Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Give Away!

This is the first Laura Travel Adventure give away... and I'm excited because it is a great one!

I entered my blog on the Start Something That Matters site ( a few months ago -- anxious to read the book after it sold out at the Catalyst conference where Blake Mycoskie spoke (see this post for more on that). In true TOMS form, I received two copies of the book and agreed to read and write about it, and then give one of my copies to one of you wonderful readers. After reading the book I'm even more glad to share about it... I loved it and expect you will too.

This book is all about how to start and run a business or non-profit with passion to do good at its core. TOMS gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair it sells. In the book, you read about a variety of leaders who have "done good" through all different types of entrepreneurial endeavors and advice on how to start something yourself. I found it extremely easy to read, practical, and inspiring.

So, here's the deal. I'm going to do a raffle, and literally pull a name out of a hat. To get your name in the hat, all you need to do is visit my Facebook fan page for this blog or Anda, and hit "like." If you'd like double your chances, please like both! Then just post a comment letting me know, and I'll put your name(s) in the hat!

I will post the winner in a week and will be in touch with them for their address.

Thanks for participating!

Again, here are the links to the facebook links:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Start Something That Matters

One of the most memorable moments of the Catalyst conference I attended in October was (briefly) meeting Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS Shoes and author of the new book, Start Something That Matters. During his on-stage interview, Blake mentioned a pain point of TOMS which set my head spinning. He has experienced difficulty maintaining a solid corporate culture as staff are becoming more culturally diverse and spread out across the world.

Click to learn more about TOMS.
I decided to write Blake a note telling him that I have experience in multi-cultural community development and would be glad to help. I gave it to him in the autograph line. Although he hasn't followed up (yet) the idea took root in my mind. If TOMS is experiencing inevitable culture clash as they work with international leaders in developing markets are other companies struggling with similar issues?

Turns out, according to business journals, news reports, and conversations with business leaders, this is a very common issue in business today as companies look to emerging markets for talent (no longer just labor).

My dad and I had already been working on how we might create a feasible model to provide requested leadership training to indigenous leaders in developing countries. Might a One for One model like TOMS' work for us too? Could we work with multi-nationals in emerging markets and then provide a pro bono or low-cost training to ministry or leaders of community development initiatives in the same area?

This was the initial catalyst for Anda, the business idea my dad and I have been working on for the last several months. It's a business with a heart of service helping local leaders in emerging markets positively impact their societies to the largest extent possible by providing character-based leadership training. Anda also seeks to help these leaders effectively work with those from the "developed" world who have a clearly defined set of standards and ethics which may be understood differently in the emerging market cultures.

I'm taking one step at a time with this and am not sure where it will lead, and in the process The TOMS story encourages me. My dream is that we will help leaders impact their own cultures by creating great businesses and great ministries which will create wealth where there has been poverty and healing where there has been brokenness.

If you're interested in this idea, check out our web site. Let me know what you think. I'd love suggestions of any kind.

And finally, check back Wednesday (the 14th) for an opportunity to win the book Start Something That Matters.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Clean Water

This week I was reminded how normal, expected, demanded conveniences of my American life are really luxuries. There was a problem with our water softener, and suddenly the water in our house was salty and undrinkable. Clean water is a necessity for almost everything!

Even as someone who does not have a high-paying job at the moment, I have every imaginable comfort. I live in a big warm house with a room to myself and a nice soft bed with quality linens. I have a bathroom with a toilet which takes away my waste so I don't even notice it. I can take long hot showers without worrying about using too much water and then use luxurious body creams and lotions on my skin. There is always food in the kitchen -- enough food for three quality meals snacks every day. If anything my concern is that I will have too much. Never too little.

In America we have the biggest selection of the highest quality goods and services at the lowest prices. How can I remain thankful and keep from succumbing to the notion that I deserve these things?

Friday, I went to a dance party which was to raise money for a clean water project in Africa through Partners International. I also thought about Deep Springs International, an organization which was begun by some college friends which is providing clean water in Haiti. How amazing that people in those communities can not assume that they will have the water they need.

Upon reflection, I am very thankful for water, a bed, a toilet, and food. I'm also thankful that I have been places where I didn't have some of these things (I have never gone a day without clean water). I'm thankful for those I've met who will probably never have them, and live in a more thankful posture than I do. I want to be like them.

One thought I have is that through giving we can demonstrate thankfulness for the bounty we enjoy.

In case you're interested in donating, here are links to the ministries I mentioned:

I'd love comments!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mumzy!

We had a wonderful holiday week and weekend. Allison came home on Wednesday and we attended a beautiful church service that night, and then we had 15 people at our Thanksgiving feast. We did a lot Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) including Allison and me going to a special class at my gym (which left us sore), baking lots of food, eating and sharing thanks, and playing football (my team one) and then Settlers (I won) in the evening. It really was a great day ;-).

The pumpkin pie made from pumpkins we bought at a nearby farm! It was exceptionally good, if I do say so myself:-)
We also celebrated my wonderful mother's birthday on Saturday. It is always extra-special to celebrate my mom's birthdays as several bouts with cancer have threatened her life. We are so thankful for her.

We had homemade lattes and cranberry bread in the morning and then Qdoba in the evening before Mom, Dad, Allison and I saw The Help in a local old-school theater. I was really glad to share the movie with them since they hadn't seen it before and I expected them to like it as much as I did. Overall, it was a great day.

Aren't they cute??
(Any bragging above is intended for the eyes of Pops and Allison only)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday FAIL

Allison and Adjua, maybe a little too excited?
Last night I stayed up until MIDNIGHT, so tired from my busy Thanksgiving. My sister Allison and I took Adjua, our Ghanaian sister, and several of her friends for their first Black Friday experience. We decided to go to Target when it opened at 12.

We prepped the girls with strategies for how to handle a stampede and instructed them about how to look for good sales. Since we were in it for the experience we didn't have a very good plan of what to buy.

We walked around the store in the midst of a crazy crowd. We selected a few small gifts and were in contact with the others via phone. At around 1, we began looking for the line so we could check out.

It took us about 10 minutes to find the end of the line, 2/3 of the way to the back of the store, weaving through each aisle and with a forecast of an hour to wait to check out.

We all decided it was time to go to bed. So we put everything back and went home.

= Black Friday FAIL

Thursday, November 24, 2011

For the Beauty...

I wrote most of a post earlier about Thanksgiving but after singing this beautiful hymn in church this evening I decided to share the lyrics instead (or for now). I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind’s delight,
For the mystic harmony
Linking sense to sound and sight.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.
For Thy Church, that evermore
Lifteth holy hands above,
Offering up on every shore
Her pure sacrifice of love.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the martyrs’ crown of light,
For Thy prophets’ eagle eye,
For Thy bold confessors’ might,
For the lips of infancy.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For Thy virgins’ robes of snow,
For Thy maiden mother mild,
For Thyself, with hearts aglow,
Jesu, Victim undefiled.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For each perfect gift of Thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of Heaven.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

Words: Fol­li­ot S. Pier­point, in Lyra Eu­cha­rist­ica, by Or­by Ship­ley, se­cond edi­tion, 1864.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Be Present

I had an absolutely fantastic trip to the East Coast last month to visit my friends in Maryland and then to Atlanta for the Catalyst Conference. I am struck again and again by how blessed I am to have a whole network of amazing friends. Especially as a young single, there is great potential to be alone and lonely. I am so thankful for years in Maryland where God blessed me with the best group I can imagine.

The conference theme was "Be Present," which was perfect. I didn't blog about it, but I figured I should mention it. I think the conference organizers hit a cultural reality on the head -- with the wonders of technology we have the ability to be everywhere at once. The dark side of that amazing ability is that we can fall into the trap of never really being anywhere at once. What a way to waste our lives!

The cool thing is that it wasn't just a criticism, but the speakers brilliantly presented ways to be present in many angles: spiritually, in leadership, in service, as we plan our time, and on and on. If you're interested, ask -- I'd love to share more.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fun Fall Activities

This week, my mom and I went to Greenbluff, an area with lots of farms nearby, twice. The first time, we got pumpkins and squashes of many beautiful varieties. The second time, we went to pick fall raspberries. Here are some pictures from our fall adventures!

Mom got to do her favorite thing: pick berries. Look how happy she is!
We picked many berries to use in our cereal for months to come .
We saw a pumpkin shot out of this crazy cannon!
Ohh, I hope it wasn't really mom in there after all!
We went through mom's first hay maze (yes, fun for adults too, and no, I didn't let her cheat).
Too much fun!
At this farm the goats have a cool habitat.
One of mom's other favorite things in life: alpacas. They are pretty cute!
And on our way home, these turkeys were in the road. I think we saw at least 12. Thanksgiving, anyone?
We welcome visitors! Anyone tempted?? :-).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Unconscious Segregation

I am on the MARTA in Atlanta. I have a suitcase and a backpack, and when I got on, the train was mostly full and there were people standing. I walked past them and sat in an empty seat on the isle, next to a well dressed white guy about my age. He looked safe, and in my mind I was leaving the two empty seats in front of us open for someone else instead of taking both with myself and my stuff. As the train departed, no one sat there.

At the next stop, the guy next to me got up and left the train. A good-looking black guy looked at me and I wondered what he was thinking. Suddenly I noticed that there were no other white people in my line of sight. I turned around and there were no other white people on the train at all, except one man sitting on the other side of the isle from me.

I sat next to the only two white people on the train. I hadn't even realized it.

Then I started wondering: did I make that decision subconsciously, or was it a legitimate coincidence? I certainly didn't mean to sit next to the only white people. If I had realized it, I would have chosen NOT to sit next to the only white people. I couldn't even believe it.

Some of my very favorite, closest friends are African or of African descent, and I know what my decision looked like, what it said to the others on the train. I confirmed a stereotype in a small, subtle way... that white people are afraid of or do not like black people.

Whether or not this stereotype is often true is not the point. There is plenty of evidence to suggest it. Hanging out with close African American friends when I lived in Atlanta years ago I learned this first-hand. I want to be someone who is intentional about changing the stereotype, and here I am confirming it in my own little way. I am neither the first nor the only one to notice my choice of seat.

Although I didn't make my seating choice intentionally, I'm sorry I made the choice I did at all. If given the same opportunity again, I plan to choose a different seat. And I pray that the next white person who gets on a train with the same passengers will make a different choice as well.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Praise God that since Martin Luther King, Jr. said those words transition has continued to occur. But it is not done yet. Lord let me be a continuing part of the solution, not a perpetrator of the problem -- even through ignorance or being oblivious.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Getting back to the gym

I decided this week that it was time to look into gyms in this area. I have been running some, but I don't seem able to make myself run more than two or three times per week, and I don't generally look forward to those times. For me, gyms are a different story -- I actually enjoy going.

So, Monday I decided to start a week-long trial membership at the local Gold's Gym. I'd checked their web site and their prices were great, and they even have my favorite exercise classes.

True to form, I wanted to get the most out of the week-long opportunity. Monday evening had a Body Pump class, so I went to it. If you've never done Body Pump, it's great -- 45-60 minutes of weight lifting, light weights and many reps. I was pretty proud of myself for being able to keep up since I haven't really lifted since living in England last fall.

As the class was finishing up, I heard that there was a cycling class happening next. I love cycling (although I haven't done that since England either), and since I was in the gym anyway thought I should get some cardio in.

Again, I was pretty proud of myself for being able to keep up and really enjoyed it. I bounced home all excited and proud of my fitness.

That is, I was proud until I could barely get out of bed the next morning.

EVERYTHING hurt. A lot! As I was wining, my dad told me I probably should stretch. Good idea. But when I tried to touch my toes (which I can usually do) my hands only made it to two feet above the ground. Oh no!

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. - Proverbs 16:18

I wish I could learn that lesson once and for all!!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Berea Guest House

I just want to say I love my parents...

My last post says a lot about life around here. By the way, I really appreciate your comments and am very glad that many of you thought my life becoming like Tula's is as funny as I do!

The three of us are working together every day and (occasionally) have fun relaxing together as well. I believe that God has made a way for us to have this time together as a gift, and I'm thankful.

So a few of the big projects we've been doing have actually been getting done over the last few weeks (which makes me so happy).

One of our  main projects was turning this student housing...
Living room, dorm style.
Master bedroom, dorm style.

Into a guest house:
Guest house living room.
Guest house master.
and of course making a web site about it.

The story here is that this is one of six units my parents invested in several years ago to house undergraduate students in partnership with a local school. This year the school wasn't able to fill the houses -- they are actually only half-full, which we didn't know for sure was going to happen for sure until school started in the end of August. We've been working to find a way to cover the costs of the houses... and this is what we chose to do with one of them. It's the only thing like it in this city, so we're hopeful that it'll be mutually beneficial for us and the community!

It was a lot more work than I anticipated, but we're pretty happy with the finished result and look forward to welcoming our first guest tonight.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

See Below...

Does anyone remember the scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding where Tula is sitting on the plastic-covered couch between her parents and watching TV?
My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Since coming to my parents' house, I have been finding myself in positions like these regularly. Take tonight for example:
Watching America's Got Talent.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Now, for some of you, the thought of me at my parents' house probably evokes an image of me sleeping in, watching movies, taking long walks, and having all manner of time on my hands.You visit your parents for vacation, right?

Well, in my case that is not exactly how things are going.

We are all working very hard around the Fritz house, seemingly around the clock. We're excited, a little stressed, and working to focus in one direction at a time.

Here's what we are up to...
1. Trying to get their rental units filled with college students. I just made this web site about the housing: We have three units empty now, which has never happened. Apparently the housing supply went up drastically this year for students at the school they have been working with for several years.
2. Working to put together the necessary planning documents, communication tools, and raise funds for the ministry we have already started. More about that will come soon, but in brief terms my dad has already begun working with social entrepreneurs to cultivate good leadership practices and effective structure for their organizations.
3. We have a consulting appointing starting this evening in Seattle, so we're headed back there. We're going to go camping in the Cascades this weekend with Allison. Yay!

And actually that's not it, but since we are leaving in just 20 minutes for Seattle, I need to get moving. I have data on my phone, so hopefully can keep up with things even while gone, but we shall see. For those of you praying for us, thank you so much. We need it. I feel confirmed that I did actually need to come home, as I thought, for more reasons than I even knew. It is really good to be here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Deep Creek

On Saturday Jenni brought me to Deep Creek Lake where my friend Deb, her awesome family, and several other friends were spending the day on boats and jet skis. It was great because it was a way for her to only need to drive me half of the distance back to Maryland, and also because we were able to have a wonderful, wonderful summer day. Here are some pictures:

Getting ready to go out in the boat!
My wonderful friend Deb modeling for me during a game of kub.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pittsburgh Visit

Last Tuesday, my sister Jenni and her new roommate Tina came to Baltimore to pick me up and take me back to Pittsburgh, where Jenni is now living. She graduated in May from Grove City (my alma mater as well) and bought a great house. It was a very short trip and I was disappointed that I didn't get to see my other family members in Pittsburgh (sorry Bakers, hopefully I'll see you in the next few months), but we had a really nice time and I'm glad I got to see her and the place that is now her home!

Here are some pictures...
Jenni's house from the back. The bottom floor is a separate apartment and she and her roommate Tina live in the main house upstairs. I stood next to the garage to take this picture.
The first baking Jenni has done in her new kitchen. Isn't she cute in her new apron?
We went out in Pittsburgh for a nice Italian dinner. It was great food and a lot of fun.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Beauty of Home

After just a week, I am still basking in the lovliness of being home after almost a full year overseas. This week I have had meals with many of my closest friends, seeming to slide back into normal life here in Maryland. Last night a good friend made a dinner and about ten of us shared our hearts as we caught up on what we have learned thus year -- how we have seen God at work, and our hopes in our next steps.

As I have been away I have come to understand the ugly side of how America is perceived. I realize that I needed to learn to see my culture through the eyes of outsiders, and am interested in how I might be led to share my findings.

But as I talked with my friends during our evening together, sharing for hours about the situation in Israel an Palestine and our implication in the conflict, I was extremely encouraged as I experienced some of the most beautiful qualiies of my people. I was met by openness, love, a desire to learn, question after question, and unsolicited commitments that these friends would share the things they had learned.

My friends are action people who know their influence and desire to do right. We are all ignorant about many things, but when we seek to understand and when we look to act on what we learn, the ambitious American spirit is a beautiful thing.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Things I'll Miss About Palestine and Israel Part 2

Here's the promised Part 2 of the things I'll miss...

The International People
I really like spending time with people who are from different places, and the reality of the culture of the Land is that people are from everywhere, or from there and have lived elsewhere at one time or another. It's fun to meet people all the time from so many places, which helps me to constantly think about my cultural assumptions, leading me to learning opportunities about myself and others.

I really missed my car. I mean really, freedom of movement is one of my favorite things and highest personal values. But I really enjoy walking as well and often took the opportunity for the hour-long walk home from work. I know that with the distances in the US and fast-paced lifestyles it just isn't as possible to be a full-time pedestrian. I'll try to keep walking when it makes sense though.

Pace of Life... Work/Life Balance
This is one of the things that I think I learned most about while overseas -- in England and then even more in Palestine and Israel. I'll note here that I think we are crazy in our expectations for ourselves and others in American culture. This is from personal experience, but I think it is a cultural reality for most middle-class Americans. And I'll write a full post about this soon.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Things I'll Miss About Palestine and Israel Part 1

Now that I'm home with some time on my hands, I'm looking forward to getting caught up on the last few things I wanted to write from Palestine and Israel. I'll continue to share some more thoughts in the coming weeks/months as I reflect.

These are some of the things I wrote down as I anticipated leaving which I knew I would miss about life in the Land. Since I want to keep it short, I'll just put the first two today, and then I'll share a few more tomorrow.

The challenge of faith... needing to be so intentional... needing to rely so much on Jesus!
For me, it was spiritually very challenging in Israel and Palestine. Because there are so many strong opinions everywhere, I felt very guarded for much of my time there to share faith related stuff. This was silly, but still real. I also struggled to see so much religiously-based conflict everywhere. At first, I almost didn't want to be labeled as a person of faith. Later, though, I started thinking about Jesus, and came back to understanding, with new enthusiasm, that he didn't like religiousness either. I remembered how unbelievably hard and how opposite of human tendencies his commands are, and came back to the belief that His way is the only way. We must be humble to the point of death (Phil. 2), courageous in reconciliation, bold in faith, and committed to trusting Him, not ourselves, for the power to act in accordance with His will and for the results. In some ways, although learning these things can be incredibly exhausting, the battle can be more meaningful than the sometimes artificially easy way it can be for me to be "faithful" at home. (Please ask me if this doesn't make sense to you, I'd love to discuss!)

My friends
I was so blessed with wonderful friends in the Land. It's amazing how people can become like family -- trusting and taking care of each other in such a short time. I will truly miss my friends and am thankful that I really expect to spend significant time with many of them in the years to come. Some friendships are like that... you strongly suspect that they aren't just for one season.

Real, Yummy Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables in season, for great prices. Tomatoes that are really red. Apples that are normal sizes and flavorful, persimmons, pomegranates, figs, dates, orange juice squeezed in front of you. Amazing, healthy, affordable, always available. Heavenly!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Another fun video from camp

At camp a few weeks ago the kids could choose what to learn during one of the time slots each day. While I was doing "circus skills" others were making this movie. I thought you might enjoy it.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Face Painting Tutorial

I'm flying home to the DC area today, by way of London. As I travel, please enjoy the following video from camp:-)...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Musalaha Palestinian/Israeli Summer Camp Report

"I love this camp," a pre-teen girl told me as we played in the pool, "I love everything it stands for and everything it's about, and it's so fun!"

This attitude was echoed throughout Musalaha's Israeli-Palestinian summer camp by the seventy Palestinian and Israeli believing children and both local and foreign leaders.

For me, after six months in the Land, this camp gave me real hope like nothing else I have experienced. There was hope in the Bible studies, in the competitions, in the craziness and laughter, and in the worship. There was hope as the children were creative with their crafts and reckless in their play. There was hope as they were just being girls and boys – having fun, making friends, getting a break from the pressures of their everyday environment.

The fifty leaders arrived on Saturday afternoon to begin a run-through of the camp activities. We were quite a mix – the Musalaha leadership team, Israeli and Palestinian young teens who were junior counselors, Palestinian and Israeli college-aged counselors, and an American team visiting the country to serve us and the children. Over the course of the two days of preparation we got to know each other, and when the children arrived on Monday, we were ready!

When they arrived, many of the children found friends they had met at last year's camp. A group of two Palestinian and three Israeli girls negotiated to be in the same room. Upon receiving permission, they pulled five bunks together to make one huge bed where they could sleep together.

During my time here, I've gotten pretty good at identifying who is on which side – quickly profiling everyone I meet. It's usually unconscious, automatic, and often seems necessary. When I get on a bus, I need to remember what kind of bus it is so I know if I should greet and thank the driver in Hebrew or Arabic. When I see a group, I notice which side they are from. When I talk to people, I want to know where their sympathies lie so I don’t say something terribly offensive.

At the camp I realized that I wasn't noticing who is Israeli and who is Palestinian. I saw my brothers and sisters from both sides of the conflict demonstrate a love of Christ and each other above their love of sticking with their side. Leaders cared for kids, loving and instructing them regardless of where they are from. We were all there as believers in Jesus, and as should more often be the case, during camp no other identity really mattered.

One day after craft time, a Palestinian boy from the West Bank proudly pulled me aside to show me his pencil case. On it, he had painted an Israeli flag. I am not sure how his parents will feel about it, but it showed me how much more simple this situation is for the children. He loved his new friends and leaders and therefore had fond feelings about the place they are from.

As my coworker Tamara and I reflected on the camp, she said, "Innocence breaks down all this hatred that we have around us. You love the good things that you see in the other side. Like Jesus said, we should be little children."

The reality is that the conflict will probably get harder for these dear young ones as they get older. They will be pulled and they will likely have experiences that will confirm what their communities teach about the other. The conflict is real and they will likely come face to face with it before long.

But that thought is followed by remembering what I saw in the young adults who helped to lead the camp, many of whom have been raised as a part of Musalaha. They are pulled, but they do not forget their friends. For them, the "enemy" will never be faceless, inhuman, or distant. For them, the situation will never be easy or black and white. That is good. With open eyes they can help bring change. They are the hope.

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." -Matthew 18:1-3

See previous post and my Picasa album for pictures from the camp. See videos from camp on Musalaha's YouTube channel I'll also put a few here over the next few posts.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Musalaha's Palestinian-Israeli Summer Camp

Here is a picture update from last week's summer camp. Tomorrow I'll post my reflections on the camp. It was really wonderful, as you can see from the pictures below.
During leader orientation we did the activities we asked the kids to do later in the week. I think the guys did a pretty good job (even though we women won)!
Hillary, one of the other leaders, with one of the girls in her cabin during the Bible study time.

Doing something like a Bible drill.

The kids did even better than the leaders with the newspaper clothes. I had a soft spot in my heart for this kid... just look at that face!

I saw this girl walking through the camp on the last morning and chased her down for a picture. I think her shirt  is great -- and perfect for the camp.

So much fun!

This little guy was so sweet. He wanted his face painted as a football (soccer ball). He is originally from South Sudan.

We had moon bounces galore and lots of water one afternoon. Everyone had a wonderful, fun time!

No caption necessary:-)

More fun.

Enjoying the water.

Picture in Ronit's hand: what she said she was going to do to my face. My face: what she actually did to it. I'll post the video she made in the next few days.

Diligently working on the crafts.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Anticipating America...

Summer camp this week was amazing, and for the first time I have a moment to post the promised blog about what I'm looking forward to about home. During this coming week I also plan to share some great summer camp pictures and hopefully a post about the things I'm sad to leave... things which are starting to invade my brain. Thankfully, over the last few weeks of being really really excited to go home I have noted some of the random things I am really looking forward to about my time in the States. I'll make some notes about why as well:

I'm looking forward to... BAKING
As I have mentioned previously on here and as any of you who have met me know, I love baking. It is my favorite thing to do to relax and also a way I love to share with others. I haven't had an oven here, and tools and ingredients have been hard to come by. Once, out of desperation, I steamed a cake on the stove. I can't wait to get into a fully-stocked kitchen and to pump out some good old favorites! (Get hungry, Mom and Dad!)

I'm looking forward to... driving
Thanks to my amazingly generous friend Tamara, I have been able to drive some here. But I look forward to getting around on my own, not being sooo worried about using gas (maybe 4x more expensive here), and just the lovely roads we have in the States.

I'm looking forward to... seeing my clothes
I know, this is petty. But I do, I look forward to changing out my wardrobe, wearing more than plain long-sleeved shirts and less than attractive pants every day. The wardrobe I've had has worked great and suited its purpose... but it'll be nice to have a little diversity!

I'm looking forward to... seeing some babies
I need to meet a few good friends' new babies, and see a few who have probably doubled in size since Christmastime. I can't wait to hold them!

I'm looking forward to... going to TNBS
TNBS stands for Tuesday Night Bible Study... as in the best Bible study I've ever been a part of and the group of people I consider my closest church home. I love being intimate enough to be called out on stuff, challenged to go deeper in my walk with Christ, trusted, prayed for, encouraged, and in turn doing the same for others. I know it'll have changed but I can't wait anyway!

I'm looking forward to... vacuuming???
Yeah, this one is really random. Although I am very impressed by the Arab cleaning style, I can't keep up with all the sweeping and mopping. I constantly feel like my house is a mess. So yes, I look forward to vacuuming (or at least being able to)!

I'm looking forward to... Starbucks and Trader Joe's
This is so embarrassingly American, but these are just a few places I enjoy enough that just going there changes my mood!

I'm looking forward to... Costco with Mom
Related, but I have so many memories from my childhood shopping with my mom and thinking of meals to prepare and parties to plan. Maybe my favorite part was when she'd let me get a huge ice cream for $1. For whatever reason, I still look forward to these trips!

Most of all, I look forward to seeing friends and family and spending time with them. It is my hope that this time in the States will serve to refresh and allow me to refocus before taking the next steps in my journey! I hope also that I can be an encouragement.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Palestinian-Israeli Camp

Today I'm going with about 40 other leaders for a two-day training prior to our Israeli-Palestinian summer camp. Through this camp, we intend to encourage relationships between young believers and expect the relationships to change the trajectory of their perspectives on the "other" in this conflict.

On Monday, we'll be joined by 73 8-12 year-olds for the five day camp. Since I won't likely be able to blog during the camp I'll be keeping pictures and stories to share with you after the camp.

This camp marks the beginning of my last two weeks here. I'll have a final week in the office and then be off toward home. Check in next week to see some posts about what I'm looking forward to about being home. I'll only be home for a month, so will need to pack a lot in. Maybe having a record of what I want to do ahead of time will help me remember when I actually have the opportunity at home! I hope they'll be fun to read, too:-).

Friday, July 15, 2011

"The Real Musalaha"

Saturday I attended the weeding of some friends of mine in Bethlehem. I sat across from an Israeli and a Palestinian friend. They were getting along great. I kept hearing, "I love you sister!"

Eventually, the conversation turned to Musalaha, where they concluded together: "This is the real Musalaha." Sitting at a table, doing life together, enjoying each other.

My beautiful friends.
I'm thankful that the work we do is laying the groundwork for these relationships to begin. May more continue beyond our programs and into normal life.

It is my hope that someday these friends will not have to wait for permits and special events to see each other.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chivalry in the Middle East

I've been meaning to write this for a long time. One thing I appreciate about Arab culture is that, when I get on a bus, a man often gives his seat up for me (or any other woman who gets on-board). This is especially nice because the buses are small and standing is very uncomfortable.

So here's a shout-out to Arab gentlemen. I know you guys often get a bad rap, and I want you to know that I appreciate your kindnesses!

I was with my photojournalist friend when he took this picture of our bus driver right by the checkpoint.
Photo credit: Barry Rodriguez,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Visit Home

I'll be in the States for the month of August, and am working to schedule my time there. I'll be in Maryland for the first half of the month and then in Washington State for the second half. If you'd like to get together, shoot me an email so we can schedule some time, please!

For now, keep tracking with me. This last month is proving to be exciting with another camp next week and many other things going on!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hebron Camp Day 6

Our final day of camp was the most fun for me. Instead of staying in a small classroom, I got to run around with the kids outside as they participated in competitions. The kids were split into four teams during the week, and this was their opportunity to show their team unity. I took lots of pictures. Enjoy!



Lots of water balloons made for a fun game of the kids running and the adults throwing balloons at them:-)



Our camp was a spectator sport! These kids sat on the wall of the school watching what we did.