Kings 17:17-24; Psalm 30; Galatians 1:11-24; Luke 7:11-17

This week we continued to wrap up loose ends in the MCC Amman office and introduced Carolyne and Gordon to MCC Jordan partners. On Monday we visited partners in Amman and on Tuesday we traveled to Irbid, Addasiyeh, Wadi Rayyan and Salt — all in the north of Jordan.

Suzan and Shireen are two of nearly 20 alumni of the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at Eastern Mennonite University

Suzan and Shireen are two of nearly 20 alumni of the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at Eastern Mennonite University

We also had a wonderful lunchtime discussion with Jordanian alumni of the Summer Peacebuilding Institute and continued to receive meal invitations from friends.

Lunch with Um Yousef, director of the Wadi Rayyan Women's Benevolent Society

Lunch with Um Yousef, director of the Wadi Rayyan Women’s Benevolent Society

The Common Lectionary readings this week are about second chances.

In both the Old Testament and Gospel readings widows lose their only sons to death, only to have them restored to life.

Our colleague Suzi with Finn, the youngest visitor to the MCC Jordan office this week

Our colleague Suzi with Finn, the youngest visitor to the MCC Jordan office this week.

Suzi took us out for a wonderful brunch on Friday morning

Suzi took us out for a wonderful brunch on Friday morning

When a widow’s son becomes ill and dies, Elijah cries out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” (I Kings 17:21) The Lord answers Elijah’s prayer and Elijah “gave him to his mother” (v.23). Similarly, when the adult son of a widow in Nain dies, Jesus commands, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” (Luke 7:14). Immediately the man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus “gave him to his mother.” (v.15) What happy reunions these must have been!

David praise God who, at a time of disease and distress, healed him, restored him to life and brought up his soul from the Pit (Ps. 30:2-3).

With Rev. Samir and Ms. Sabah, whose vision and energetic leadership has inspired the Arab Episcopal School in Irbid

With Rev. Samir and Ms. Sabah, whose vision and energetic leadership has inspired the Arab Episcopal School in Irbid

In the Epistle reading, Paul recounts his former life of violently persecuting the church (Gal. 1:13). But through the grace of God, Paul is given a second chance to “proclaim the faith he once tried to destroy.” (v.23)

With all of our short-comings and the many mistakes we make as human beings, it comforting to know that we are loved by a God who gives us second chances — sometimes more than once!

With MCC Jordan office colleagues Nada Zabaneh and Suzi Khoury (photo by Gordon Epp-Fransen)

With MCC Jordan office colleagues Nada Zabaneh and Suzi Khoury (photo by Gordon Epp-Fransen)



Second Sunday of Easter (April 7, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 150; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31

This week we hosted two visitors from the Bruderhof — a Christian community that seeks to recapture the model of the first century church. Edith and Kim Ann are volunteers at House of Hope in Bethlehem and are taking a short break in Jordan. While here, they have been assisting Cindy in teaching ESL classes with Iraqis who are awaiting resettlement to the United States.

Kristy Guertin at start of the Dead Sea Marathon, Apr. 5

Kristy Guertin at start of the Dead Sea Marathon, Apr. 5

A prominent member of the Bruderhof community, Josef Ben-Eliezer, who during his life acted and spoke boldly for justice and peace in the Middle East, died March 23.

We also enjoyed visits this week with Michael Greer and Eric Oltman, two friends that we first learned to know during our years at Washington Community Fellowship.

The race began in the rain and fog, but the weather quickly changed as runners wound their way down the mountain and into the Jordan Valley

The race began in the rain and fog, but the weather quickly changed as runners wound their way down the mountain and into the Jordan Valley

On Friday, Kristy Guertin, SALT volunteer at MCC Global Family partner Arab Episcopal School (AES), ran the Dead Sea Marathon, along with her friend and work colleague Lena Gomer. Both completed the 42 km (26.2 mi.) course with great times, finishing in the top 20 in the women’s division. Franziska Kadur, a third volunteer at AES, led the marathon cheering squad, which included Carolyn and Gordon Epp-Fransen, along with Daryl.

Lena and Kristy on rain-soaked road just outside Amman

Lena and Kristy on rain-soaked road just outside Amman

In the region this week:

  • The U.N. announced that it is running out of funds to support Syrian refugees, who now number well over one million across the region.
  • There are now more than 470,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan and humanitarian organizations are predicting that the number in Jordan alone could swell to more than 1.0 million by year end. UNHCR has registered most of the refugees. The high cost of energy – exacerbated by the influx of refugees — is pressing Jordan to look at renewable energy sources.
Za'atari Refugee Camp, home to 150,000 Syrians (Getty Photos)

Za’atari Refugee Camp, home to 150,000 Syrians (Getty Photos)

  • Talks between Iran and Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany resumed, Apr. 5, in Kazakhstan. So far there has been little progress toward agreement over Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

The Common Lectionary Readings are about being witnesses.

In the reading from Acts, in spite of being warned by the religious authorities not to teach about Jesus, his disciples speak openly about witnessing his death, resurrection and exultation. “We must obey God rather than any human authority,” they reply when dragged before the angry religious leaders (Acts 5:29).

The views along the hilly Dead Sea Marathon course were stunning

The views along the hilly Dead Sea Marathon course were stunning

The psalmist gives witness to God’s mighty deeds and surpassing greatness (Ps. 150:2).

John, the writer of Revelation, describes Jesus as “the faithful witness” (Rev. 1:5) – the one who showed the world how God desires humanity to live in right relationship with God and one another.

#1 marathon fan and support crew, Franziska Kadur, Kristy and Lena's colleague at Arab Episcopal School

#1 marathon fan and support crew leader, Franziska Kadur, Kristy and Lena’s colleague at AES

The same John says that he has written a Gospel account to give witness to the signs that Jesus did in the presence of the disciples, as well as his resurrection from the dead, “so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah.” (John 20:31)

In a world torn by suffering and violence, may our lives, too, bear faithful witness to God’s mighty acts and to God’s plan for a just and peaceful world.

#1 bakerette --granddaughter Sydney has already learned that waiting for the cookies to bake is overrated

#1 bakerette –granddaughter Sydney has already learned that waiting for the cookies to bake is highly overrated

Honorable mention

21st Sunday after Pentecost (October 21, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 53:4-12; Ps. 91:9-16; Heb. 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

This week we hosted three MCC Egypt staff, introducing them to the MCC programs in Jordan, Iraq and Iran.  We visited several MCC partners — Orthodox Kindergarten in Ashrafiyeh, Holy Land Institute for the Deaf, Caritas Jordan and Arab Episcopal School – and met with Jordan alumni of the International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP).

MCC Egypt staffer Irini Asaad dips her feet in the Jordan River

We also visited Jesus’ baptism site at the Jordan River.  The Jordan is still a popular Christian pilgrimage site; a number of persons were being baptized during our visit.

Suzi Khoury (MCC Jordan), Ayman Kerols (MCC Egypt) and Cindy share a laugh with the weaver at Holy Land Institute for the Deaf

Daryl celebrated his birthday with dozens of greetings from friends and a special dinner with the MCC Egypt team – and by running the Amman International Marathon.  His goal was to break 5 hours and he finished with a time of 4 hours and 51 minutes. Ethiopian runner Mohammad Nori set a new course record of 2 hours 19 minutes and 39 seconds for the 26.2 mile (42km) race.

Daryl displays his medal outside the Roman Amphitheater in downtown Amman, where the marathon ended

In the region this week:

  • The Jordanian government announced that it will open a second Syrian refugee camp near Zarqa by the end of the year. Officials expect that 250,000 Syrians will be living in Jordan by year end.

Mrs. Sabah Zurikat, headmistress at Arab Episcopal School, greets Cindy during our visit, Oct. 18

The Common Lectionary readings this week describe various aspects of honor.

In the Old Testament reading, Isaiah describes the suffering servant who is struck down, afflicted, wounded, crushed, oppressed, cut off and poured out for the well-being of humanity (Is. 53:4-12).  For this reason, God chooses to honor the suffering servant, allotting him “a portion with the great.” (v.12a)

Ms. Maha teaches Braille to a young student at Arab Episcopal School

Through the psalmist, God promises to deliver, protect, answer, be with, rescue and honor those who make the Lord their refuge, satisfying them and showing them God’s salvation (Ps. 91:9-14).

The writer of Hebrews says that high priests are “put in charge of things pertaining to God” on behalf of humans (Heb. 5:1).  “One does not presume to take this honor,” says the writer, “but takes it only when called by God.” (v.4)  Because of his reverent submission to God, God honored him by making him the source of eternal salvation (v.9).

Evanna Hess and Jean Peifer (far right), short-term volunteers with Caritas Jordan, inspect comforters and material with the women who sew at the Caritas Center in Husn

In the Gospel reading, James and John ask Jesus to give them the places of honor in his kingdom (Mk. 10:35-37). Jesus responds that this honor is not his to grant.  However, “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,” Jesus assures his disciples, “and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.” (vv.43-44)

Honorable mention in God’s economy goes, not to the powerful, the wealthy and status seekers, but to those who fully submit to God and serve others.  May we find our honor in this way.

Living good

12th Sunday after Pentecost (August 19, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Ps. 34:9-14; Prov. 9:1-6; Eph. 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

This week our daughter Jessica turned 30, offering indisputable evidence that we are no longer in our 40s! How did that happen? Jessica was born Aug, 18, 1982, at Matty Hersee Hospital in Meridian, Mississippi. She is now a social worker in Denver, working with children in transitional housing situations. We are proud of Jessica for persevering in a challenging job. Her generous spirit is a gift to many. To celebrate her birthday, Jessica flew to Portland to spend time with friends.

Jessica holds her niece, Sydney

On Friday afternoon we welcomed two new SALT (Serving and Learning Together) volunteers to Jordan. Kristy Guertin, a 2011 graduate from Seattle Pacific University, will be a teacher assistant at Arab Episcopal School in Irbid. William Stell, a 2012 graduate from Wheaton College, will work at Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Salt.

Kristy Guertin and William Stell — on arrival at Queen Alia Airport in Amman.

On Saturday afternoon we welcomed three short-term MCC volunteers — Arthur Mann and Diana Epp-Fransen, both from Winnipeg; and Carolyn Reesor from Toronto — who will be teaching a four-week intensive English course at St. Peter’s Chaldean Catholic Seminary in Erbil, northern Iraq.  After a brief orientation in Amman, Cindy will accompany the teachers to Erbil.  This is the third summer that MCC has provided English teachers for St. Peter’s.

Arthur Mann, Diana Epp-Fransen and Carolyn Reesor bring significant EFL teaching experience to this year’s Intensive English Course at St. Peter’s

This has been the last week of Ramadan. While many Muslims fast from dawn till dusk, the evenings offer welcomed times for families to gather in homes for meals or to go out to eat. Indeed, the restaurant business does very well during Ramadan.

Amman comes alive during Ramadan evenings (photo by Muath Freij for Jordan Times)

From our home, only  steps away from the King Abdullah Mosque, we will hear the beautiful chanting of the congregational prayers, Aug. 19, marking the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the three-day feast known as Eid al-Fitr.

Jahnabi Barooah, Assistant Religion Editor for The Huffington Post, describes the first day of the Eid:

“Many Muslims wake up early in the morning and pray Salat ul-Fajr, or the pre-dawn prayer. After brushing their teeth, taking a bath and wearing perfume, they have breakfast before heading off to perform special congregational prayers known as Salaat al-Eid. Many Muslims recite the takbir, a declaration of faith, on the way to the prayer ground and give special charitable contributions known as Zakat al-Fitr.

Eid al-Fitr is a day of great merriment and thanksgiving. Muslims celebrate by gathering with friends and family, preparing sweet delicacies, wearing new clothes, giving each other gifts and putting up lights and other decorations in their homes. A common greeting during this holiday is Eid Mubarak, which means, “Have a blessed Eid!”

While Ramadan is intended to be a time for restoring broken relationships, the fighting in Syria seems only to have intensified in the past month.  The UN observer mission in Syria pulls out Sunday night.  A diplomatic solution seems increasingly unlikely.

Jameel Dababneh, Caritas Jordan’s emergency response coordinator, welcomes a small Syrian boy in Mafraq

The violent situation in Syria is also adding pressure to the surrounding countries of Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, who are hosting thousands of Syrian refugees. On Thursday,  Sojourner’s website published Daryl’s article about the welcome Jordan is extending to refugees.

The threat of Israeli attacks on Iran’s nuclear sites is a weekly topic of discussion in local media.  A recent article announced that Israel is prepared to accept 500 Israeli casualties as a consequence of attacking Iran. Leaders of Iran and Hezbollah promised that the retaliation would be on a much grander scale.

The Common Lectionary readings reflect on living good. The focus is on quality of life, not on accumulated possessions.

The writer of Proverbs portrays wisdom as a woman pursuing the simple and calling them to maturity. “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed,” she appeals, “Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” (Prov. 9:1-6)

“Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?” asks the psalmist. “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” (Ps. 34:12-14)

Chris Thabet and Cindy enjoy a conversation in our home Monday evening. Chris’ father Bassem works in the MCC Jerusalem office and came to Amman this week for training.

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul writes that, in spite of the evil around us, the wise “make the most of the time” (Eph. 5:16), “understand what the will of the Lord is” (v.17) and are “filled with the Spirit” (v.18).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus declares himself to be the “living bread that came down from heaven.” (John 6:51). Jesus promises that, unlike their ancestors who ate bread that satisfied only for a day, those who eat this bread will live forever (vv. 51, 58), have eternal life (v.54), abide in Christ (v.56), and live because of me (v.57).

Living good is not about the size of our bank accounts, cars and houses. It is not about how much power we hold or the prestige we command. It is about walking wisely, shunning evil, doing good, seeking peace, making the most of the time, understanding God’s will, being filled with God’s Spirit, and feasting on the living bread that Jesus offers.

Through darkest valleys

Easter 4 (April 29, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Acts 4:5-12; Ps. 23; I John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

We hosted a 12-member learning tour from Canada and the United States, April 19-26, who came to visit MCC Global Family projects in Jordan and Palestine-Israel. Global Family is an MCC sponsorship program supporting quality community-based education for children and youth around the world.

Cindy shares a letter from a student in the U.S. with a 12-year-old blind student at the Arab Episcopal School

In Palestine the group visited a special education program in Beit Sahour operated by Al Malath and the Latin Patriarchate School in Zababdeh; they also shared a Skype conversation with children who are part of the Shoroq wa-Amal (Sunrise and Hope) program at Culture and Free Thought Association in Gaza. While the learning tour was in Bethlehem, the CBS show 60 Minutes aired a piece on Christians in the Holy Land.

MCC SALT worker Trish Elgersma explains a Braille typewriter to the learning tour group

In Jordan the group visited an integrated education program for blind, low-vision and sighted students at the Arab Episcopal School in Irbid; the deaf-blind unit at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Salt; the university loans program operated by Caritas Jordan; and a kindergarten run by the Orthodox Educational Society in Ashrafiyeh.

A blind teacher at the Arab Episcopal School teaches kindergarten students

The group shared many laughs but also shed many tears as they listened to inspiring and painful stories, and processed the political dynamics of the region. They now return home to share these stories with MCC’s constituency.

Just before the learning tour, we hosted Ruth Keidel Clemens (MCC U.S. program director) and Rick Janzen (MCC Europe-Middle East director), who came to learn about the Syrian refugee situation in Jordan. We visited a center in Mafraq where Caritas is distributing MCC-purchased milk powder and diapers to families with infants.

Dr. Hazar Kaboshi from Caritas Jordan explains the best use of infant milk powder

The Common Lectionary readings for this week describe the qualities of a good shepherd.

The familiar Psalm 23 describes a shepherd who makes the sheep lie down in green pastures (v. 2a), leads them beside still waters (v. 2b), restores life (v. 3a), leads them in right paths (v. 3b), and accompanies them through darkest valleys (v. 4).

Ruth Keidel Clemens shares a laugh with Jameel Dababneh, emergency response coordinator for Caritas Jordan

In the Gospel reading, Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd who “lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). The good shepherd, who has himself walked through dark valleys, now walks with frightened sheep on their similar journeys — unlike the hired hand who runs away when danger arises.

In the Epistle reading, John writes that God’s love for us is demonstrated in Jesus who “laid down his life for us” (I John 3:16a). In the same manner, we are to lay down our lives for one another (v. 16b).

In the reading from Acts, Peter and John put their lives on the line by healing a lame man, and then defending themselves before the religious authorities who want to know “by what power or by what name did you do this?” (Acts 4: 7)

In Mafraq, we visited a group of Syrian refugee children who are living with their family in a small rented warehouse

As we traveled around Jordan with our visitors, we saw many shepherds guiding their sheep and goats to the best patches of green grass. We also witnessed MCC partners who are acting as shepherds — providing amazing educational opportunities to vulnerable population groups and accompanying refugee families who have experienced dark valleys of violence in Syria.

Cindy chats with James Wheeler, co-leader of the Global Family learning tour