Missionary Stories

In the Heat of the Summer

Lebanon_08_2017_Church_Yard.jpgIt has been an intense, tragic and difficult summer in many places in the world. But here in the sweltering heat of Beirut, teams of young people, in their teens, twenties and thirties, are spending week upon week serving children in refugee camps, overnight conferences and full-day Vacation Bible School programs throughout the city as well as the country. With energy, commitment and creativity, these young people start their planning work months in advance and either design their own lessons or adapt curricula donated from churches overseas. They prepare anything from a week-long camp to a five- to six-week program that encompasses not just Bible lessons, worship and prayer, but also games and activities that stretch the children’s minds and imaginations. And they do it in Armenian, Arabic, English and French, and sometimes a combination of them!

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Palermo Perspectives: Having to Think about / Deal with Race

As part of my Global Ministries placement this summer, I am to share my reflections. So every couple of weeks, I will also send a “Palermo Perspective” to Old First, sort of a report since you all are making my summer service possible.

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Young Men of Military Age

When I first moved to Hungary I was often asked by well-meaning friends and family if I felt safe. What they usually meant by this was “I’ve watched the news and all those refugees are young men of military age – have they really come to rape and pillage!?”

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Drawing on Faith

I was 13 when the Nakba began. Afterwards, some of the Palestinian Christians we knew were relocated by boat to the border of Lebanon. The churches looked after those of us who were internally displaced.

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You Shall Not Pass: Christians in Jerusalem During Holy Week

“Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the
 Lord,
   to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
   and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
   and the word of the
 Lord from Jerusalem.” Isaiah 2:3, NRSV

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Give Them What They Want

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42)

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Don't Kick a Man When He's Down!

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The First Demolition Site

Today was a beautiful, blue sky summer day. My teammates and I had just finished a meeting with one of the analysts at the UNOCHA offices in Ramallah about all the humanitarian issues that we track together. As we boarded the bus back to Jerusalem, I thought to myself: "Gee, we haven't been to any house demolitions lately, isn't that weird?"  Predictably, that's when our phones began flashing an emergency text: Ongoing demolition of a house and under-construction structure in Al 'Isawiya.

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An Algebra Lesson

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Freshly painted playground
at the Nabil Samwil School

Algebra”, he said “is really just about making something that is broken, whole again”. Asam, a middle-aged Palestinian math and science teacher, dipped his bagel in hummus and thought for a moment. “I used to teach high school, but it was a struggle. The problem is that these kids have grown up as second class citizens under occupation and they have no drive to do better, to learn, to succeed. I feel like when I am teaching the younger ones, that I have more of a chance to point them somewhere good. They haven’t yet lost hope.

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Reflections on a trip to Turkey May-June 2017

Turkey_-_Frank__Ken___Betty_pic1.jpgFive years after retiring to California from our appointed work in Turkey, we unexpectedly received an invitation to return. The Health and Education Foundation in Turkey asked us to join them on a weekend in May for the historical dedication of a new school campus (see photo). We had worked as colleagues with the Foundation for several years before our retirement, so we knew what this invitation meant, and we were honored to accept.

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The Call to Be Small

John 6:5-15

The following message was delivered at the Near East School of Theology's 85th Commencement on June 10, 2017

The church today, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, is living perplexing and challenging days. No matter what the sphere of human existence – science, culture, the family, religion, the arts, education, technology, politics, economics, and on, and on, and on… – the terrain around the church is shifting to the point of unrecognizability, making it difficult for Christians to find and keep their bearings. And one of the most basic challenges, and one that we often overlook because we rely so fully on it, is the propensity to quantify life – to render it in numerical terms. This has completely overtaken the church, individual Christians, and anyone who holds a smart phone or sits at a computer, such that we don’t realize how fully it has changed our perception of the church and our fellow humans. Look at the term we so blithely use to describe our age: the “digital” age. Digits. Numbers. Ones and zeroes. That’s all it is, you know. All the pictures in your photo album, all the messages you launch hither and yon, all the voices you hear on your phone, all the cat videos and breaking news reports you take in are just ones and zeroes. You and I have become virtual ones and zeroes in this brave, new world.

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