Monday, April 28, 2014

Jordan - Jesus' baptism, Mt Nebo and Madaba

Then after the service trip, we stuck around a few more days to take in a few more sights ...

First stop was the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and started His ministry on earth. 

This is believed to be the very spot where Jesus was baptized.  The river is just beyond the trees and a small stream used to feed this spot.  The ruins of something like 7 churches have been discovered surrounding this spot.


This is a mosaic showing how the Jordan River would flow into this spot

Another beautiful mosaic

Today there are still several churches surrounding this spot.  There wasn't really a town nearby, so we're not sure if all of these churches have active congregations, but they were beautiful

They no longer perform baptisms in the spot where they believe Jesus was baptized, instead, they use this part of the Jordan River.  Jaden and Nicholas decided to baptize themselves in the Jordan River ... you can see how narrow the river is...

The other side of the river is Israel.  So close!  The Israeli side of the river was much more crowded and built up much more than the quiet Jordan side. We would love to explore all the Biblical sites in Israel someday, but it is difficult to do so from Qatar.  It could cause problems if you have a stamp in your passport from Israel.  Better to wait until we're living somewhere else.

Down by the river

The next stop was Mount Nebo...where Moses looked out over the promised land before he died and Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River to fight the battle of Jericho.

Mount Nebo
Jaden poses in front of the view of the promised land

This stone was supposed to be approximately the same size as the one that would have covered Jesus' tomb

Ancient mosaic floors preserved under a tent at the top of Mount Nebo

That's Jericho in the distance (present day in Israel, so we didn't go)

Cross at the top of Mount Nebo
Our final stop for the day was in a city named Madaba ... the birthplace of mosaics.  We saw master craftsmen and women creating masterpieces.
Working on a tree of life mosaic.  All the different colored stones are naturally found in Jordan.  The different colors are due to different rocks and minerals (zinc, magnesium, limestone, marble, etc).

ladies working on mosaics to sell.  This particular workshop employed several artists with disabilities.

Church in Madaba with mosaic floor that was an ancient map of the middle east.  This is how they used to preserve and pass down their history through mosaics that would last forever.

boys dancing around and showing off for the camera

Part of the ancient map mosaic preserved inside the church in Madaba

I preferred the mosaic pictures to the mosaic map...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Jordan - Petra

Before meeting the service team in Jordan, we went down to check out Petra ... an ancient city dating back to ~300 BC.  The city was carved into the rock cliffs and has survived all these years.  Amazing to see!  Petra was where the final scenes to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed.  :-)

We randomly ran into friends in the hotel restaurant our first night and we had such a great time having dinner together, we decided to hike Petra together the following morning.  Their son Dylan is the same age as Nicholas, but I think he was taller than Jaden.  Are boys are so little!!

The hike turned out to be much longer than any of us expected.  We left the hotel at 7:30am and didn't get back until nearly 5pm.  It was one LONG walk!!!

Entering Petra with a short horse ride

Jaden & Nicholas with their friend Dylan

There were many horse and carriages as well as donkeys offering rides, but Jaden & Nicholas both wanted to walk

Rock looks just like an elephant!  :-)

Fossils in the rock

It was a very narrow path leading into the city

The pathway had troughs for water on either side to bring water into the city

our first glimpse of the treasury

Petra treasury...amazing!

They don't make banks like this anymore!

Further down from the treasury were all the caves where people lived.  Some entrances were plain, some were very ornate. 

ancient ampitheater

Dylan, Nicholas, and Jaden in front of ampitheater

Inside one of the larger caves.  All the marbling and various colors were natural from the various minerals found in the stone

Looking across at some of the more ornate caves (hard to see with our iphone pictures and looking into the sun)

Beautiful sky.  The short rock in the center looked like a camel

After a long walk, we begin to climb up to the monastary

We made it to the monastery, but the boys wanted to keep going up to check out the views

Top of the hill behind the monastary

Boys were excited they made it to the top!

A long walk down and back out.  I don't know how they still had the energy to climb this rock and slide down the smooth slope, but they did ... over and over again!  They said it was the ancient playground.  :-)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Jordan Service Trip - other stories

Across the street from Global Hope International in Amman, Jordan is a Christian church that we attended on Sunday morning.  I was surprised that they conduct worship on Sunday as Sundays are a work day in Muslim countries.  Friday and Saturday are the weekend and Friday is considered the Holy day to attend mosque.  We worship on Fridays in Doha, but here in Amman, this church meets on Sundays.  I guess the Christians here have to take time off work or rearrange their work schedule in order to attend worship.

By far, the coolest thing during worship was singing Amazing Grace.  The church is Arabic speaking, but a song like Amazing Grace is beautiful in any language.  While the congregation below sang in Arabic, we all sang along in English from the balcony.  So beautiful!  God's grace is amazing!

This group of musicians was traveling from Russia to perform this week.  We were fortunate to hear them play-they were fantastic!  I especially loved the wind pipe instrument!!  So beautiful!!

The entire service was in Arabic, but we had a translator and wore head phones in the balcony so we could understand the service.

Most of food and clothing we distributed went to Syrian refugees, but we made one stop in a Palestinian refugee camp.  These people have lived in camp conditions just like the Syrian camp pictures I posted previously since the 1940s!!!  The children in this camp were considerably more tough and aggressive than the Syrian camp - they don't know any other type of life.  We played with the kids for a while and then lined them up to attempt to pass out snacks, but things quickly got out of hand and we actually had to leave.  Rami (our leader from Global Hope and the House of Ruth) was concerned that if trouble arises among the children, it often carries over to their families and it is better to leave than continue to cause fighting.  We were a bit confused and disappointed to have to leave so quickly but we understand Rami's concern.  We only visit this camp once, but he is establishing a long term relationship with these people with the hope to help them economically and spiritually.  He doesn't want to damage this relationship because of a few unruly children.
Arriving at the Palestinian camp - again the kids all came running
attempting to distribute snacks at the Palestinian camp

In addition to visiting the camps, we also visited Syrian refugees in apartments and homes in various parts of Amman (the capitol city).  We learned that if you escape Syria with all your documents and paperwork (birth certificates, passports, etc) and you have a bit of money, you are able to rent a place on your own.  Unfortunately jobs are not available to Syrian refugees so when your money runs out, you are only one step away from the camps.  They have a food stamp type program that allows them to obtain food, but there aren't enough jobs for everyone, so the refugees aren't allowed to work.  We were also told that once registered as a refugee you weren't allowed to leave Jordan unless you return to Syria.  So if you find a job in another country, you can't leave ... and if you return to Syria, you could be killed for deserting your homeland.  These people are literally trapped.

We didn't take pictures of the 5 families we visited, but we met a lady whose husband was killed in Syria.  She escaped with her 4 children and have rented quite a large apt.  She must have had quite a bit of money when she arrived, but after 1 year, her money has run out and she doesn't know what to do.  We also met a family living on the rooftop of a building.  The husband was disabled and they have a child with special needs.  They too have run out of funds and they hadn't had any water in 3 days.  The water is in seriously short supply in the influx of 1 million refugees to a desert land.  Many communities regularly have their water turned off in order to conserve what they have.  So unless you can afford to purchase bottled water, you have no water ... no sinks, no showers, no toilets that flush.

But the saddest family we met outside of the camps, was a young couple with a ~3 year old little girl and an infant not 1 month old.  They were living in a concrete room no larger than 10'x15'.  It was damp and dark and cold in the winter.  They shared a hole in the ground with several other families as their bathroom.  Their only source of water was a shared facet down the alley.  This is where she did all her laundry as well.  They had a small fridge but no other kitchen ... no stove, no sink, no nothing.  They only eat raw fruit, veggies, and breads, nothing that has to be cooked as they have no way to cook anything.  And they have been living like this for nearly a year.  And here we bring them bags of rice and beans and lentils and she has no means to cook it!  Our team bought a gas burner for this family so that she could at least cook some food for her family.

One of the other small groups were better about taking pictures during these home visits

another refugee home visit

While these families live in dire accommodations, they are still far better off than those in the camps.  Camp life is difficult - medical care is not readily available so tuberculosis is rampant in the camps right now.  Syrian woman are considered more beautiful and desirable so rape and child brides are also very common.  Syrian families are happy to give daughters as young as 12 years old to Jordanian men as brides in hopes for a better life for their daughters and one less mouth to feed / one less person to protect in the camp.  School is also more difficult to attend if you are in the camps, but we were surprised to learn many of the Jordanian schools accept refugee children.  Some have even adjusted their schedule so that Jordanian children go to school in the mornings and Syrian children attend in the afternoon.  Those who were able to send their kids to school seemed genuinely happy to finally get them back in school.  Apparently many children in Syria aren't going to school anymore.  Many families hadn't sent their kids to school in Syria for 2 years before they escaped.  Too many children were being shot and killed on their way to school, so parents keep them home.

But even with all that these families have experienced, they still love their country and only want to return home.  We prayed with all the families that we visited in the city and many of the families in the tents.  Over and over again we would ask how we can pray for them and over and over again they asked us to pray for peace in Syria, safety and protection of their families still in Syria, and the opportunity to return home.  They just want to go home.

We were also amazed by the Jordanian people.  This is a country that has very little.  It's people are poor themselves, but what they have, they share.  They may not have jobs to offer the refugees, but they provide safety, land, and food to over a million refugees as best they can. 

One last group of pictures ... after visiting the Palestinian camp, we stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the view of the Dead Sea and the surrounding area...

The Dead Sea in the distance
Jaden, Nicholas, and Ethan throwing rocks

Kids wandered out across the grassy field ... enjoying the sunshine and exploring the land

Me and Ken

A bit windy, but a beautiful day in Jordan

We enjoyed the rolling hills in Jordan (Doha is very flat, much like Houston)

Piggy back ride through the field - everyone looks happy, but Nicholas was nearly strangling me with his death grip around my neck!

Team picture

We really did have THE MOST AMAZING time serving the Lord in Jordan.  As a result of our time, we would encourage everyone we know to consider supporting mi$$ions.  We're so glad we were able to join this team and partner with Global Hope and the House of Ruth.  If you can't physically go to Jordan, consider supporting them financially at  If you can't give financially, find a local ministry or charitable organization and offer your time.  There are people in need everywhere.  You will be blessed by the experience!!

My boys have heard Ken's family stories from when they lived in a refugee camp, but this trip made it real to them.  Seeing this kind of poverty and realizing that these kids are just like us made us realize just how blessed we really are.  We met a family where the father was an engineer and now he is living in a tent and can't find work to provide his family with even the basic necessities.  Had we been born in Syria, that could be us.  They did nothing to deserve this, but by God's grace they are alive and hopeful to return home someday. 

In addition to the service part of our trip, we also did some touristy things too.  Those pictures and stories are still to follow, but I wanted to add these pictures and stories to my blog first.  :-)