Tag Archives: SALT

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.

The tongue of a teacher

16th Sunday after Pentecost (September 16, 2012)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 50:4-9; Ps. 116:1-9; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38

The new MCC SALT volunteers finished their Arabic language study in Amman this week.  Cindy helped them settle into their new settings.  William Stell will be living in Salt and working at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf. Kristy Guertin will be a teacher assistant at the Arab Episcopal School in Irbid.

Kristy and Willy at the Holy Land Institute, along with another volunteer, Raphael

Muslims across the region have reacted angrily to an anti-Islam movie allegedly produced by a Coptic Christian in the United States.  The low-budget movie portrays the prophet Mohammad in a compromising way.  The offensive movie tapped into growing anti-American sentiment and demonstrators protested at U.S. embassies across the region, including Amman and Cairo.

Protesters near the U.S. embassy in Amman (Reuters photo by Muhammad Hamed)

In Libya, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed when the embassy was stormed.  It is not yet clear whether the action was part of the demonstrations sweeping the region or if the perpetrators simply took advantage of the chaotic conditions.

Stevens was the former Iran desk officer at the U.S. State Department and then served as a staffer to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) before his international assignment in Libya.  He was a strong supporter of MCC’s people-to-people exchanges between the U.S. and Iran.

There are now more than 200,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, with more than 30,000 at the Za’atari refugee camp outside Mafraq.  The first wedding was held in the camp this week, with a couple from the southern Syrian town of Daraa marrying in a non-traditional ceremony.

Huthaifa Hariri from Daara is the first to wed in the Za’atari refugee camp in northern Jordan (Photo by Muath Freij for Jordan Times)

While political tensions with Iran continue to grow, MCC — through the Iranian Red Crescent Society — is providing assistance to families affected by the recent earthquakes in northwestern Iran’s Azerbaijan province.  In addition to cash for local purchase of tents and sleeping bags, a shipment of blankets will be sent this coming week.

The Common Lectionary readings focus on the power of teachers to influence others for good or for bad.

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher,” writes Isaiah, “that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.” (Is. 50:4a) Isaiah says the secret to being a good teacher is “to listen as those who are taught.” (v.4b) Isaiah’s ears are daily opened to God’s call; he is not rebellious (v.5). He endures ridicule because he trusts God to vindicate him (vv. 6-9).

Likewise the psalmist walks “before the Lord” (Ps. 116:9), trusting God to protect and deliver him even when he suffers “distress and anguish” (vv. 1-8).

“Not many of you should become teachers,” warns the Apostle James, “for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1). James describes how difficult it is to control the tongue.  While the tongue can be used to bless God (v.10), James says it also “boasts of great exploits” (v.5), is “a world of iniquity” (v.6), a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (v.8) and is used to curse others (v.10).

In the Gospel reading, Jesus teaches his disciples a difficult truth that they are not ready to hear.  “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders . . . and be killed” (Mark 8:31). Furthermore, Jesus tells them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (v.34)

It’s back-to-school time.  Here students gather before classes in the school courtyard in Bethlehem

This week we have witnessed the power of words.  A movie with a message denigrating an esteemed religious leader has incited crowds across the Middle East.

Not many should become teachers.  Teachers are judged with greater strictness as their words and examples shape the behaviors of their students, for good or ill.  When teachers spout hate-filled words, denigrate other faiths, belittle other cultures or articulate bad theology they help shape that attitudes that can lead to violence.

But teaching can also be an honorable calling.  It offers great opportunities – to encourage the weary, to speak difficult words about divine truths, to bless others and to model a trusting relationship with God.

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.