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.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hebron Camp Day 5

Day five was the last day of crafts at the Hebron Camp. The kids made decopauge journals, which was very fun!

Half-way through the day, when the kids had a break for snack, my partner Maria and I tidied the tables and then were working on a project the the supplies which we hoped to use as gifts. Kids kept coming in and out of the room, always eager to hang out and look at our supplies. We looked up at one point and noticed several girls who had come in with a broom, and were very efficiently sweeping our room. They worked at it for about 15 minutes, leaving the room very clean. I was so impressed. No one had told them to do it, they just saw a need and got to work.

Here is a picture from the day:

Brittany, one of the other camp leaders, found a cool place to rest after the day was over.

Hebron Day 4

Day four we returned to our host school for another day of fun and learning. In the craft room, we painted pencil cases, which the kids really enjoyed. Some were really creative and beautiful, and it was great for the kids to be able to show their own style in the project.

Each day the kids had an assembly time where they sang songs, saw pictures from the camp, and learned lessons. Day 4 was the only day I made it there. The boy featured in this video became one of my favorites throughout the week. He has uncontainable energy!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hebron Day 3

Day three of the Hebron camp was exciting and nerve wracking -- we were going to try to take 120 Palestinian children through the checkpoint into Jerusalem to take them to the zoo. We didn't know if it we would succeed because, although legal for children under 16 to cross into Israel, it really depended on who was managing the checkpoint whether they would let us cross. Many people were praying.

I was in the first of three buses with Shadia, who it had been decided was the best person to negotiate with the guards. Since our Palestinian adult leaders couldn't come with us it was just foreigners and lots and lots of children. We held our breath as we approached the first checkpoint. We were prepared to try another if we were not allowed through.

By the grace of God, it took us no longer than three minutes to get through. There was no searching and no questioning. We were just asked whether we had arranged the visit ahead of time, and with an affirmative answer that we had an invitation from the zoo all three buses passed through with no problem.

When we got to the zoo, we were met with other people connected to our organization, who were ready to help with the kids. Each leader had six excited children in their group. Most of us know little Arabic, but with lots of "yalla" (let's go) being shouted we managed to communicate with the children. I quickly fell in love with my six -- five boys and one girl between 6 and 12 years old.

This is my group! :-)
One thing that really stuck out to me was when all the groups were still close together it was hard to identify those in my group quickly. I followed the example of some other leaders and drew something unique on each kid's hand. I chose the first thing I thought of, a five-point star, and put it on a few kids' hands. When I got to one of the older ones, he didn't want me to put it on his hand, concerned that it is Israeli symbol. It actually isn't -- but I realized this kid was on high alert. Coming into Israel he certainly did not want to be manipulated into being identified with "the enemy." I wonder what kind of pep talk he was given before coming on the trip, and what pep talk I would have given if I was his mother. The stars became funny looking smiley faces, and I realized how real the conflict is for these precious little ones.

Here are some pictures from the day at the zoo:

The kids excited to go!


The kids were so funny taking pictures of everything with their cell phones.

The boys loved getting close to the beautiful tropical birds.

The Jerusalem zoo is really cool. We were just feet from this leopard.


Enamored with the animals.

This is what everyone looked like on the way back to Hebron. I was trying to keep them seated, and it was like a hammer head game but the second one kid sat down five stood up!
We continue to thank God that we were able to do this trip!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July

A few friends reminded me that it is the Fourth of July today. To all of my American friends and family, Happy Independence Day!

I remembered today that my last 4th post was about how suitable it seemed for me to be returning to the States from England on a day marking such significant history between the two countries. That trip was a big turning point for me as I considered what I was going to do with this year. Thinking about that today reminded me of how huge this last year has been. I didn't know then that I would move back to the UK for the fall, or that I would spend seven months in Palestine and Israel. I am thankful for where God has taken me this year and for all I have learned. There is still much processing ahead, but I know I have been challenged and grown already.

Thanks for tracking with me over the last year and a half. It has been a wild ride (which doesn't look like it'll be over any time soon)!

For now, here is a 4th of July trip down memory lane... these are the types of things you'd catch me doing if I were in America today:

Chilling with my family and friends. Picture from 4 July 2009.

Dressed in RED, WHITE, and BLUE. Picture taken 4 July 2008.

Watching fireworks with some of these people in Catonsville. Picture from 4 July 2008.

OK, this picture is just to remind me how American I can be. The football field just seals the deal. Picture taken 4 July 2008.

If given the opportunity, playing lawn games. Yes, this is a day I do think lawn games are kinda fun. Picture from 4 July 2005.

Playing croquette with my family. Picture from 4 July 2005.

Enjoying old friends, enjoying laying on the ground and watching the sky show. Photo from 4 July 2005.
Add to this eating lots of yummy food (including hamburgers, hot dogs, and watermelon), and I think you have the picture! I hope those at home are having a wonderful time celebrating the holiday.

Hebron Camp Day 2

Day 2 of the Hebron camp was really good. In my room the kids made picture frames and we all showed signs of knowing each other more. The only problem with my craft was that the kids all finished very early, so we needed something to do. Ever try teaching a group of 6-12 year olds how to play duck-duck-goose when you don't speak their language? It's an experience worth having:-). We had 50 of us playing at one time! I'm thankful no one fell into one of the concrete walls while running their heart out!

Here are some pictures from the day:
The barely controlled chaos of the craft room as the kids worked.
Making the mosaic frame.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Hebron Camp Day 1

This week we are conducting a summer camp for kids in Hebron -- a Muslim city in Palestine. It is a work of reconciliation in the sense that it is Christians working with Muslims -- something that doesn't happen very often.

This is the second time our organization has done this camp. The kids were so well behaved and thankful last year, and we have all really been looking forward to it.

I am in charge of one of the activities the kids rotate through at the camp -- CRAFTS! I have been wishing I was more like my mom for weeks (for those of you who don't know my mom is a genius with kids, especially in coming up with meaningful things for them to do). Thankfully, she helped me get organized over Skype, and we have some great things planned.

My goal for the week is to update you and show you some pictures daily. This time I'm posting right before heading to the bus for day two, so we'll see if I can do a little better in the future. I hope you enjoy these adorable kids as much as I have been!

The kids were waiting for us when we got there and excitedly registered. This is part of the crowd pouring in. We have about 100 kids.

The theme of the camp is "what's in your bag?" and talking about the things carry with them in life.

I had kids make the classic "bead men" on the first day which are meant to be decorations for their new backpacks, which they will get as a part of attending the camp.

One of my coworkers had the kids do "newspaper fashion" in her station. I thought this picture was too cute not to share.