Journal out of the Holy Land
June, 2002
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Wednesday, 6/19/02:  We spent twenty-five hours in airplanes and airports, familiarizing ourselves with the napping possibilities of four different airport floors, until we finally arrived in Lubbock, Texas, Elizabeth's home town.  It is good to be anywhere and it is good to sleep (and not use our luggage as pillows).  The news from "back home" isn't good - several more suicide bombings - but the news is rarely good these days.  There is also a lot of talk of building a wall between the West Bank and Israel, which to us  seems like another destructive division.  But walls can be torn down.

Thursday, 6/20/02:  After sleeping in, we went off to run a few errands.  It went so well and smooth it gave us culture shock!  No roadblocks, no waiting for taxis to fill up, no need to drink tea and chat for half an hour before getting to business, and no "come back in two days" (something we hear often in the West Bank).  We spent much of the afternoon at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal talking with the religion editor Beth Pratt.  We had done the same when we came through town last year, which ended up in a nice article, and she had written two more pieces about our work and ministry during the past year.  In a town and a region where Zionism and Christianity seem to be synonymous (as the 24-hour Christian pro-Israel UHF channel points to), building this relationship has been wonderful - both for us and for the community here.

Friday, 6/21/02:  Elizabeth's brother and his girlfriend arrived from Austin today.  We were hoping we would have time to go there and visit them, Austin being such a great place, but won't have time - their visit is very welcome!

Saturday, 6/22/02:  Elizabeth's mom brought a group of her friends and neighbors over for a party tonight.  A diverse group including her co-worker coming from the youth boxing center he runs in his spare time, a neighbor teaching in the African-American Studies Department at Texas Tech University, a high school classmate of Elizabeth's who had left a career of designing and making pet clothes and recently moved back to town.  The highlight was the ninety-four year-old neighbor who came over wearing the cross we gave her last year -  a gift from our Melkite friend in Zababdeh.  People were very curious to find out about the political situation, but also about what daily life is like.  As we described what the houses like, what the food tastes like, what the family situation is like, a Mexican-American friend commented how similar it sounded to what he remembered as a child growing up in a Texas border town.  Cultures are often not as distant as they may seem. 

Sunday, 6/23/02:  We worshiped this morning at Covenant Presbyterian Church.  We had been there right before we left two years ago and shared our story as it was just beginning.  In the intervening years, we also developed a pen-pal link between Marthame's religion class and their youth group.  We attended their early morning family communion service, sharing some sung Arabic liturgy with them.  At the larger worship service, Marthame and the pastor, Davis Price, preached a dialogue sermon using the two texts to reflect on different understandings of "family" - both from a West Texas and a West Bank perspective.  We then spoke with a group of folks (the largest group they've ever had!), sharing stories and pictures and a short video from Zababdeh.  The reaction was welcoming - especially since this is our first stab at trying to communicate the last year of our experiences with an American audience.  It's nice to be welcomed with grace!

Monday, 6/24/02: Hammocks.  In the midst of running errands today, we stopped by Green Eggs and Hammocks, a store run by one of Elizabeth's high school friends. The store specializes in - you guessed it - hammocks.  Big and small hammocks, toy hammocks, hammock accessories.  One hammock two hammock red hammock blue hammock.  They've managed to find a gaping nitch for themselves in the hammock market and have made a great little business out of it.  They get their hammocks mostly from the Yucatan in Mexico, where they've gone to visit the families which make them--in a system like a family guild system. These people sit and sleep on hammocks, so they know what they're doing. Cotton is sent from West Texas down to Yucatan, spun, dyed, and crafted into hammocks, and sent back to West Texas. A NAFTA industry. The Green Eggs and Hammocks folks are interested in soon moving into more hemp hammocks and even organic cotton hammocks. We know what we're getting for chairs when we move back...

Tuesday, 6/25/02: We headed out this morning to the National Wildlife Refuge near Muleshoe, a town an hour west of Lubbock.  It was the first time any of us had been to this treasure, a place first founded in 1935 as a refuge for waterfowl. As the water level lowered, fewer of them came, but more and more sandhill cranes - who love the shallow water for wading - arrived. Each winter, this place hosts the largest concentration of sandhill cranes in the world.  Twenty years ago, there were as many as a quarter of a million on any given day.  This past winter, several thousand came - the environment is changing.  The ephemeral lakes are getting smaller with increased water usage and frequent droughts throughout the Texas panhandle.  We arrived in summer, though, and the cranes have more sense than to hang out during panhandle summers, leaving behind a landscape of salt flats, evaporated lakes, and little vegetation.  We drove off to the town of Muleshoe, chuckling at the idea of telling our friends in Zababdeh about this place, named after the foot of a donkey - two very offensive icons in the Arabic culture.  Afterwards, the enticing town of Plainview beckoned.  Elizabeth and her mom went dress shopping while Marthame pondered the secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood.  Once back in Lubbock, we shared in coffee with friends who are from Nazareth originally, but have been living in Lubbock for decades.  Our last night in Buddy Holly's hometown was celebrated with a steak dinner - it's cattle country around here.

Wednesday, 6/26/02Before leaving town, we went to Texas Tech University's Museum.  Currently showing there is a real surprise - the Vatican Museum is sharing 11th, 12th, and 13th century frescoes with the United States by bringing them to Lubbock, Texas.  This is the only place this exhibition will arrive, the effort of a local Catholic priest to bring these treasures to a part of the country that would otherwise have few opportunities to see them.  The frescoes of St. Nicola and Agnese had been rescued from two chapels in Rome, peeled off the walls and mounted for display.  Elegant and enriching.  After a delicious Tejano breakfast of huevos rancheros, Elizabeth and her mom planted a few flowers in the backyard before we drove southeast towards San Angelo.  Elizabeth's Dad moved here full-time not long ago to enjoy retirement to the fullest.  His house sits on the edge of Lake Nasworthy, a refreshing spot for a Texas summer.  We escaped the late afternoon heat to see a well-air-conditioned movie (Minority Report, the new Tom Cruise movie) and then shared tasty Texas steak suppers.

Thursday, 6/27/02:  We stepped out onto Lake Nasworthy this morning courtesy of a jet-ski.  As Elizabeth took her turn, she puttered quietly along the "no wake" nature spots enjoying the watery greenery and spent some time watching a green heron and a lined ground squirrel along the water's edge. Marthame, on his turn, found speed.  And lots of it.  To each his/her own...

Friday, 6/28/02:  We relaxed again in San Angelo, waiting for Elizabeth's brother and his girlfriend to join us again from Austin.  While we waited, the lake beckoned - Marthame on the jet ski, Elizabeth in a rubber dingie, finding our interests.  Elizabeth drifted into the reed islets, seeing mud dauber nests.  She rowed back, mostly spinning and drifting due to a busted paddle.  Marthame, meanwhile, ran out of gas in the middle of the lake, blown by the wind (and grace?) back to the dock.  It sure is nice to get the chance to relax.  Being in a flight path leaves us slightly on edge, though - air traffic overhead in Zababdeh is never civilian.  When all had arrived, we went off to enjoy another steak dinner before sharing our pictures from our time in Lebanon and Syria as the moon lit up Lake Nasworthy.

Saturday, 6/29/02: We left San Angelo and the calm of Lake Nasworthy early in the morning, meeting Elizabeth's mom at the Lubbock airport for some tough farewells.  A year and a half feels like a long time right now.  Elizabeth's mom brought with her the morning Lubbock Avalanche-Journal which had a two-page spread written by the religion writer from our interview.  We were very pleased with it, and surprised to see our picture on the front page of the paper (a teaser for the inside article).  Our minds flashed to Harrison Ford in The Fugitive as a passenger on the El recognizes him from his newspaper picture - feeling a bit infamous!  From Lubbock, we flew up to Chicago, arriving in time to have pizza with friends at their home up in Wilmette.  A long day from Lake Nasworthy to Lake Michigan.

Sunday, 6/30/02:  First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette was our worship home for two years while Marthame was on staff there.  They continue to be our strongest source of financial and spiritual support, and so it was wonderful to come back and share with them.  We worshiped on the shores of Lake Michigan, as we did so many times in the summer months, sharing in communion before moving worship inside on the church grounds.  We learned that one of the home-bound members of the church (who turned ninety this year) had tried to come to worship, but her wheelchair was too big for the chairlift. And so she had to return home.  It's a good thing construction on the elevator begins tomorrow.  We stopped by to see her as we continued on our pilgrimage point, the Original Pancake House and its bacon blessings.  Not a lot of pork products "back home".  In the evening, we gathered back at the church to share our program.  There were a number of folks from Wilmette, but also from Park Ridge, Morgan Park, and a number of other communities around there.  They braved the incredible heat (we had almost forgotten how hot Chicago can be in the summer), and as we closed, they gathered around us to lay hands on us, to pray for us, and to send us forth again in safety and blessing.  What gifts we are receiving!  We are trying to discern how to share these intangible gifts with our brothers and sisters in Zababdeh.  We came somewhat expecting to find a more suspicious, more patriotic, more hardened American culture.  While we have witnessed that, and while perhaps that is the prevailing trend, there is far more nuance, far more discussion, far more debate than we could judge from overseas.  That is heartening.

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