It felt like we woke up in a completely different world. Everything looked different. The buildings. The land. The people. The food. The air was different. The smells were different. The sounds were different. Everything was different. We were not in Dalton, Georgia anymore. We were waking up in the Black Iris Hotel in Madaba, Jordan.
Though James and I had elected Emily as our “team leader”, we were all fish out of water. This was Emily and James’ first time out of the country and I had never been to the middle east. It was the beginning of a deeply profound and fun adventure for us. I believe that if you have this type of experience and are not changed at a deeper level, then you just weren’t paying attention. I also know that it is impossible to capture the range of feelings and thoughts that we experience in a few words. I have been asked several times something like, “what was the one thing that stood out the most” or “what was the highlight”? In a way that is an impossible question to answer.
How do you pick between standing where Jesus was baptized and where the Father spoke from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” and the spot where Moses finally looked into the Promised Land after wandering in the desert for 40 years just to breath his final breath? Or spending several days with a family who is very similar to my own but who literally gave up everything they owned in order to serve the people of Jordan? All of these and others were powerful experiences.
There were really two main aspects of the trip; 1) Time with our friends who are workers in Jordan. 2) Exploring the biblical world and experiencing Jordaninan culture. Both were profound.
In this post, I will share a little about number 1.
Our friends have a unique work in Jordan. They live in the city of Ajloun, about an hour north of Amman, Jordan’s capital. For security purposes, I will not mention their names or show their pictures. One of their aims is to provide a place of rest and training for other workers in Jordan. When workers come, they stay in one of our friend’s guest houses, but are also welcomed into all aspects of their family. In a way, they are family to the workers. Our friends also own and operate a coffee house and gift shop. All of the items they sell are handmade.
While we were there, we were fully welcomed into their family experience. We worshiped with them, ate with them, played with them, served with them and learned from them. It was a beautiful picture of biblical hospitality. I realized quickly that though we came with a “plan” to serve them, God had a little different agenda. As I told Emily and James on our second night, it was evident to me that we were there to learn and we needed to soak up everything we could.
Our friends have 7 kids, ages 5 through 19. Their lives are very different from what our kids experience. Our friends do not have many other kids in their life that they get to spend time with. They loved having Emily and James there. Whether it was James and their 16 year old son playing a lot of really intense 1-v-1 basketball or Emily spending time with the girls, or all of them just sitting around talking, you could tell it was a breath of fresh air to have them around. Emily and James loved them well. We also spent time helping them in their coffee shop. As the days went by, Emily and James were able to learn so much about life in Jordan as teenagers and what it meant to serve there. Oh and there is their golden retriever, Luke….best dog in all of Jordan.
I, along with our two other team members (Lewie and Jonyo), spent time with our friends processing issues they are facing as they serve and hopefully encouraging them in their work. Though our original plan was to help facilitate training for a group of other workers, we actually spent time with some separately. Again, as mentioned before, I was more of a student than anything in these situations. To hear about the work that others are doing in Jordan was a huge reminder that the world and what God is doing is so much bigger than I normally think about. He is doing great things through incredible people.
If I could sum up in a couple of words what I learned from our friends, it would be LOVE and SURRENDER. To quote one of our friends there, “It really is all about surrender. If we will truly surrender, He will take care of the rest.” I don’t think I need to move my family to the middle east, but I know that I need to always ask on a deeper level, “what in my life is not surrendered fully to Jesus?” ( there is a lot…)I also know that I need to be asking, “how can I love others, including my family, more in a way that reflects the love of Jesus?” Our friends loved us well..
Here are a couple of thoughts from Emily and James.
“Going to Jordan made my faith tangible and it helped me have a deeper understanding of what life must have been like in biblical times. Also getting to spend time with/see people who live such different lives than us really opened up my perspective of the world.”
“Being in Jordan was an amazing learning experience as well as an exotic and beautiful place.”
Everyone should know that Emily and James were amazing travelers, students and servants. I am thankful we had this opportunity.
Part 2, coming soon….