Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Back Again, 2 Months To Go

God's timing is so good! I think He's trying to teach me something that I didn't know I needed to be taught. Okay, so after the chain mail incident, I headed off to the airport. I had been delayed for 1 day exactly. Everything went smoothly this time and the flight to Frankfurt was pleasant. I sat next to a really sweet Indian man who educated me a little on life in India. On the flight from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv, I sat next to an awesome believer who was going to Ramallah, of all places. I told her that I live right next to Ramallah and then we began chatting. She's from Chicago & she'll be working in the West Bank for almost a month. We exchanged e-mail info & made tentative plans to meet up while she's here - maybe even this weekend. After we exited the plane, the moment that I had been wondering about for so long finally came. I approached the passport control booth and the girl took my passport and asked me one question: "How long do you want to stay?" That was it?! I told her I wanted to stay until June 15th and she stamped it. I couldn't believe how easy it was. Even when I came to Israel the first time and didn't have all the visas that I have now it wasn't that easy. I was astonished and I knew that God really wanted me back here. Why at this time exactly, I'm still not sure, but He's teaching me to trust His timing. I was very pleased to find that my luggage had made it onto the plane with me (the one day delay had me worried), not only because of my stuff, but I had 25 bags of Easter candy to give to the American volunteers for Easter. I would've been heartbroken if something had happened to that candy. I happily gathered my precious cargo and headed towards the exit. Wilma had told me that she & Erin didn't have the truck, so I needed to take a bus to Jerusalem and then maybe a taxi to the apartment. I had been silently wishing to God that someone would give me a ride home, and I hoped that the lady I met on the plane would offer to drop me off in East Jerusalem since it's next to Ramallah, but she didn't. And so, I stood in the arrivals section trying to figure out which way to go to get a bus. Then I heard "psst, psst" next to me - I glanced around and saw a man trying to say something to me in a low voice. I looked at him wondering what he wanted and then out of nowhere Wilma and Erin popped up from behind him and surprised me. I was so shocked and excited that I screamed. It must have scared the man because he just took off; I still don't know what he wanted - maybe he was going to offer me some mithril to wear. ;) But Wilma & Erin were there and now I wouldn't have to find a bus and pay 50 shekels to get to Jerusalem and then another 20 or 30 shekels for a taxi. And it was wonderful to see my roomies again!! Of course we talked non-stop all the way home and most of the evening. I heard a lot of frustrations with school in their stories and I was glad that I hadn't been here these past few months. That may sound terrible, but it's true. God's timing. He knew it was better for me to be at home with my family, and indeed it was. And I've been told by a couple of people that they thought my plane was delayed in coming back so that I would arrive at just the right time to get in, and that may very well be true. Erin came in on the exact same day and time a week before I did, and she didn't have any problems either. It seems as though Friday @ 3:00 p.m. is an anointed arrival time. :)
And so I'm back. I haven't been to school yet because I've been sick ever since the Frankfurt flight. My throat started hurting suddenly on the plane and it hasn't stopped since. I can't remember having this kind of throat pain since I had strep as a child - I should probably go to the doctor, but I'm trying to gargle the pain away first. The highlights of being back so far (besides seeing my friends again) are the sunrise Easter service at the Garden Tomb - yes, I said sunrise...I got up at 4:30!!, and passing out the Easter candy. It was delightful to see the smiles on everyone's faces! I may try to go to school tomorrow...it'll be nice to see the teachers and the students again.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Past 3 Months/Heading Back

As I'm sure anyone reading this knows, I've been in Georgia for the past 3 months. My dad and my grandpa have both had health issues which are hopefully now resolved, or at least on the mend. It has been quite an emotional roller coaster in many ways, but like I've already told so many of you, God's timing for everything has been spot on. And now it seems as though His timing is bringing me back to Jerusalem for the next 2 months to finish out the school year. As far as I can tell, I'll be a teacher's aide (which unfortunately probably means substitute) for the bulk of the time, and then take Wilma's class for the last 2 weeks of school because she's leaving early - again!! - this time for her granddaughter's graduation. (She always has some sort of good excuse to get out of school early!) ;) When I come back to Georgia in June, my plans are to begin fundraising to be able to live in Israel and work with Chrissie S. in the ministry of reconciliation between believers. I have never attempted to raise support before, so this is going to be something new for me.
I'm now heading back to Israel and this is the 2nd day of my journey. However, the actual travel hasn't even begun yet. I arrived at the airport yesterday and 30 minutes after we were supposed to depart, they informed us that there was a broken piece of equipment on the plane. The plane couldn't fly without it, so they were waiting for the replacement to come in around midnight. I was going to wait and fly then, but I found out that if I did, I would have a 13 hour layover in Frankfurt and then arrive in Tel Aviv at 3 A.M. It wouldn't have been easy or fun getting back to Palestine at 3 in the morning, so I took the hotel deal and now I'm back at the airport waiting to leave at 5:50 p.m. I've had a couple of interesting experiences within the last 24 hours, one that I'll call my "almost, but not quite, mithril experience." I was in the hotel elevator and there was a man showing chain mail clothing to a woman. Because I'm such an LOTR dork, I asked him what it was. He told me it would fit me. - ?? - I said that it reminded me of mithril in LOTR. "They say that mithril is the chain mail that feels like fabric," he said as he held a section of it out for me to feel. I couldn't see what type of garment it was, but it was really nice work. He asked me if I was "interested" & I told him I was just curious. I found out later that that probably wasn't the smartest thing to say. He came up to me later as I was about to leave and told me that he makes his chain mail clothing by hand, link by link. He then told me that he's the best in the world - everyone who sees his work says so, and then came the clincher - he was part of a bondage wear/adult convention! Yikes. He makes the "clothing" for women to be photographed in; women such as dominatrix queens and Playboy playmates (he then proceeded to name names), and informed me that the sizes ranged from an A to a GG. And he doesn't sell any of his pieces - they are too special to him. So now I was a little uncomfortable. He unexpectedly started showing me pictures of his clothing, of course with models wearing the pieces, and by my reaction he knew I didn't care to see them. He continued to brag on his skills as a craftsman, "best in the world" was mentioned several times, and then he asked me if I was interested, meaning interested in posing in one of his pieces. I held back my inner reaction of disgust and appall, and politely told him no, and out of my embarrassment and discomfort I told him that I'm a missionary, and I'm not interested in that type of thing. It probably sounded a little haughty, which was not my intention, but it just came out. I told him that I only admired the craftsmanship aspect of his work. He then began educating me on the cause of the housing bubble dating back to Jimmy Carter -??, and then moved on to his high intelligence, his physical fitness, his age (57), and his single status. He admitted that he's not married because he likes to argue too much. And I haven't even left Atlanta yet...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

On Holiday

This has been an exciting, exhausting, and, on a couple of occasions, dangerous school year so far. (Not dangerous for me personally, but it has been for several of our staff.) I must say that I'm thrilled to have a holiday break. We were at school until 3:00 on the 23rd, leaving only one day to prepare for Christmas Day. I've told some of you that I felt a little cheated of the pre-Christmas vibe because of the late break from school, and my feelings haven't changed - I'm a little bitter. I'm still listening to Christmas music because I'm not ready to move on from Christmas just yet. One fun thing about Christmas this year, though, was receiving some gifts that were quite interesting. I'll let the pictures below do the talking.
As most of you know, Wilma has returned home for the holidays again this year, and of course she is very missed. I can't emphasize enough how quiet it is in the apartment without her - not that that's a good or bad thing, but she brings the exciting, full-of-life kind of noise to the household that makes you wonder what will happen next...because with her around, you just never know.
I don't really have any plans for this break, except that I am seeking God about what to do when school starts again on Jan. 8th. I have now finished my 3 1/2 month commitment to teach Mrs. Eva's 2nd grade class while she was out on maternity leave, and now that I'm officially not teaching a class, I'm not quite sure what's in store for me for the rest of the school year. I came back to Palestine/Israel this year not because I wanted to teach, but because of all the doors that God was opening up in the early months of this year (last school year), to see what He was going to do. I had already invested 1 1/2 school years at that point, and I didn't want to leave just when He started opening doors to the kind of ministry that I've been longing to do. And so, I agreed to come back to fill in for Mrs. Eva, and afterwards be a classroom assistant with no classroom responsibilities, so that I could also help lead some women's Bible studies (for our Arab teachers & for locals), help teach English to some of the local women, help lead extra-curricular programs at school (STARS, Bible studies, etc.), and also be able to work with Chrissie Shaheen in her endeavor to bring reconciliation between Arab and Jewish believers, especially women believers. My hopes are to not be tied down to the school, at least not to the degree that I have been. I believe that I received a Word from God at the end of the Christmas break last year, saying that I had "circled the mountain long enough...it was time to head north...make a right turn towards the vision & destiny of my core calling...what I had longed for but doubted could ever be was now at hand...." This Word was, let's say, perfectly timed with a request I had made to God in the summertime before I came back last year, and so I took it very seriously. At the time, I was sure that my core calling was for ministry of some sort, but not teaching. I was certain that I wouldn't come back here again because what would I do here if I wasn't teaching? And that's when all the opportunities for ministry here began to reveal themselves, and so, I decided to remain involved with the school & also get involved with these other opportunities that were presenting themselves. (Oddly enough, if I take the directions given in that Word literally, "head north...right turn...," from where we were located for the past two years, it leads to where we live now.) My dilemma is this: Ross has presented Wilma & I with a proposition to co-teach her 3rd grade class together and thereby half the workload for the class, which would supposedly free us up to do all these other activities. I must say that this idea doesn't sound exciting to me. I would be just as busy with the school as I am now, because to me, teaching kids all day, even with "half the workload," is still teaching kids all day, which can be an exhausting and consuming thing to do. (I love them, but oh my goodness....) Ross is being very gracious with this offer, and maybe it would be a good thing?? Needless to say, I would really appreciate your prayers in this. Thanks to all of you who are keeping Wilma, Erin, and me in your prayers and also to those of you who are helping to support us - again, we could not do any of this without you! I wish you all a blessed holiday season...

A Hot Water Bottle with a Hand-Made Cover from Miss Erin Humphries. She always knows just what to say.

Some Really Cute PJs from Autumn - who knows about life here much more than I do & understands how nice it is to get something in the mail.

Leggings & Socks from Harry & Carolyn. I can't say enough about how much you two bless all of us here. I love you guys! And leave it to Carolyn to make sure that we stay warm!

A Present from a Student. Just a regular black coffee mug, right? Oh, no...

This is what happens when it's filled with a yummy hot drink! Please note the best part: Know I am Not Berfect But I can Smile. It just doesn't get any better than this. Maybe you'd have to live in an Arab community to know why I love this so much...it's berfect.

Another view of the Mug of Me. See, it has my name and everything.

And yet another view. It's just that good.

Another Gift from a Student. I was wrong about the mug. It does get better than that - Jesus is the best gift of all. Points of interest regarding this Nativity: It says Jerosalem. Also, notice how lovely and white everyone is, and with blue eyes - even though you can't tell it in this pic. Even so, Jesus is the best gift of all.

Thanks to those of you who sent the gifts...you made my Christmas very special indeed! It's not all about the gifts though; thanks to all of you who sent me e-cards & Christmas wishes via Internet as well. I'm always so happy to hear from you guys!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Night Spectacular

Here are some pics from an amazing light show, "The Night Spectacular," at the Tower of David Museum. It moved from Creation into the history of Jerusalem all the way through to modern-day, and ended with a call to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. It really was spectacular.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Life in Between

Eating Fadia's amazing food.  I'm so happy!

Erin at Mamilla Mall.  A wonderful place to go.
Damascus Gate during Ramadan

Old City at Night

Wilma & Fadia in the Old City

This is where we go grocery shopping in Beit Hanina.  Wilma loves this tree!

A view of our new school.  It's huge! 

Some flowers on the road to school.

Our apartment building.  Ours is on the bottom left.
My Cozy Room.

 I'm holding Mrs. Eva's baby, Carmen.  Eva is the teacher I'm subbing for until Christmas break.

It's been over 2 months since my last post & so much has happened. First of all, I think we have a great team this year. There are around 19 or so American volunteers directly involved with the school this year and a few more that are indirectly involved. We have been praying that God would send people whom He has appointed and anointed to be here and that they would adjust well to living in this culture. It seems as though He has answered this prayer abundantly. The volunteers all seem to truly have God's heart for this challenging venture, as well as right motivations for being here. Not that all the volunteers that I've worked with in the past didn't have these - most of them were wonderful, but there have been a couple of people who either weren't here for the right reasons or they weren't suited for life here. And in this culture, just a couple of people can do a lot of damage. So then, thank You, Lord, for this great team!
The school and all the volunteers' apartments are still between a checkpoint and the wall separating East Jerusalem from the West Bank. We were promised that the checkpoint would be moved when school started, but unfortunately in this country you can't believe much of what people say until it happens. And such is the case with the checkpoint - it's still there. It can be a real problem for the parents and students at our school, as well as for our Arab teachers and even the American volunteers sometimes. The Arab teachers that live outside of the checkpoint are only permitted to be in our neighborhood during school hours, and so if any of them need to stay later for any reason, the soldiers may or may not let them pass through the checkpoint. Maybe you remember me mentioning my friend, Fadia. This is one of the problems she and her son face every day. When I invite her and Ameer for dinner or a movie, I have to be prepared for them to stay the night because they might not be permitted to leave. The soldiers will occasionally send people to a checkpoint miles away just to make them mad. It's easy to see why people here are so angry sometimes. As for Wilma, Erin & me, our visas are now officially expired. We have an appointment with the Ministry of Interior on November 12, in which we'll find out if we have to leave or if we can stay. Until then, we may or may not be allowed to leave our neighborhood, depending on the mood of the soldiers at the checkpoint, since we don't have a valid visa to enter Israel. The situation is quite frustrating, especially because the checkpoint is illegal - we are not in the West Bank, but we're treated as though we are.
Being between a checkpoint and the wall also has another down side: there have been a couple of serious instances of crime here involving our school - our school vehicles in particular. What happens is that people from behind the wall come into our neighborhood, commit crimes, and then go back through the wall to the West Bank because it's under the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government can't or won't do anything about it. And there is more than criminal activity going on against the school: some of our students are becoming increasingly violent and apathetic. We have been praying over the school for the past 5 Wednesday nights, and obviously the enemy is not happy. So for those of you who want to pray for us and the school, please pray for God's protection over all the volunteers, staff, & students at Jerusalem School and for the building & property itself, for wisdom for the administration as well as for the teachers, and for God to give us the strength to endure the attack of the enemy - that no weapon of the enemy would prosper against us - that we would not merely endure, but that we would resist this attack and fight back and be victorious, and that God would be glorified.  Also, please be praying about our visa situation. That's a lot to pray about, but then, there's a lot going on; and thankfully, God is more than able to handle all of this. 
On the lighter side, the neighborhood itself is so much nicer than where we lived before. The streets are clean, the buildings are really nice, there are lots of flowers and trees (we have a nice garden at our apartment), and it's so much quieter here. Our apartment is bigger and nicer than the one we used to live in, and I think it's safe to say that we all like living here much better than where we were before. And of course, there's no comparison between the old school and the new school. Our new school facilities are better in every way you could imagine. This new building is a blessing from God, and we know that He has great plans for the school, the students, and the staff. He has called us to something bigger and better than what we had before, and so it's quite easy to see why we are under so much opposition from the enemy. But God is and will be victorious, and I truly believe that His will for the school and for us will be done. Thanks to all of you who keep us in your prayers!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Update Coming Soon...

Still don't have wireless at the new apartment - I'll give a proper update as soon as I have some time. It's been ridiculously busy and chaotic, but overall, things are going well. There is a tremendous potential for great things on so many levels; it's just working out the initial problems that has been a little stressful - mostly minor things. Please pray that the checkpoint would be moved in God's time; we need it moved for school purposes, but at the same time, once they close the wall, our cheap labor will be cut off & we still have lots of work to be done at the school. Also, please pray that God would bring His alignment into all areas of the school. There are so many changes and new things to work out, and we really need His wisdom and grace in all of this. This is His project though, and I have no doubt that He will accomplish something much greater with this than any of us can imagine. He already has in so many ways - it's so exciting to be a part of it. Please pray!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Lot of Catching Up To Do

I fully intended to write about the rest of our Petra/Aqaba trip, but time truly went by so quickly and busily these last couple of months that I was never able to give the attention needed to finish the story. It's really too bad, because now you'll never know about our amazing adventures in Petra, which included a camel ride, getting ripped off again, spectacular scenery, Wilma's donkey ride, and other honorable mentions.The Treasury

My Fun Camel Ride

Wilma's Donkey Ride. (There is a much funnier picture of this, but she would kill me if I posted it.)

On the Edge of a Very High Cliff. Very dangerous. Look at how calm I am.

More Carved Stone. . .

My Summer Home/Guest House. As you can see, I had some guests. They didn't seem to understand that it's actually my house. I couldn't get them to leave.

My Winter Home. That little speck in the doorway is me.

Camels in Petra. I really like this pic.

And you'll never hear of our stay in Aqaba, which included getting ripped off yet again on the way there, sleeping in a mosquito infested room for a night, a romantic swim through the coral reef in the Red Sea hand in hand with an Arab man I had never met before - yes, indeed...please ask me about it (it's really not what it sounds like), and my miserable journey back to Palestine. (I was terribly sick, but God was wonderfully gracious; the kind people at the hostel in Eilat really helped me out!) It was a truly wonderful trip & I would love to go back someday.
About a month later, Wilma, another teacher named Mary (from Tennessee), and I decided to go to Turkey for our 2nd Easter break (Orthodox Easter). It was a really cheap trip, so that's how we were able to manage it. We went to Antalya - oh my goodness...the scenery was breathtaking and we had such a great time. We met such wonderful and interesting people - lots of Russian speaking people (which I absolutely love), the hotel was really nice, and there was lots of entertainment. I didn't quite know what to expect in Turkey, but I certainly had no idea it would be so beautiful. I must go back. The highlights of this trip were: meeting great people, an unexpected fashion show, the beautiful city of Antalya, and participating in the hotel's evening entertainment. This consisted of an Easter egg painting contest in which I tied with 3 other people for the best egg, and then had to do a dance-off to Justin Timberlake's "Sexy Back" in front of a room full of people to determine the winner. (Just so you know, the winner was the only guy in the dance-off & I don't think he even danced. I totally won.) The journey home was a bit frustrating because our plane was delayed for 7 hours, but it turned out well because we met some more really great people. It was a fablulous trip.The Fashion Show

Ridiculously Expensive Rings. Wilma's was worth about $250,000 & mine was worth about $500,000. Some people have entirely too much money. My ring wasn't even pretty-I can't imagine anyone paying half a million for that gaudy thing.

Waterfall In Antalya

Antalya's Harbor

Turkish Boat

Our Hotel.  Aren't the mountains deliciously mysterious??

The Coolest Chicken Ever.

Proof That I Won the Dance-Off. See, that guy's just standing there.  His wife was screaming like a banshee for him & that's why he won.  Seriously, I hesitated to put this pic up, but whatever. This is me, and yes, I did.

School was now coming to a close and there was no slowing down from then until the end. The last day of school was on June 4th, and I really miss my kids. I love them so much! Something really great happened during the last week, but I won't share it here...I'm sure that I'll have an opportunity to share it with most of you this summer. On top of the end-of-the-year responsibilities at school, we then had to start packing up our apartment as well. Jerusalem School is moving and so are all the American teachers. It was a very hectic time, but we did all that we could before we left. Wilma and I are now back in Georgia as of last Tuesday night, and as far as I know we'll be here until sometime in August. Erin and Eric stayed behind for a little over 2 weeks to help out with everything at the school, which is what I was intending to do, but there are 2 weddings that I wanted to be home for, and so...here I am. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be surrounded by family & friends and the beauty of NW Georgia again. I'm looking forward to a great summer break, and the leading of the Lord as to what exactly I'll be involved with next year in Palestine. Your prayers are greatly needed and appreciated. Much thanks to all of you who have kept me in your prayers this past year - I couldn't have made it without you!!