“If you want to be nice and warm and comfortable in the Christian life, don’t get serious about being a real Christian and don’t get serious about doing anything about the world in which you live…. If you get serious about these things, you’ll live in constant tension” (T.B. Maston, Christian Ethicist).
Our team is doing well, but we are experiencing a bundle of emotions combined with the tension described above. The past two days in the West Bank stand in stark contrast to our time in Zimbabwe. Though we witnessed real pain and suffering in Zimbabwe, we found much joy combined with what I can only call Spirit-filled celebration. In Palestine/Israel, on the other hand, religion is much more a point of division than celebration or joy. Before I explain what I mean, I want to express that my deepest conviction is that ALL people are created in the image and likeness of God. ALL people are of immeasurable value and are worthy of love. In other words, the tension that I’m about to express is absolutely NOT intended to reject or demonize anyone. I simply want to express what I’ve seen, what I have witnessed. We have to see inhumanity and injustice for what it is in order to be find ways to serve those who are hurting and/or seek to change systems that cause the pain.
So, back to my point that religion in the West Bank seems to be much more a point of contention than celebration or joy: Many Israelis, especially ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlers, treat Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) as if they were sub-human. Think of Native Americans relegated to reservations via a trail of tears, oppressed and segregated African Americans without equal civil rights, or Black South Africans during Apartheid, and you’ll have an image of how Palestinians are treated here. We have had extensive conversation with Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and with a Palestinian Muslim family in Hebron. Members of this family have been beaten and mistreated by Israeli soldiers and by Orthodox Jewish settlers for a period of years. Unfortunately, their story is all too common. Frankly, our U. S. news sources do not portray what we have found here.
Of course, there is another side to the story. We met with Messianic Jews in Jerusalem who expressed this other side. They are dedicated, peaceful, faithful Jewish people who are followers of Jesus as their Messiah. They oppose and resist the mistreatment of Palestinians, yet they believe the wall in the West Bank is necessary for security. They have a point, but I still find it impossible–in my conscience at least–to justify the apartheid-like segregation of nearly seven million Palestinians in the name of security and for the sake of claiming land already owned by others for generations.
We also learned that a clear majority of Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel truly mistrust, even hate (?), Christians. They tend to associate all of us with the Inquisition and the Holocaust.
Anne Lamott’s words ring true, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” I recognize that I need to hear these words as as do those whom I would critique.
I almost feel guilty painting such a bleak picture because this has been a fantastic exploratory mission trip. But what I’ve described in Palestine/Israel is truly what we have learned, seen, and witnessed here. Having said this, I also want to say that blame only increases enmity, violence results in escalating violence, and demonizing others violates the image of God within everyone.
This is why I began this blog with the Maston quote. Our group, corporately and individually, is experiencing tension. One of the first sermons I ever preached, well over 30 years ago, was entitled, “The Security of Tension” and was inspired by Maston’s words. When we feel the tension of seeking to live the love of God in our world while witnessing ongoing violations of that love in others and in ourselves, perhaps…maybe…this tension is a sign that we are seeking a way through. Given the world in which we live, when we become too comfortable, when the tension ceases, is the time we should become more concerned. The tension is necessary.
We return to McMurry in two days. We not only return with our experiences; we return with dreams of collaborating with Africa University in Zimbabwe and with Bethlehem Bible College and Holy Land Trust in the West Bank. We return with dreams of living God’s Dream, globally and locally. The tension between the pain/enmity/oppression we have witnessed and God’s Dream is real. Perhaps we live in tension or we do not live faithfully at all.
Peace, Salaam, Shalom to all,
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More poignant blog post to come, but I’m operating on a few short hours of airplane sleep… which is basically no sleep at all. So, a few disjointed thoughts will have to satiate you until one of my other, more lucid teammates can fill in all the details…
For those of you who don’t know, the first four years of my life were spent treading this rocky soil peppered with olive trees and grape groves. I grew up in a house on a street on a hill in the small town of Beit Jala, right on the outskirts of Bethlehem… the town I’m sitting in right now.
Today, our tour guide happened to drive down a street in Beit Jala on our way to Hebron, the most poignant and violent example of ramifications of the ongoing occupation of the West Bank. As I looked at the buildings we were passing, my eyes caught the words “the local Baptist church” beneath the beautiful Arabic script on one of the buildings. Almost out of instinct, I looked to my left, grabbed the arm of our driver, and exclaimed, “that’s the house I grew up in.”
He turned around…
I stepped out of the car…
Carly followed and took a picture of me in front of the house that is a mosaleum of some of my earliest memories.
I walked to the driveway were I stuck a pebble into my nostril when I was Eli’s age (almost 3), observed the back porch upon which beggars would sit and eat the food my mother prepared for them, saw the frosted glass behind which my father would sit in quiet prayer and study each morning, and came undone.
This is the house in which I learned that being a Christian necessitates welcoming the stranger, where I learned that being a friend requires silence and work, not words, in the face of tragedy. It’s where I learned that prayers should be shared in circles with kids weaving in and out of tree-trunk legs and that laundry is best dried from the roof.
Anis Mojani writes that “the orchards and full, and the branches are heavy,” and these words encapsulate the condition of my heart tonight.
Water keeps lapping at my eye lids as it swooshes back and forth in this bucket heart or mine. I can’t construct a simple sentence without the lump in my throat, and I’m not even speaking. Some many memories are being relived. So many heartaches are being discovered. I’m all kinds of messed up, you might say…
In Abilene, when I wake up feeling displaced and confused like this, I’ll mope around and Erin will simply ask, “Is today a Hummus kind of day.” ”Yeah,” I’ll reply with the same sloshy-heart-bucket-tears… Today is a Hummus Kind of Day for sure.
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As I sat beside the translator and began to speak to the congregation, the story of the Acts of the Apostles hit me with full force.
“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability.” (Acts 2:4)
Here I was, speaking words in English and finding them rolling off the tongue of my friend in Shona, the rhythm and fullness of their sounds giving them new life and creating music to my ears.
What a holy place to be on the day of Pentecost, worshiping with the people of Sarupinda United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe.
The entire experience was completely humbling. Upon hearing of our intention to worship at Sarupinda UMC, members of our team were invited to participate in the facilitation of worship.
Picture it, now, here we were: six lily white people, walking into a village church in Zimbabwe, with hearts open to what the people had to share with us, and we found ourselves up at the front, leading the people. This act of hospitality on the part of our new friends is consistent with our experience throughout our time at Africa University and the surrounding area.
After the Bible Study concluded, Tanner prayed, and I returned to my seat. As the worship service began, Tim P. and Tanner joined the men’s choir, and after a few hymns in English and in Shona, Tim was invited lead the congregation in a song. He leapt out of the choir loft and picked up the drum to take it to the front.
“This white boy is going to play the drum,” one of our friends from Africa University said to Bethany. “Is he serious?”
Of course, we all knew that Tim did intend to play and sing, and he did just that, very well, as he always does. It was beautiful to hear American and African voices singing together, “Oh . . . How He loves us so . . . Oh, how He loves us . . .”
Later in the service, Mark shared from Isaiah 40, verses 26-31, reminding us that in the crucifixion of Christ, God is saying, “I cry with you in your brokenness,” and in the resurrection, God says, “I am here to pick up the pieces with you and put you back together.”
Thanks be to God.
Just before Mark had begun preaching, I was invited to join the children, and some of them were complaining that our Sunday School room had no roof or anywhere to sit.
I told them the story of Jesus’ telling his disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such as these belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:14). They knew the story, and they smiled.
“God loves you,” I told them. “God loves the little children! Even if there’s no roof!” We all laughed together and praised God.
The celebration of God’s love continued as another friend from Africa University, invited us to his home for a delicious meal. We ate and talked and laughed and played with the children. I thought Carly’s young friend was going to try to come back to Texas with us.
It was a beautiful, Spirit-filled day, as we were reminded once again, as the pastor of Sarupinda said: “God knows no languages.”
May the Holy Spirit be upon us all.
Grace and Peace,
Amy Wilson FeltzUncategorized | Comments Off
Unlike most great things, the relationship between Africa University in Zimbabwe, Africa and McMurry University will not be coming to an end!
Sorry for our lack of communication via blog throughout the week! Our team members have been exhausting themselves at the expense of the future of McMurry in Motion, particularly with Africa University, and have been left physically, mentally, emotionally, but never spiritually, drained at the end of each day!
After 52 hours worth of flights, layovers, and road trips, our team finally arrived at Africa University at approximately 7:45 Tuesday night. Immediately we found ourselves overwhelmed by the hospitality, kind hearts, and love of our fellow brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe, Africa. After meeting with the Vice Chancellor, Chaplain, Faculty of Theology, Student Representative Council, and several other student organizations and faculty/staff members of Africa University, the idea of a potential partnership between McMurry University and Africa University began to flourish!
Conversations of establishing international study-abroad, student-exchange, and internship programs in the near future were brought to the surface throughout the week, and seemed to continually drive members of both institutions to believe that this dream could indeed become a reality! The dream is alive!
More importantly, the relationships the members of our team established throughout the week with students of Africa University, which collectively represent 29 countries from all around the continent of Africa, led to the creation of a brand new institution, Ubuntu University. Ubuntu, which means “I am because we are”, or “togetherness”, serves as the foundation of the relationship between McMurry and Africa University, similar to that of the Body of Christ. After several “cultural nights” we spent in community with one another mutually learning specifics of the diversity of cultures being represented, the Facebook page “Ubuntu University” was created! (check it out!)
As we are ending our last night together in celebration of the short, yet beneficial and meaningful, time together with the last of our “cultural nights”, the Holy Spirit began to reveal His work in each of our hearts throughout the duration of this trip. As our team began to reflect on the condition of our hearts and souls, many hearts became softened, and many lives became changed.
Throughout our time in Zimbabwe, Africa this week, our team has been witness to severe poverty, an overwhelmingly understaffed hospital in Old Mutare, an unemployment rate of 98%, an orphanage that fails to have its needs met, and several other issues that have simply broken our hearts.
Personally, with this being my first overseas mission trip (first time out of the United States for that matter), each of these previously listed things hit me extremely hard. I couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around the fact that while there are thousands among thousands of individuals starving in Zimbabwe, there also several, just around the corner, who are dining at 5-star restaurants. Today during our visit to Mutare, Zimbabwe, we were among the select few enjoying the delicacies of a very classy and formal restaurant. The moment we walked through the doors I became overwhelmed with conviction and my heart began to break even more for those, literally just around the corner, who are in desperate need of relief. I battled with this conviction throughout the entire day. The conviction did nothing but strengthen as we made our way into the beautiful African mountains to Leopard Rock Resort. I eventually got to the point to which this conviction was too heavy to carry, and poured out my heart and soul to my team members. On the verge of tears, the Holy Spirit revealed something to me that I had been desperately searching for.
Before this trip, and up until this point, I was struggling in the discernment process of just what exactly my purpose was on this trip. It seemed as if everyone (Tim, Dr. Waters, Amy, Carley, and Bethany ) had a specific calling and/or reason to be here, while I on the other hand, was left wondering. However, after tonight’s revelation brought to me through the Holy Spirit, I quickly realized why it is I am here. My purpose in joining this Exploratory Mission Team was for no reason other than to soften a heart of mine that had been hardened, corrupted, and simply blinded by the materialistic things of this world in which we live. Tonight God softened a heart that was once hard and opened eyes that were once blind to the horrific conditions our brothers and sisters of not only Africa, but all across the world and sometimes just right around the corner, live in on a daily basis that can never be accurately portrayed by any picture in a magazine or commercial on television, and for that, I am thankful.
For those of you searching for ways in which you can be the hands and feet of Christ, remember that traveling to the other side of the world may or may not be the answer, because more times than not, the most desperate needs are just right around the corner! I pray that this radical change of heart that I have experienced will provide testimony and a sense of encouragement/awareness to the students, faculty, and staff members of McMurry University, and in the same way in which my heart has been radically changed, the face, heart, and identity of McMurry University will also be changed!
With a softened heart, opened eyes, and much love,
Tanner Swinford/Exploratory Mission TeamUncategorized | Comments Off
Have you ever had that feeling in the pit of your stomach that feels like you’ve just been punched? That feeling where you’re not sure if you want to throw up or cry, but you can’t seem to do either one? I remember standing in the Religious Life Office over a year ago when I heard Martha Chace say that McMurry would be travelling to Africa the next summer. It was one of those feelings you can’t explain, but I remember something welling up inside of me as soon as I heard those words. I wasn’t sure why I knew it, but I knew that’s where I was going to go.
It’s a year later and I’m sitting in the Heathrow airport with the same disposition. I’m still not exactly sure why God has called me here, but I know this is where I’m supposed to be. The feeling in the pit of my stomach hasn’t completely gone, and I still can’t articulate what exactly it is, but whatever it is keeps me moving forward.
As far as travelling goes, we’ve arrived in London this morning and have been keeping ourselves entertained for the past few hours. Fish and chips, a few poop stories, card games, and lots of different accents. Tim was right when he said the most beautiful are found in the airport. We’ll leave in a little bit for our next flight to Ethiopia.
Bethany says “FISH AND CHIPS!” (That’s a shout out to Ricky!)
Mark says “Hello everyone!”
God is at work. I know it. And other with being slightly frustrated because I can’t quite articulate what that looks like, I’m okay with it. Thanks for your continued prayers.
Carly Payne and the Zimbabwe/West Bank TeamExploratory Mission 2013 | Comments Off
We’ve been spending our mornings at St. John’s English School using arts and crafts, music, sports, and other mediums to help the students learn conversational English and character development. This has been such a gratifying experience. We even stop in-between our two sessions for a spot of tea (Chai). The students are so respectful, standing for us and addressing us as “Mam” and “Sir” and with “Good morning teachers” when we enter the class. Becky Wilcox and I are doing the music class and have spent the last couple of days teaching the students how to beatbox and use their body to keep rhythm (which they inform me is spelled with an e…). The English song they know is We Shall Overcome, so that’s been a great avenue to talk about character development.
After our class sessions, we generally spend some time in conversation with the teachers of St. John’s who represent all of the major faiths of India- Hindu, Muslim, etc. It’s beautiful to see persons of such divergent faiths partner together to develop the future ethical servant leaders of India. We are learning so much!! MacKenzie and Becky even donned one of the teacher’s Burkas during today’s session with two Muslim teachers.
After our conversation with the teachers we made our way across Aurangabad (which is very big and very crowded, by the way) to another school that Life Light runs called Life Touch English School. There we met some new brothers and sisters who live in a Leper’s colony in Aurangabad. Believe it or not, leprosy still exists, along with the social stigma attached to it. In Aurangabad many lepers live together and cobble together a scant livelihood begging. Most of our new friends were bent over in what had to be excruciating pain and were blind, missing fingers, or both. We sang together, prayed together, then Mark Waters preached one of the most powerful sermons I’ve ever heard as he went around our circle touching everyone’s faces and hands and expressing the nearness of God through Jesus’ loving touch. We then served our new friends lunch and ate with them on woven mats in the school yard. Because of our language barrier, most of our conversation consists of us butchering the Marathi language and then laughing together! After lunch, one of the friends from the colony, a professional street performer and storyteller, shared an amazing song with us about the banality of seeking worldly pleasures at the expense of our souls. We can’t take it with us- not even Alexander the Great could- so let’s set our hearts on deeper things… what a message we need to continually hear.
Needless to say, that experience was heavy enough, but as we drove away from LTES it was only early afternoon. At 5:00 we boarded our van and rode an hour’s drive to a small village outside of Aurangabad in order to host a worship service. The small building was packed to overflowing with small children, young mothers with babies, and old men and women dressed like Gandhi. After the service, I learned that 10 villages had invited us to come and worship with them, and some folks who showed up had traveled over four hours to be with us tonight.
To be honest, we are tired, worn down, and stretched thin. Every day is packed with opportunities to serve and learn and grow. But, in the midst of such diversity and poverty, we are finding hope in the eyes of those we came to serve. The laughter of our students carries us through. The respect of the teachers and staff help us keep our chins held high. We are seeing signs of life in our surroundings as well as in our own hearts. God is at work and we need your continued prayers as we work and learn with our new friends in India for the next week.
One more word- our students are the best. They serve in humility and with dignity and grace and I see the light of God in each of them.
t.p.Uncategorized | Comments Off
So today July 20th (USA TIME), we finally went to St. John English School and it was amazing, when we got there the kids and staff were very welcoming. Picture this if you can, so a slightly muddy road, two big drums, 4 flags and about 20-30 people!! I thought they were having a program but it was for us and they were so polite and welcoming. We had an orientation at the school and then we got to meet some of the children in the nursery classes-so cute BTW. Then we went shopping!!! Who doesn’t love to go shopping!! It was amazing we had 2 women in John’s family that assisted us in shopping for clothing and they were great, they helped a lot. We realized that USA tight and India tight are 2 whole different things!! We later made our way to the orphanage and that’s when it all began. The journey of a lifetime, you know that feeling you get when you don’t know what to expect but you don’t care what it is you just want it. THAT’S THE FEELING I HAD as I walked into the room and these four beautiful little girls filled with love and joy came running into my arms and hugged me soooo tight!!! I had to hold back my tears because I didn’t want them to think they did something bad, I was the first person to go so I didn’t know what to expect and as I sat and watched every person get their kids I was just amazed of how much love these kids showed to us, people they don’t even know, someone who they had only known from a picture! This was truly mesmerizing. They sang us a beautiful song with a dance and I tried to follow along with them, but it didn’t work out too well.
Then we got to play with them for a few hours! That was soo much fun, we played little sally walker, ring around the rosey, did the chicken dance and plenty of other things!! Today was a good, no GREAT, no FANTASTIC to the MAX day!!!! Well until next time!!
Kee KeeUncategorized | Comments Off
We finally made it to Aurangabad – with our luggage! After our free day in Dehli yesterday we arrived back at the hotel SO grateful to see all of our luggage there! We were able to sleep in this morning and hang out for a bit at the hotel because checkout wasn’t until noon. That was nice because we were all beat from the day before. So after we checked out, we headed to the airport in Delhi to begin our last day of travel [for a little while anyway]. When we got to the airport, we had to go to the visitor entry and wait for Tim Palmer to get our e-tickets from 2 different ticket counters. Finally, after about 30 minutes of going back and forth from window to window and waiting in lines we all had everything we needed. Then we went inside and got our boarding passes printed. At this airport we had to put new tags on all of our bags so that they could be stamped when we went through security. Our team stopped off to the side and sat down on the ground to fill out these tags. A nice lady came by not too long after we were writing and said ‘We have very comfortable chairs to sit in over there. You may not sit on the ground.’ I don’t know why but it was SO funny to us!! We made jokes about it the rest of the day saying ‘comfortable chair’ every time we saw a place to sit! We went through security and boarded our flight to Mumbai without a snag. We had plenty of time to eat and walk around the air port. The flight was about 2 hours and we were going to have to HUSTLE to make our connection to Aurangabad that was at a different gate. We were ready to run for it and actually started to do so when a lady who worked for the airline told us that we were actually going to be on the same aircraft to Aurangabad, so that was a relief. John Dongerdive and part of the Life Light staff met us at the airport with flower necklaces! They were so nice and the flowers smelled great. John and the staff ate dinner with our team at the hotel and man did we EAT! Noodles, rice, chicken, tofu, curry and many many other delicious dishes! Tomorrow will be our first day of work at the school and orphanage! Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. They are felt and appreciated.
I hope that you had a great time away at lunch today! It’s been a full… three days since we left Abilene! And I can’t wait to fill everyone in. Right now, internet is well connected, but we can only use the lobby computer, so time is limited. Plus, IT’S MIDNIGHT HERE!! I better get some sleep.
But, before that here are a few highlights from our free day in New Delhi.
We started our day off hoping that our lost luggage would make it to the hotel before we left for the day… it didn’t arrive this morning, but, when we arrived back to the hotel after our adventurous day, all but one bag had arrived. Unfortunately, TK and Brittney Cummings will be making a special early morning (like 2:30 AM) trip to the airport to get her bag and talk to customs about the 2 generously donated laptops that ended up in her checked bag. Should be simple to work out, but Brittney is ready for her own shampoo and clothes!
Then, after breakfast, we hit the streets of Delhi. We drove around the Presidential Palace, visited the Gandhi memorial- a very meaningful, somber time as we prayed for peace in our world, took some time to shop at a street market and eat a little Indian McDonald’s (what? No beef on the menu?!). Then, we visited the Lotus Temple, the main gathering place in Delhi of those who practice the Baha’i faith and finished our day at the Swaminarayan Temple, one of the most beautiful, mesmerizing, grandiose worship spaces I’ve ever seen. It’s more of an ashram, compound, temple, garden space than a simple place of worship. Our students had some interesting and new experiences there that I’m sure you’ll hear about as the days progress. I’ll simply say that, for most of us, it was our first experience receiving the customary red dot that marks spiritual insight on our foreheads.
What a meaningful time we are having! Everything is new here. The sights, the smells, the customs, the costumes, and the traffic. and yet, in the midst of all the newness, we feel so connected with our brothers and sisters here in India. As different as we can look at times, the Hindu greeting of “Namaste” rings true in our hearts. “The divine in me responds to the divine in you…” We truly are more connected than we realize. And, as we contemplate and react to this new culture and our new friends here, we are reminded that we are connected to our home by the cords of your friendship and love.
Namaste McMurry family!
Today was a pretty full day–full of excitement, adventure, and a little twist!
We had a few extra minutes of sleep today because breakfast on Sunday is served a little later. That means about 7:30 instead of 7:00. We will take what we can get! after breakfast we were given the option to go to church with Marci, and our entire team decided to go. The church service was beautiful, and many of us were able to sing along to some of the songs in English once we recognized what they were. They even welcomed us in creole!
We left church a little early because we
Had to get back to the compound to leave for the beach. We got dressed and left for the beach in the PID bus. It is probably about an hour or so drive to the beach, but we had a tad bit of car trouble on our way which required our strong men to push a little! (I definitely have photo evidence of this, don’t worry) after some added water, we were on our way! No worries!
We had a great time hanging out at the beach, eating our sandwiches and drinking our cokes! It was such a beautiful scene to be at the beach with the clear blue water and the giant mountains in the background. We were able to stay about 3-4 hours I believe, and we were all tired by the time we left for PID.
We had a short pitstop on the way back to put some more water in the engine (hehe) and then we were greeted by showers and dinner back at the compound.
Tonights reflection and group time was filled with words of encouragement and smiles. I passed out letters from McMurry faculty and staff to the team members, and it meant so much to receive notes of encouragement from back home. It’ll definitely help us fight through our last couple days of work here. We also went around and had a time of encouragement for each individual person on the team, and it was a really special time for most everyone I believe!
We are all pretty well rested and ready to get back to work and finish our new tasks the last two days. I think everyone is in agreement that the trip is moving fairly quickly, and it’ll be interesting to hear from everyone as they process the trip in the days and weeks to come.
Thank you all for your continued prayers and support!!
LindseyUncategorized | Comments Off