Thursday, December 24, 2009

pre-Christmas in the airport (posted this late...sorry)

Hello all!

Merry almost Christmas! As amazing as it would have been to be in Israel during Christmas, I decided that it would be better to come home for this one, considering that once 3rd year rolls around I'll have to be in Israel (we only get Christmas day off for a break) and because I really need some winter 3 long sleeve shirts in Beer Sheva are getting a lot of wear.

Anyway, I've been on the road, so to speak, since 11:00 am California time on Dec 22. It is now around 5 am California time on the 24th, I've made it to Vegas, and am headed to LA then home! I should be walking in my door in less than 7 hours if flights and whatnot don't get delayed. I love traveling, don't get me wrong, but I am sooo looking forward to a warm bed to sleep in (heck, at this point, a place to lay down and stretch out would be a dream come true) and a nice shower. Travels so far have gone fairly smoothly. I got my flight in Israel switched from 10 in the morning to 1 in the morning because I got there so early, which worked out great because another guy from my class was on that flight too and we got to hang out a ton once we got to New York when we were waiting for our other flights. It was really cool to talk with him and get to know his story a little more seeing as we hadn't really gotten to know each other that well yet. He's a fellow believer, which was a total blessing to share the pure excitement to hear Christmas music glorifying our Savior and to see a Christmas tree with Bible verse ornaments on it when we got to the airport. We went out of our way to sit next to the Christmas tree as we ate lunch just because it was so great to see one! You don't have any of that kind of stuff in Beer Sheva. In the Old City there's a few Russian stores that sell Santa's and that kinda thing, but nothing like the States.

Before going to Israel, I was a little disgusted by the way the US handles Christmas. That's not to say that I don't see problems with it now, but really, there is some palpable change this time of year, even in the airport madness and shopping frenzies. To be wished Merry Christmas by complete strangers on the plane made my day; the little bit of extra forgiveness and grace for people's rudeness because there's an understanding that we're all just trying to make it home for the holidays; hearing complete strangers sing or hum songs of such unbelievable truth, like O Holy Night, it really is a special time of year even in the midst of consumerism and whatnot. It's heartbreaking to remember that most of God's people in Israel aren't recognizing the Savior's birth, the reason that this season is so special. Of all places in the world, wouldn't it be amazing if Jesus was recognized in the land that He came to to dwell on earth? Yes, there's Christmas stuff in Bethlehem, but it's mainly tourists there, not the people of the land. I don't know, in one way I would almost take the commercialization of the Savior's birth by the people of Israel rather than their fully ignoring it.

Well, merry Christmas everyone, enjoy your time wherever you are and with whoever's around you. Celebrate the Savior's birth, and pray that those who do not yet acknowledge His Lordship, will recognize Him for who He is.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

One of Those Days

I think that this song pretty much describes most of my experience here in Israel so far:

33 Miles--One of Those Days

Woke up to the pouring rain, stumbled out of bed with half a brain.
20 minutes late to work again, but it's alright, it's alright
No time for coffee, gotta hit the door.
Grab a shirt from off the floor, never noticed it was stained before.
But it's alright, it's alright.
Oh, but nothing's gonna bring me down. No, not now.

It's just one of those days, when everything's right.
God is in His heaven, and I'm walking in the light. So hallelujah anyway.
It's just one of those days, you look at the sky, throw your hands up and laugh at life.
So hallelujah, Lord be praised. It's just one of those days.

The boss calls, yeah I know I'm late. Had a flat on the interstate
Tell the man that he can wait. Don't get up tight. It's alright.
Oh, but nothin's gonna lay me low, cause I know...

It's just one of those days, when everything's right.
God is in His heaven, and I'm walking in the light. So hallelujah anyway,
It's just one of those days, you look at the sky, throw your hands up and laugh at life.
So hallelujah, Lord be praised! It's just one of those days.

So come on rain, lightning strike. Just you try to shake my life
You've got no power, you've got no hold. 'Cause it is well with my soul!

It's just one of those days, when everything's right.
God is in His heaven and I'm walking in the light. So hallelujah anyway.
It's just one of those days, you look at the sky, throw your hands up and laugh at life.
So hallelujah, Lord be praised. It's just one of those days.

Yep, it's just one of those days...once again. Things are finally coming together and getting fixed, but not everything and of course there's more drama with our landlord and whatnot, but really, who cares? God is in His heaven, and I'm walking in the light. Really, in the grand scheme of things, what reason do I have to complain at all? None. Not one when you really look at life.

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Man, I love research. Not the kind in a lab (that stuff I can't stand actually), but the anthropology/sociology kind. For our final in our IHM (International Health and Medicine) class we're having to put together a group presentation about one of the many topics that we've covered in the past 4 months. My group is doing Poverty, Equity and Human Rights and how that relates to health. Broad topic and somewhat intuitive, but even with that, I'm absolutely loving doing the research for it. The really frustrating thing is that we had less than a week to throw all of it together, which is why I've been up all night doing my part of it. I'm on literature review, which really is my cup of tea. The thing is, I spent a whole semester last year doing literature reviews for my own research about medical treatment seeking behavior in sub-Saharan Africa, and now it's so hard for me to cut it down to less than a week's worth of work. After all, as a group we only have 10 minutes to present, so that's just a little over 2 minutes a person, and with no paper required, it's something that could be done in just a couple of days with no problem. But it's so hard to limit myself to so little.
We're looking at the Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya and the Jamii Bora project there that provides micro-loans to many of the impoverished people there. There's a little bit of literature out there about Jamii Bora, but the issue of micro-loans as a whole in relation to health, and particularly HIV/AIDS in Kenya has been covered quite a bit. It's like this huge internal battle to make myself stop looking for and reading new articles and sit down and just write out what I've found so far. Looking for articles is like a huge treasure hunt for me. Remind me again why I'm going into medicine where I have to study biochemistry and cell biology and all of that, which I have a hard time enjoying. Ugh, I keep having to tell myself that this will all pay off someday. At least I get my research fix every now and then :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (excuse me while I rant)

Man, it was one of "those" days today. Woke up this morning, got ready to take a shower, only to realize that our water had been shut off for the 3rd time in the past 4 days. I sighed and decided that I would just wear a knit headband thing to school to cover my dirty hair and take a shower later in the afternoon when the water would hopefully be turned back on again. (A water line broke a few weeks back, and they've been repairing it for quite a while now to no real avail). Frustrating, but not entirely surprising. Then, I go to turn on my light to find that knit headband only to realize that my light wasn't working. Ok, I thought, no big deal, the light bulb might have burnt out, so I go to turn on the lights in the living room and kitchen, only to learn that they aren't working either. Yep, no electricity. Even at that point I wasn't that frustrated--more amused. It seems like Keiko and I have kinda taken on the attitude of "well, what else can go wrong?" after all of the other drama that we've had with our apartment, so this was just another thing to add to that bag of special experiences that we probably wouldn't have gotten if we were going to school in the States.
Well, luckily I was able to get ahold of the girls across the street to use their shower right before I had to leave for class (for whatever reason, they had both water and electricity), so I was nice and clean for class. The day's looking up right? Well, on my way to school, running just a little bit late because of the shower, another bicyclist runs into me. No real damage done other than twisting my seat around off to the side, making for a very awkward ride for the rest of the way to school. Anyway, I made it to school just about on time, and headed up to the 6th floor where we usually have our classes only to find out that classes weren't being held there today. Of course, our schedule wasn't posted on the bulletin board like it's supposed to be (and was supposed to be posted there on THURSDAY) and which we hadn't received a paper copy of in our mailboxes (like we were supposed to receive on Thursday as well), so I had no way of finding out where I needed to head off to in order to get to Microbiology. Also, not really surprising, the computers in our break room weren't working, so I couldn't check my email, and the wireless internet on the 6th floor (which I don't even think is set up by our school...rather we're tapping into someone else's) was once again too weak to stay connected long enough to check my email for the schedule and classroom locations.
So, I head back down and over to the "real" medical school campus as opposed to our few classes on the 6th floor of the hospital. To get onto the campus without having to go all the way around to the main entrances, there's a rotating gate thing that unlocks when you swipe your student card through it. This thing is notorious for not working, and of course, it wasn't going to work for me today. I stand there like an idiot swiping my card again and again and again, until it finally lets me in. Now, there's a lot of classrooms on the medical campus, so I try calling Susan (one of the girls who lives across the street from me) again to see if she can look up what classroom we're supposed to be in. At first no answer. I know that Keiko is sleeping still, so that wouldn't work...Christal is out an about somewhere, most likely not near internet, and other people who would know are probably in I try Susan again. This time she picks up (she'd gone back to sleep after I had left after my shower) and she finds out that it's in the Pathology building--back on the hospital grounds. So, I turn around and retrace my steps over toward Pathology.
Microbiology was rather uneventful...that is until I tried to get the updated powerpoint during the break. A guy in my class had copied it from the computer the teacher was using, and gave it to me on his disk-on-key. As I'm getting it off of his zip drive, my antivirus stuff pops up saying that there's a virus. I couldn't eject the zip drive and I couldn't perform any of the recommended actions for the virus, so I ended up just pulling out the disk and telling him that he had a virus on the drive that he should try to get off. He found it without too much trouble (and being a Mac person, without much concern) and said that it hadn't been there before, so it must have come from my computer. I started running all of my antivirus stuff, which ended up taking most of the rest of the day only to find that none of them found anything about a virus once the disk-on-key had been taken out. So now I don't know if I have a virus or not, but am going to just pretend that I don't and see what happens.
Well, class lets out and I head to the main university campus across the street to get lunch because I wasn't able to make anything in the morning because of the lack of water (no way to wash veggies). I ended up getting jipped 10 shekles when I was paying, but didn't realize it until it was too late, so yeah, there went some of my money that could have been used to buy like 15 pitas.
Back to class, now biochemistry. We have 2 teachers for biochem, one is great and the other is ok--if you can get past the thick accent and monotone voice, which was not working for me at all. Class ended up running late, so I wasn't able to go down to the travel agent to try to work out cashing in on my return ticket so I can hopefully fly home for Christmas...meaning I have to get up early and do it tomorrow.
After class let out, I went to get my bike and was luckily able to beat the seat back into place and ride home without any trouble. At home, I find out that the water is back on, but definitely not clean. First it came out all red and rusty, even with a little plastic cut out of a rocking horse coming out of the faucet, and then finally clear. But clear and clean are two very very different things. This water SMELLS! I'm not sure how to describe the smell, other than chemical-ie, or metal-ie--so much that I had open the window out of concern of poisoning myself on noxious gas. Even after letting it run for a good 20 minutes, the smell was still going strong. So yeah, still no clean water.
Thankfully, we do have electricity now. I ran a few errands after trying the water out, and when I got home I tried flipping the breaker (which Keiko had done earlier to no avail) and LIGHT! So, praise the Lord, something ended up working!

Ok, that's my rant. I have another much less complaining post about some of the stuff that I learned about the Bedouin that will be up shortly--hopefully within the next few days.

Let's hope for a better day tomorrow.

Love you all--and miss you so much!

Carolyn (or Anna if you ask any restaurant where they take your name. I don't care where you are, if English is not the main language, "Carolyn" is pretty much impossible to say)


Friday, November 20, 2009

Days and Nights

As most people who know me at all know all too well, I'm a night owl to the max. Every time I start a new school year, I get all excited about a chance to have a clean start and make myself into a morning person, but that's never worked out. So, now I have a new plan: switch my day and night. My flatmate, Keiko, helped me come up with it and I think it has the potential for genius. Here's how it goes.

The facts:
I have class from 8-5 or 6 pretty much every day, so I have to be awake then
I get my best studying done around 1-3 or 4 in the morning...I've tried to change that, but I can't
I usually will only get about 3-4 hours of sleep because of the previous 2 facts
I generally don't have set plans after school

The plan:
Sleep directly after school (5:30 or 6:30 until 12:30 or 1:30 or thereabouts). Then get up,have "breakfast" and go to the Caroline House (the new student center on the medical school campus that's open 24/7 and a GREAT study place aside from being kinda cold) and study until 7:30 or so, have "lunch" and then go to class. What is lunch for everyone else will become my dinner time, and then off to the afternoon classes, after which I will go home to sleep and repeat the cycle. Sounds promising right? After all, I'll be much more awake during my morning classes than I usually am and I can study when my mind actually wants to.

Guess I was born for the night shift...

On another note: I've realized that one of the best studying techniques for me is to have something going on in the background. So last night I watched Jane Eyre and the Stranger (each from the 1940s), 3 documentaries (one on women in Afghanistan, one on homeless health care in LA, and the other on the war in Darfur) and listened to the Doctors Without Borders updates about meningitis in several places in Africa, and caught up on world events by listening to the BBC news podcast, and listened to a few old time radio shows (the Shadow and Jack Benny). The surprising thing is that I actually feel like I took in a lot more information about bacteria, viruses, fungi, and their role in respiratory tract illnesses than I would have just sitting there in silence or with music on. And it gives me a motivation to sit down and study because I want to listen/watch those other things too.

So yeah, that's all that I have for now. Gotta hop in the shower and then get some sleep because we're hosting a dinner at our place tonight witch already has the potential to throw off my new schedule haha.

Love you and miss you all!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Requirements/Responsibilites of an International Health Care Worker

Tomorrow is our "IHM" (International health and medicine--or something along those lines) day. That means that we have clinical rotations (this week in the Peds ER) and then lectures about international health issues. This week we are discussing war, catastrophes, displaced persons, refugees, terrorism, and disaster management. This is the stuff I've been waiting for, the kind of work that I really want to be involved in.

Reading one of the first paragraphs in our text though is rather daunting. Here's what it says...

"Whether or not the aims of the work are narrowly or broadly defined, practitioners need excellent technical skills in evidence-based medicine and public health to avoid doing more harm than good. They must become rapidly familiar with the particular health problems threatening the population in question, and the available resources (structural, human, and organizational) and strategies that exist to cope with them. The most effective aid workers elicit and prioritized the health concerns of those being served; respect, support, learn from, and , when appropriate, guide colleagues; coordinate efforts; maintain flexibility; and strive for equity and efficiency while ensuring that assistance also reaches the most vulnerable populations. These aid workers also dedicate themselves to serving others while taking care to maintain personal health and equanimity in the midst of unfamiliar and stressful situations.
"Experienced aid workers realize that their work may put them in danger, and they contribute to individual and group security by respecting sound security protocols, maintaining positive interpersonal relationships (with officials, community members, and colleagues), and collecting and sharing relevant information. In sum, the consummate humanitarian health worker combines compassion, commitment, and integrity with technical proficiency in promoting the delivery of the most appropriate, evidence-based, and up-to-date preventative and curative health services--a tall order in what are often very challenging environments."

WOW, that's a tall order in deed. I keep telling myself that it'll get easier in some sense in a little while, once I'm out on the field doing what I want to be doing. But, really, I'm not so sure. The logistics that I hate are always going to be there, and perhaps even more so in "humanitarian aid" work.

My only hope in being able to be that kind of doctor, with all of those responsibilities and stresses on a daily basis, is the Lord. It's an interesting thing to have these seemingly insurmountable dreams. Looking at it from my own understanding, it's impossible to achieve any of them. What makes it even harder is that when I share my passions for this kind of stuff with other people (even believers), I'm only reminded that they're impossible. Why? I mean, I don't expect people who have a human understanding of "possible" and "impossible" to look at all of the requirements for a "good" international health care worker and think that, yeah, ain baiahya, zeh efshar (no problem, it's possible). But, what about believers? Why don't be believe God's words, His promises that "anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things that these because I go to my Father" (John 14:12) or "commit your way to the Lord and your plans will succeed" or "with God all things are possible" or any of the hundreds or thousand promises that we read and quote and feel good about but seldom act on or live by?

When will we give up operating by the world's understanding and actually live out what we say we believe? What evidence is there that we actually believe God and trust in His promises when we never step outside of what we think is possible, face the giants in the land and fight "impossible" battles? Yalla, bo'ee le'amim (Come on, let's believe--I think that's how it would be translated at least). Col efshar im Adonai Yeshua (all is possible with the Lord Jesus).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gotta love analogies

Immunology is a really complicated subject (not to mention that our teachers for immuno aren't the best). Just glancing over a page from the book in front of me, I see paragraphs talking about cytokine secretion influencing the type-commitment of T helper cells. If they have a TH1 profile, they will secrete Interferon-gamma, Interleukin-2, and Tumor Necrosis Factor, which fight bacteria and viruses. If they are TH2, they will secrete Interleukin 4, 5, or 10, which fight against parasitic infection or infections in mucosal areas. The T helper cells receive signals from their surroundings in order to decide which cytokine profile to secrete. These signals are generally cytokines released from other immune cells such as macrophages. The interesting thing is that T helper cells that are already committed to a certain profile can influence others to commit to their profile as well...Now here's the analogy put forth in "How the Immune System Works" (a great book that, as you will see, makes things much easier to relate to on a "normal person" level.

"Committed Th (T helper) cells can also influence the cytokine profile produced by other Th cells in the neighborhood. In this sense, helper T cells are like 'evangelists' who try to 'convert' other Th cells to their 'religion.'"

Oh, man...but, it makes it make SO much more sense...

Ok, off to play volleyball. Have a great day everyone!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A little reflection...

Two things you should know: (1)There's a gate to the university labeled the "Gate of Peace." Ironically, this gate is never open, but instead padlocked. (2) Everywhere you walk in Beer Sheva, and most other places in Israel for that matter, the sidewalks are littered with broken glass.

Gate of Peace

Broken glass shards litter Israeli streets

Reflecting the faces of those walking above.

Ordinary sand destined to be great

Tested and tried, put into the furnace

Shaped by a Master’s hands into something useful yet delicate—


But pressure and carelessness undoes this exquisite work

Shards with sharp edges and hazy memories of what had been—

These are all that remain

Trampled by my foreign feet, rushing about my business

Caught up in my own “completeness” from the same Master’s touch

And forgetting the incredible beauty of mosaics—

diverse pieces of brokenness

united to reflect something bigger than themselves.

Will I risk the my own pain from their sharp edges

In order to pick up these pieces

To lay them before the Master Artist and maybe join in His work?

Or am I more content in the rubble

In front of the padlocked Gate of Peace.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A little more of what I'm learning...thank goodness it's almost the weekend!

A little something from my note-taking today in biochem...right now it makes perfect sense, but I'm pretty sure that if I look at it again tomorrow I'll have NO idea what in the world it's talking about...

Method of action of glucagon

v Receptor on cell surface involving cAMP.

v Activates a cAMP dependent protein kinase. This causes the phosphorylation of phosphorylase kinase, which activates phosphorylase, phosphorylating the above-mentioned enzymes regulating the synthesis/breakdown of glycogen. Using this kinase increases the signal by several orders because each of the different enzymes activates a number of others further down the chain. 1 molecule of glucagon can activate 1000 phosphatase enzymes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What I'm learning

Hello everyone,

I just thought that I would drop a little, very short note of what I'm
learning in class today. So far I've had Microbiology, where we talked about respiratory tract infections (which was actually rather interesting because I'm coming down with a cold); histology, where we talked about nervous system tissues and structures (by far my favorite system), and now I'm here in immunology learning about transplantation and major histocompatibility complexes. Here's a picture from our powerpoint.

It's a naked mouse that has received a skin graft of chicken feathers....I kind of want one

Well, I should get going so that I can pay attention to what's being taught. Love you all..

Oh, PS, a helicopter just landed on the lawn directly outside of our class...just another day in Israel.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Succoth update

Once again, sorry for the lack of updating. I have no real reason except for laziness when it comes to jotting down everything that's been going on here.

Where should I start? Well, Keiko and I almost have everything working in our apartment. The only thing left is to get the gas working reliably (it worked for a couple of hours and now no longer will light our stove/oven). We did get a microwave though, so at least we can make some hot food every now and then. I've been really fortunate though because I've been a part of a lot of group meals/potluck things for the past couple of weeks, which means hot cooked food for me while I only have to bring a salad because I have no way to cook. The group meals have also been a great way to get to know some of the other people in my class as well as a random group of Israeli students who I play volleyball with every week.

Can I just say that I am so thankful that I played volleyball in high school, and still remember quite a bit of it. It has been such a great way to build bridges with so many people. There is one other guy in my class who played a lot in high school and is really good and then 2 other guys who are naturally pretty good and really devoted to coming out and playing whenever we can get a game started up. I can honestly say that I've had more fun during our 2 on 2 games than in my entire last year of playing in high school. We also randomly met a group of Israeli students who can play decently, and meet with them at least once a week to play. One girl, Adi, lives right down the street from my apartment, and has been crucial in helping us get a lot of the logistical stuff worked out with our new place.

This past week has been Succoth, the feast of booths, where many of the Israelis build sukkas (sometimes translated as booths, other times as tabernacles) outside of their homes. It is supposed to remind the Israelis of the time when they were in the wilderness dwelling in sukkas before they were allowed into the promised land. Well, because it's a week-long holiday, we had the whole week off! I spent most of the time in Beer Sheva, but also went up to Jerusalem for a couple of days and am now over in Dimona for Shabbat. While in Jerusalem, I was able to meet up with Jill (a woman from Reality--my church back in Santa Barbara who is now working in Jerusalem as a teacher at an international school) and Sally (another woman from Reality who came to visit us over Succoth). It was so amazing to get to be with a few people from home and get all caught up on what's going on back in Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Carpinteria...not to mention receiving a few gifts from America that we can't find very easily here (tasty vitamins, M&Ms and taco seasoning)

Hmmmm...what else? School is going well...classes are different than I expected--a lot less organized and totally based off of powerpoint. Sadly, I have learned that I have a very hard time paying attention after about 45 minutes of powerpoint and really don't learn well when that is the only thing used. The problem is that we get a print out of all of the slides and they go through the slides fairly quickly, which doesn't really give me time to take notes. The thing is, in order for me to learn something, I have to write it down, and so not taking notes is NOT helpful in the slightest. Luckily, I got a new laptop a couple of weeks ago to replace my other one that is *hopefully* being fixed at the Lenovo factory in Tel Aviv. This new one was only about $200 and small enough that it can easily be transported to and from school, and has a long enough battery life that I can make it through a 2 hour class with no problem being away from a power outlet. Now I am able to take notes by typing most of what they are saying and is on the powerpoint, which makes me pay attention and think through everything. So, the last week that we had of class was great! I actually felt like I was learning something, which was pretty much a first since I'd been here, at least as far as the medical school part goes.

Well, that's all for now. I'm gonna get some sleep before we head off to the Ramon Crater tomorrow. I'll try to get in another update tomorrow night.

shalom. im col ahava sheli (peace. with all of my love)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Long time no post

Once again, my apologies for the lack of posts lately. We now have consistent internet, so hopefully I'll be updating a little more frequently.

I'm choosing to see our new apartment as a place of never know what's going to happen here. Very very very few things have gone according to what was planned. While we were promised desks, closets with drawers, a working oven/stove and wash machine, and lights by the time we moved in, none of that came to pass. Our desks arrived about a week late, our closets were pretty much a box with a rod to hang things on (we eventually talked our landlord into getting 1 shelf installed at the bottom for each dresser), our stove/oven still isn't hooked up because we don't know if we have gas tanks outside that are ours and if we do, what company services our tanks, the kitchen lights still don't work, and--the most fun of all--our wash machine doesn't drain correctly...instead we have a geyser erupt at the end of every rinse cycle, spewing water out of the tube that is supposed to drain into some bigger pipe in the floor. Keiko and I got emptying the water into buckets and pouring it down the sink drain down to an art, and then we were informed by our neighbors downstairs that water was leaking out of the pipe coming from our apartment into the downstairs hall...and not just into the hall, but onto the electrical panel. So, yeah, we're seriously lucky that the apartment didn't burn down. And then, yesterday we discovered that one of the reasons for the leakage downstairs might have been the fact that our sink drain pipe thing disconnected (it had been taped together) and water was draining into the cupboard under our sink and out of a hole in the bottom where the actual pipe goes out of our house. The sink is now officially off limits until that's fixed, which may never happen seeing as our handyman has stood us up a number of times.

It's not all bad though. In the midst of this craziness we're getting to know our neighbors better, and luckily for us, they are rather gracious to the poor American students who don't know what they're doing and are having trouble navigating Israeli housing issues. Only one of our neighbors speaks any English (the one who stole our internet but completely cutting our line and plugging it in for here apartment the first day that we had it hooked up), and quite a few of them also speak French (I knew I should have paid much better attention in French class). But, yeah, in the midst of all of this, we're having a lot more forced contact with them than we would have had without all of these problems, and we are getting the chance to form very basic relationships with them that will hopefully continue to grow as our Hebrew progresses.

Last Thursday, Susan and I led a Bible study for our group of believers at MSIH and a few people involved in Ben Gurion University in some way. It was the first real "big group" meeting that we had, and man, I could hardly believe, that here we are, a couple of first years who don't really know how these things are usually done who are supposed to kick-start the year. Praise the Lord that it's not us, it's Him who teaches. He ended up leading is to focus on 1 Timothy 1:3-7. With so many people coming from so many different backgrounds, there's a lot of stuff that we can get caught up in forgetting that the aim of our charge is love. I can't even tell you what all we ended up talking about, but it was amazing to hear people who we really hadn't expected to come say that they were really happy that they had cancelled other things to come. The format was very homegroup-esque (discussion based), except we broke down into smaller groups of 4 at first and went through a few questions that we had prepared beforehand so that it would be harder for people to just kinda space out and not get involved. After about 30 mins or so of talking in groups, we all came back together and everyone shared, and yeah, it was so cool to see the Spirit move. Praise the Lord.

There's one more giant thing that the Lord deserves praise for. I found out yesterday that a physician in the States heard about me being over here and donated $1000. I can't put into words how amazed I am at His provision. On my way home from church last night I had "Kama tov chasdecha Adonai" (a song that I learned somewhere which means "How good is Your grace, Lord") stuck in my head. Now I hadn't found out about the money yet, but I was really at one of those points where I couldn't help but rejoice in the Lord. It's not that the service was particularly engaging--actually I had a really hard time tracking the thought process behind the sermon--or that anything else was really working out. It's just that I'm here, in Israel, like the Lord said I would be. And yeah, things are not easy right now, but that in no way reflects what's really going on in light of God's plan here. Look at the Moses before Pharaoh released the Israelites. When he came back to Egypt and asked Pharaoh the first time to let God's people go, Pharaoh made the conditions for the people worse--they were to make just as many bricks as before, but now without straw. And the people got mad at Moses and Moses questioned why he ever went to Pharaoh in the first place. There have been a few times that I've thought that we must not have obeyed the Lord in signing for this apartment because so many things are going wrong, but that's not true. Just because things aren't working out doesn't mean that we disobeyed or even necessarily that we're being attacked. It means that we're in a place where God can work wonders if we persist, are sensitive to His leading, and obey what He tells us to do. So yeah, how can help but rejoice in God's goodness and grace when I realized that He's in control and nothing passes through His hand that He doesn't allow. I can rest knowing that He is God and that His name will be made great in the earth. Kama tov chasdecha Adonai. And then come home and find out about the money. The goodness of our God blows me away.

Well, this ended up being a much longer post than I had expected. Good job to you if you read all the way through it. Shena tova (Happy new year...the Jewish new year just passed...welcome to 5770). I love you all. Shalom vey ahava. (Peace and Love)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sorry for the lack of updates lately

Hey all,

I'm on a shady internet connection right now that could fade out at any second so I'll keep it super short. Hopefully I'll have internet set up at my apartment by Friday afternoon, but we'll see...we were supposed to have it yesterday but nothing in Israel seemes to work on the first attempt. We've had endless problems with our apartment and are far from really being able to settle in, which makes trying to study very difficult when there's always something that needs to be done just to make our home somewhat comfortable. At this point I don't really even care how quickly anything starts to work (we have no gas to cook on, our wash machine spews out water instead of draining it, lights don't work, desks just arrived, dressers/closests are not what we were promised, etc etc)...I just want to be able to have an attitude of love, grace, and forgiveness through it all and that I would be able to be a blessing to everyone involved. Please pray that I would take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and that I would be able to be a light in my community and neighborhood even when things are clearly going very poorly. Well, I'm gonna get off while I still have some connection so that I can make sure that this posts. Love you all!

PS. Mom and Dad, I got the box! Thanks so much! I'll try to give you a call when I get a good connection.

PPS. Nicole, I got your postcard today and it made my day! I want to hear all about it and I have a few stories for you as well ;) love ya!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Empty tombs

Here's the continuation from my post on the trip that we took to Jerusalem last weekend.

Jerusalem is an interesting place, filled with so much important history for 3 major religions. Friday evening, just after Shabbat had started and while the lights atop the mosques glowed green calling the Muslims to prayer, my heart began to break for the all of these people earnestly seeking God, without seeing the fullfillment of God's promises to mankind in the person of Jesus. One group of Orthodox Jewish men had walked up to a passageway on top of the markets but still slightly below my building where they stood in a circle singing and praying. You could hear the longing in their voices, for God to accomplish what He had promised, this desperation that I don't think that many of us understand, at least I know I don't. All I could think of was "why me?" why, out of everyone in the earth, was I chosen by God. Why was I sought out when I hadn't really cared or wanted God, while here these people are crying out. I think for the first time in my life I realized what Paul meant when he said that he wished himself accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his brothers, the Jews (Romans 9:3-5). I personally don't understand why God doesn't radically reveal Himself to them, or why He doesn't soften their hearts so that they can see His grace and lovingkindness that is in Jesus Christ. But then, it isn' t really my job to understand His ways, and so I will continue to dig in in prayer, trusting that my good Abba Adonai will accomplish His plan, in His way and His timing.

Another thing that broke my heart took place on Sunday as our class as a whole was visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Now, most of you know that I'm not really a fan of fancy things and that extravagance and religiosity surrounding extravagance are actually pretty big turnoffs for me. Well, sadly I have to say that that more or less summed up my experience at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. All I could think of was "What would Jesus say about this if He were here? How would He feel about this place?" I might be totally off base here, but I'm just being honest about what I feel. How much of that place reflected His life on earth and the principles that He taught? I understand the desire to worship God with our material possessions and to give Him the absolute best, but I have a hard time seeing the person of Jesus walking through a shrine-like church where people kiss the stone that some say He was laid on and then fight among demoninations over who gets to control which parts of the church. A wall was actually constructed in order to separate the different demoniation's sections of the church, and actual fighting has ensued over cleaning certain areas of it. No wonder we aren't often recognized as His disciples any more. If we can't show love in what we claim to be one of the most holy places, where Jesus' humility and self-sacrifice was shown in the greatest measure, and the power of God was displayed unlike ever before, where can we show it? With all of the inward focus, what has happened with practical living incarnationally among the masses, eating at their tables, befriending the traitor, defending the prostitute, ministering to the masses of ordinary people?

The day before, when the rest of our class was still in Beer Sheva, a small group of us had gone and visited the Garden Tomb, a place where some claim might have been the actual place of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. There were a number of reasons that each place can possibly be discounted as the legitimate place for the events talked about in the Bible, but I'm not going to go into that right now. The Garden Tomb is outside of the current Old City gates, in the Muslim area of the city, and crammed right up next to a bustling bus station (even though once you're inside you would never guess it aside from one area overlooking the station). Compared to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, it's a lot more "realistic" to what the actual place would have been like 2000 years ago. The site they claim is Golgotha is right up against the bus station along a road heading to Damascus. The actual Golgotha would have most likely been along a major road where anyone traveling in that direction could have seen those being crucified, thus dissuading them from disobeying the Roman law. A short way away from the bus station, the remains of a tomb, most likely belonging to a rich man, had been found. This tomb, unlike the other one, had nothing elaborate to it, just a simple room holed out in a rock wall. The only things added to the tomb itself were a simple metal gate blocking off the what could have been the stone where Jesus was laid, and a sign on the inside of the tomb near the door saying "He is not here, He has risen" (a message that I didn't see at all in the church). The rest of the area was just a garden, kept up by a few workers in dirty jeans, t-shirts, and warm smiles. Nothing fancy, nothing really to do with ritual or tradition...simply a place to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus and the fact that the tomb is empty.

I think that our guide put it the best. He told us that he didn't know whether or not the place that he was showing us was where the resurrection actually took place 2000 years ago, but he did know that personal resurrections occured there daily, and that was the work that Jesus came for. I guess that different people experience that in different ways, and I believe that some people truly do have a "God experience" in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I know that if nothing else, it opened up a lot of converstations about religion and faith between the Christians and the Jews in my class that otherwise probably never would have taken place. It was hard to answer their questions of "What does this place mean to you as a Christian?" when I don't really know what the place itself means to me. Overall, I ended up saying, it means that we have a long way to go as Christians when it comes to love and really living among the people, but most of all, regardless of what site you go to, it means that the tomb is empty, and that is where our hope rests. The tomb is empty, He is not there, He has risen. Amen.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First day of "real" medical school

Well, our "transition" courses officially ended on Friday with a test in emergency medicine, and "real" medical school started up on Sunday. Thing is, our first day of classes was spent touring Jerusalem instead of in the classroom! Yeah, what an amazing start to an intense year.

A few of us went up early, right after the test on Friday and stayed at the citadel youth hostel on the roof again--once again amazing! There was a little kid (I think that he was 8) staying there this time who I ended up playing with quite a bit, especially the first afternoon. This kid was crazy smart! Seriously, I felt like I was learning from him. Of course, by the end of the afternoon we had both morphed into superheroes; he had the power to touch someone and take all of their strength/kill them, but also to bring them back to life, and I had the power of tickling, which was both my defense and weapon. I lost all other identity for that kid for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday was spent mainly lounging around. We spent quite a bit of the morning at the hostel, eating the fresh mangos, bread, and cucumbers that we had bought at the shook (outdoor market) the day before. We eventually left and wandered around the Christian quarter looking for a cheap lunch, which we eventually found after quite a bit of walking (at least we know the area much better now). Then we walked outside of the Old City walls, laid down under the some trees in the shade, where Keiko and I feel asleep for a good 1.5-2 hours. I must have gone into hibernate mode or something with my heartrate slowing WAY down, because I woke up a couple of times absolutely freezing. It was a nice but very unexpected feeling after being in the stinking hot desert for so long.

Finally Paul, James and David (who had shown up some point during my nap) woke us up and we headed off to check out the Garden Tomb, one of the suggested, but highly disputed sites for Jesus' crucifixion and burial. There was so much to it that I'll talk about it in another post so that this one doesn't get too horribly long. Right before we left we met a really nice elderly couple who had been to Israel at least 13 times and who had had a son who had been a doctor before he had died from Hepatitis. He had received his medical education in South America and had worked in primarily rural settings in America. It was amazing to listen to their stories, advice, and excitement about what we're doing. After being here for about a month, it's easy to forget that this program is unique and that being in Israel isn't really commonplace for medical school. It was nice to be reminded of the blessing that we have been given with this opportunity, despite all of the problems that we have been having with scheduling and communication issues between faculty, administration, and students.

After leaving the Garden Tomb we practically ran through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City (which by the way was bustling like no other) in order to get back to meet up with a few other people in our group and head off to a worship service at Jill's church. For those of you who don't know, Jill is a friend of mine from back in Santa Barbara at Reailty Carp who is working at an international school as a 1st grade teacher in Jerusalem. The service was quite a bit different from their normal service because they were recording a worship CD, so instead of hearing a sermon, we sang in Hebrew the whole time. My favorite part was watching the truly joyous worship of some of the older people at the church. I've never seen people worship with such freedom and truly evident joy due to the goodness and mercy of God. I don't know how to describe was really beautiful. Out of everything for the weekend, I wish that you all could have seen that.

After church and catching up a little bit with Jill, we wandered around outside of the old city again, --you guessed it--looking for food. Finally we found a place that was open and wasn't too expensive (and thankfully wasn't falafel), ate and headed back to the hostel. A few more of our friends met us up there after driving up to the city earlier that night, we all went to bed, and got up early the next morning to meet up with the rest of our class for a tour of Jerusalem.

The tour was pretty interesting and informative. We hit most of the tourist sites, starting off overlooking the city from Mount Scopus, traveling back down to the Old City where we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Kotel (Western Wall), and back out of the Old City and right up next to the wall separating the West Bank and Israeli territory, ending at a bus stop that had been transformed into a memorial for a number of people who had been killed there in a suicide bombing a few years ago. It was a great time of bonding with my class, and it was awesome how many deeper philosophical and religious conversations came up out of a genuine desire to understand eachother as a result of these visits.

So, yeah, our first day of class was a field trip...looks like I'm at the right school!! I'll write about more of it later, with some more of the "deeper" things that it brought up for me. But for now I need to study a little more histology, microbiology, and immunology before bed. Love you and miss you all!

God bless!

Sunday, August 16, 2009


So we haven't even officially started "medical school" yet--we're still in the orientation phase technically, but today we got to try out starting IVs on each other! Now I've given shots and stuff before and knew how to start an IV, but it had been about 6 years since I learned all of that stuff, so I was a little nervous. But, luckily, I got the IV in on the first try without any problems whatsoever. The girl who did mine also got it in perfectly, and in a vein that isn't usually used by people taking my blood. It was nice to "pass" that test--even though it was solely for practice and exposure and not at all evaluated by anyone with any authority. One thing that I found to be really comical though was that one of the people who had the most trouble was one of the people most sure of themselves in our class. So, yeah, that's all that I have for tonight. Have a great one everyone!

Friday, August 14, 2009


I greeted the sunrise bleary-eyed and groggy at 5 am this morning. Now for those of you who know me well, you know that I am not a morning person, and convincing me to get up before dawn is not an easy thing to do. So I'm sure you're wondering what got me up this morning. Simple, the promise of seeing a large body of water in the middle of the desert (the Dead Sea) and hiking around the hills of En Gedi. We loaded up the bus around 6:45 (only 30 minutes later than we had planned) and drove about 1 and a half hours to the border of Israel and Jordan. I was awake for about 10 minutes of the trip (probably not even that long) before I curled up in the fetal position on the seat and feel asleep.

En Gedi is a beautiful place, in a desert kind of way. At first glace, you would never believe that there could be running water along the trail we started hiking up, but after about .5 miles or so little bits of standing water started popping up in the river bed we were following and folliage started to poke it's way through the tan rocks. About half way up the trail, the creek was acually big enough to splash around in and just enjoy cool water. It took a little convincing to get those of us who stopped there to climb out to continue on the trail, but with the promise of a waterfall at the end, we continued on our way. When we did reach the end, we were met with a small but beautiful waterfall and a decent sized pool of water to relax in with most of the people in our class.

After hiking back down, we loaded back on the bus and drove to the Dead Sea (once again, I slept for the entire drive). Now I didn't do too much at the Dead Sea other than relax under some shade and nap a little trying to cool off. I woke up just in time to hop in the water, float around for a few minutes, climb back out, rinse off, and get back on the bus to head back to Be'er Sheva. Floating in the Dead Sea was a weird feeling. Because of the salt content (something like 33% while the Mediterranean Sea is only 3%) you just float. Even guys made of pretty much solid muscle who usually sink like a rock in water could stay up without any effort whatsoever.

Here's a few pictures from the trip

At the start of the hike none of us actually believed that there could be enough water ahead of us to create a waterfall, a few pools, and a stream that was actually a decent size.

So the first signs of water weren't the most promising...

This is what the majority of the trail looked like.

Parts of the trail even looked like SaddleRock in Santa Barbara. The little taste of home was nice.

The waterfall at the end of the hike.

The waterfall and the pool below. The water was actually cold enough to give us goosebumps--something I had nearly forgotten existed.

Keiko and I floating in the Dead Sea

Thursday, August 13, 2009


A view of our hostel in the Old City. It was called the Citadel.

Some of the markets along the streets in the Old City. You can find just about anything from food, to clothes, to little figurines, to incense, to fine jewelry. You name it, they have it. You just have to be willing to barter for a while and you can talk the price down by at least 50-75%.

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is one of the possible locations for Jesus' tomb.

Walking along the Via Dolorosa, the path that Jesus supposedly took to Golgotha. We were led by some priests, and stopped at each of the Stations of the Cross along the way.

A view of the City of David looking through on of the holes in the wall of the Old City.

Keiko along the wall of the Old City. It was a bit toasty.

The Western Wall (also called the Kotel). I had to wait stinking forever for the wind to pick up so that you could see the flag, but it finally did. The area of the wall is divided for men and women, so I have no idea what it's like on the men's side, but to see the earnestness of the women praying was heart-wrenching.

Keiko, David, and Paul at the Dome of the Rock. The Western Wall is in front of the dome.

Paul and James leading the way through one part of the Jewish sector Friday morning.

The rooftop in the morning. A little crowded, but overall an amazing experience. I never want to sleep in an actual room in the Old City now.

The view at night from our beds on the roof of a hostel in the Old City. This is the Dome of the Rock.

That's right! Coffee Bean in Israel! This is in Jerusalem, but they also have one in Tel Aviv. Who knew?!

This is the Negev Brigade. I was not expecting there to be such a big monument of modern art in Be'er Sheva, but this is defintely that. Everything has some sort of symbolic purpose. I don't remember most of them now, but it was really cool to listen to all of them at the time. This is my place to get away from everything else late at night. The dome on the left is awesome! The echo in there is amazing and when you get a bunch of people singing it is one of the most beautiful things in the world

This is one of the most common sights in Be'er Sheva. Cats are everywhere! Apparently they used to have a really bad rat/mouse problem, and in order to deal with that they just introduced cats and let them overrun the city. Their favorite hang out is in the dumpsters.

The Beach at Hurtzlea (the town North of Tel Aviv). Body surfing was amazing and the beach was COVERED in shells. I mean piles of shells that were so big that you couldn't even see the sand underneath them. I highly recommend going there if you're ever in the area :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tracks, roads, and cobblestones


Hello everyone! Sorry for the lack of posting. It seems like there's not enough time in the day to do simple things like grocery shopping or finding a bike to make getting around town easier let alone get on the internet for any extended period of time. Things have gotten a lot better since my last post...well, situations haven't really changed too much, but I am a lot more at peace about being here.

Be'er Sheva is an...intersting (?) city. I think that the best way to describe it would be the Bakersfield of Israel. It's huge, but there's really not that much to it. To remedy that, most of the students in my program have been getting out of town as much as possible on the weekends. Two weekends ago, most of us ended up jumping on the last train out of Be'er Sheva and headed up to Tel Aviv. One of the girls in my class has a family vacation home in a town a little north of the main city, which made for the perfect place to escape to. I actually can't think of that many highlights from the weekend, other than spending a lot of time on the beach, sleeping a ton, and just relaxing in general. Don't get me wrong, Tel Aviv is a crazy city, full of stuff to do at all hours of the day and night, but most of them not really my "scene" or idea of fun.

One interesting thing from the weekend though was my first experience in a kosher house. I had never realized all of the rules that go into keeping a place kosher. For those of you who don't know that much about it (which was me as of a week ago), one of the main things about keeping a place kosher is keeping dairy and meat products completely separated. That means you can't use the same utensil for meat and dairy EVER. There were specific forks, knives, cutting boards, seives, etc that were only to be used for one or the other. If something designated "dairy" was accidently used for something meat, then it would have to be thrown away (certain things could be cleaned according to a certain ritual, but we didn't really go into that). There were even separate sinks and dish washers for meat and dairy utensils!! I don't think that I had ever realized just how strict the law of the Old Testament as practiced by the Jews could be. I have a new understanding of just how "radical" the freedom of Christ is, and how amazing it is that the Lord desires a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) above sacrifice or tradition. Eating a real Shabbot dinner though, was a beautiful thing, and a great time of building community. There were 7 of us from all different backgrounds, but the ease and humor of our conversations made it seem as if we had all known each other for most of our lives. After Shabbot had ended Saturday, we loaded into Lara's car (it was her family's house and they had left a car there for her to use while in school) and headed back down to Be'er Sheva (only getting lost a couple of time along the way).

The next week was spent in Hebrew and Emergency medicine classes. A typical day includes Hebrew from 8:30-12 (with a break around 10), followed by lunch until 1:15. Most of the time, I either bring my lunch from home or stop by one of the cafes on the Ben Gurion University (BGU) campus across the street. Earlier this week I actually found another cafe that I love! It's a little place that has sandwiches, frozen yogurt, soups, and a pretty extensive salad bar. The best part is that a large salad is the perfect size for 2 meals and only 18 shekels (4 shekels = 1 dollar US), which means that I only need to get food every other day and then leave the leftovers in the fridge for the next day.

Last Thursday, a part of our fellowship loaded up our backpacks, grabbed our sleeping bags, and jumped on the bus to Jerusalem for a weekend of rest, relaxation, and exploration. The bus was packed, leaving us with only standing room for most of the trip, which was totally fine with me because, frankly, bus surfing is so much more fun than riding responsibly. Now, a word about the buses in Israel: many soldiers ride the buses home for the weekend, and all of the soldiers ALWAYS carry their guns. So, here we are on this bus with no less than 40 armed people, riding for about 1 and a half hours across the Israeli countryside. (Just a note for those of you who aer a little concerned about that--no one keeps the clip in their gun while they're off duty, so there's not really a chance of accidental gunshots.)

Once we arrived in Jerusalem, we wandered around some of the main touristy areas, looking for a Korean restaurant that Paul had heard about and that we had looked up online before leaving Be'er Sheva. When we finally found it, we thought it was closed (which later proved to be wrong because it's actually upstairs from another restaurant that had shut down), so we ended up walking around for another few hours looking for other places to eat. While wandering, we came across a group of Mormon students from America who were finishing up their studies in Israel, a more orthodox Jewish rap group dancing in the streets and on top of their van, an elderly man playing classical violin, and a group from YWAM singing praises to the Lord on the streets. Finding members of the body of Christ in a foreign land is such a blessing. To be able to just sit down with fellow believers that I've never met before and just worship the living and true God before we're even introduced is one of my favorite experiences here thus far. I have to say, that was probably the turning point for my emotions in being here. The Lord gave me a peace that I feel like I had been missig is so great to meet with the Lord in such and intimate and powerful way. The grace and love of God is amazing! That He would choose to meet with me, with any of us, is so far above what we deserve, but He does it anyway. Hmmm. It's beautiful.

Late that night, we ended up stopping by a falafel and schwarma stand, and got some food before heading off to our hostel in the Old City. Ended up one of the guys got food poisoning (we think) from the schwarma and had to go home the next morning, but the falafel that I had was great!

Our hostel was absolutely amazing. We slept up on the roof, where we could see the entire city. The weather was perfect at night, and the other people up there were quiet and respectful when anyone was trying to sleep. The only downfall that I saw was that every morning at 5 or so, the Muslim call to prayer echoes through the city, and without walls to block out the noise, most people wake up. Thanks you mom and dad for raising me in the back of the jewerly store with the doorbell going off all the time, because I only woke up for about 10 seconds the first morning, and then fell soundly back asleep for another couple of hours.

On Friday, we spent most of the day wandering the Old City, going through the shooks (markets) in the different quarters of the city, talking with a Jewish man who is working to build bridges and open up discussions between Jews and people of other faiths, walking along the Via Dolorosa (the path that Jesus supposedly took to the Cross), visiting the Western Wall, and climbing along the City Wall. We had a ton of fun bartering for some clothes, leather sandals, incense, and food, and realized that it is not difficult at all to talk down the price by at least 75%.

One thing that stood out to me was talking to the Jewish man about his views of Christianity. Sadly, so many of his points were true. One thing that he pointed out was that Jesus told us that we can know the tree by its fruit, and frankly, the Church has produced some pretty bad fruit in Jewish history. He also pointed out that although Christians preach unconditional love, they are horrible at even coming close to showing that to people outside of the Christian faith. Yes, we say we love, and we even do love to some degree, but to many people it seems that loving fully is conditional, and that condition is conversion. I know that we are not capable of giving unconditional love on our own, but with Christ all things are possible, and that anyone who has faith in Him can doing what Jesus did, and even greater things because He has gone to the Father (John 14:12). So what's our excuse? I'm preaching to myself here, but Christians, why don't we love? Why don't we seek the Lord and search for a greater understanding of His love so that we can better share that with others? Why do we give into our fleshly emotions so quickly instead of letting the Holy Spirit dwell in us? Lord, help your children.

Saturday was spent mostly relaxing. We went to a church in the morning that Paul had found about from someone else, then had lunch at a Moroccan place with a family from the church. They actually had heard of Westmont and knew people who had gone there, which was a very exciting thing for me! Then we found a coffee shop that was open even though it was Shabbat and spent most of the rest of the day practicing Hebrew and working on homework.We waited for Shabbat to end so that the buses would start running again, hopped on one, and headed back to Be'er Sheva, making it home just before midnight. Great weekend, and one that I hope to repeat many times while here.

So now here we are, back in classes, looking for apartments, exploring the town, figuring out more public transportation, and getting to know eachother as a class.

Things that could use prayer:

-Housing: we still don't have a place. One of the girls that I am living with right now, Keiko, and I are going to be housing together, but we don't know if we will be with a couple others because finding apartments or houses with 4 bedrooms is a little difficult. Please pray that we take the apartment or house that the Lord has set aside for us and not just one that looks like a great deal. I really want to be invested in the community around me, and I know that Keiko does as well, so finding that community that the Lord has for us is essential.

-Classes: Hebrew is HARD! I feel like I've learned a lot, but not nearly enough to communicate effectively with people. It is also hard finding time to study and motivation when there's so many other things that need to be done. Please pray that I would be diligent in my Hebrew studies and that the Lord would give me favor in learning the language, pronunciation, etc. I would love to work with a native Hebrew speaker in learning it, so if that is what the Lord would have me do, please pray that I am directed to the right person for that. I am also taking an emergency medicine class that is a lot of fun and a lot of review from 1st aid/CPR. Please pray that I still put a lot of effort into the class even though it isn't as challenging and that I would really remember what I learn instead of just knowing it for the exam and then pushing it somewhere to the absolute back of my mind.

-Relationships: Please pray that the Lord continues to guide me in forming relationships here, that I would love the people in my program unconditionally, and that personality differences that are very evident in some of my classmates wouldn't cause unbearable drama. I know that a few of the people here are having a really hard time adjusting, with one in particular having a lot of trouble knowing why in the world the Lord has put her here. Pray that the Lord encourages her and shows others of us how to best minister to her and gives us words of hope and encouragement for her.

-Rest: Surprise surprise, I'm already sleep deprived. Please pray that the Lord gives me the strength to make it through the days that seem to drag on indefinitely and wisdom for when to work, when to play, and when to just rest.

Most importantly, please pray that I, and the other believers here, become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit at all times and in all things. It's so easy to get distracted here with so many other things, while He should be at the forefront of our thoughts and actions. O that we would know Him more!

Well, that's all for now. Ani ohevet col atem (I love you all!) Shalom, vey l'vroot! (Peace and blessings to you)


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Above the city

There's this place called the Negev Brigade about 2 miles away from the house I'm in right now that overlooks the entire city. For those in Santa Barbara, it's kinda like the Arches only Be'er Sheva style (i.e. much lower and far less elaborate). It's a great place to go to get away from the hustle and bustle of being in the city. Bodies of water are usually my "sanctuary" but I've ended up in a desert without an oasis nearby, which has made "getting away" really difficult. Thus far, the monument has been the closest thing to that place of relaxation for me.

Above the city, everything seems so small. Apartment buildings that tower above the shops and houses look like little lego blocks with lights to warn helicopters of their location and roads that usually seem to wind in endless mazes become separate and trackable pathways from one area of town to the others. Even though most of the buildings are still nameless masses in my mind, when I'm up there I'm no longer lost in the midst of them.

The question that I think I get the most is "How do you like Be'er Sheva?" or at least something along those lines. Honestly, I'm not sure. It's frustrating in a way; I feel like I'm in this little bubble of separation from the world around me that I've never experienced before. I want to know what's going on around me, but even more, I want to be able to build relationships with the people around me. I mean, the people in my class are great. There are definitely people from a variety of backgrounds with just about every personality type that you can imagine, and they're all interesting and complex people united by this drive for international medicine. But still, I feel a strong urge to get to know people outside of my program, especially the marginalized or minority populations here. I don't really know how to describe it. My heart aches for something; I just can't quite put my finger on it.

It's hard for me to not really know "why" I'm here in Be'er Sheva. I guess it's one way to stop me from "doing" things for the Lord and instead just dwell in His presence and care. The Lord is so good. He knows every my every thought and feeling, even thoes that I can't put my finger on. He knows my present frustration. Today during a break I ended up outside on a lawn at the hospital praying for His direction and it was so sweet to hear Him say "each of these people was made in My image. Look for Me in them, where I am moving and working in their life and how I've equipped them to show you something about who I am. Love them, and in doing so, love Me." But what does "love" look like from my position in relation to those around me?

Above the city, it's much easier to love this place and its people. I can understand it and escape from the suffocating foreignness. And even though I would love to just set up a shack and live up there, I always end up walking back home because ultimately my purpose isn't necessarily to escape that foreignness. It's to embrace it, bridge it, love in the midst of it. I'm only having to bridge differences of language and culture. Praise the Lord that Jesus left his place of ultimate understanding and peacefulness in order to dwell in a world of sin that was utterly foreign to the perfection of heaven.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Week One (plus a couple of days)

Sorry for the slightly late update. I'm still getting adjusted to being here, taking classes, and getting to know my classmates, which has made it a little hard to steal away by myself to reflect on this whole experience.

I don't really know where to start...One of the biggest blessings here has been how the Lord orchestrated my living situation for this first month or so. It turns out that my 2 housemates are both believers, and we ended up living in the "Christian" house, where 4 Christian girls live during the year and which serves as the meeting place for fellowship, praise and worship, and Bible studies. I can't describe the comfort I felt walking into a room with Bible verses scattered around and clearly belonged to a girl who desires the nations to know the Lord.

I'm also living in a very unique neighborhood. There are quite a few college students, Ethiopian families, Bedouin families, Israeli Jews with different levels of observance, and a few other American students--some from my program and others participating in other programs at Ben-Gurion University. It's amazing to be surrounded by such diversity, but at the same time very frustrating because I don't feel as if I am able to communicate with most of the people I come into contact with on a daily basis. Surprisingly, I would say that 80% of the people outside of my program that I run into throughout the day speak very little to no English. It is definitely a lesson in humility. The first few days here I didn't know how to get anywhere, buy anything, pronounce street names or ask for help. It didn't help that I lost my phone and thus had no way to get ahold of anyone. But, after getting lost a couple of times and learning a little bit of Hebrew, I'm doing a lot better and can at least amuse people with my attempts at communicating.

The first Friday here (a little over a week ago), I was able to go and have Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner with a family on the other side of Be'er Sheva. The father was a doctor at Soroka Hospital (where our campus is located and our main base here in Be'er Sheva) and had also taught immunology in previous years. His wife was also there, along with his 3 children and father-in-law. They were not observant Jews, which made for a different Shabbat experience than many of the other students had, but it was still very enjoyable. The food was absolutely amazing...a little bit of everything I love. There was cauliflower, mushroom pie, salmon, chicken breast, and an amazing potato pasta. Definitely made up for the airplane food. After dinner we all just hung out, watching TV, with David (another student) and me guessing what product the commercials were trying to sell and the two younger children practicing their English and quizzing us in math and Israeli history.

One of the things that stood out the most to me was the intimacy between Jewish fathers and their children. To hear these kids calling out "Abba!" with absolute certainty that their little voices would catch his attention and that he would respond with irrevocable love was beautiful. It was one of those relevatory moments...that's just a hazy picture of the relationship that God is offering us...that we can call Him "Abba," we can be His little children with full confidence in His love, His presence, His goodness.

Well, it's getting really late here and I have class in just a little over 6 hours, so I will have to finish updating you all on my first week here at another time (hopefully tomorrow). I guess here's a few quick notes/prayer points:

1) I've been majorly blessed to have been able to build some really solid relationships with other believers in my program. Please pray that those relationships would continue to grow and that we would truly exhibit the body of Christ in all that we say and do, and that we would treat each other in such a way that the world would know that we are His disciples by our love for one another. I can see how a few personalities could clash without too much provocation, so please pray for grace in relationships as well.

2) Living situation: So far, I'm set for the next 3-4 weeks living in the house I'm subletting from some upperclassmen. I am also looking at moving into another house (MUCH closer to school) with 3 other people. The price is good, the neighborhood is essentially the same as the one that I'm in now, just about a 20 minutes' walk close to school, and it will be completely refurbished by the time we move in. It also has a large yard (by Israeli standards) and an outdoor storage shed. There's been a little confusion about exactly who all is in our group for housing, which has caused one of the girls a lot of stress. We still need guidance on housing, if this is the right decision, and then in the negotiation of the contract if it is the right house.

3) Why I'm here: I know that the Lord told me to come here, but He didn't give much direction as to exactly why here and why now. Right now I'm in that period of waiting on Him for that direction. Please pray that the Lord gives me vision of my purpose here, in His timing of course, and that in the mean time I would be patient and attentive to His voice.

4) Relationships: I have been able to get to know a few of the Jewish students in my program really well in a very short period of time, with discussions about God, Judiasm, Chrisitainity, and general life issues all coming up much more frequently than I expected. Please pray that I would speak what the Lord would have me to say and not in my own wisdom. Also, please pray that I would be able to continue to cultivate those relationships even as classes start to pick up a little bit (as of this week we started our 10 hour days in class...ugh)

5) Language: Learning Hebrew is, to put it simply, difficult. I feel like 1st grader when it comes to reading ability, and probably a 1 year old with vocabulary. We're in a pretty accelerated language learning program, with 4 hours of Hebrew a day, 5 days a week. My brain feels like it's going to explode most of the time. Please pray that I would be diligent in my Hebrew studies even when I feel like just being done with it for the day and that I would do so with a joyful heart, as well as for general favor in learning the language.

Well, I really should get going now. I love you all and miss you!

Shalom im ahava! (Goodbye with love!)