Tag Archives: Kids House

From all nations

Second Sunday after Pentecost (June 2, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
I Kings 8:22-23, 41-43; Psalm 96; Galatians 1:1-12; Luke 7:1-10

This week we traveled to northern Iraq to introduce Carolyne and Gordon to MCC Iraq partners; then on to Istanbul to meet with Iran partners and Amela Puljek-Shank, MCC’s area director for Europe and the Middle East.

Cindy with Hero Brzw, who graduated from Eastern Mennonite University's Center for Justice  Peacebuilding and now works in northern Iraq

Cindy with Hero Brzw, who graduated from Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice Peacebuilding and now works in northern Iraq

Jim and Deb Fine, MCC Iraq program coordinator and English teacher, respectively, did a wonderful job of hosting us in Iraq. We traveled to all corners of the Kurdish region of Iraq, meeting with partners who have become close friends across the years. It was a great opportunity to reminisce about changes during the six years we have lived in the region.

Jim Fine, with sisters from the Daughters of Mary in al Qosh

Jim Fine, with sisters from the Daughters of Mary in al Qosh

Cindy fulfilled a long-term wish by attending the kindergarten graduation at Kids House in Ankawa, May 29. In previous years we have always been speaking in Canada or the U.S. during the first-rate kindergarten performance. Kids House – a MCC Global Family partner – is operated by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Kids House dancers at graduation program, May 29 (photo by Jim Fine)

Kids House dancers at graduation program, May 29 (photo by Jim Fine)

The Common Lectionary readings remind us the God cannot be contained, constrained or controlled by one people group. Rather, all nations are to worship God and examples of active faith are found in every community.

Carolyne and Gordon Epp-Fransen buying a carpet in Erbil

Deb Fine (left) helps Carolyne and Gordon Epp-Fransen buy a carpet at the bazaar in Erbil

At the dedication of his magnificent temple, Solomon offered an insightful and inclusive prayer: “When a foreigner comes and prays towards this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling-place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you. . .” (I Kings 8:42-43).

With Dana Hassan, former director of MCC partner REACH, in Suliemaniyah

With Dana Hassan, former director of MCC partner REACH, in Suliemaniyah

Similarly, the psalmist has a broad understanding of the reach of God’s glory and grace. “Declare (God’s) glory among the nations,” the psalmist urges, “his marvelous works among all the peoples.” (Ps. 96:3)

Jesus heals a Roman centurion’s slave after the centurion says that he trusts Jesus to perform this miracle without even coming to his home. “I tell you,” Jesus marvels, “not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Luke 7:9).

Carolyne looks at a photo with one of the children at St. Anne's Orphanage in al Qosh

Carolyne looks at a photo with one of the youth at St. Anne’s Orphanage in al Qosh

During our six years in the Middle East we have experienced God’s goodness and blessing in the relationships with people from many nations and faith traditions. Thanks be to God!

Day 31

From Feb. 5 – Mar. 16, 2003, I engaged in a 40-day fast, urging then President George W. Bush to consider alternatives to war with Iraq. Each day, I sent the President a letter — with copies to Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice — using the Daily Office Readings (from the President’s Episcopal tradition) as a foundation for my reflections. For the next 10 days, I plan to re-post the letters from Days 31 to 40 of the fast, interspersing them with photos of Iraqis. Whether one supported or opposed the war, the costs are indisputably high.  -Daryl (March 7, 2013)

Internally displaced Iraqi children at Kids House in Ankawa, Iraq

Internally displaced Iraqi children at Kids House in Ankawa, Iraq

Human cost of Iraq war:
Iraqi civilian casualties: 121,754
Iraqi security casualties: 10,125
U.S. military casualties: 4,488
Uprooted Iraqis: 5.0 million

Financial cost of Iraq war:
$831.9 billion

 

March 7, 2003

Daily Office Readings
Morning
– Psalm 31
– Deuteronomy 7:12-16
– Titus 2:1-15
Evening
– Psalm 35
– John 1:35-42

President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Bush:

Today’s Daily Office readings speak of our strong defense, surrendering to God, and self-control.

In a time of distress, grief, sorrow and misery (Psalm 31:9-10), David describes God as his “rock of refuge”(v.2b) and “strong fortress”(v.2c). “I trust you,” David declares, “I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” (vv.14-16) In Psalm 35, David also implores God to rescue him from the ravages of his enemies. “Wake up! Bestir yourself for my defense, for my cause, my God and my Lord!”(v.23)

The Old Testament and Gospel readings describe aspects of surrendering our lives to God. Moses cites the benefits for those who observe God’s commandments (Deut. 7:12-16): God will maintain covenant loyalty with them (v.12); God will love, bless, multiply and prosper them (vv.13-14); and keep them healthy (v.15). And when John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God, John’s own disciples begin to follow Jesus instead, announcing, “We have found the Messiah”(John 1:41).

62 internally displaced families from Baghdad were living in Qalawa IDP camp when we visited in Feb 2009

62 internally displaced families from Baghdad were living in Qalawa IDP camp when we visited in Feb 2009

In the Epistle reading, Paul offers Titus words to give to various groups in the church, and calls for all to “live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly”(Titus 2:12).

Mr. President, today the chief UN weapons inspector will make another report to the UN Security Council. Mr. Blix is expected to present evidence of increasing Iraqi cooperation with the inspectors as well as significant progress in destroying the Al Samoud missiles. Could have the Iraqis cooperated even more? Likely so. Could have even more missile been destroyed? No doubt. But the key point is that the global community is working together to disarm Iraq.

Last night in your press conference, you spoke of your concern for the security of the American people. You said that you hoped the crisis with Iraq could be resolved peacefully. But you also expressed willingness to go to war with or without the endorsement of the UN Security Council.

This Iraqi woman's son was killed in Baghdad, prompting her to move to the Qalawa Camp (Feb. 2009)

This Iraqi woman’s son was killed in Baghdad, prompting her to move to Qalawa Camp (Feb. 2009)

Because God is ultimately our defense, there is no need to rush to war. Because God is our defense, there is space to work with the global community in disarming Iraq. Does the United States have the military power to act alone? Certainly. But this is a time to exercise self-control. As Sen. Chuck Hagel* said recently in a speech at Kansas State University, “the success of our actions will be determined not by the extent of our power, but by an appreciation of its limits . . . We must avoid the traps of hubris and imperial temptation that comes with great power.”

What if, instead of insisting that other nations back the U.S.-U.K. resolution supporting force against Iraq, your administration took one small step back for the sake of global unity? What if the United States proposed a sort of “addendum” to resolution 1441? This addendum could include clear and fair benchmarks and timetables for Iraqi disarmament — something that was missing from resolution 1441. And to increase the likelihood of greater Iraqi cooperation, this new resolution should also forswear military action as reasonable benchmarks are met, and offer the promise of full and immediate lifting of sanctions when disarmament is complete.

Father and daughter in their tent at Qalawa Camp (Feb. 2009)

Father and daughter in their tent at Qalawa Camp near Sulimaniyah (Feb. 2009)

Finally, I invite you to reconsider one of your statements from last evening. You said: “I want to remind you that it’s his (Saddam Hussein’s) choice to make whether or not we go to war. . . He’s the person that can make the choice of war and peace.” Doesn’t this give Mr. Hussein too much power? It would seem to me that it is our choice – we must take responsibility for whether we choose the way of war or the path of peace.

Giving more time to preserve global unity and to prevent war does require us to trust God. It requires us to exercise self-control. And it requires us to surrender to the way of Jesus who calls us to be peacemakers. None of these things are easy to do.

My prayer for you today is that you will find the strength to do hard things as you fully place your trust in God.

Sincerely,
J. Daryl Byler

*NOTE: Former Senator Chuck Hagel was confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Defense, Feb. 26, 2013. Click here to see the full text of the speech he gave at Kansas State University, Feb. 20, 2003.

God guides us

3rd Sunday after Epiphany (January 27, 2013)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Nehemiah 8:1-10; Ps. 19; I Cor. 12:12-31; Luke 4:14-21

This week we hosted a group of Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) students who are spending the spring semester in the Middle East, led by Linford and Janet Stutzman.  The group of 30 students graciously squeezed into MCC’s small office in Amman to learn about MCC’s work in the region and to hear from several MCC partner organizations who work with refugees in Jordan.

EMU's Middle East students at Jordan's Arnon Valley (photo by Erin Rheinheimer)

EMU’s Middle East students at Jordan’s Arnon Valley (photo by Erin Rheinheimer)

Leila Diab, director of Jordan YWCA, reflected on how her childhood experiences as a Palestinian refugee have influenced her decision to work with refugee issues today.  Frances Voon, staff person with the Jesuit Refugee Services, spoke about JRS’s new higher education program for refugees and the challenges faced by Syrian, Iraqi, Somali and Sudanese refugees living in Jordan.

Amela Puljek-Shank (2nd from right) with Sisters Narges, Maryam and Azhar

Amela Puljek-Shank (2nd from right) with Sisters Narges, Maryam and Azhar

We also hosted Rick Janzen and Amela Puljek-Shank, outgoing and incoming MCC Europe-Middle East directors, respectively.  Daryl traveled with Rick and Amela to northern Iraq, where they met with MCC Iraqi partners — including Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who operate Kids House Kindergarten for some 240 children ages 3-5.

MCC Iraq program coordinator Jim Fine with Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

MCC Iraq program coordinator Jim Fine with Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

On Saturday evening, we hosted the MCC Jordan staff for a belated Christmas dinner.  It was a wonderful time of sharing food, stories and laughter.

MCC Jordan staff with Amela Puljek-Shank (l to r): Nada Zabaneh, Amela, Cindy, Kristy Guertin, Suzi Khoury, Willy Stell, Carolyne and Gordon Epp-Fransen

MCC Jordan staff with Amela Puljek-Shank (l to r): Nada Zabaneh, Amela, Cindy, Kristy Guertin, Suzi Khoury, Willy Stell, Carolyne and Gordon Epp-Fransen

In the region this week:

  • The Muslim Brotherhood boycotted Jordan’s parliamentary elections, Wednesday, due to concerns that the electoral system is weighted toward Jordan’s Bedouin tribes, who dominate the government and security forces.  Not surprisingly, initial results suggest that pro-government candidates will form a majority in the new parliament.  Jordan’s King Abdullah will appoint a prime minister from among the largest blocs in parliament, or someone approved by them.
  • Thousands of additional Syrian refugees spilled into Jordan, even as the Jordanian government prepares to open a second refugee camp. MCC is assisting the refugees through several local Jordanian partners.
  • At least five people were killed Friday in Fallujah when Iraqi security fired on Sunni protesters and worshipers.  For the past month, Sunni Muslims have been protesting what they perceive to be second-class treatment under the Shia-led Iraqi government.
Hanaa Edwar, general secretary of Iraqi al-Amal

Hanaa Edwar, general secretary of Iraqi al-Amal

The Common Lectionary readings offer glimpses of God’s guidance.

In the Old Testament reading, exiles who have returned to Jerusalem from Babylon ask Ezra the scribe to read the law of Moses to the assembled crowds. Ezra agrees, reading from early morning until midday.  His assistants then explain the law to the people so that they will fully understand God’s expectations (Neh. 8:1-10).

The Psalmist writes that God’s law revives the soul (v.7a), makes wise the simple (7b), brings rejoicing to the heart (8a), enlightens the eyes (8b) and warns against harmful ways (v.11).  There is great reward in keeping God’s commandments, the psalmist declares.

In the Epistle reading, Paul describes God’s plan for the church – the body of Christ.  Members are given differing gifts for the benefit of the whole. By functioning in unity, the parts of the body can effectively care for one another, both rejoicing and suffering together (I Cor. 12:12-31)

In the Gospel reading, the Spirit empowers the ministry of Jesus, guiding him to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captive and recovery of sight to the blind, to free the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of God’s favor (Luke 4:14-19).

In the midst of the chaos and suffering which seem so prevalent in our world, God’s guidance comes in many ways – through God’s written word; through the community of God’s people working together; and through God’s empowering Spirit.

Amela with MCC Iraq English teacher Deb Fine, outside Mar Qardakh School -- expected to become the first IB school in Iraq

Amela with MCC Iraq English teacher Deb Fine, outside Mar Qardakh School — expected to become the first International Baccalaureate (IB) school in Iraq