Saturday, December 13, 2008

Homeward Bound


So yesterday we said our final farewells and left Jordan. Twenty six hours later we landed in Portland OR, almost home!

We've got a week more of debrief and we're done!

Monday, December 1, 2008



Just posted some pictures. Lots of pictures. More pictures than anyone really wants to see. They're over at:

If you've seen our pictures on Facebook then you probably won't see anything new - it just took awhile to get them up on photobucket.

Thursday, November 27, 2008



Happy Thanksgiving!

Obviously this blog is way out of date, so I'll attempt to chronicle some of things that have been happening in our lives (including this picture).

First, some highlights of our travels while here in Jordan (we've visited quite a few places).

Clarke already posted about going to Israel, so I'll leave that at that. You can view more pictures of our trip on Facebook - unfortunately I haven't had time to add them on to photobucket.

After that we went out to the Dead Sea area to float around. That was fun, if a little bit salty. There are a number of nice spas and hotels down by the Dead Sea, but we decided to just find a free shoreline and "dive in" (as to speak). All you have to do is wade into the water about knee high, turn around, and sit down. You'll float. In fact, it's a little bit hard to get your feet back down onto the ground - also if you have any small cuts or anything you'll know immediately where they are.

That same weekend we went to Mt. Nebo which is where Moses was taken to see the Promised Land before he died. Although a bit of that was closed, it was still cool to see. The whole, "Hey I'm standing where people in the Bible stood" feeling hasn't really worn off yet. We also saw some nice mosaics in that area - including an ancient mosaic map of a large section of the Middle East.

We also made it out to some hot Springs, where King Solomon used to go and relax. That was... hot. It's really just some large pools of hot water filled by waterfalls from hot springs. You can just stand and get pounded on the back with falling water.

Last week we celebrated "Fanksgiving" - Fake Thanksgiving. It's fake simply because Thanksgiving is this week not last. But the food was amazing - turkey, mashed potatos, stuffing, etc... In fact, it was really more American than the Thanksgivings I have in America (at least in terms of food)! We also, for some reason, decided that it would be a good idea to dress up for Thanksgiving like we did for Halloween. That's what the picture at the top was about.

We also made it out to a church near Amman where Clarke and I gave about 15 minute (30 translated) sharings about what God has been teaching us. Around that area we also climbed on some ruins which was a lot of fun.

In terms of work, both Clarke and I have been teaching every week. We also meet up with students on somewhat of a regular basis to practice English and just hang out. The number of people during coffee shop has been up and down, but we always have a good time with the students every week. Our Arabic lessons have also been going pretty well - though we often don't have enough time to really study very much.

In our meetings with friends, we've learned a lot about the culture in Jordan. I'm constantly surprised by how small my worldview seems to be - how many ideals and perceptions in my life are cultural and relative. There is much to think about to be sure.

Well, we're going to be eating another Thanksgiving feast soon, so I'm off!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tradition and The Helpless


Ever since we've been back from Israel, our schedule has gained some momentum. A dinner here, a meeting there, a trip to thus and such place... Coupled with the fact that its been difficult to process our experience, has resulted in the delay of this blog. But in that time, we've had the opportunity to talk through the issues concerning this area of the world with one of the workers. I honestly had no clue what the real problems over here were, outside of an evangelical christian worldview. Or to be fair, an ignorant view, that was assembled from assumption and second-hand information.

To my knowledge, information that is processed subjectively; with a theory or philosophy waiting to analyze it, does not always yield a true picture. Speaking from hermeneutic grounds, that sort of a thing is considered isogesis. I get the impression that Israel and Palestine and the conflicts between them have been written by the majority (at least in America), because some predominant leaders' eschatology or maybe just tradition, assumes that the problems "over there" will be sorted out by God. If any of that is even true, I wouldn't be surprised that we feel this way. Problems always look insignificantly smaller when off in the distance.

But I'm close. Close enough to the hear voices. Close enough see the expressions on the faces of the people, and get a feeling of the despair that many Palestinians feel. Jerusalem was the closest I've been, and it changed things. I've seen a Christian, a Muslim, and a Jew walking down the same narrow street together, yet I cannot imagine that is what people think of when they sport a "coexist" tee-shirt or bumper sticker on their car. If it is, they need to re-evaluate what coexisting really means. Is tolerance the answer in and of itself, or is it a step among many steps in the right direction? My group and I just happened to be in Israel when two events occurred that made the news. The first was a fight between two priests in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Chris and I were perusing some shops just outside the gate, when Israeli police from everywhere rushed past us to secure the church grounds. The second took place on our return trip. We were passing through a neighborhood when we found ourselves stuck in traffic (of all places), creeping past Israeli police gaurding the house from its former Palestinian residents who had been evicted that morning. The family was evicted on the grounds that their house legally belonged to Jews, some fifty years ago.

Jerusalem is beautiful. The most beautiful city I've ever seen (keep in mind I've never been to Europe). The culture is rich, and the sights are breath-taking. We watched the Jews dance as they welcomed the sabbath, heard muslims call for prayer in the Old City, joined priests procession to the traditional site of the cross, and sat down in front of the Dome of the Rock, imagining what the temple would have been like with my bible open to its specfications (The Dome sits on the Temple Mount, where the old temple used to be). If I were a true tourist, I would have left feeling intrigued about ancient things existing in the modern, and that would have been that. And while I did feel that, when I returned to Amman the real problems that only were hinted to me in Jerusalem began asking hard questions. The religious wonder of it all seemed to lose face in sight of the injustices happening in the here and now. I have no answers, only scattered thoughts that wrestle with centuries upon centuries worth of history. Israel is on the front end of oppression against the Palestinian people, just watch the film Paradise Now or The Iron Wall. But the struggle has been ongoing, and neither are blameless. The only thought that stands out in my mind comes in the form of a question. Who will be the first to act like the world DOESN'T owe them something, and look past the offense to find peace? Essentially, who will be the first to love?

Jesus said, "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Mat. 10:34). It is good to ponder such things.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Not Weird, Different. (P3)


Honor and Shame

Before talking about honor and shame, probably one the the largest topics when discussing Arab culture, I think it is necessary to give a little more context about world cultures. If we just jump into talking about honor and shame without thinking of the cultural contexts (including our own), it is all too easy to judge their views as wrong.

Essentially all the ideas I'm going to talk about are taken from a book called "Honor and Shame" by Donald Muller.

When looking at world cultures, there are three main catagories of contrasting ideas that seem to drive culture. These are: guilt and innocence (Western), honor and shame (Middle Eastern and Asian), and fear and trust (African and tribal). There are probably others, but these three contrasting ideas seem to emerge clearly in cultures today.

First, let's look at our own idea of guilt and innocence. For westerners, justice (innocence) is paramount. If you have proof that you're right, if you can show evidence in court that demonstrates logically your argument, then you will win. Even if 100 people give testimony against you, so long as you can prove your innocence through facts, you will be justified in the end. The 100 liars will be ignored and the one who has the truth will prevail.

This idea carries through to our view of God and sin. We can often picture our position with God as a person in a courtroom. We have sinned - we are guilty, and condemned to death because of the wrongs we have done. We have all have broken the law that God laid out, and there is nothing that we can do about it.

So for us, justice and law are paramount. Now let's talk more about the culture of honor and shame (usually associated with Arab and Asian societies). For these cultures, one of the most important things is preserving honor - saving face. What people perceive is more important than what might actually be true. As long as people see you in a good light and think that you are honorable, you are in a good position.

For instance, let's say that you commit some sort of sin - like you stole something. Now as westerners we might think that the best thing to do in this situation is to confess that we stole something and own up to our mistakes. But in Arab culture, the best thing you can do is simply lie to preserve your family's honor. If you're lying to protect your honor, it's not considered wrong. In fact, the worst thing you could do is confess openly that you've sinned because it shames your family.

In terms of sin, Muslims believe that if no one see or no one knows you've sinned, it's not wrong. So long as no one finds out, it's actually not sin. This doesn't seem like it make sense, but we need to think about it in terms of an honor/shame culture. Honor and shame require a community to see - it requires people. If there are no people around to see your sin, then it's not shameful - it's not wrong.

Now that we have a little more of a grasp on our different cultures, let's see how they might play out in a situation. For instance, in World War 2 the Japanese (an honor driven society) often committed suicide instead of surrendering. To them, it was better to die honorably than to live in shame. We probably think that to be a little strange - why commit suicide for honor? How is honor worth dying for?

But let's try to put the situation into something more like our context. Let's take a Christian in Germany during World War 2. Our Christian, instead of killing Jews, stands up against the Nazis and is killed. To us, this makes perfect sense to us. People should stand up for what's right - they should be willing to die for what's right. To an Arab, this probably wouldn't make sense. If everyone in your society is doing something - if the honorable thing to do is fight for your country - then you should fight as well.

It's important to realize that this isn't a matter of right and wrong. It's not that our culture that values justice is "better" than a culture that values honor - they are just different. It's not as if Christianity was only built for one culture, it should be universally applicable - we just may not know quite how to apply it. God addresses all our needs - from our need for justice and fulfillment of the law to our need for honor and community.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Once in a lifetime... Okay, maybe twice.


I apologize for my absence on this page. This is mainly impart from my Mac crashing as soon as we got here. It is difficult to maintain such things as connectivity, updates, and blogs for that matter, when you lack a personal computer to do it with. I must say, I really believe God is using this time for something great, and I'm okay with not having a computer. I just pray that the time I would have spent using it is filled with whatever God plans to fill it with. And really it's exciting to think about what He's doing and will do.

I hope to give a little perspective into the physical demeanor of Jordan. Though the temperature here is still relatively warm, in comparison to what it would be back home (in Oregon), there are some signs of a change in season. I think Donald Miller sums up my impression as autumn comes upon us...
"It is fall here now, my favorite of the four seasons.
We get all four here, and they come at us under
the doors, in through the windows. One morning
you wake and need blankets; you take the fan out
of the window to see clouds that mist out by
midmorning, only to reveal a naked blue coolness
like God yawning.
-Excerpt from the Author's Note of Through Painted Deserts

Though Miller is referring to Portland, it has been a similar experience here. Except that this season is coming to us a couple months later than we're used to. Fortunately Chris and I have tiger print blankets to keep us warm as well as a propane heater. I have also found that scarves here are cheap and plan on not only practically adorning my own neck, but picking a couple up for friends in the states.

Well the next thing on the plate is a trip to an old, old city that is in a neighboring country with great significance to the foundations of what we believe in. We're going to Israel. The people here in Jordan don't talk to highly about the place. But that's besides the point. In talking to people, I have expressed how I want to see with my own eyes what it's like over there, and many have agreed that is a good idea. So now the wheels are in motion to make it happen. I will post less info about the trip, and more on what my thoughts are, in preparation.

I find the thought of going to Jerusalem to be unbelievable. It is as if up to this point in my life, talking about the place has been surreal. Almost like I know its real, but the likelihood of me going there is equivalent to the likelihood of going to the moon. Movies like Kingdom of Heaven or even Jesus Christ Superstar create a Hollywood fantasy for my perspective. As part of my Roots experience, I have been down a couple "Station of the Cross", but to go to the actual stations where the real thing happened... that's a whole other thing. Or to see the last remaining wall of the old temple and stand in (potentially) the same place the Jesus may have stood, catches me a little off guard. Even being protestant, alliance, charismatic, I've had my share in the symbolism of Christianity, which has meant a lot. But this, this is unheard of for me. This joy and blessing, is far surpassing. I don't expect this to be a pilgrimage or anything of that sort, and I don't imagine God will be more present in some supernatural way. What I do hope for, is that in the sight seeing and touristic activity, I can take away, even if just a memory, the reality that a story is unfolding that is bigger than me. Whether I'll walk away with a newly acquired state of humility or not, I want to be assured that not only there is a cosmic screenplay, but I have a part. Many thoughts have revolved around what I feel called to in life over the past 4 months. Though I've gained priceless insight into what I believe is God's heart for mankind, and better yet me, I hope this experience to be a physical manifestation of the knowledge in my head. What an adventure life has been up to this point, and how sacredly beautiful its continuation.
Pray for our journey.

Saturday, November 1, 2008



Ok, so here's a more normal blog post about some of the stuff that we've been up to - and yes, I realize we haven't said much about that in a long time.

Mostly, things have been pretty routine here - we've been teaching our classes, meeting up with students, studying a little Arabic, doing some training, going to church, the usual... We're starting to learn how to read Arabic, so that's been pretty interesting (and difficult - they drop most of their vowels when the write, lke ths).

Coffee shop has been going well. Our 2nd meeting was a goodbye event for one of the long time teachers here, so lots of people showed up to see her off.

Clarke and I also started baking a few goods (just using mixes) for the coffee shop.

Although we had a lot of people that night, we had much fewer the coffee shop after (Oct. 31st). Things were still good, we had good conversations with the students and I think that everyone is really having a good time... We just hope that more students will start coming.

Someday this week (Tuesday I think), our roommate received some good news and we decided to go out and celebrate. We dressed up and went out to a classy 5 star restaurant named Cinco De Mayo (no joke, it's a nice place) and had some good food.

Friday, of course, was Halloween. So to celebrate it, we decided to do some inverse trick or treating. Namely, we put together some candy bags for our friend's kids, then went over to each of their houses and delivered it (dressed up of course). The costumes may have been lacking some finesse but they were all heart.

And I guess that's about it for now!