Tag Archives: Holy Land Institute for the Deaf

The lamb who becomes the shepherd

Fourth Sunday of Easter (April 21, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30

This week we enjoyed hosting Darrin Yoder, MCC’s material resources manager. Darrin has been responsible for coordinating shipments of relief kits, school kits, health kits and blankets to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria in the wake of the Syrian crisis.

These two brothers eventually each received an MCC school kit

These two brothers eventually each received an MCC school kit

On Monday we visited Caritas Jordan distribution sites in Husson and Mafraq and talked with Syrian families about the violent situations they left behind in their own country.

Caritas has an orderly, efficient and dignity-preserving distribution system, taking time to assess each family’s needs and tailoring its response accordingly. Caritas makes extensive use of a network of Jordanian and Syrian volunteers.

Darrin Yoder, MCC material resources coordinator; Dana Abawi, Caritas Jordan communications coordinator; and Nada Zabaneh, MCC Jordan program coordinator

Darrin Yoder, MCC material resources manager; Dana Abawi, Caritas Jordan communications coordinator; and Nada Zabaneh, MCC Jordan program coordinator, at Husson distribution site

At Caritas’ distribution site in Husson, a family with two boys received several MCC blankets, a relief kit and one school kit. The brother’s both wanted the school kit and had a friendly tugging match for who would get it. As the boys walked away from the distribution site, the Caritas staff member realized that they had made a mistake in the allotment and called the family back. The family ended up leaving with three school kits and lots of smiles.

A Syrian volunteer opens a bundle of MCC blankets at a Caritas distribution site in Mafraq

A Syrian volunteer opens a bundle of MCC blankets at a Caritas distribution site in Mafraq

At the Caritas distribution site in Mafraq an elderly volunteer removed his baseball cap and showed us a large bandage on his head. “I just had surgery,” he said. “I can’t go to my job, so I thought I’d volunteer with Caritas today!”

On Tuesday we visited the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf, where MCC SALTer Willy Stell works with children on the deaf-blind unit and offers administrative support for Brother Andrew, who heads the school.

Willy Stell communicates with Hazim in the deaf-blind unit at Holy Land Institute for the Deaf

Willy Stell communicates with Hazim in the deaf-blind unit at Holy Land Institute for the Deaf

Wednesday we welcomed guests from MedAir, a Swiss organization responding to the Syrian crisis.  On Thursday, Paul Parker, a professor at Elmhurst College who is spending his sabbatical at Sabeel Ecumenical Center in Jerusalem, joined us for lunch. Paul regularly leads groups of students and adults on tours to Palestine/Israel.

In the region this week:

Syrian refugee Fatima practices her hobby of drawing at a facility run by Noor Al Hussein Foundation's Institute for Family Health at the Zaatari Refugee Camp on Wednesday (Jordan Times photo courtesy of the Institute for Family Health)

Syrian refugee Fatima practices her hobby of drawing at a facility run by Noor Al Hussein Foundation’s Institute for Family Health at the Zaatari Refugee Camp on Wednesday (Jordan Times photo courtesy of the Institute for Family Health)

The Common Lectionary readings this week are about shepherds and sheep.

In the reading from Acts, Peter puts into practice the charge that Jesus gave him to “tend and feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). When the beloved disciple Tabitha becomes ill and dies, Peter prays and restores her to life (Acts 9:36-43).

The psalmist describes the shepherd who cares for the sheep by leading them to green pastures and still waters, on right paths and through dark valleys (Ps. 23).

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me,” Jesus says in the Gospel reading. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish,” he promises. (John 10:27-28).

The reading from Revelation offers a stunning image. The Lamb who was slaughtered and who now sits with God at the center of the throne, will become the shepherd, guiding God people to “springs of the water of life.” (Rev. 7:17a). With such a shepherd, God’s people “will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat … and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (vv. 16, 17b)

The Bible is filled with paradoxes:

  • A shepherd boy with only an abiding faith and a sling shot defeats a bullying giant in full military armor (I Samuel 17).
  • The prophet Isaiah paints this image of God’s coming kingdom:

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them (Is. 11:6)

Granddaughter Sydney enjoys playing with bubbles

Granddaughter Sydney enjoys playing with bubbles

  • Gentile men and women – thought to be outside the community of the faithful – are lauded by Jesus as the examples of true faith (Mathew 8:5-10; Mark 7:24-30; Luke 4:25-27).

But perhaps the ultimate paradox is that the Lamb who was slaughtered – the picture of utter vulnerability – becomes the powerful shepherd of the sheep, offering them protection, guidance and sustenance.


Through new eyes

Third Sunday of Easter (April 14, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Acts 9:1-20; Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

This week we enjoyed meeting with Larry Miller, former General Secretary of Mennonite World Conference, who now serves in a similar role with the Global Christian Forum.  GCF staff gathered in Amman to discuss regional connections with Middle Eastern Christian bodies.

Suzi Khoury, MCC Jordan office and financial manager, feeds nephew Elias

Suzi Khoury, MCC Jordan office and financial manager, feeds nephew Elias

For the first time, we also met our colleague Suzi Khory’s niece and nephew, Jessica and Elias, when they visited the MCC Jordan office on Thursday afternoon.

We are rapidly coming to the end of our time in Jordan – with just two months now until we complete our service with MCC and return to the United States. We feel a mixture of excitement and sadness.

Willy Stell has been a SALT worker at Holy Land Institute for the Deaf since Sept. 2012

Willy Stell has been a SALT worker at Holy Land Institute for the Deaf since Sept. 2012

On Wednesday, we shared a delightful evening with Willy Stell, SALT volunteer at MCC Global Family partner Holy Land Institute. We have been blessed with wonderful SALT volunteers during our six years in Jordan.

In the region this week:

  • In a meeting with William Swing, director general of the International Organization of Migration, Interior Minister Hussein Majali announced that Jordan will keep open its shared borders with Syria, despite a refugee influx that has surpassed some 2,000 persons per day.

    William Swing (l), director general of the International Organization of Migration, with Jordan's Interior Minister Hussein Majali (Jordan Times photo)

    William Swing (l), director general of the International Organization of Migration, with Jordan’s Interior Minister Hussein Majali (Petra photo in Jordan Times)

The Common Lectionary readings for this third Sunday of Easter focus on seeing through new eyes.

In the reading from Acts, the religious zealot Saul makes a dramatic shift from persecuting the followers of Jesus (Acts 9:1-5) to proclaiming that Jesus “is the Son of God.” (v.20) Temporarily blinded by a light from heaven while traveling to Damascus to arrest Christians, “something like “scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored” when Ananias, a church leader in Damascus, told Saul that God had a different mission for him (v.18).

The psalmist reflects on his journey from a place of favor, prosperity and strength (Ps. 32:6-7a); to a place of mourning, dismay and weeping (vv. 2, 5, 7, 9, 11); and back to a place of wholeness, joy and dancing (vv. 2, 3, 5, 11). It is only by going through a time of hardship that the psalmist is clearly able to see God’s restoring work in his life.

In the reading from Revelation, the angels and every creature on earth finally recognize that the lamb who was slaughtered – the one who appeared to be weak and vulnerable – is the only one who is worthy “to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” (Rev. 5:12-13)

In the Gospel reading, Jesus’ disciples seem confused after his death and resurrection. They decide to return to fishing – the profession of several disciples before they first met Jesus. After a futile night of fishing on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus shouts at them from the shore, urging them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Immediately they make a large catch of fish. Only then do they realize that it is Jesus on the shoreline – the one who years earlier had called them to leave their nets and follow him (John 21:1-19).

Elias and Jessica Khoury -- didn't miss a beat as they took in their surroundings at the MCC Jordan office

Elias and Jessica Khoury didn’t miss a beat as they took in their surroundings at the MCC office

We enjoyed watching Elias and Jessica take in the sights and surroundings of the MCC Amman office on Thursday. For babies, each day, each experience, is an adventure of seeing the world through new eyes.

My our eyes also be opened each day to see how God is at work, giving new purpose to those with misguided zeal, restoring wholeness and joy to those who despair and mourn, revealing power through weakness, and calling us back to our true identity.

Two-way waiting

Lent 2 (February 24, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Genesis 15:1-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

On Wednesday we shared lunch with Brent Stutzman, who is visiting Jordan with his parents.  Brent served with MCC for three years (2009-2012) at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf, an MCC Global Family partner in Salt, Jordan.  He is currently doing graduate work in special education at Boston College, while working part-time at the Perkins School for the Blind.


Brent explains Holy Land’s deaf-blind unit to members of a Global Family learning tour (April 2012).

This week, Daryl accepted an offer to serve as executive director of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, beginning July 1.  With mixed emotions — excitement about the adventure ahead and sadness about the relationships we leave behind — we plan to conclude our work in Jordan in the middle of June, moving to Harrisonburg, Virginia.

On Thursday, we were privileged to host a guest who is lives in Damascus and works with Syrian families affected by the civil war.  Just before arriving at the MCC office, our guest received word of a major bomb blast near his office in Damascus.

A Syrian child in Jordan (photo by Chevy Morris for CARE)

A Syrian child in Jordan (photo by Chevy Morris for CARE)

With the fighting in Syria growing worse, the United Nations says that an average of 70,000 Syrians are arriving in Jordan each month, and warns that more emergency camps must be developed in order to accommodate the rapid influx.

Trailers in the Mreijeb Al Fhoud camp, 14 miles (22km) east of Zarqa. The camp, which is yet to receive Syrian refugees, can accommodate 30,000 people (Photo by Muath Freij for the Jordan Times)

Trailers in the Mreijeb Al Fhoud camp, 14 miles (22km) east of Zarqa. The camp, which is yet to receive Syrian refugees, can accommodate 30,000 people (Photo by Mu’ath Freij for the Jordan Times)

A total of 360,900 Syrians are now living in Jordan.  That number is expected to double by June.  Some 42 percent of the arrivals are children who often carry with them the trauma they experienced in their country.

The large influx of Syrians into a resource-challenged country is creating tensions between the refugees and Jordanian host communities, as both groups compete for scarce resources and opportunities.

The Lectionary readings for this second week of Lent focus on waiting.

In the Old Testament reading, God promises the aging and childless Abram that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky and that, after a 400-year-long period of oppression, God will provide a place for them.  Amazingly, Abram believes God, trusting God to fulfill these distant promises.

Syrian children wait in Jordan (photo by Mu'ath Freij for the Jordan Times)

Syrian children wait in Jordan (photo by Mu’ath Freij for the Jordan Times)

While experiencing trouble and the assault of adversaries, the psalmist also chooses to trust God rather than taking matters into his own hands.  “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” the psalmist affirms.  “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Ps. 27:13-14)

In the Epistle reading, Paul reminds the church at Philippi that their citizenship is in God’s kingdom rather than in an earthly nation (Phil. 3:20). Furthermore, they are to wait as Jesus – the one who reigns supreme in God’s kingdom — transforms their humble bodies into bodies that glorify God (v.21).

The Gospel reading reminds us that not only do humans wait for God to act; God waits for humans to act as well.  Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and its resistance to God’s ways. “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,” Jesus laments, “and you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34)

Waiting aptly describes the life of refugees.  They wait for basic accommodations in a host country. They wait for word from their loved ones back in Syria.  They wait to see if and when they can return home.  There are few things that refugees control.

Waiting is also the testing grounds for our faith.  What we do while we wait for God’s promises to be fully realized is the truest measure of what we believe.  We are to live into God’s promises, demonstrating by our actions that we believe them to be true.

Meanwhile, God waits for us — to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly as our trust in God grows day by day.

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.

As God intended

19th Sunday after Pentecost (October 7, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Gen. 2:18-24; Ps. 8; Heb. 1:1-4; 2:5-12; Mark 10:2-16

This week we hosted meetings for MCC representatives serving in Europe and the Middle East.  While the meeting schedule was full, we also enjoyed lots of time for visiting and encouraging each other.

A student at Holy Land Institute for the Deaf hugs Misha, 2-year-old daughter of MCC East Europe Reps, Ruth Plett and Krystan Pawlikowski

We met at the Rosary Sisters’ retreat center just outside Amman.   On Thursday, we visited several MCC Jordan partners – Holy Land Institute for the Deaf, YWCA Jordan and Caritas Jordan.

Tom Snowdon, MCC Egypt Rep, watches the weaver at Holy Land Institute for the Deaf

In the region this week:

October 5 demonstration in Amman, led by Muslim Brotherhood (AFP photo)

  • A planned pro-government rally was suspended at the last minute in order to reduce the likelihood of a major confrontation.
  • Heavy fighting continued in Syria, including Syrian cross-border fire into Turkey and retaliatory strikes by Turkey into Syria. In spite of the poor conditions in Syria, some refugees in Jordan are choosing to return home, saying they prefer to die as martyrs than to live as refugees.

Children at Za’atari Refuge Camp in northern Jordan during one of many dust storms. More than 30,000 Syrian refugees now live in the camp.  (photo by Bert de Vries)

The Common Lectionary readings this week reflect on God’s intent for humans in the created order.

In the Old Testament reading, God gives Adam the responsibility for naming every living creature and creates male and female as partners (Gen. 2:18-24).

The psalmist writes that God created humans “a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor,” giving them “dominion over the works of God’s hands.” (Ps. 8:5-6).

Pictures of our granddaughter Sydney keep us smiling (photo by Holden Byler)

The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 8, noting the prominent role of humans in God’s creation. In theory, God left nothing outside the control of human beings (Heb. 2:8b). Still, in practice, we do not yet see everything subjected to human control, “but we do see Jesus . . . crowned with glory and honor” because of the suffering he endured (v. 8c-9a).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ question about divorce. He reaffirms that, in creating male and female, God’s intention is for them to become one flesh, and not to be separated by the human act of divorce (Mk. 10:2-9).

We live in a violent and broken world. Clearly humans are not living as God intended. Still, by God’s grace, we are being restored into the image of what God created us to be.

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