Tuesday, September 25, 2007

a year

This time last year I was grieving the loss of a good friend. It's been a year when he has often been in my thoughts. At football matches and watching it on tv, knowing that john would have an opinion on the performance. Knowing that he'd've been at the champion's league final. Then there are the small times like seeing post cards in jordan and remembering all the places which i have sent a post card from to him. Or the odd predicament i get in that i know would make him laugh if he were to hear my re-telling or see it on the blog. He'd've chuckled at my failed attempt on the 3 peaks and made some comment about my infirmities, and i think he'd enjoy seeing my reviews on teletext too. I guess these times will never go and it still pains knowing that i can't share them with him now.


So after Greenbelt I had about a day turnaround before heading off to Jordan with highway projects. I've been back for quite some time now, but just not sat down to blog. I have a journal of my time that runs to pages, and really it is hard to put all these experiences into a few words here. Not only had I gone to explore this country, but to get to know people who lived there, share my faith and experience and learn from the faith of the people I meet. The time in Jordan began with a few days orientation in Wadi Rum, the desert to the south of Jordan, made famous by the exploits of te lawrence. This was an awesome experience, living out in the desert, getting to know the rest of the guys on the mission teams. There is something rather special about a desert, the sun beating down, the awesome colours of sand and sandstone jabel changing with the angle of the sun. And life. It is remarkable to see how life thrives in such a hostile environment, greenery clinging to trickles of water. The sandstone monoliths acting as sponges during the infrequent rains, the water slowly working it's way through and impeded by inpenetrable granite returning to the rock's edge as a spring. It makes the biblical analogies based in deserts really come to life. There is one thing knowing that water is essential for life, seeing it in person greatly adds to the meaning.

Taking these thoughts with me, I travelled, with the other guys on the same team as me, to Amman. Here, I was one of many to be struck down by some rather bad gut troubles, that rendered me unavailable for the first day working in school. Thanks to some antibiotics and other drugs I was soon on the way to recovery. We were teaching in two schools, a boys and a girls, taking the christian religious instruction lessons for 10-18yr olds. It proved quite tricky to adapt the lessons for the different age profiles, and interest. Using Jonah, we tried to look at reasons we run away from god, prayer and the underlying truth of the book of jonah, that god loves and has compassion for all people, even our enemies. A hard lesson for Jonah to see compassion shown to his enemy, compassion he did not wish to see exerted, though he knew it would come if forgiveness was sought.
It's difficult to know the worth of such work, taking lessons, that would take place whether we are there or not. In the evenings we had chance to get to know the local church young people and it was great to hear the leadership responsibilities these young people had taken on, leading sunday school and camps etc. It was fun visiting the local sights and making friends, and i hope our friendship and solidaritory was beneficial to a group of similarly aged people expressing a faith that is a minority in their country. I was encouraged at how passionate these people were about their faith and using their gifts to share their passions with children. It was also a pleasure to join them on their retreat as they sought teaching and reflection from the minister and encouragement in their leadership roles. Though I would dearly have loved some conversations around their experiential interpretation of the bible and how it might differ from someone who reads the bible remote from the geographical settings, and how indeed, expressing a faith in the minority effetcs them too. We learnt that they did not feel persecuted and in fact along with the population were quick to praise the king and the skill he uses in keeping the diverse peoples together. Jordan's population consits mainly of waves of refugees, the most recent being iraqi. The king ensure that the voices of the minorities remain in power, something that would never happen if all ruling powers were democratically elected.
On reflection I'm pleased to have again experienced life in the middle east and made new friends. I've learnt a lot and felt encouraged by the people i met. I just hope that it has been recipricated and my presence has helped the faith journey of at least someone i encountered. There are plenty of pictures on flickr which can be found in my highway project set
Bizarrly, we also nearly met tony blair who was also in amman. He was due to attend church on the sunday, but had been invited to see the king instead.