Wednesday, May 28, 2008

hello from Israel and points past....

May 26, 2008
Today was an instructive time. We both instructed and were instructed. We taught an in-service training course at the Oasis Hospital here locally at Al-Ain on Marital and Family Wellness, using 30 power points derived from John Gottman’s work, Biblical mentors, and our own experiences as a married couple over the past 26 years. About 30 doctors and nurses, technical people, and ancillary staff showed up—some for personal learning, others to get the CE credit. We opened and closed in prayer. This is an unusual opportunity, given the Islamic stronghold within this country.
We read from a hallway clipping, where the local Sheik was donating $100M to the hospital, expanding its capacity within 3 years from 40 to 200 beds; the article stated that “religion is for instruction and cooperative learning, not for violence and swords.” He allows this 50 year old hospital to distribute Bibles (the only place in the country), have chapel meetings, and be openly Christian. No evangelism among Muslims is allowed, however.
In our conversations with local workers we have been instructed in very useful ways. The unusual stressors of living away from home in a foreign country with wildly different customs and security issues was impressed on us in a different and more visceral way. The suffering and adversity some of our associates have experienced is sustained only by having a clear and resolute sense of calling. My hat is off to them as they live the life of a bowed knee before Papa. We were taught to listen in different, deeper ways that mirror our respect to these folks.
It was impressed upon us anew not to give advice or direction but rather to listen, absorb, feel, grieve, cry, or laugh with the workers. All this we knew, of course, as part of our training. But here we “knew” it better. The stuff one knows in the comfort of a safe, familiar office is different when the wailing calls of the nearby mosque are loud, jet lag is strong, and empathy levels are low due to being a “new-be” to the culture. It’s a whole new ball game. During this, our first out of five weeks, we hit some home runs and struck out a bunch. Bethyl counseled with a family whose young teenage daughter had been raped and then had run away. Other family and personal situations presented as well for counseling. It was humbling, tiring, and cause for occasional rejoicing. We became weary in the work but not weary of the work.
May 27, 2008
We’re at our Gate in the UAE Dubai terminal awaiting our Royal Jordanian flight into Amman. The stimulation inside the terminal mirrors the high concentration of sound, sight, and clutter all over Dubai. Construction of high rise buildings, hotels, bridges, roads; homes and apartments often surrounded by high walls; English alongside Arabic; modern raiment alongside fully veiled young and older women; white crisp long garments alongside casual and business attire for men.
Real estate investments are plentiful here in the tinsel glitter of Dubai where many houses are literally built on sands dredged from the shallow ocean floor. The ruling Sheik Mo, as they call him, increases his salable waterfront property in this fashion and they’re selling like hotcakes for $2M a pop and up. From all over the town, if the construction dust and blowing desert sand haze isn’t too bad, you can see the new office tower that’s a mile high. The world’s tallest building. It’s all leased out and it’s not yet complete. Foreign dollars, euros, yen, pounds, rubles—you name it-- is pouring in and mixing with Emirate dirhams to create a real estate bubble similar to California in the 90’s. If you’re not busy buying houses built upon the sand, you can go to the local malls to get out of the 130 to 140 degree summer heat. Here you can snow ski, ice skate, or otherwise get cooled off while being mauled by merchandise.
Walking along the streets of Al Ain I hear the regular loud wailing calls to prayer five times a day. The cries are undulating wails. Cries of a person in pain. My ears feel attacked with the man’s sadness. And then as you open a door within the Oasis hospital compound to hear a different call--a joyous, praising people--singing, lifting hands and arms in joy to the King of Kings. It takes some getting used to, folks.
We were challenged here once again at the guest house to try on for size this ministry as a calling. The couple running the place, D&B, made a good case for a couple of counselors working alongside them in an understated way. Live there. Serve breakfast a few times a week. Get face and grace associated with place. Like that. The traumas of the m-workers coming thru this place from all different mission agencies and all different countries in the Arabian Peninsula, the Stans, Africa, Indonesia, and Europe is palpable. Some come to this place and just stay in their room for a week, playing their guitar and singing softly; only coming out for meals—shell-shocked. Others fill up on medical appointments, buy needed supplies, and pig out on the western amusement parks, glitz, and glamour. Still others look for a counselor to pour out their hearts and get effective guidance on sticky issues, but no one is in residence so often they go without.
Is this the place for us, Lord? Draw our hearts in harmony as a couple to join D&B if this is your calling. I think it would be a difficult place to serve. But that is not the issue. Obedience is the issue. Make our path straight before our feet. We’re open, listening, willing.
We’re in Jordan tonight. Closer to His Land, as our friend emailed today. The wailing from the mosque is persistent. Meanwhile, I’m reading a most interesting book on how to discern and defeat the lies of Jezebel, Athaliah, and Delilah. We’re sleeping in a real bed for the first time tonight. Sweet! Thanks for reading, taking this in, and praying for what God’s places in your heart. I’ll say this ~ we see the desperate separation and loneliness from God ~ all around. Few evidence peace. This area is desperate for a Savior, but the Goddess of wealth and materialism is sweeping their affections and attention. Those who choose to come and serve and work here have our utmost respect. There are laborers ~ albeit few ~ the need is volumes deep. One certainly needs a resounding heartfelt call to come or you’re wiped out quickly. Speak Lord ~ even so some who read this will pray for peace here in the Arab States. It dawned on me earlier in having coffee with new friends that “God is particularly fond of the Arab children.”
May 28th 2008
Woke up at 3:30 this morning and out the door of the Holiday Inn here in Amman to Queen Alia Airport by 4 for a 6:15 flight to Tel Aviv. Once at the counter, no record of tix. Oh well. Bought two more. Made the flight.
Now Bethyl and I are on an express train from Ben Gurion airport to Hof Ha-Carmel for the convocation at our Dan Panorama Hotel. It’s curious to see young Israelis in uniform, male and female, with automatic weapons over their shoulders. It’s such an expected, casual daily affair in this society.
Reading from Isaiah 18, I am reminded by a friendly email from Suzanne that the Lord uses bruised reeds, smoking flax, and blind eyes to do His bidding. Lord: put new music in that reed, new fire in the flax, and new sight in my eyes. The purpose? To bring out prisoners from the prison and to be a light to Jew and Gentile alike. In the light of His Spirit we can first look inside to view visions and dreams; then we can apply these in practical ways with a forward looking vision.
I am reminded also, as we look at passing Israeli landscape, that this is His promised land for His people. He claims them even when they do not claim him. We, you and I, are part of that ongoing struggle. And over and over again I am reminded that this new vision, this new ground, will not be claimed alone. The battle will be won as a blended body of believers where each of us requires the other in order to be perfected in our own individual gifts. I am only a bit, a portion, intended to fit into the other bits, as a way of fulfilling the dream within and the vision without.