Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tell My Story - ألله معانا

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Being You Matters

I never thought of the things I do that don’t matter as things that matter. I’ve chosen moments in my life where I intentionally done or said things that matter in order to achieve a desired response. We all do that. We act a certain way in certain situations in order to be viewed in a certain light that will affect the way others see us, at the least, and, at most, to inspire others. It’s moments like bending down and picking up trash off the ground, lending an umbrella to someone who doesn’t have one, or helping an old lady cross the street. These are all things we should be doing anyway, but we are self-conscious as we do these things hoping we’re scoring some points on some spectator's board. But receiving commendation per such action is nowhere near satisfying as the acknowledgement of the impact of one’s unintentional action on someone’s life.

Here’s some dirty laundry, kinda. And, please, don’t take this as a “don’t do this,” because there is some merit to it. I have a playful personality. I’d like to think I’m fun and relevant, especially that I’m in youth ministry. At one point I started to feel like “shot-callers” would not view me as a valid option because I may not look professional. Mind you, not looking professional is what helped me stay “in” and “cool” among the youth. Several young people told me they can’t believe I’m as old as I am because I don’t act like it. They say it in a positive way, or at least I convince myself it is. Some of them say they can’t believe I am a father, because fathers are way more serious. I took the hint, and started doing certain things so people would take me more seriously. I started attending certain meetings that people who matter attend. Being there with them would remind them that I exists, maybe even that I’m a peer. Another thing I did was changing my attired when I’m around these people. Button down shirts, better looking pants, out with the Adidas Campus, in with the dress shoes. I even grew a beard so I would look older; that scored points with the young people as well since it was “cool.” I started using a certain lingo that’s expected of “mature” people, upright posture channeling confidence (and good for my back), and before I knew it I was jumping through the hoops like some trained and tame lion; a glorified kitten. I was still nowhere I had hoped I’d be.

In the midst of all of this, someone said something to me the eclipsed everything and anything I could do to be taken more seriously. Something way more important than being taken seriously. It was something that refocused me unto what really matters. I was scrolling through my daily fix of Instagram posts and stories when I came across a video of a friend playing guitar. He’s one of the more brilliant guitar players I know. I DM’ed him and we texted back and forth for a bit. Before ending the conversation he said, “I want to tell you something that I’ve never told you before.” He continued saying that the first time he saw me was at summer camp playing the guitar. He said, “when I saw you play the guitar, then and there, I decided I wanted to pick up the guitar because of you.” Compliments of my guitar playing ability accompanied this story which was one of the most humbling moments of my life. This friend is an accomplished guitar player himself, and to hear these words from him only humbled me more and more. Honestly, I cannot remember that specific moment  at summer camp that he was talking about. But I know for sure I wasn’t trying to impress anyone there. I just was there being my whatever self doing what I love most, which is serving young people.

Refocused, I do care that I look presentable, but now I am more interested in impressing young people than “shot-callers.” I understand that at the heart of it God is at work. On that day at summer camp I was just me, a tool - pun intended, and God used me to work in some young person’s heart. The world is full of distractions; things that distract us from being what God needs us to be in order to work through us. Reflecting back on it, trying to impress whoever I was trying to impress is time I could’ve invested being me with whomever God would’ve wanted to impress through me. Nothing advances our ministry like doing the ministry we are called to do. So, I will forever be my undignified self for the sake of the ministry to which God has called me. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Going Into Labor

Written on May 1st

Happy Labor Day everybody! No I do not have my dates mixed up. While in the USA Labor Day is celebrated in September, in Israel it is celebrated on May 1st. Well, kinda. Labor Day is not an official holiday in Israel, yet it is celebrated by many. This year's Labor day falls on a special day, which is Memorial Day. Can you read that sentence again without being confused? You see, while Labor Day is always on May 1st, Memorial Day does not have a fixed date since it is always a day before Israel's Independence Day. Are you further confused? Let me explain. The Israeli Independence Day does have a fixed date on the Jewish calendar which is lunar. That means that Independence Day will land on the same date on the Jewish calendar but on different dates every year on the Gregorian, normal, calendar.

Memorial Day can be described as a celebration of the lives of men and women who died serving their country. Others consider it a day of mourning the loss of loved ones. Those who labored with many others for a cause, knowing they might not live to enjoy the victory of the fight. One cannot give such great a gift without having absolute faith in their hearts. While appreciating the faith and sacrifice, I can only celebrate the lives of those I will get to meet later and mourn those I won't have the chance to.

I've pondered the thought that there are people I'll only meet once. I believe that every day we meet people whom we won't tell about Jesus. Those are people we probably will meet only once, that one time. But what if we decide to take action? People are willing to give their lives for earthly things that will shortly after wither away. Why are we scared of sharing something so precious with others that will impact not only their perishable lives but their eternity as well?!

I've often come across people who take action by praying. Prayer is a very powerful tool we, as believers, have in our tool box. Sometimes it's easier to fight battle behind closed doors on our knees. I personally believe we cannot do anything without prayer. I find it such an inspiration that at the end of Matt. 9 Jesus instructs His disciples to pray to God to send workers and laborers. The very next thing He does at the beginning of chapter 10 is sending the disciples themselves as workers and laborers. And for the remaining of the same chapter He tells them how hard it will be. It will be labor!

When my wife went into labor I stood by her side for almost a full day of pain. We heard other women in other rooms screaming as they were giving birth. Earlier, grandma told me "this is the forgotten hardship." I asked her, "what does that mean?" She said, "the pain is gone once you hold your newborn in your hands." She is right! Such wonderful feelings overwhelm you when you hold a newborn baby, a newborn person. Such is our labor. I've had moments I wanted to throw in the towel. There were moment I said "I'm giving up, I'm done wasting time." And when I asked God what I should do He said "Love them."

So let us all go into labor! If it's hard, it's supposed to be! Jesus did not fool us into discipleship saying it will be a piece of cake. He said it will be labor. And when we see God's hand change the lives of those we've labored for we will forget the pain and rejoice with the heavens! So let us celebrate today being laborers in God's fields! Happy Labor Day everybody!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

To The USA And Back In Ten Days

At the time of writing this is had been only three days since I returned from my trip to the USA. I'm sitting on the red carpet in my living room; it's 2:00 am hoping I'll be sleepy soon to put this jet-lag behind me, so I hope. I'm trying to process my trip while I still can, after all if was the busiest ten-day-trip of my life. Good busy!

After a 12 hour flight I arrived state-side, and few more to get me to the airport in Indianapolis, it was night, and I was ready to call it a night, or day, whatever time-zone my body was responding to at the time. I hopped with John Wayne in the car and drove off. He told me that plans had changed and I won't be staying at his home. I said, "that's fine, a bridge to sleep under would suffice." That was the YWAMer in me. From that point on a "bridge" was the term we used for the next location I was to call home-for-the-night. Altogether, I ended up staying under six "bridges." There I met some of the most wonderful people in my life. More about that in a different article.

I had no time to whine about jet-lag, how little sleep I had or how long the flight was; we had a lot of work to get done before going to ICOM in Lexington, Kentucky. I loved being in the CHLF offices. To me it felt like what I called "my context." I think my job is a bit interesting because I have office work and field work, so to speak. Being in the office with John and Deb created a "context" into which I'll be working with them in the future once I'm back in the "field." It was a stressful time, but we pulled through and got everything ready for next week.

Two days before heading to Lexington we made a trip to The Ark Ministries camp. Bruce Cameron, the executive director of the minister and who I had met earlier in August in Israel, was there along with other people from different churches in the area. This was my first experience officially presenting what the CHLF does in Israel and what my role is as director of communications. John Wayne did most of the explaining, and I'm looking forward to learning more about "presenting." Bruce showed us around after the presentation. The wheels in my head started turning about potential ministry opportunities. We also met with three volunteers that will be making their way to Israel in September of 2017 to do ministry within churches pastored by CHLF team members. These three were my mischievous compadres during the ICOM.

The ICOM was a very good experience for me. However, my previous experience of such conferences in the past, more specifically in the tourism field, was competitive. I had to adjust my thinking to the fast that the booths surrounding ours, including the ones I never got to see, are representing ministries that are working for the same "company" we we do: "God's Kingdom!" I don't think I can call a single thing a highlight as there were many! For example, I loved meeting with the board, getting to know them better face to face and spend time with them. Also, I met several people from different background who were very interested in hearing about the Christians Arabs in Israel. And the trivia game we put together was a hit. Even I and my compadres were excited about playing it over and over again.

Before I knew it, the conference was over and we were making our way back to Indiana. Somehow time went by so quickly but at the same time it was very slow. I guess it went by quickly because of the busy nature of the trip; we had a lot to get done in so little time. At the same time, I had been away from my family for ten days, at the point I'm wondering if my 16 month old son still remembers me. Just as I was over the jet-lag I hopped on a plane making my way home.

I'm home, have been for about two weeks. Yes, it's taken me way longer than I thought to write this blog post. But there is so much to process, and I am still processing. There are so many good things to write about. In fact, that is one of the reasons it's taken me so long to write this post. At the same time of writing this post I'm writing another about the people I met, it should be out soon, I hope. How do you choose what to talk about when you could write a novel about it?! If there is one thing that positively shocked me and that I learned fro my trip is that there are many people on the USA who love me, a Christian Arab, and who are praying for me and supporting me. I pray, as the Director of Communications, that I'll be able to communicate this love to the locals here in the Galilee.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Half a Day with Hani

This morning I woke up shaking off the failure of a filming attempt from the previous day. Pastor Hanna and I had spent two really hot hours the day before in the sun of a Sea-of-Galilean shore trying to film a devotion. Having on mind the troubles of the day before, I tried to put together more compact gear, convincing myself of the things I will and will not be needing. I walked out the door and to the bus station to catch a bus to Cana. Arriving at the church in Cana, which is below Pastor Hani’s house, I found he was not there; after all I did show up a little early. But, as always, there was coffee on the table outside ready to be enjoyed by anyone who’s willing to drink it. Actually, it was for the women once they were done with their prayer meeting, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind making another pot. I drank my coffee, enjoyed the tranquility of the place, apart from the women’s fervent prayers, and thought of how the filming will go. Little did I know that I will be spending more time with Hani than I thought.

Hani arrived a few minutes later wearing his friendly smile. As any good husband would, he was running an errand for Shifa, his wife, making sure the home has every need fulfilled before he could go out and fulfill needs of others. We drank more coffee, my second, third, and fourth cup already before we sat down and discussed the devotion he will be filming as well as the location we will be filming at. Then we packed it up and headed toward the Wedding Church.

Sitting in the church yard was a monk, he was reading a book when he caught a glimpse of his next two nuisances. We asked him, fingers crossed, if we could film in the church. Looking back at his book, torn between the answer he should give and the one that will get him back to his book the fastest, he said, “make it quick.” I got Hani's mic on quickly, put on what I thought would be the best lens for the location and on we went. We jumped from one corner to another trying to dodge tourists, and about an hour later “quick” was over. By this point Hani was a bit late to another appointment; he was meeting the guy who brings the food supplies for the benevolence packages. I’ve heard of the “warehouse” before but I’ve never been to it. I asked Hani, “can I come along?” He said, “let’s go.”

There it was—not what I had imagined, but not disappointed either—and I was impressed. A truck waited outside; the driver stepped out and gave Hani a very warm greeting which was met by another. Foolishly, I forgot to replace the battery in my camera so I missed getting that on tape. I got the camera up and running, and I was introduced to Father Christmas who works all year round. He backed up the truck and unloaded two big loads of food supply. Inside the warehouse are two long tables which were made by the CHLF Team members. One had the food supply on it, and another had packaged food supply. There were names on the walls of the different villages. Under every name were the packages that were put together to be distributed in that village to families in need.

Getting ready to leave the place, Hani’s phone rang. I heard him say, “I’ll be there in two minutes.” Then he looked to me and said, “Do you want to come with me to visit someone.” I said, “sure!” After a short drive we arrived at a house with a nice garden where a tall person waited to greet us. We sat in his living room as he told us about the bizarre experience he’s had. Shortly after he told us the story Ibraheem arrived with his merry personality. The story was told again. For the first time I got to witness the dynamic of these visits. I have heard about the “visits;” an important part of the Team members’ ministry. However, due to the sensitivity most visits deal with, rarely does an outsider get to sit in on one of them. This is where my day slowed down for reflection.

I was able to review the events of the day thus far in slow motion while our host talked, and he talked a lot. I knew what the challenge was so far in terms of reporting about the ministry that is being done. However, the majority of the work being done cannot be hung out on a clothes line. One of the things I will never be able to communicate enough is the importance of the work the Team are doing. Hani’s words from the shooting earlier that day resonated as he addressed the soon-to-be viewers who are also supporters: “you are our partners in the work being done here.”

The work at hand is not one that can be done within church walls. It is done with people who will most likely never be within church walls. But walls are there to be leapt over. I could almost physically see the string that runs from the hand of the supporter to the hand that does the actual work. It is the giving hands of those obedient to His calling that makes ministry possible through the CHLF Team members; making them partners in the work. While I might be in better shape than some of the Team members, I could only hope that one day I’ll be able to leap over walls like they do! 

That was some half a day.

A frame from the shoot outside the Wedding Church in Cana

A frame from the shoot inside the Wedding Church in Cana

The food supply truck outside the warehouse

Hani telling me about the modern Cana of Galilee on our way to visit with some people

For discretion purposes, I cannot show you pictures of the people we visited, so here are some flowers from their garden

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

ELAV 2016

ELAV is a youth conference that takes place in Jerusalem. Young people from around the country, and sometimes from other countries, gather to, first and foremost, worship the Lord. It is such a special time to spend together and to see believing Arab and Jewish young people raise their voices worshipping and praying for God to be known. This year I had the honor to lead worship in Arabic. This is not my first year attending ELAV or taking part in worship, but this year I felt the grace of the Lord more than any time before. I was accompanied by my friends, Ehab (keyboard), Suheil (vocals), Maha (vocals) and Pierre (drums). "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Potter's Wheel Camp 2011


Just returned from the Potter's Wheel Camp, which was very challenging, but also very good! While I recover from the late nights and long days, I look back and think, it was good!