Archive for the ‘Friends’ 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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Our Dinner with Nasser

February 15, 2014

It was a Newberg kind of night here in Ramallah.  It was a zip up your jacket, turn up the collar and bend into the rain, kind of night.  The locals are pleased for the rain and I am reminded of home.  They tell me that since the big snow storm in December there has been no rain. It was a one hundred year storm, with as much as three feet of snow in some areas of Israel and Palestine. The rains have returned, however.  I have returned from dinner and am staying in an apartment next to the gymnasium where the Senior Prom is going on for Ramallah Friends School.  A very loud combination of American and Arabic Pop is streaming up and out of the gym.  Nasser asked me if I was going to Prom, I told him no and he said, “Yeah, cause you don’t have a date”.

Elizabeth and I went out with Nasser, an international (American) teacher here at the Friends School.  Nasser is from the Chicago area, so it is only fitting we went back to the restaurant run by the man who was a Chicago chef back in the States. I had chicken shawarma.  Nasser and the restaurateur had an engaging conversation in Arabic.  We learned from Nasser that there are many Palestinians in the Chicago area.  We had a very good conversation about Friends, Palestinians, Christian living and the Ramallah Friends School.  I really benefited from this conversation and feel fortunate to have eaten at the Old Chicago Grill (my made up name) for a second time during this brief visit.

Ah, the music! I must admit that its kind of a catchy refrain, but I can only take it so many times:

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn’t know I was lost

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.

Singing and Dancing

February 9, 2014

Sunday afternoon in the guest house in Musanze

The celebration for the opening of the Rwanda Friends Theological College is over and what a time it was!  I heard signing coming from down the road at about 0830 this morning, signaling the call to worship.  When I had left the church building where our in-service program had concluded yesterday evening, some men were setting up a tent on the road-side of the property, but it was the only preparation I actually saw by the time we left.

I walked down the road this morning feeling quite a bit better than I had felt the morning before.  I was not quite sure if I could sit through a four-hour worship service, but I was ready to give it a go.  My friends and colleagues had gone on ahead of me, as I needed a few more minutes of rest after breakfast.  I did have a little breakfast this morning, and the passion fruit was excellent, as was the African tea with ginger.  Ron and Carolyn Stansell joined us for breakfast.  Ron was invited to give the main address today.  He and Carolyn are on their way to Burundi and the Congo for consultation work there with the Friends churches.

As I arrived at the church site, the music continued, upbeat chorale music with dense harmonies.  I noted all the additional preparations that had occurred, with benches set up in the grassy compound, and already many people seated.  There were scores of people milling around the front of the library and the church building.  As I looked under the tent, I spotted some white faces on the far side and so I walked a little further down the road and entered the church compound through an archway festooned with balloons. I saw my colleagues sitting in the front row.  I went to sit down next to Debbi, who was on the left flank of our row.  A man approached me and moved me further toward the center on the row, next to Ron Stansell, with Nicodemous to my left. Carolyn sat on Ron’s other side and to her right were the mayor of Musanze and David Buchura, the yearly meeting superintendent.

Nicodemous had participated in our workshop and it was obvious that he was a well-educated and studious man.  Ron told me that he would translate for Ron when he brought the message.  I sat behind a table that had floral arrangements on it.  I sat on a very comfortable couch and my feet rested on a carpet.  I looked around me and behind me.  The entire tent area was filled with visitors and honored guests.  On the one hand, I was surprised that we had been designated as honored guests, yet, on the other hand, I realized that the typical cultural expectation here required us to be considered as such.singing

The singing continued, interspersed with a greeting from the presiding pastor and some prayers from various people.  The choirs performed to the accompaniment of electronic keyboards and so we got a very nice lilting, rhythmic effect from the music.  Many of the songs, Nicodemous told me, were composed just for this occasion.  Most of the choirs did wonderful dances as they sang.  At one particular moment, I noticed a young girl, probably about 4 or 5 who was dancing enthusiastically along with the choir. The joy of the Lord welled up inside of me and all I could think was, “My soul does magnify the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior”.  I recognized the significant blessing of the Lord in that place, the excitement of a gathered group coming to give thanks and celebrate the goodness of God.

Part way through the celebration, the master of ceremonies called honored guests to stand and walk to the steps of the Bible College building.  We were included in the delegation.  I realized that we would participate at that time in a ribbon cutting ceremony.  As the crowd of honored guests made it down the roadway of volcanic rock, I positioned myself at the bottom of the steps.  Habimana, the Principal of the College, called my name and brought me up to the top of the stairs.  The ribbon was cut and we proceeded into the building, receiving a tour. I am so glad we had taken the time to walk with the entire group of faculty in our workshop through the building on Friday morning, praying for each room.  This brief tour was like icing on the cake, the ceremonial opening.  I feel as if the faculty themselves actually dedicated the space as we did our prayer walk on Friday morning.  The tour ended with a peek at the library and a prayer for it.  We returned to our seats.

The ceremony went on with various prayers, messages and songs.  Remarkably, the program maintained the schedule and I thought I heard a joke from David Buchura referring to them being on Mzungu time for this celebration.  RonRon’s address was taken from Paul’s second letter to Timothy.  He did a nice job of working with his translator and the message was quite stirring and appropriate.  The worship time ended with a speech from the mayor of Muzanse and one from David Buchura.  The mayor was given two bibles as gifts, Ron Stansell was given a plaque in the shape of Rwanda with two hands clasped as a gift to be taken to EFI.  Lon Fendall was given three gifts, a floppy straw hat, a traditional eating bowl and a carved boat.  All were symbolic gifts to reflect the appreciation of the Rwandan Friends to Lon for his years of service in support of them and the RFTC.

At the conclusion of the service, the honored guests were sent back to the steps of the building.  It was to be a time of prayer, I thought.  It was a second ribbon cutting ceremony.  Once again, Habimana called me up to the front, this time, asking me to hold the ribbon as the Mayor cut it.  We entered into the building and there was lunch laid out for us!  I took very small portions.  We sat and visited in the same room we had eaten dinner on Friday evening, this time in a much more formal manner.  I asked Ron to tell me about the roots of the Friends work in Rwanda and he filled me in quite a bit.  Carolyn told me that a book he has written has chapters on this region.

At this Point, I’ll Take Nairobi

February 18, 2013

Max and I sitting in the transit lounge of the airport in Jo’burg, South Africa.  The airport here is huge and based on previous experience in Nairobi, I felt comfortable in telling Max we should just wait in the airport as opposed to leaving to go find a hotel.  Our plan leaves before 7 in the morning. At this point, i would prefer Nairobi with all is hustle and bustle, all the shops and the people milling around.  It is quiet here and I may be able to catch a nap. But, there are no shops and the only people here are sleeping transfer travelers and an energetic cleaning and maintenance staff.  I am grateful for good wireless internet access and for a fairly comfortable chair to sit in.

We were in the air about 11 hours, flying KLM from Amsterdam to Johannesburg. Max got off the plane from PDX and immediately entered the boarding area for our flight.  I was in Amsterdam for two days and had a marvelous day with Quakers in Amsterdam.  I was hosted by my friend, Paul Arora.  I took the train from Schipol airport, as I had been staying in a hotel with a shuttle service.  Most of the day Saturday was spent in battling jet lag and preparing my presentation to Quakers on Sunday. I got off the train at Amsterdam Zuid Station and after grabbing a grande Starbucks (about 3 Euros), I walked a short distance to the Tram and boarded Number 5 which took me to the Rijkssmuseum. This is the museum that Debbie and I visited in the fall of 2012.  From this stop, it was a brief walk to the Meeting House Quaker Centruum). I took a brief stroll in Vondel Park where Debbie and I searched for a labyrinth with Paul Arora on our last visit.  In the park I was approached by Bosnian exile who requested a Euro for breakfast.

The meeting for worship was attended by about a dozen folks, including a delightful 6 month old baby boy who scooted all across the floor while we sat is silence. We shared a potluck after the meeting, mostly bread and cheese and a quiche, which was very nice.  About 10 Friends remained for my presentation about our work in Kenya and Rwanda.  Several had traveled great distance to be here with us and I loved the conversation.  Later that afternoon, I went to Paul’s house to share tea with he and his wife.  We have a lovely time and then they drove me back to my hotel, the Ibis.

I will need to spend more time reflecting on the meaning of my day with Dutch Friends.  At this time, I am humbled and grateful to have met these folks and to have visited the meeting now four times in the last few years.  I will look forward to learning more with them and from them.

Dimensions of Peace

September 27, 2010

My impressions regarding our Sunday morning (9/19) worship service are varied. I was pleased to be hosting two Chinese professors who are visiting scholars at George Fox University. Alice and Catherine are professors of English at a University of Post and Telecommunications. They had expressed an interest in learning American culture by attending church. I thought the Sunday morning service was a good one to have them participating in as we were commemorating the International Day of Peace and having a service that was a little out of the ordinary. By hosting Alice and Catherine, and answering a number of questions that they posed about our meeting for worship and our barbecue afterward, I was able to think about the meeting and the meaning I make of it.

I tried to draw a word picture of sorts out of the raw material that came from the meeting. From the introductory comments that one of our worship leaders brought, I learned that the concept of peace is a multilayered one. From personal peace, to peace in the family, the community, the nation and in the world, each of us can focus on a different layer. I reflected on what was said, that we can get stuck if we exclusively focus on personal peace, looking to enhance our own well being and relationship with God; of if we are solely concerned with international peace. At either end of the spectrum, we could become so focused that we lose opportunity to truly reflect peace as God intends.

I found it hard to find a way of tying all the ideas together, but I reflected on the structure of the worship meeting, from the songs that helped us focus on the work of God in our lives to the specific activities that we were invited to participate in as part of the meeting. We had the choice to walk the path, to use the labyrinth, to make a peace flag or to read and reflect on quotes there were displayed in the sanctuary. During the story that my wife, Debbie read to the children I was challenged to reflect on what peace is like and how I experience it. I also realized that certain boys’ inappropriate words during the response time were probably inhibiting other kid’s participation, and I did not like that.

I invited Alice and Catherine to walk on the path which extends around our property with me. We were blessed with lovely weather and the walk was slow and lovely. We talked about church, worship, the property and the beauty that surrounded us. We also visited the labyrinth that had been set up in the gym and both Alice and Catherine walked it as I conversed with others. I recognized that I was in the presence of two persons who may have never been in a worship experience before this time. I did my best to be open and sensitive to their lack of connections with what we were doing. How is my commitment and outreach a “peace making” activity.

I reflect back on Stan’s sermon of the previous week regarding holy dissatisfaction. In my mind there is a distinction to be made between standing up to injustice or in carrying out peacemaking from an ethical sense of doing the right thing or challenging wrong doing and acting out of a transformed heart which is compelled to respond to God. However, do I dare speak against ethical stands for justice and peace? Should I only act on God’s clear direction? And how is my heart transformed anyway? Do my actions in doing good themselves cause a transformation?

These thoughts lead me to some of the reflections shared by others at the conclusion of this Sunday’s worship service. Again, I tried hard to find themes to categorize these thoughts, but could not easily group them. I heard that a need for Jesus is important and that stillness and a release of my need to control are needed to be at peace. I was challenged to think about how my brokenness itself becomes a venue for sharing light (a thought that Parker Palmer shares in his book; A Hidden Wholeness). This thought is actually one that will form a foundation for a webinar I am doing next Tuesday on balancing work and life. The audience will be educators who work in Christian schools and I have been thinking about maintaining a peaceful life related to our professional roles and responsibilities.

Regarding a peaceful life, we were challenged during the service to find peace inside so that we would be able to influence others. In order to find this peace, we need to give up our own rights and see that God may be investing us into something bigger than we realize. Spiritual renewal is hard work, in a sense; we are not passive in seeking or maintaining peace, but actively working toward achieving peace on the many dimensions from personal to international. One person made the point that strong and clear messages of peace can come from secular voices, and those are not to be ignored.