Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Prayers of the Church

Hey friends and family! سلام علىكم (peace be upon you).

Thank you so much for your thoughts, notes and prayers. I know many of you have been worried about me with the hard situation here in the Palestinian territories and now also with the death of my close friend. These last days I have really been able see the effects of your prayers. For a while I have felt very energy-less spiritually and haven't really had the strength to reach out to God through prayer or otherwise, but these last two days I have really seen God reach out to me and give me prayers and times of refreshment with him. I am really depending on him to "renew my soul" as Psalm 23 says. This Psalm has frequently been an encouragement to me as it throughout shows God's initiative in our lives: HE is the shepherd who leads and comforts and guides and renews us. Thanks be to God!

Life has started to become very routine and much of the novelty has begun to wear off. The grind of Arabic continues, but it is much harder to sense progress. Still, many times I am encouraged when I am able to have some basic, good conversations with people who I wouldn't be able to with otherwise. (I am also very proud of myself when I see people who have been a much longer time than I in the Middle East and yet speak much worse Arabic, or none at all!).

A new focus that I would like to begin these next weeks is to build some relationships with Jewish Israelis, a group that I have more or less not been exposed to at all, living in an all Palestinian area of the West Bank. I know that I need these relationships to get a balanced opinion as well as to avoid becoming prejudiced and villify the other side. Please pray for opportunities to do so.

I continue to need prayers for spiritual strength and for the ability to process all I am learning from a spiritual perspective.


(PS I added some new pictures to

Saturday, June 23, 2007

In need of prayer

It has been a very difficult. Being here for a month now, weariness as has begun to set in. Spiritually I feel like I have been in a downward spiral as well, finding it hard to pray and to just be still. In the middle of this I found out that a close friend from Wheaton died this last week. Stephen Hampton was of my roomates a year ago, and one of my first close friends at Wheaton. He was in Germany, having graduated early fromWheaton, and was hit by a train. At the moment the details as to exactly what happened aren't known. This has hit me hard, especially beeing so far away.

Please pray for grace and strength in this time and for peace from the Lord.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Hello, hello? Keefkom? Shoo Akhbarkom? (How are you'all, what your news?)

I figured I would give a wide lense view of what my life looks like here:

I am living in Bethlehem, a city just south of Jerusalem, in what's considered the West Bank or the Occupied Palestinian Territory. These are lands taken by Israel in the 1967 war and which have remained under military occupation since. Israel has not given the Palestinians who live here citizenship, nor equal rights, and largely controls every aspect of their life. Bethlehem itself, along with most of the W. Bank is now cut off by what' called the seperation wall or fence. Bethlehem itself is encircled by (I think) 5 illegal Israeli settlements, villages set up by Israel only for Israelis on Palestinian land inside the W. Bank. These are mini Oasis's in what is otherwise an empoverished palestinian area. Bethlehem thus is slowly being constricted and encircled. Many are emmigrating (especially the christian popualtion) to the US or Europe. It is just too difficult to live here.

I live in a refugee camp with just under 2000 people. The people in camp are Palestinian refugees ( or descendants of refugees) from 1948 when Israel took their land (in what is now Israel). Palestinians are the largest refugee population in the world and the only ones who aren't allowed to return home. For many in my camp, their original village is less than 30km away, but they have never been allowed to return. Many have kept the keys to their homes as a symbol of their plight and hope to return home.

I work Mon-Thurs. at a NGO called Student's Forum. There I speak English with Palestinian university students who want to improve their english. It is great fun and a great opportunity to make friends! In the afternoons I work on Arabic, either on my own or practicing with people from the camp, if possible. I am hoping to get a formal tutor soon. Presently my Arabic is to the point where I can usually make myself understood, though in a very broken Arabic. My mind is often strained from the hard work of producing the correct sounds, much less the correct word or phrase.

My host family consists of 4 brothers and 3 sisters. One of the men is married as is one of the women. They own a little store in the camp that sells odds and ends and is a central hang-out place for a lot of the camp. Its where I often am, waiting for some new adventure. Yesterday I learned that there are about 600 people in the camp fron the same family of the one I live with. Everyone knows everyones names and how they are related to them. Amazing and very cool!

Allright, Ill stop for now. Thanks for reading!


Friday, June 15, 2007

Gaza Meltdown

Greetings! Those who keep up with the news know that the situation in the Gaza strip has gotten really ugly. The situation in the West Bank, where I am, is fine at the moment, but there are many uncertainties about the future of the Palestinian people.

I am doing well and have had a full share of experiences (as usual) this last week. Arabic has progressing at a nice pace, though my inability to speak well is continually frustrating. At the Student Forum, where I have been teaching English, I have had many invititations to people's homes and have been able to develop some good frienships. These are college students who go to the center to improve their english as well as to participate in workshops, etc.

Please continue to pray for my Arabic as well as for opportunities to share and reflect Christ with and to the people around me. Especially given my limited Arabic, this has been difficult and i haven't had many chances. I pray that the Holy Spirit in my life will be clearly seen by those devoid of hope and life around me.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Slowly life becomes normal here. Slowly the heaviness in the air sinks in deeper and deeper until you don't realize its weight anymore-anymore that is until it is momentarily removed. On Sunday I was able to go the church for the first time since being here. I attended two different services in Jerusalem (and got a double dose of communion). For a brief period of time the weight was lifted and I was refreshed by the joy and peace of Christ. I realized then at that moment how crucial Christ is for people in such dire straights. Without the light of Christ it is all darkness and despair. With Christ's light there is not only hope, but direction and life. I was further encouraged to work in the Church in the Middle East, to give Christ's light to those in dire need of it.

I don't mean to sound overly dramatic. I am actually doing quite well and am really enjoying my time here. My Arabic is progressing as are my relationships with both the people that I work with and those I live with. I truly desire to build on these relationships during my time here.

I struggle to find words in which to condense the multitude of my experiences here. I want so bad to help you really see what life is like here for Palestinians and what the situation is like. I know I will come very short though. (See also my photo album at

One small snippet of life resulting from Israeli occupation I will try to describe is the families that have someone in prison. Here in the camp maybe 1 in 5 males is or has been in prison. This last week alone 2 men from the camp (of 2000 people) got out of prison. Palestinian prisoners are sent to prison in Israel proper and are often d. It is difficult for family members to visit them and often they can't for years at a time. Yesterday, at the house of one of the people I teach english to, I heard the story of how their brother was arrested three years ago. Israel said that he had killed 23 Israeli's and had bombs in his house. They never found any bombs though, and he had never killed anyone. He was only about 19 at the time. His brother has only been able to see him once in the last three years.

Thank you for your support and prayers. I appreciate all of you!

Monday, June 4, 2007


Each day here is full of experiences, faces and emotions. It's hard enough to simply live it, harder yet to process it all and distill it into words.

In the last week I have experienced: a wedding here on the streets of the camp, a inter-family feud, seeing first hand illegal Israeli settlements, the building of the separation wall/fence that is cutting people from their land, a family that I'm pretty sure is trying to marry me off to their daughte and what seems like millions of faces and names and conversations. It is all very overwhelming. Add to that the fact that is has been hard to get good sleep at night and the fact that I am surrounded all day by a language that I have to work hard at understanding.

Arabic is going well, but it is hard to stay encouraged. The process of learning it is a roller coaster. Constantly I feel like I am not advancing very well or that it is a nearly impossible task. I want so much (so much!) to learn it and so I keep pushing and pushing. My Arabic classes I was taking were not helpful, so now I am trying to find a personal tutor. Please pray for an individual who can really be of help to me.

As far as NGO work is concerned I am now working 2 days a week with in a summer camp for kids and three days a week teaching english. I love the english teaching because it enables me to really help people and allows me to build relationships.

I won't be sending out emails anymore each time I update the blog. If you want to get an email each time I update the blog put your email address in the form on the right.

See the link in the post below if you would like to see some pictures.!


Saturday, June 2, 2007


I will write a new entry soon. For now, everything is good and I am doing well. For some pics see: