Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Doubt and Faith

I have fellow students who consider doubt “double-mindedness” and yet today, we have the Feast Day of Saint Thomas, the Apostle who doubted that Jesus had risen until he could touch his wound. His reaction – “My Lord and My God!” is the reaction of a searcher.

Doubt doesn’t imply lack of belief; doubt is hope that looks for evidence. A doubter is a person who is seeking; my greater concern is those who treat their beliefs with complacency – lacking self-examination – or the worst, indifference.

Jesus chose those who will follow him specifically. He chose St. Thomas for a reason, knowing how deeply skepticism runs in our hearts, and knowing there is no belief so deep as that of one who has sought and found.

SATURDAY, December 21 Saint Thomas the Apostle Ember Day

John 20:28. Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Today the church remembers Saint Thomas, often called Doubting Thomas. It seems to me he has gotten a bad reputation for doing something that I actually admire. Thomas had questions—and he dared to ask them. If I were creating his nickname, I’d call him “Good Question Thomas.” Doubt is the companion of faith, and it’s time for doubt to come out from under the carpet.

You see, I think every thoughtful Christian has moments of wondering about faith or God’s place in our lives. Alas, we too often keep quiet about our uncertainties, suffering with them alone. But there is great value to sharing our questions and our struggles. When that happens, a community can share them together and inspire one another. Every time I have shared a doubt or question with another, it has been a blessing.

When we raise our questions with sincerity, we are opening ourselves for God to enter our minds. Like Thomas, we might move past doubt to a place of confident faith. “My Lord and my God!”

Today the church prays for the diocese of Yirol, in the South Sudan:

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December 21, 2013 Posted by | Faith, Lectionary Readings, Sudan | , , | Leave a comment

WalMart: A Sea of Bicycles

We stopped by a different WalMart in Pensacola a few days ago, and I was blown away – they had thousands – I am not kidding – thousands of bikes. It was like Santa’s workshop on steroids:


December 20, 2013 Posted by | Christmas, Pensacola, Shopping | Leave a comment

Where is the Diocese of Yei, Central Equatoria, Sudán do Sur – South Sudan?

We don’t always see the timeliness of our prayers, but as we pray for Yei, in the South Sudan, we pray with increased vigor, as the country faces unrest and internal turbulence.

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We pray for our friend David, and all the people of South Sudan who have suffered so much for so long. The Lord has blessed them with oil, let them use their resources wisely, for the greater good, and may they enjoy the wealth of their nation in peace with one another.

December 19, 2013 Posted by | Africa, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Sudan | , | Leave a comment

Mabruk Qatar: Qatar National Day 18 December

Congratulations, Qatar, greatly blessed with abundant supplies of natural gas and thoughtful leaders using the new wealth of the nation to benefit Qatari citizens through education and culture.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time living in Qatar, and the unique experience of watching a sleepy little village transform itself into a metropolis.




December 18, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Doha, Qatar | | Leave a comment

Pensacola, A Very Middle Eastern City

We had no idea when we left home this morning that when we got to the school, all the parking spaces would be full and it would be almost impossible to find a seat in the auditorium. It was only 8:45 in the morning, and it was only the Pre-K 3’s who would be performing.


We had forgotten – Pensacola is like the Middle East. Family first, and time off for a Christmas Pageant – well, of course!

Pensacola is not like Seattle, or any of the larger cities. While spread out, it is only around 50,000 people, and the worst traffic is never that bad, not if you’ve driven in Amman, or Seattle, or Qatar, or Kuwait. You may not have to stop while the shepherd and his sheep cross the road, but you can get to downtown Pensacola from almost any part of the city in under 15 minutes.


The parking spaces were GONE. The auditorium was PACKED. Friends were greeting friends, all dressed in the reds and greens of Christmas time.


And then the children marched in, and it was barely controlled bedlam as these young stars spotted parents and grandparents and yelled “Grandpa! Here I am!” and angels and sheep and shepherds and wise men all were carefully lined up to sing their songs and tell us the Christmas Story as only 3-years-old can. Oh, it was not to be missed!




We love it that Pensacola is not a city with a lot of rushing about; people have time to go see their children in the school Christmas pageant, that the teachers take the time to herd these cats so that they can sing the songs, do the motions, and probably, if asked, give a rough outline of what happened on that first Christmas.

It’s all a matter of priorities. Pensacola, like our homes in the Middle East, places a high value on family activities, family time, and a balance of work and family where family time has a cherished place.

December 17, 2013 Posted by | Advent, Christmas, Community, Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Jordan, Kuwait, Middle East, Pensacola, Qatar, Values | | 3 Comments

David, and Where is Yambio, South Sudan?

A year ago, we had an extraordinary experience. We often entertain delegates visiting from other countries, and this time we had three African journalists, and, strictly by chance, they all turned out to be Christian. Most of our gatherings are strictly ecumenical, but these were joyful, praying Christians, and the evening took a turn we never anticipated.


“So how did you find Jesus?” one woman asked David, from the newest country in the world, South Sudan. Inside, I was shocked, and when I am shocked, my tendency is to laugh, I don’t know why, it is just the way I am wired. Every culture is so different. In the South, people might ask that of one another, particularly if you worship in a fundamental sect, but our sect is more formal, and to inquire into another’s spiritual life can be perceived as intrusive.


David, however, was not taken aback. “It’s a long story,” he said, and we all settled into comfortable chairs to listen better. It was Christmas, the decorations were up, the lights all twinkling and we had eaten. A good time for a story.

It was a long story. It started with a little boy in a happy family, who one day was told to run! Run! Run into the forest and hide! The riders were coming! His family grabbed a very few things and ran.


His family ran for years. His family ran into forests, across borders, into dry arid spaces. Sometimes some of the children would get separated from their parents for a while, but they would keep asking, and eventually meet up again, only to face separation again. Their whole lives were running, from the Janjaween, from border police, from robbers.


At one point, he and a brother stayed in a church, and a priest taught them about Jesus. Simple stories, simple songs, and he drew letters and numbers in the dirt – that was his early schooling. It was a haven of peace for him.


Many years later, the family was reunited in their village in the new country of South Sudan. Miraculously, every member of his family survived, indeed, most of his village survived. They had maintained lines of communication through all those years of running and separation, and were so thankful. Most of all, now, they were thankful – they had a church in their village. David had learned to love learning, and had completed his education and had found a wonderful job.


“I don’t know the book like you do,” he told us, “I only know it like a little child sitting at the feet of that priest, but I am learning.”


I can’t help but think that David knows more than he thinks. David holds his belief in Jesus like a child, simple and direct. His testimony is powerful and unforgettable. I am in awe, even a year later, of his story and testimony.


Today the church prays for the diocese of Yambio, in the South Sudan:


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December 17, 2013 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Africa, Biography, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Geography / Maps, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Sudan | 2 Comments

Qatar Wins Guiness Record for Largest Flag



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As Qatar goes into National Day frenzy, they capture the title for World’s Largest Flag. Mabruk, Qatar!

As the country gears up for National Day celebrations, a Qatar national flag measuring 101,000+sqm was yesterday recognised by the Guinness World Records as the largest flag in the world, beating current record holder Romania, which created a 79,000sqm flag last year.

The flag, described as the “Flag of Gratitude and Loyalty”, is currently spread across a large area on the outskirts of the capital.

The announcement was made in the presence of a huge gathering of Qatari citizens at a glittering ceremony held at the Katara amphitheatre.

A Guinness World Records official flown in from the UK presented the certificate of recognition to a representative of the “Flag of Gratitude and Loyalty” team at the event.
Speaking about the flag, the Guinness World Records official said: “This is a big challenge and one of the most difficult records I have seen. The record grew many times from 1976 and the current record to break is almost 80,000sqm. It was established in Romania last year with a flag that set the record of 79,000sqm.”

He described the Qatari flag as “a very large engineering project involving a lot of challenges”, which must follow the Guinness World Records guidelines.

“More than 2,000 people have taken part in this project, which is supported by Brooq Qatari Magazine and Katara. Yesterday, I went to see the flag on location and was impressed by the quality of manufacturing, stitching, material and quality of fabric – all were of very high standards, as well as the participation of the people involved as nobody wanted to leave after the work was done. The flag means so much to them than just its size,” he pointed out before announcing the size of the flag.

The audience at the unveiling event were later serenaded by the Qatar Armed Forces orchestra.

December 16, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Doha, Local Lore, Qatar | | Leave a comment

From Tree to Amazing Carving

Thank  you, once again, Hayfa, for this wonderful item:

(The original piece did not include this information, which I found at the Daily Mail Online:

A Chinese artist has won a place in the Guinness Book of Records after creating the world’s longest wooden carving.

Zheng Chunhui, a famous wood carver, spent four years creating the artwork which is over 40ft long and made from a single tree trunk.

Read more: 

One tree, four years of work and an indescribable amount of talent: that’s what it took to create this incredible masterpiece. A famous Chinese wood carver chopped down a single tree and tirelessly worked on it for over four years to make this piece. Your jaw will hit the floor when you see what he created.


December 16, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty | , | Leave a comment

Zabbaleen Cave Church in Cairo

My friend Hayfa sends me the most amazing things. Her mind is another Here, There and Everywhere Kind of mind. 🙂



This article resonates with me because when we moved to Tunis, the garbage collectors would fight over our trash. I felt horrible, we had an infant, and there were diapers in the trash. 😦 Our maid would take cans and jars and especially jars with lids out of the trash, and ask if she could take them. We learned before throwing anything away to see if she wanted it first. They used, and re-used, everything. We learned to look at our consumption in a whole new way. It was one of the best things about living in an ‘alien’ community; we learned to see ourselves with different eyes.



Thank you, Hayfa, for this fascinating article.


The Cave Church of the Zabbaleen in Cairo


The Monastery of Saint Simon, also known as the Cave Church, is located in the Mokattam mountain in southeastern Cairo, Egypt, in an area that is known as ‘garbage city’ because of the large population of garbage collectors or Zabbaleen that live there. The Zabbaleen are descendants of farmers who started migrating from Upper Egypt to Cairo in the 1940s. Fleeing poor harvests and poverty they came to the city looking for work and set-up makeshift settlements around the city. Initially, they stuck to their tradition of raising pigs, goats, chickens and other animals, but eventually found collecting and sorting of waste produced by the city residents more profitable.

The Zabbaleen would sort through household garbage, salvaging and selling things of value, while the organic waste provided an excellent source of food for their animals. In fact, this arrangement worked so well, that successive waves of migrants came from Upper Egypt to live and work in the newly founded garbage villages of Cairo.


For years, the makeshift settlements of the Zabbaleen were moved around the city trying to avoid the municipal authorities. Finally, a large group of Zabbaleen settled under the cliffs of the Mokattam or Moquattam quarries at the eastern edge of the city, which has now grown from a population of 8,000 in the early 1980s, into the largest garbage collector community in Cairo, with approximately 30,000 Zabbaleen inhabitants. Egypt is a Muslim-majority country, but the Zabbaleen are Coptic Christians, at least, 90 percent of them are. Christian communities are rare to find in Egypt, so the Zabbaleen prefer to stay in Mokattam within their own religious community even though many of them could afford houses elsewhere.


The local Coptic Church in Mokattam Village was established in 1975. After the establishment of the church, the Zabbaleen felt more secure in their location and only then began to use more permanent building materials, such as stone and bricks, for their homes. Given their previous experience of eviction from Giza in 1970, the Zabbaleen had lived in temporary tin huts up till that point. In 1976, a large fire broke out in Manshiyat Nasir, which led to the beginning of the construction of the first church below the Mokattam mountain on a site of 1,000 square meters. Several more churches have been built into the caves found in Mokattam, of which the Monastery of St. Simon the Tanner is the largest with a seating capacity of 20,000. In fact, the Cave Church of St. Simon in Mokattam is the largest church in the Middle East.

Mokattam                                                            mountain in                                                            southeastern                                                            Cairo
the                                                            Zabbaleen are                                                            Coptic                                                            Christians
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The first                                                            church below                                                            the Mokattam                                                            mountain
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Cave                                                            Church of St.                                                            Simon in                                                            Mokattam is                                                            the largest                                                            church in the                                                            Middle East
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The                                                            largest                                                            garbage                                                            collector                                                            community in                                                            Cairo
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Egypt's                                                            Zabbaleen                                                            Carves                                                            Beautiful                                                            Hidden Cave                                                            Churches in                                                            Cario
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Wall                                                            Painting of                                                            Jesus in Cave                                                            Church of the                                                            Zabbaleen in                                                            Cairo
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Wall                                                            Statue of Cave                                                            Church of the                                                            Zabbaleen in                                                            Cairo
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Exterior                                                            of Cave Church                                                            of the                                                            Zabbaleen in                                                            Cairo
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The City                                                            Cairo
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Gabage in                                                            City Cairo
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December 15, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Faith, Home Improvements, Survival | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinian Snowman

Love this photo from Skye news; Palestinian photo as snowstorm hits Middle East. We were flying back from Cairo to Amman once, only to discover Amman had a snowstorm and there was maybe 4 inches of snow in a city ill-prepared for snow removal, LOL. When we moved there, we knew it got hot – but we had no idea how very cold it also got, and how the cold was amplified by the marble floors and hard surfaces. We LIVED in flannel shirts 🙂



December 15, 2013 Posted by | Middle East, Weather | Leave a comment