Archive for the ‘Community’ category

Meeting with Friends

February 16, 2014

In a few hours, Friends at North Valley will have their worship time.  Following worship will be the annual chili cookoff.  Sadly, I will miss the event this year.  I enjoy making chili and I do enjoy entering a new chili into the competition each year.  I also enjoy sampling the various chili dishes that others bring! I am sure that many will join in and have a great time of food and fellowship.

Today, I had the opportunity to worship with Friends at the Ramallah Monthly Meeting.  This meeting had about 15 people in attendance.  Friends from Palestine, Germany, USA, England and Sweden gathered in the meeting house that was built in 1910. 2014-02-12 04.50.51After the meeting, we had a time of fellowship in the annex, where tea was served and  lively conversation ensued.  I went to do a little shopping and then met up with Jean Zaru, the clerk of the meeting, and about 10 Friends at the Nazareth Restaurant.  The menu was in Arabic so Jean helped us order.  The falafel was great, as was the entire meal! Jean shared with me about the history of the meeting and of the Friends School in Ramallah.  I enjoyed visiting with the others gathered around the tables, including a German fellow who was working on a project to introduce animation as a teaching and learning device into Palestinian schools.

The meeting for worship was unprogrammed, with the clerk giving a brief introductory comment and greeting.  We sang two songs during the meeting, one was a hymn from the mid 1800s and the other was Song of Peace, to a Sibelius tune, Finlandia. The sense of the meeting, and confirmed through vocal ministry was that the love of Christ is manifest as people step out to represent hope, justice and peace to their world.  What a blessing to be a part of this time of worship.

I will be leaving soon to begin my long journey home.  I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends.  I am also looking forward to learning more about what is next for me in my journey along the path.  I am grateful to have had this time to serve with Friends in Africa and in the Middle East.  I am grateful for all that I have learned and for what has been given to me.  I have been welcomed as an honored guest and I accept that welcome with appreciation and joy!

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Hens and Chicks in Jerusalem

February 14, 2014

RampartsElizabeth and I rode the bus from Ramallah to Jerusalem.  Bus Number 18 moved quickly from the main bus station, just a block away from the Friends Boys School, and before we knew it we were at the security checkpoint.  Two Israeli soldiers formed the team that got on the bus to check papers. These young men, with their guns slung over their shoulders moved quickly through the bus, looking only for a brief second at my passport and visa.  The whole stop seemed to take about three minutes, though the waiting in line to get to the checkpoint was quite a bit longer.

Soon after getting underway, we arrived at the bus station near the Garden Tomb.  There, Retha greeted us and we went into the Hotel Jerusalem to have coffee and tea. I had the chance to have maramiyyeh tea again.  A teacher at the Friends Girls School offered it to me when I visited the teacher’s lounge and it was excellent!  Maramiyyeh is a type of sage and it gives a great fragrance and taste to the tea.

After our drinks, we walked into the old city, entering through the Damascus Gate.HPIM1920 This is one of the iconic scenes of Jerusalem.  Upon entering the gate, we began a journey up and down hilly narrow streets that were packed with people and lined with vendors and their wares.  You name it, there was everything to be had in the Arab Quarter.  From the bustling streets of the Arab Quarter, we came upon the entrance to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount area.  My colleagues waited for me while I walked into the men’s plaza down to the Wall itself.  Another great icon of Jerusalem, indeed, the world.

After more wandering, we found a cafe to have a drink and we talked.  Later, after a long hike along the Wall, we returned to the cafe for a buffet lunch. The views from the walls were amazing and somewhat nostalgic, as the various famous sites near and in the city were there for the viewing.  I saw the Mount of Olives, as well as the Kidron Valley.  After our lunch, Retha left us so that she could return to her place in the Old City.  Elizabeth and I left the city through the Jaffa Gate and then walked along the outside of the wall all the way back to the Damascus Gate.  On our way back to the bus station we come up to the Garden Tomb.  This was an interesting “attraction”.  A Christian group has purchased and preserved a garden area that is purported to be the place of the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Guided tours were provided and the guides were quite good.  I followed two groups around and enjoyed the banter provided by the guides.

Leaving the Garden Tomb area, we made our way back to the bus station.  Just as we were moving to the buses, a young man shouted at us and Elizabeth figured out that he was a smaller van driver who was offering to give us a ride to Ramallah.  About seven of us rode the van.  He asked ten shekels for the ride, two more than the bus charged.  What a treat it was to ride with this fellow.  He was fast and assertive.  He ended up doing some very fancy driving through the checkpoint area that probably saved us at least 30 minutes although my heart may have stopped a couple of times during the trip. The driver let us off on the street right in front of the Friends School.

My day trip to Jerusalem may be a once in a life time experience.  It was a very enjoyable and memorable trip and I am glad I had the opportunity to make the journey. It was pretty amazing to think that Jesus walked through this area several thousand years ago.  It seems that the response that the city had toward Jesus was not quite what he would have liked.  As is stated in several of the gospels, here is how Jesus viewed the city:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing (Matthew 23:37).

Won’t you please come to Chicago…?

February 13, 2014

Elizabeth took me out to eat last night at a restaurant near where I am staying at the Ramallah Friends School.   I was very weary from a long journey from Kigali and from lack of sleep.  I was hungry though and the walk down the street was quite stimulating.  It is great to be here and to hear how Elizabeth is doing and what is going on here at the school.  The restaurant was busy and I glanced admiringly at several tables, seeing some really good looking food.  The man who greeted us recognized Elizabeth and he warmly greeted me and seated us.  Elizabeth had a sandwich (a wrap) with lamb, I had a pita sandwich with falafel. The food was fresh and tasty.  It was very good.  The greeter/waiter appeared to be the owner.  I told him I was from Oregon, USA and I thanked him for the wonderful meal. He told me he has learned to cook in France and then was a chef in Chicago for a time.  I suggested to him that Americans would love the type of food he was serving in his restaurant here in Ramallah.

2014-02-08 11.38.17 This is a large city of about 300,000.  There has been a Friends school here since about 1900.  Essentially this school was established at about the same time as George Fox University. I begin my interactions with school personnel shortly and greatly look forward to it.

I am grateful to be here and to have this opportunity to see Elizabeth Todd again.  She is serving as a Friend in residence here at this school.  Last summer, she issued an invitation to me to come and visit and I am glad that I was able to coordinate this visit by adding it on to my trip to Rwanda.  What is interesting about that is that she has worked with a number of the Quaker leaders and pastors who were participants in the training that we did last week at the Rwanda Friends Theological College in Musanze.  Several of them, when they found out that I was coming to see her, asked me to send their greetings to Elizabeth.

I cannot quite make sense out of all the different impressions I have so far.  The combination of weariness, lack of sleep, wonder at being in a new place, amazement at the contrasts in the landscape, similarities to rural Kenya and the warmness of the people I have met, have made my first day and night in the West Bank a truly amazing experience.  This morning as I prepare for my day, I remembered a couple of lines from a Graham Nash song from 1971: “We can change the world, rearrange the world, its dying- to get better.” I pray, with God’s help that I can change myself, rearrange myself.  I cannot help change the world if I cannot change my own life.  I am so thankful to Christ, my Present Teacher, for his patient shaping of my life.

Won’t you please come to Chicago, no one else can take your place.

Amazing Women! (and Men)

December 8, 2009

What an incredibly rich day I had today.  There is too much to tell in a brief post, but I will share a few highlights.  Today, without a doubt, and more than anything else, I recognized the beauty and splendor of people working hard to fight against poverty, injustice, violence and hunger.  I am humbled and amazed at these wonderful people and their work.  Today was the second day of the conference that I wrote about in my previous post.  I met and spoke with several truly remarkable women.

Gretchen Wallace is the founder of Global Grassroots.   This organization is supporting grassroots efforts by women to tackle tough problems in their community.  “Global Grassroots’ goal is to catalyze the development of conscious communities of change agents who will work independently, collectively and systemically to advance social change for vulnerable women and girls.” Gretchen is working in Rwanda.  Please go to their web site and learn about the work.  Gretchen and I had a chance to visit for a few minutes at the beginning of the opening session today.  It turns out that she is acquainted with the work that Debby Thomas is doing with women and the moringa trees.  Gretchen concluded out visit by saying, “Oh look, there’s Swanee.”

I turned and saw Swanee Hunt enter the meeting room.  She gave the keynote address today.  Go here to read the biography of this energetic and accomplished woman!  Swanee gave a great address.  She spoke about women and political power.  Rwanda leads the world with the percentage of women as parlimentarians (56%), which far surpasses the next closest nation, Sweden.  The talk turned to a good interactive discussion with participants sharing with each other liberally during her time with us. This was a fascinating discussion, including a sub topic which was excellent, an examination between gender statistical norms and averages versus the wide ranging variability of temperment, values and strategies of individual men and women.

Hunt shared the best quote of the day, referencing the fact that usually woman who serve at the ministry level (cabinet in the US) usually serve in positions of ministering to the marginalized (women, the ill, the poor), as opposed to men who serve as ministers of labor, defense, and state.  She said, “Ministers for the marginalized people become marginalized”.  Think about this in the context of your own personal work.  Could it be that at times we step back from helping the most needy because we will become invisible, non-appreciated or even cast out?

I spoke with Winnie Muhumuza of the Rwanda Women Community Development Network. We talked about the challenging situation facing teachers in Rwanda.  She also shared with me some of the projects that her organization is involved with, most of which centers on providing safety for abused women, opportunities for health, education, training and employment.  I was counting my blessings the whole time, yet realizing that I am grateful for people like Winnie who are working very hard to help those in great need.

I had lunch with Justine Mbabazi, a Rwandan legal advisor who works for USAID and currently serving as the chief advisor to the vice president of Afghanistan. This very accomplished woman helped draft the Rwandan constitution after the genocide in the early 90s and is now assisting the Afghans develop and implement their new constitution.  In response to my quey regarding American military operations in Afghanistan, Justine delivered an eloquent and persuasive argument in favor of US intervention there.  She had the whole group sitting around the lunch table engaged is a very lively discussion about Afghanistan and its issues.

After lunch, were divided up into groups and worked on a project in identifying resources for the new Centre for Gender Studies at KIE.  My group examined possible academic partners.  There were four of us in the group, Jamie, a recently graduated intern from UNC Chapel Hill who was working with Shirley Randell at the Centre; Adeline, a staffer at KIE, and Magdelena, a professor from the University of Dar es Salaam.

I’ve featured the amazing women today, I will report on the men in a future post!

NaNoWriMo and Away I Go

November 28, 2009

Yesterday, I accomplished my goal of writing 50,000 words on a novel during November.  I have been participating in the National Novel Writing Month.  This international effort supports would be novel writers with a tremendous network of online and local support.  I joined a local writing group in Yamhill County and also a group in Second Life.  Several friends were very supportive of my efforts and my family took great interest in my writing.

The Novel is tenatively titled Past Northwest. It is s0mehat difficult to identify the genre of this work though I would say that science fiction is the best category for it.  To see some pictures of a local NanoWriMo event, held in Newberg, go here. There seems to be quite a community of emerging or at least hopeful writers out here.

This project has been a lot of fun, and hard work.  I am guessing I have another 25,000 words to add to finish it off, but I am taking a few days off, as I am now preparing for my next project.  I will be leaving soon for another trip to Rwanda.  I will be traveling for about three weeks, during that time I will stop in the Netherlands to see friends there, and then on to Kigali, Rwanda to work with faculty and administrators at the Kigali Institute of Education.  Depending on availability of internet while I am traveling, I will be posting here.

I appreciate your prayers for my travels for my family and for the work in Rwanda.

Homemade Burritos and Lively Friends

August 24, 2009

Yesterday was a wonderful day for us in Kigali. We had a full day of activities on Sunday. Interspersed between all the activity, I continued reading A Thousand Hills, by Stephen Kinzer. This book is the story of the rebirth of Rwanda, from the time leading up to the genocide of 1994 through 2007. The book features the role of current president, Paul Kagame in the transformation of the country.

Debbie and Paul and I met David Buchura at the top of the hill, by the Moto Taxi stop.

Kigali Taxi

Kigali Taxi

He took us to the small Friends church where I had visited the day before. We arrived about 0930 and a Sunday School class was going on in the building. We were ushered to seats near the front. At the conclusion of the class, we were asked to move forward, to the second row. A fellow from Maine was also there, and he joined us in this row. David had two young men sit between us to serve as translators for us.

The service was filled with music. Worship leaders led the singing, which was accompanied by a Yamaha keyboard, cranking out much more music than Paul used to when he used the same instrument while performing with Roy, during his college days. A children’s choir also sang, and several young people did solos. I only recognized one tune. Most of the songs were up tempo. People were quite energetic and there was a lot of joy and enthusiasm. I introduced myself and our family and gave a greeting from North Valley Friends and George Fox University. A young man, who was a graduate of George Fox School, preached. He was loud and forceful. His message was on faith. After the service, we stood outside and were greeted by many folks. A meeting for business followed the worship service, so most of the adults went back inside. David drove us back to the taxi stop. We were pleased to have been a part of the service, my second African church service. This one was in Kinyarwandan. In 2003, I attended a service in Okihandja, Namibia, which was in German.

For lunch, Debbie, Paul and I walked to an Ethiopian restaurant. We had a good meal, which seemed to be fairly traditional. My meal, a chicken in spicy sauce dish, was served atop a huge flat bread, accompanied by a hardboiled egg and some homemade cheese. It was quite good. Debbie had the same dish that I had and Paul had a beef dish.

Aryn drove us to the Friends compound and we joined the Thomas family for dinner. This is the first time that we had met David and Debby Thomas and their four children. David is the son of Hal and Nancy, who attend North Valley Friends Church with us (when they are not traveling around Central and South America). We got a tour of the missionary compound and learned some history of the family’s time in Rwanda. Debby and David are doing much work in transformational development, and so over dinner we learned quite a bit about the work. We had homemade burritos with guacamole and salsa, it was a wonderful meal. We were blessed to have had the opportunity to meet the Thomas family. I will write more on their work in a subsequent post.

Naming our Hopes and Fears

May 22, 2009

I have been in places where I find it hard to name my hopes and fears, and I sense that others may be in those places at times, as well. I think about why it is difficult to reveal an inner fear or hope, yet I believe that is has something to do with not wanting to reveal who I am to others. And if that is so, why is it hard for me to reveal who I am to others? Is it because I fear that I will not be accepted? Could it be that I wonder if I can be forgiven or perhaps that I have not forgiven myself? Perhaps this hiding has to do with my concern that I will not measure up to ideals of being or performing which I, or those I want acceptance from, hold.

God may not be a respecter of persons (see, e.g. Romans 2:11 and Job 34:19), but people certainly are. Every conceivable way in which we can discriminate, choose and judge amongst people is routinely done. We favor beauty and intelligence, we frown upon ugliness and disability. We comfortably affiliate with those who are like us and often avoid those who are not. Body type and body size are factors by which men and women judge one another. Skin color creates a range of response from admiration to disdain. In reflecting on how we react to human behavior, I believe that we are also judgmental. Great feats of athleticism are praised, simple acts of life are often overlooked or disregarded. Errors are often condemned, while compliance is either taken for granted or expected. Judging and discriminating are real and legitimate human actions in particular contexts, while in other cases, totally inappropriate.

It does not surprise me when I find myself concerned about how others may see me, judge me, or regard me. While I think this is a fairly normal human response, I also realize that God would have me see that all people are loved and accepted in God’s kingdom. While innate characteristics and God-given gifts and abilities may allow us to excel or lag behind others, do these attributes also cause use to be ranked and judged? How do I get to the place of sharing myself openly, realizing that my openness may bring reactions that I am not comfortable with? Will I trust God enough to know that while I am not perfect and will never measure up to everyone’s ideal, I am still able to do much of what I am called to do and be all that God has made me to be?

I name my fear of being rejected, and my hope of being accepted. I recognize my joy in being affirmed and my sadness over being discounted. In my recognition, I sense that others are like me.

Dear God, help me to accept and affirm. Help me to judge appropriately, as you do, not as the world does. Help me to celebrate your creation, including those made in the image and likeness of God.