As expected, the summer in Amman was quiet and served as a time of preparation for us as we began to repeat the patterns of the year, with new knowledge and understanding of the city and its people. It was an opportunity to spend time together as a family, with less business in our schedules due to almost everyone being away over the hottest months. Knowing that this lull would be coming was helpful with regards to setting expectations.
This year, Joel planned out the rest of his travels for 2019, took the opportunity to sit with the Diocese of Jerusalem’s steering committee for the Anglican Alliance, and enjoyed visiting the diocesan youth camps in Jordan, as well as local parish youth events. He also attended the ACT Alliance’s Climate Justice workshop – connecting with Christian NGOs and church organisations, beginning to develop ways of advocating for more ambitious targets to reduce climate change in the region and promoting greater personal and corporate change. Joel was recently asked to lead the ACT Alliance Climate Change working group; please pray that he is able to facilitate the group well to bring greater connections between the Church and Christian NGOs, while placing God at the heart of the work and helping to create real change in the region.
In the last days of August, we were blessed to have Joel’s good friend Tom visit us, and Joel and Tom were able to travel down to Wadi Rum and Petra. It was a great opportunity to take stock of how Joel’s Arabic has developed in the past year, as well as to celebrate the majesty of God’s creation, getting up early to watch the sunrise from the top of one of the sand dunes. Rather more sadly, it was also impossible to not notice the waste that has been dropped across the site; whether intentionally or carelessly, it speaks of the need to take care of creation more seriously.
As September began, so did the Ecumenical Season of Creation, celebrated throughout the world from 1 September to St Francis’ Day on 4 October. The resources that have been put together to encourage celebrations, activities and actions for the global Church are fantastic, but unfortunately there is not currently an Arabic language version.
Fortunately, Joel received the “celebration guide” earlier in the summer and worked with Fr George al-Kopti in Ashrafiyeh to translate some of the most pertinent parts, which Fr George then used one Sunday during the month as well as preaching on the subject of creation care. Joel was also invited to deliver a reflection to the congregation of the Church of the Redeemer while on their parish picnic in Pella overlooking the Jordan Valley. It was a pleasure to get to know a different congregation, spend time with them and share some biblical reflections and practical actions in keeping with our calling to be stewards of God’s creation.
As part of the season of creation, Joel was also invited to Bahrain to meet with the Anglican community of St Christopher’s Cathedral, and learn more about the mission and ministry of the Church in the Gulf. In a whirlwind three and a half days, Joel led Friday School for 7-14 year olds. Later on, the youth group took the year 5 assembly at St Christopher’s School, facilitated a roundtable with other churches and NGOs on collective environmental action, met with the Bahraini minister for NGOs and visited the Mission to Seafarers centre at the port.
It was an elating and exhausting visit, and a real pleasure to meet with the diverse members of the Anglican Church in Bahrain (recognising the genuinely global nature of the Church in the Gulf) while sharing thoughts on creation care and news of the work with Renew Our World and of the Season of Creation itself, as well as learning a lot about another new context and culture. The trip was a great model on how to use time well when in a new context and we hope that it can be repeated elsewhere in the future.
For Fiona and Aidan, September also brought a new season with it. As Fiona started a new consultancy, Aidan began nursery for the first time at the Arabic-speaking nursery of the Anglican School, right beside Joel’s office. Of course, this was a massive change for him at first, coming with a new set of challenges – his sleep pattern was really disrupted, leading to a household of three overtired individuals! However, by the end of the first month Aidan had settled in well and seems happy there, and his sleep is slowly getting better again. We give thanks for this development, and pray that he continues to develop friendships and language skills (we’re sure he’ll overtake us both very soon!).
Meanwhile, the consultancy is a great opportunity for Fiona to use her skills and strengthen her experience, even if it is a lot of work! She is also continuing her volunteering with the Urban Shalom Society. Please pray that Fiona is able to use her time efficiently. Pray also that once this consultancy is over, she can find a place to volunteer locally, sharing her skills while developing deeper ties to Jordanian society as well as devoting some time to studying Arabic.
We sincerely hope that by the next time we’re in touch, we’ll have stories to share of travels to the church and congregation in Aqaba (which will indicate we have managed to get a car!), work with the Diocese of Jerusalem on church and community mobilisation and more on what Fiona has been up to. We continue to value your support and please do feel free to get directly in touch with us!
Grace and peace