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:
In Memory of Nelson Mandela
“You have to read this!” said my book friend, “You’re from Alaska! It’s about a woman who lives in some small town and writes obituaries!”
I grinned politely and put the book in my bag. Some books sound more interesting than other books – I’ve always loved adventures and mysteries and murders – add a little drama to the day-to-day-ness of everyday life. A woman who writes obituaries? Hmmm, not so much.
But spending my afternoons tending to my sweet little 3-month-old granddaughter means I often sit, anchored by the soundly sleeping baby who I don’t want to disturb, even by twitching. I have one hand free – and you can only play so much iPhone Sudoku.
An Alaskan friend had also recommended this book, so early this week I picked it up and started reading.
Oh. my. goodness. Yes, Haines is a small town, but oh the drama of writing obituaries. Oh, the things you learn about your neighbors and the surprises you get learning about their earlier lives. I love the way Heather Lende weaves the writing of the town obituaries with the current ongoing dramas in her own life and in the lives of her friends and makes it work.
It’s not unlike where I grew up, although my hometown had a hospital. We also had moose and bear and elk in our back yards, and learned to treat wildlife with respect, and that the best option was to back away slowly. There are the same senseless deaths from auto accidents, fishing boat accidents and unexpected changes in weather. There is the same feeling of wonder, almost every day of your life, knowing how very lucky you are to live in the midst of such awe-inspiring beauty. It’s hard for me to imagine being an unbeliever living in Alaska.
It’s also a great book to read before going to bed. Some of the books I read are too exciting or too disturbing to read before bed; books that infiltrate your dreams with images and situations that give you a restless night. While Lende deals with death and sadness and drama, there is an underlying message of hope in the neighborliness of your neighbors, the security of living in a town where everybody knows everybody else, in the civility even of people who strongly disagree with one another. If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name gives you peaceful sleep. She ties it all together with an ending that rips your heart out; you will never forget this book once you read it. After reading, you will feel like you have lived in Haines, Alaska.
The paperback version is available from Amazon.com for $9.73. No, I no longer own stock in Amazon.com.
“What do you mean?” I asked the elegant grinning lady who was asking me the question. Three former military wives, one Army, one Air Force and one Navy, and we had been talking about our world-wide lives and adventures.
“How are you doing? You haven’t been here long. Are you managing to settle in?” asked with enormous sympathy.
She caught me off guard.
Yes, I am happy. I’ve settled in. I have friends. I’m connected.
But her question caught me off guard, and all of a sudden I couldn’t answer.
“I’m doing OK” I managed to start. “But it’s like this church. I love this church, and at the same time, there are times I walk in and oh, how I miss our churches in the Middle East, where I would walk in and think ‘this is what heaven must look like’ especially at Christmas, with all the Indian families in their saris and finery, and the Africans in their brocades and elaborate head-dresses, and the people from all over the world. The music was simpler, and at the Christmas Eve service, we sang ‘Silent Night’ in every language in the church . . . I miss that.”
There are times the memories catch me unaware, and leave me breathless.
AdventueMan and I went grocery shopping today and when the cashier told me the total, AdventureMan almost gasped. I just laughed and told him that’s why I never took him grocery shopping with me in Kuwait – the sticker shock would have killed him.
Life here is definitely easier.
On the other hand, we have had to revise our ideas about Kuwait drivers. At first, we just thought there were a lot of Kuwaitis living in Pensacola; now we have realized that there are people who just drive as they please. Some of them are stoned out of their minds. I witnessed an accident last week where when I checked the driver of the car that was hit, she grinned at me loopily – and then disappeared. It was bizarre, and I wonder how many people are on the roads as impaired as she was. She went right through a stop sign as if it weren’t even there, and if the car had hit 6 inches more forward, she would have been dead. She didn’t have a scratch. And she was not at all concerned, just that loopy grin. “Elegantly wasted” said the driver of the car who hit her.
We both have a lot going on. With connection comes commitment and obligation. We try to coordinate our schedules at the beginning of the week so we can help one another out. The highlight is that each afternoon I am taking care of our new little granddaughter. AdventureMan/Baba often comes by and naps in the peaceful environment just to be with us. She is a sweet, laughing little baby, never very fussy. He offers me a day off, which occasionally I take, or he takes a time when I have a meeting or an appointment. We have both discovered how very much we like the ‘work’ of grandparenting.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The Saudi Health Ministry says it has discovered a deadly virus in a camel in Jiddah province, on the western coast of Saudi Arabia.
The ministry’s statement released Monday is considered an important development in the search for the origin the deadly illness. There have been more than 60 deaths from the virus known as Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, with all but a handful of the fatalities in Saudi Arabia.
The ministry said a sample from the camel was tested near the home of a patient infected with the virus.
An international research team in August found the mysterious virus that is related to SARS in a bat in Saudi Arabia. They suspected it was perhaps another animal that was spreading the virus directly to humans.
Qatar expats shocked after UK teacher’s suspected murder
By Yolande KnellBBC News, Doha, Qatar
The suspected murder of a young primary school teacher from south-east London has deeply upset British expatriates living in the Gulf state of Qatar.
However, two weeks after Lauren Patterson disappeared following a night out in the capital, Doha, officials have given few details about her disappearance.
DNA tests have been carried out on the remains of a body found in a remote area of desert but the results have not yet been released.
At the Newton British School, where Ms Patterson worked, one mother paid tribute to a talented teacher who she said had been a favourite of her little son.
However, staff refused to comment, saying they had been advised not to.
“We’re a small, close-knit community and we’re all in deep shock,” explained headteacher Katherine Dixon. “We are dealing with small children here.”
Security camerasWhen 24-year-old Ms Patterson went out on 11 October she had just returned from a trip home to the UK for her grandmother’s funeral.
She and a female friend decided to go to Club 7 on the seventh floor of the luxury La Cigale Hotel.
It is a popular venue where all nationalities mingle on the dance floor as DJs play ambient house music.
Groups sip cocktails around low tables decorated with colourful, illuminated ice buckets.
Everyone entering the club has their ID checked and they are watched by burly bouncers and security cameras.
It is believed that in the early hours of the morning, the two women left with two local men they knew who had offered to drive them home.
Ms Patterson’s companion was dropped off safely but she went missing.
The alarm was raised by her friend who called the police the next day.
Reports say a falconer found a badly burnt corpse shortly afterwards. Two suspects were detained although no details about them have been confirmed.
The case has been referred to the attorney general.
“Violent crime is very rare in Qatar,” public prosecutor, Mohammed Rashed al-Binali told me in his smart office surrounded by shining skyscrapers in central Doha.
“We are continuing to investigate the case. We cannot give more details at the moment but the Ministry of Interior did arrest the suspects within 24 hours.”
Alison Patterson has flown to Doha and is awaiting further news about her daughter.
She told the BBC she would only make a statement “when I feel the time is right and I have received all the information concerning Lauren”.
Meanwhile, the British Foreign Office says it is providing the family with consular assistance.
Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup, is generally considered one of the safest places in the Middle East for Westerners.
The tiny, but very wealthy Gulf state, which is the biggest exporter of natural gas in the world, relies heavily on its growing foreign workforce.
It now has some 17,500 British residents. Most are attracted by the high living standards and high tax-free salaries.
Yet work permits can be easily revoked and this makes employees from overseas very wary of upsetting the authorities.
While Qatar has recently supported opposition movements pushing for greater freedom across the Arab world, the nation itself remains very conservative and tightly controlled.
Today the church prays for the diocese of Terekeka, in the South Sudan. I have never heard of Terekeka – have you?
When I looked for it on Google Maps, it didn’t have any information. When I went to The South Sudan and then googled Terekeka, it came up with a reference, and I had to go to this website to find it – they had a map.
The organization who put up the map, Harvesters Reaching Nations, has two locations in the southernmost part of South Sudan, the newest nation on earth. They are building hospitals, and taking in orphans. If I hadn’t gone looking, I would never have heard of the good works they are doing, saving lives, changing lives.
This is what they say:
We currently serve more than 190 orphans in two locations in South Sudan – Yei and Terekeka. Our school in Yei provides a Christian education to more than 500 students. In addition to our school-age orphans, more than 400 children from surrounding villages attend our school.
The Harvesters campus in Yei consists of 90 acres of land donated by the South Sudan government. Since our beginning in 2001, we have built homes, dorms, classrooms and other facilities within a fenced-in campus. We use the land we own beyond the fencing for planting and growing corn, tomatoes and other vegetables for use in the orphanage.
Harvesters’ campus in Terekeka, South Sudan opened in 2010. At this campus, we currently provide care for 44 orphans, but will grow to 80 in the near future. We have built homes, dorms and a clinic within a five acre, fenced-in campus. Additional facilities, including a church and school classrooms, will be built in the near future as the needs and resources dictate.
To do this, they sold everything they owned, and moved to the South Sudan, and used the proceeds from selling everything to build the hospitals and schools. I bet they are the happiest they have ever been, and the most thoroughly engaged in life they have ever been.
And once again, we have to laugh at God’s perfect timing.
I love Thursdays. Thursdays are the only day I have unscheduled. Once a month on a Thursday I have a meeting, but other than that, Thursdays are mine, and I luxuriate in them.
This morning I slept in an hour, then went leisurely through my Lectionary readings and scanned my e-mail. AdventureMan had other plans, but as we talked over our day, decided he wanted to come with me to the commissary. It’s fine with me. We have always had some of our best conversations in the car, and he doesn’t follow me around in the commissary asking questions like “do we really need this?” the kinds of questions that drive wives to homicidal thinking. There are some benches in the commissary, AdventureMan calls them the Old Farts benches, and he picks up his specialty bird seeds and supplies, then settles in to watch for me coming down the last lane.
Four minutes after we left the house, we got a call from our son, tied up on a case, that little Q broke his arm on the playground, could we go pick him up? We were only about five minutes from his school and were there in a flash. AdventureMan/BaBa rode in the ambulance while I drove over to our son’s home to care for the baby while Q’s Mom zipped to meet them at the hospital emergency room.
It took all day. Between the transporting and the paperwork and the x-rays and the setting of the bones (yep, two bones broken), by the time we all met up again, I no longer had any interest in hitting the commissary. I will try again tomorrow, God willing.
Meanwhile, we marvel at how wonderful it is to be here in Pensacola, to be on call for emergencies like this, and that we were just minutes from his school when our son’s call came. We love it that we can be useful in these emergencies, that we are here to help and that we can be helpful. Once again, we thank God for his perfect timing.
Meanwhile, Mom called and gave me no sympathy whatever. She laughed! “Remember your sister broke both her arms before she was six, and you both broke legs skiing!” she chortled. Ouch! I guess little boy Q comes from a family of risk-takers. His dad broke exactly the same arm in the same place jumping to grab on to a high bar once. His son said “I thought I could fly. . . but I can’t.” It’s in the genes. :-}
Are we who we say we are?
Do we follow the spirit of The Word? Do we as believers pick and choose from our holy book(s) or do we humble ourselves, as Christ did, and do as he commands?
The Lord Jesus Christ commanded a very difficult life style. I have met holy people among all religions; I am forced to believe that “the way and the truth and the light” are behavioral, and that there will be many surprises when we get to the last days.
September 11th is a difficult day. This is a difficult Gospel reading for a difficult day:
Matthew 5: 38 – 47
Eye for Eye
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’h 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbori and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
New in from Reuters, via AOL news:
DUBAI, Sept 8 (Reuters) – The MERS coronavirus has killed two more people in the Gulf, one in Saudi Arabia where the strain emerged last year, and one in neighbouring Qatar, health authorities said.
The death of a 74-year-old man in the Medinah region of western Saudi Arabia was the 45th fatality in the kingdom from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia.
The Saudi Health Ministry also said on Sunday that three women aged between 64 and 75 had contracted the disease.
A 29-year-old Qatari admitted to hospital on Aug. 17 has died, Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health said in a statement dated Sept. 6, adding that another citizen who had contracted the disease while abroad had recovered.
The World Health Organization said last month the number of confirmed infections worldwide in the past year was 102, of whom almost half had died.
In a study into what kind of animal “reservoir” may be fuelling the outbreak, scientists said this month they had found strong evidence it is widespread among dromedary camels in the Middle East.
The virus has been reported in people in Tunisia, France, Germany, Italy, and Britain. (Reporting by Sami Aboudi in Dubai and Amena Bakr in Qatar; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)