Happy Easter Friends and Family!

Hello from Nazareth! I hope that everyone is enjoying the spring time weather in back home (where ever home is for YOU).  This morning the whole EMU community here- the EMU cross cultural group, Loren and Pat, Dave and Anna, Kevin- all rose early this morning to walk to Mt. Precipice (sp?- Luke 4:29) to watch the sunrise.  As one can imagine the sunrise which was welcomed in by song, scripture and church bells ringing was breathtaking.  To top off the morning Janet (Linford, our leader’s wife) had a surprise for the group- chocolate eggs! Therefore, on the top of Mt. Precipice we had our own Easter egg hunt German style.  For the past several days we’ve had the opportunity to take a break, relax and enjoy one of our last weeks here in Israel.  Our time has been spent journaling, playing tons of card games, sharing stories with each other and occasionally writing some silly songs on guitar.

Shalom! Peace! Salaam!

He Has Risen Indeed!

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Hello friends…it’s been a while.

The last couple of weeks have gone by way too quickly and is honestly a blur.  Four of us girls spent our one week of free travel renting a car, staying in a cabin on the sea of galilee, heading down to eliat, snorkeling in the red sea, and having a blast of a week.  Then our group meet back up and spent a week in a convent within the Old City.  Our time here was spent learning about Judaism and exploring the Old City one last time.  Last week we were on a kibbutz performing manual labor (I helped two cows give birth) and hearing lectures.  Now we are in Nazareth.

There is much to tell though I have zero time to share with you now.  I just wanted YOU to know that I had not forgot about my support back home.

This is just a sampling of a post…expect a longer posting in the near future.

Over the past two weeks our group has actively participated in an intense two-week study program through Jerusalem University College (JUC).  We’ve traveled by foot or bus exploring all of the land.  Every site, whether laden with a few large archaeological remains of an aTell from the 8th century D.C.E. or jumping off the bus to look at the expanse of wilderness that resembles ‘peace fuzz’, our group has begun to grasp an understanding of the way in which the land and history our connected.  Not only have my eyes been open to new fun facts, understanding land and history enlightens scripture.  For time purposes and convenience here is a list of some of the sites we’ve visited:

The ‘Wailing’ Wall, City of David, Holy Sepulcher, Temple Mount, Mesada, The Jezreel Valley, Sea of Galilee, Dead Sea, Garden of Gethsemane…And the list continues…

Although words are extremely powerful and life changing, no words can describe the beauty of this land nor the thoughts and insights that are beginning to stir.  Most of us, at some point, come to an understanding that God cannot be confined to neat box.

After reading scripture, walking around sites that historically embody some great Biblical battle in which God’s hand was at work, you can’t help but wonder- God…are you fire or fury- are you sacred or beautiful? To this, all I can say is that I’ve connected greatly with those who made pilgrimages to the Temple Mount prior to its destruction in 70 A.D.- once reaching one’s destination one’s physical journey has come to an end, yet one’s spiritual journey has just begun.

As I’ve woken up early, and on the few mornings when we’ve been given free time I’ve found my way to the coffee shop, either by myself or with friends, trying to grow some strong roots and establish firm conclusions on these thoughts that seem to be constantly stirring in the fuzz that is my mind.  I can say for sure that God has kept my eyes open.  As I’ve wrestled with understanding the division between Judaism and Christianity, I’ve learned that the covenant that Jesus solidified with his death and resurrection is etched on each of our hearts.  This covenant is to love others and even love our enemies.  (Remember that your actions show where your heart is.)

Well…on a more lighter random note…  When you swim in the Dead Sea (if you ever get the opportunity) remember to keep your eyes closed, and it’s true- you float! This upcoming week on free travel I’ll have the opportunity to swim where Jesus walked! Climbing along the edge of cliffs where the Israel wildlife authority has had to put iron hand grips into the rock to prevent falling is fun…don’t worry mom and dad! Walking amongst the wildflowers on the hill where it is believed Jesus preached the Beatitudes is indescribable.  The number of laughs with great friends is innumerable….

I hope each one of YOU are having some fun adventures as well!

In just a few short hours I will officially be leaving JUC  and embark on a week-long adventure with three other girls for ‘spring break’.  Our plan is spend a few nights in a cabin along the Sea of Galilee then head to Eliat where we will meet up with some other EMU’ers!

I guess that is all for now.

Shalom-Peace-Salaam

Lunch in the Old City- Jerusalem! As I reflect on my time in Beit Sahour, Palestine, many images, emotions, and specific experiences come to mind.  The time with my host family is something that will eternally be cherished.  Hearing the stories of families divided by the wall, of life cut short by a senseless bullet, the physiological trauma of children who have witnessed their father being beaten or brutally murdered, and homes that are destroyed for the sake of ‘security’.

To cap our time in Palestine we went around as a group to reflect on our high and low points.  What I’m sure can be repeated for most of the group is that what is most painful is also what’s most enlightening and a time of great growth.

Low: day in Hebron- indescribable, how check-points and the wall breed terrorism, how long the effects of conflicts last, frustration in the international community, where is the faith? where is their hope? such a long list of questions….when will peace reach this place?

High: I’m more than ever thankful that I’m a follower of Christ- those who follow Jesus will have an abundance of hope and love, God’s love is border less, there are glimpses of hope in every corner, I greatly appreciate the time getting to know others in the group and building lasting friendships….

The list of highs and lows could continue for ages.

Over the past three weeks, several themes have stood out to me.  Time– I’m amazed at how God knows exactly what you need when you need it…an encouraging word from a friend, a smile from a Palestinian girl, an email from a friend.  Land– This small patch of land is the cause of great struggle and tormoil…the whole world is watching. Yet, there is more to this land than the tension between Israel and Palestine.  Systematic Violence– Although recognizable not all, settlers are teaching their children to pick up a stone and use them as a means to intimidate innocent Palestinian children…these children have lost their innocence.  God’s Covenant- There are two covenants God made with the world- the first to the Jewish people and the second covenant is within Christ Jesus.  How can I share with those who believe in the first covenant that God’s greatest commandment is to love one another and that no material possessions- whether it be land, water, or natural resources- is greater than the sacredness of humanity.  After all, what’s living on both sides of the wall are people- it’s as simple as this.

Well, I don’t want to sound too depressing but each one of you should know that I’m learning a tremendous amount of information surrounding this conflict, and am growing in my understanding of God’s love, myself, and the ways in which God’s hand is at work in this region.

To end, I encourage each on of you take out your Bible (however dusty they may be) and read Ephesians 2:14…

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…”

I realize that I have not done a very good job of documenting my everyday adventures and now that I have some free time I shall fill this void and share with you about my life here in Beit Sahour.  To begin, every morning starts off with a relativity quick breakfast consisting of tea, pita and all the other side spreads that can be combined with pita- jam, olive oil, spices, avocado, eggs, cheese, olives, and a sour cream/yogurt spread called lebana.  Throughout breakfast our host father, who just so happens to be our Arabic teacher, gladly shares with us the Arabic word for any food we touch or any object that catches our eye.  Although I appreciate his willingness to share and teach us (Becca is my roommate), I have to remind him that it may take me a while to be able to repeat words with relative ease…after all, not only are the words different than English, the way in which words are pronounced also differ.  For instance, there are three separate pronunciations for the letter H.

After arriving late at ATG for our eight am group ‘homeroom’ session, of which arriving late has become a permanent occurrence, individuals are able to share anything they would like.  People share about what’s going on in the news, a devotional, a funny story that happened the night before, a response to any lecture or comment made the previous day, or even a prayer request.  I’ve grown to love this time, a time when the whole group, including the leaders, come together to support each other and listen to one another.

From here we have an hour Arabic lesson followed usually by a half an hour break in which people talk, get tea or coffee, or use the restroom.  From here the schedule for each day varies.   Some days we travel by bus to another location to receive a lecture or visit a site, and other days the lecturer comes to ATG.  For lunch we are often free to go and get what we please.  I’ve usually gone to the local market to grab some pita, some sort of spread and lots of delicious fruits.

After another lecture or two we are usually free for the evening around four in the afternoon.  From here Becca and I walk back to our house with Dustin and Taylor who live only a street away.  Once we arrive at home we do a variety of things ranging from playing games, getting on the internet, journaling, reading, etc.  Once dinner is made Becca and I are filled to the brim with delicious food.  After about an hour we are usually served tea and cookies as we watch t.v. with the family.  It is worth noting that each night does vary as many nights we meet up with a group at the local restaurant for food, drinks, and conversation…other nights Becca and I have ventured to Dustin and Taylor’s house to hang out with them for a few hours.

What has always remained a constant is the fact that we are both in our room by nine to allow for a time to read or journal, and I’m usually the first to sleep by nine forty-five. Yes, this is probably the most sleep I’ve received since being in college but hey, I can’t complain that I go to bed on a full stomach after spending an adventurous and stimulating day here in Palestine.  Ironically the direct translation for the town we are staying in- Beit Sahour- means ‘house that stay up late’.  I guess Becca and I are not living up to this name!

So…this is it- an average day living in Beit Sahour, Palestine.

Although this is the average day in Palestine, what is missing from the description above is the details as to what we have been experiencing and witnessing.  One of the most profound days thus far has been our visit to Hebron.  To say in short…things have been a bit more emotionally draining than I initially realized.  Below is a reflection from my journal to sum up my emotions:

Journal Entry February 2, 2010

As I sit here in Palestine, I recognize the value of humanity.  Every one’s a human being, pure and simple.  This conflict is one based on ownership of land and resources- do THEY not recognize that the richest resource of all are the people.  THEY fight for or protect the land with the edge of their sword, spilling blood for something that is simply temporary.  As I’m becoming educated on this conflict, my conscious dictates to me that neither side is correct.  Instead of choosing a side, I choose to aspire to inspire.  Inspire those with hope that their story is heard, shared and felt by others.  However, what remains most important is that I share my story, my hope that one day all conflicts will cease to exist and wars will truly rest only in the  past.  This is my prayer, my hope that all will come to know the peace that is Jesus Christ.

On a lighter note, here are some lessons I learned over the past week and a half-

1. Make sure you do not add salt to tea and serve it to others.  Hospitality is one thing, but trying to serve your friends (sorry Becca, Taylor and Dustin) disgusting tea is another. 

2.  Do not add recently purchased clothing to you laundry load if you think the item might bleed onto other clothing.  Some of Becca and my clothing are now the fantastic color RED.

3.  Do not enter a ’Sweets Shop’ unless you are prepared to purchase some sweets.  I’ve learned I love Kinder chocolate…thanks to being introduced to it by one of my leaders, Rebekkah, who happens to be German.

Well…again this is long, but I’ve learned that I like to write so I hope YOU like to read:)

Sending Peace and Love, Janelle

Time is short so here are a few entries from my journal:

Mt. Sinai- January 27

Climbing Mt. Sinai was an awe-inspiring experience. After reading Exodus chapters 1-20, the characters and land came alive.  For me, relating to the story of Moses was simple.  He, like I, questioned God and questioned his ability to properly serve God. Although my faith is still lacking, time and time again God has given me the tools and support needed to fulfill his plan for my life.

One part of climbing Mt. Sinai that I really enjoyed was talking with Rebekkah (one of our leaders). Our discussion centered around love, life and happiness.  In hindsight, the climb was difficult and at times all I wanted was to take a break.  The last third of the climb was the worst, yet this was the time in which Rebekkah and I opened up the most. This was a great reminder that when the journey gets difficult one way that helps greatly when one is filled with questions and simply at a loss for words is to be in relation with another.

Wadi Rum, Jordan- January 30

As I gaze out across this tent camp, the sun illuminating all there is to see, I find myself questioning if I’m really in Jordan.  If a map was layed out would I REALLY point to Jordan and say ‘this is where I am’?

Wow…I’m already amazed that as I look back at my time in Cairo, Luxor and even Petra, what stands out for me more than the historical aspect of these sites are the conversations, struggles and laughs that I’ve had along the way.  As I look to the future of my time here in the Middle East, I’m both tired to think of what’s to come and also wishing that this experience will never end.

Riding camels for five hours makes 40 years in the wilderness seem unlivable.  In a way, I recognize why the Israelites complained to Moses.

Fun Facts:

Ellie is my accountability partner..we are better known as JanEllie!

Riding camels when it’s mating season is not the best idea…for instance, my camel really liked Charise’s camel, and her leg for that matter.

Camels hate rain and freak out if it starts to rain, thankfully we got off the camels 15 minutes to the storm.

40% of Jordan’s population is under 15.

And…I seem to really enjoy Nescafe instant coffee.  Ellie and I might just purchase some to remind ourselves of the many mornings that we’ve drank instant coffee.

Well this was short.  Tomorrow we leave for Palestine.  Please pray for safe a safe border crossing! Oh…and again I found a Jordian coffee shop- their caramel frappacino was excellent!

P.S. ‘Lamb Chops’ was the name of my camel!

Peace and Love:)

Journal entry about my time in Anafora…

It’s not too often that in the span of 12 hours one is blessed with the opportunity to watch the sunrise and sunset on top of the roofs at Anafora Retreat Center in Egypt!  Meals lite by candle light,  learning sessions lead by a Bishop of the Coptic Church and evening prayer illuminated by candle light and the voices of those from across the globe are all memories that will remind me of the peace that is Anafora.

Aside from the free time that was spent playing cards, dancing across the roofs of our bedroom, shopping and of course, the many times eating fantastic food, the group was able to have three separate sessions with Bishop Thomas.  One session focused on humbling oneself before the Lord, the next on shedding the mask(s) that incorrectly defines oneself and, thirdly, he talked about the foundational teachings of the three Abrahamic faiths and how they relate to the conflict over Jerusalem today.  Although this conversation was informative, what remained most shocking was the way in which he defined Christianity.  As Christians many of us excel to model Jesus.  What is often forgot within my own faith and those from other faiths is that above all physical possessions (land, money, food, water) is the sacredness of human beings.

With this said, many of us on the trip have already begun to question our role as Christians in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.  Should we take sides? How are we to help resolve this conflict? Is simply listening enough? …What Bishop Thomas helped me realize is that if we share with others the value of the human soul that Christ teaches we can open the door for the Holy Spirit to take control.  My prayer for this conflict is that those on the battlefield and those in the board room will recognize the humanity they are fighting against.  Control over one of the Holiest (is not THE Holiest) piece of land is not worth destroying the sacredness of human lives.

I’m richer from Bishop Thomas’ wisdom and faith.  As we go from this peaceful place may we be peacemakers to those we meet along this journey.  May the whole world be reminded that many conflicts are being fought over the claim to land, yet Jesus taught us that love and peace have no borders!

(Read 1 John 3: 11-24 or 23-24)

Well..today we head back to Cairo by train.  On a lighter note, now seems like an appropriate time to discuss crossing the streets in Cairo.  As David said at orientation ‘crossing the streets in Cairo is an adventure in itself and our first class assignment’.  Although I passed, it did not come without fear of losing my life.  There are no crosswalks or lighted signs informing you that it’s safe to cross.  Rather, before one steps out they have to be determined and firm about reaching their destination safely! Making eye-contact and keeping an even keel pace is important, and when necessary RUN! In a matter of five to ten seconds one is safely walking on the other side of the street…and if you are anything like me you’re heading towards the nearest coffee shop!

Ok…well others are waiting for the computer!

Peace, Janelle:)

Hello from Cairo!

Well I’ve only been in Egypt for a short amount of time and I feel as though I’ve learned more in these last two days than all the knowledge I’ve acquired in the past twenty-one years of life.  Anyway, I have a short amount of time to convey a lot of information.

To begin: by 10:20am (while YOU were sleeping) the first day I walked around the oldest pyramid in the world; an hour and a half later I climbed inside the ‘second’ pyramid with others from the group where we sang a song; we spent three hours listening to our tour guy Sam inside the Egyptian Museum (my feet hurt); I played several ‘epic games of hearts’ with Sarah, Ellie and Matt; forgot my simcard for my camera at home but am VERY thankful someone had an extra…and I really wish I had my dad’s pedometer to measure the number of miles I will walk this trip.

One photo that summarizes these past two days was one I took at the great pyramid of giza.  Etched onto the limestone was the date ‘1900’.  I was quickly reminded, as I have throughout these past few days, of the expanse of time and cultures. As I’ve come to learn more about the way of life for  Ancient Egyptians through reading hieroglyphics, their society seems more advanced than the first pioneers in America. 

Tomorrow we are traveling to a few mosques than heading to Alexandria, Luxor and Anaphora for the next week. 

Well time is short.  Sarah and I are soon heading to one of the many coffee shops here in Cairo!

Peace and love to those back in the states.  To the one’s who gave me notes to read before I left EMU…THANKS!

Janelle:)

well it’s about that time. bags are packed, passport is safe and secure, orientation is almost complete and in a short amount of time i, along with twenty-seven students and three leaders will depart for the middle east.  this adventure will begin in cairo, egypt and end in rome, italy.  in total we will journey across three continents, six (possibly seven) countries in ninety-two days, experience a diverse range of cultures and languages, be stretched well beyond our comfort zone and, what’s most important, have the time of our lives.  often i’m more of visual person and a friend of mine who is going on the trip created a map of our journey. below is the link to this map…i encourage you (whoever YOU may be) to take a look…

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF&msa=0&msid=102192026282046525654.00047c739a3eeb3a20d29

before i even came to emu i knew i wanted to participate in emu’s cross-cultural program to the middle east.  now it’s strange to know that the highlight of my undergraduate career is here…just a days journey away.

nervous…a bit

overwhelmed…a little

excited…beyond belief

these past few days i’ve thought about my expectations and discovered they are minimal.  instead, like abraham, i feel called by God to have faith and leave the comforts of my parents home, the security of being a middle-class american college student and the cozy confines of the emu community.

although i cannot promise when and how often i’ll have access to the internet this will be my form of communication to my friends and family back home.

welp…see ya later! 🙂

Peace and Love!

Subject sums it up…