Sunday, November 27, 2011

Reflections on the Roof :)

This is a picture I took three years ago on my first night here.

My first night in the city as the call to prayer rang out, I was in awe. The etherial sunset behind the famous blue mosque, its Adhan (call) echoing the others, and the smell of shwarma below enchanted me. I couldn't miss the chance to capture it on camera. Beautiful.

This roof became the place where I would sleep on hot summer nights, hang my laundry, grill Arab barbeque with my neighbors, make penny wishes with visiting college students, sing with my roommate, and listen to the call to prayer.

Over time, listening to these sounds on my roof became an act of faith... trusting that one day His voice will be heard. Not because of me, who neither began the work nor will finish it, but because of His faithfulness to a work that is ancient.

My roommate and I often stood on the roof overlooking the city, imagining our songs and 'thoughts' mingling with those ancients (Moses, Aaron, the 12 tribes, and many whom we have never heard) who lifted hands on this very same sand just a few thousand years earlier. We pictured Him, who exists outside of time, receiving all of our praises as one as they rise up together from the desert.

As I remember those who have gone before us, my 'faith eyes' can almost see the completion of 'Ancient Work' when one day my neighbors and friends will join with us in the great multitude of lifting hands.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Silly Signs Around Town

If you want a haircut, stop by the 'New Look' barber shop. I LOVE it!

Ready for a night on the town? Check out the Big Big Party!

My favorite: a huge poster displaying a baby smoking hookah! (This tobacco-water pipe is more damaging than regular cigarettes!)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Little Explosion, Morning Prayer

With chopped hair and a husky voice, her studded earrings are the only sign that she is not a little boy. Her skin is unlike the olive shade of most Arab girls, but is blackest black, meaning she came from a Bedouin tribe in the Jordan Valley. My first day at the orphanage last November she only spoke to yell at the other girls, and during the game of Go Fish she steathly switched the cards in her favor. When I attempted to give her a hug goodbye, she slipped out of my arms and refused to look at me. Her name is not easy to forget. "Fajer." "Explosion."

The change came gradually, perhaps after my friend praised her for not cheating, or as she calmed and warmed to the presence of both Jordanian and American women who came to love her. A gentleness began grow in her spirit.

Fajer doesn't have a mom to brag on her, so I will brag on her. I want people to know that she is the best color-in-the-lines eleven year old in Arabia. She loves approval of her pictures and points out her ability to color Sponge Bob in perfect shades of pink and purple. At the end of the day, she is a superb helper and often scrapes away at the play dough stuck deep in the carpet and gathers paper clippings. When other girls cry, she runs up and whispers in my ear that someone is in need of help.

The statistics of Fajer's future is not in her favor. Fifty percent of all girls who leave the orphanage at 18 become prostitutes, and 10 % commit suicide. In this culture, decisions about who to marry and even who to hire are based on family. Businesses are hesitant to hire a girl 'without a name' even if she has the skills and capabilities. Money is not the solution needed for Fajer right now- its hearts that are open to accepting a girl without a family name, Arab women that encourage their daughters to play with her at school, and local businesses that risk hiring girls without any name or honor.

Last night as Fajer and I finished an Arabic cartoon, I asked again, "Your name means 'explosion?"

In her beautiful, raspy voice she answered, "It can also mean 'morning prayer."

We said goodnight, and I watched her walk down the hall in her over-sized coat and in steps that had the sway of a tired old man, as I thought about the real meaning of her name.

Morning Prayer. Little Explosion is really a morning prayer.

"His mercies are new every morning."

I am brought to my knees in grief for Fajer and for her future, yet I place my hope in the One whose mercies are new every morning and the One who adopts sons and daughters as His own.

"In the morning, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." Ps 5:3

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Thank you! Thank you, so much... we love all of you Americans! Please, will you take our picture with us?" exclaimed a misty-eyed Libyan girl on the top of Mount Nebo.

Slightly embarressed at the un-deserved thank you, Sabra and I gathered with the family, making peace signs at the camera. They handed us buttons with Libyan flag and an Arabic inscription, "Free Libya Revolution."

It was the day after Gaddafi died. They have the chance to begin anew. While I do not support the cruel death of Gaddafi, my heart celebrates with this sweet family and their countrymen with hopes that better changes await.

The gratitude shown by the Libyan family was the first time being American has had a positive impact with my Arab friends. The typical response from families in this part of the world is to welcome me with hospitality, while assuring me of their distaste for my government. Because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, foreign policy that supports Israel, the Crusades, and a long history of colonization by the French, British, and Italian, governments in the West are seen as exploiting other cultures and countries for their own interests in oil or water or the Holy Land. No one EVER says, "Katie, thank you for being American and thanks to your government." Until now and until Libya. Do we deserve their thanks?

Well, whether or not the thanks was deserved, it was fun to celebrate Libya's freedom with Libyans. I will never forget their joy and hope for a new beginning. It is an interesting time to be in the Middle East.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

College Friends

"Your friend is your needs answered. He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving." Khalil Gibran

Nine years ago when I made the standard welcome call to a girl visiting our college program, I never imagined that a friendship would form during our college years and continue through countless emails and letters across the country and finally across the oceans! Often I love Sabra's emails so much that I print them off and carry them with me.

Sabra came to visit recently, and it was a reminder of Father's kindness and His ability to bind kindred hearts together. While our lives have taken different paths, it is our faith and the desire to know Him that unites our spirits.

Standing on Mount Nebo where Moses overlooked the land of Canaan (the dark spot in the background is Jericho)

Standing in the Jordan River!