EMU Cross-Cultural

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All We Need Is Love…and maybe some equality

25 January 2015

Good evening from Beit Sahour!

On Monday, we spent the morning at the MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) headquarters where we heard from Shareen, a lawyer that works often with abused women, share about her life and work.

And never have I ever been so thankful for my father and opportunities as a woman. In Middle Eastern culture, it is shameful for a woman to go to court against her husband. Verbal abuse is simply something you deal with and physical harm is only serious if you require medical attention. In essence, women’s rights here are only on paper – not in practice. Shareen’s job is to represent these women in court to get divorces and alimony. Not only so, but she also performs awareness sessions for men and women to learn how to better interact and to reveal the wrong, abusive tendencies of fathers and husbands.

Shareen shared her story on how her father did not support her following her true passion to practice law and study in the university. After she applied and was accepted into law school, her father didn’t talk to her for six months. Compare this to my father, who never told me any dream was too big or any bar too high. My gender was not something that defined nor hindered me. “Because you’re a girl” was never an excuse for not completing a task. He taught me through word and action I am a person of great value and also great strength.

I like to think I am the woman I am, largely [because] of my father, so it’s hard to imagine becoming myself in spite of him, like Shareen did. I wish you all could have been there to hear her story with the other 27 of us huddled around her in a small room to listen intently. Some may get annoyed with feminism but I don’t think we should get annoyed with equal rights – because isn’t that what we all should be striving for? Male or female: we are all created in God’s image. Equal rights and equal opportunities only make sense.

But how do you change a culture? Shareen contests we start at the roots. We raise boys who respect their sisters and mothers. We tell little girls they are strong and they have the freedom to be whatever they want to be. That’s what my parents did for me – and I am grateful for that. More than I was before. And I hope that I do the same with my children.

On Tuesday, we crossed the border from Jordan into Israel where our passports saved us from waiting an hour or maybe even more – All because my passport says United States of America.

We were asked very minimal questions and our bags were not scanned. Does anyone spy some inequality there?

We are currently living with host families in Palestine . As I was talking with my host dad, he mentioned how he cannot go to many Arab countries because he is from Palestine.  Because he is seen as a threat, someone to be feared. After living with him for a few days, I know he is anything but. And maybe people would take a different opinion if we got to know each other – if we tore down the walls, both literal and metaphorical, that keep us from deep human connection and understanding.

On Wednesday, we had our first glimpse of the wall that divides Palestinians from Israelis. This wall zig- zags through the land, including as many resources as it can, leaving little for the Palestinians. Some have had the wall built straight through their backyards, losing land and livelihood. Many people have olive trees here, but if the trees end up on the other side of the wall, they simply go to waste at the hands of the Israelis.

The wall is covered in graffiti with moving images that will wreck your heart. Some moving thoughts were:

“Repair the world.”

“Warning! This is illegally occupied land.”

“Take one: freedom of movement, water, equality.”

And several scenes done by the artist Banksy. (look him up – he’s awesome)

I found myself fighting back tears as I walked by this wall. I have never been smacked in the face with injustice like this before. Is this really the human reality in 2015? But, may we never forget there is hope. For a little over 2,000 years ago a baby was born into occupation much worse than what we see now.  And he rocked this world to its core. And who’s to say something as radical couldn’t happen again?

Just to compare the two sides of the wall:

  • Every Palestinian home has a water tank on top of the house and water is a limited resource.

Israeli homes? Water is a non-issue. In fact, I learned Israel takes up to 80% of Palestinian water, leaving the remaining 20% for the rest of the population.

  • Palestinians are not free to move among Arab countries.

Israelis? They can travel freely.

  • Palestinians have special IDs that forbid them to drive on certain roads.

Israelis? Any road, any time.

Let’s talk more about this wall and inequality:

One of our guides made an astonishing point to us about signs around this wall. In English and Hebrew signs read, “Do not damage the wall or risk your life” or something to that effect. In contrast, in Arabic (the language of Palestinians) the signs say “do not touch.” I think even those of us who aren’t English nuts see a pretty clear distinction between the two. Now this is all to be taken with a grain of salt, because I am currently living the Palestinian reality. In three weeks I will cross to the other side, hear different stories, and be challenged even more to reconcile two sides of that wall.

Thursday was our first Arabic lessons. We will be having nine, three hour sessions these three weeks. We are split into two groups which is helpful. My teacher’s name is Jala, she is a sweet middle aged woman who once taught English at university. She is very relaxed and understands Arabic can be a difficult language to learn but excited for us to be able to interact with our families.

For those of you keeping track here are the Biblical sights of the week:

– Lot’s Cave

– the Dead Sea

– Mt. Nebo (where Moses went before he died)

– the Shepherd’s Field (Luke 2)

– the grotto where Jesus was born (The Church of the Nativity)

Assalamu alaykum.

Peace on you.

- Lydia Tissue


Beit Sahour

25 January 2015

Entering into Israel and Palestine has brought a whole new mixture of challenges, emotions, and incredible experiences. After a very smooth border crossing into Israel we headed towards our new homes for the next weeks in a small Palestinian city in the West Bank right outside of Bethlehem. Our group was separated out into groups of twos and threes to live with Palestinian families for our stay. Here we will study Arabic, have numerous lectures on Palestinian culture, history and conflict, and go visit various biblical sites and cities.

The first day we saw multiple sights that inspired two very different emotions in me. Our guide showed us a fence that is a part of the wall separating Palestinians from Israelis that goes through a Palestinian olive tree farm leaving more than half of the olive trees on the other side of the wall. Because of this no one has been to harvest those perfectly good olives. We then went to the church of the nativity and saw the supposed place where Jesus was born. Right after that neat experience we saw the actual large solid wall which cuts through this holy land leaving very little land and resources for the Palestinians. This made me think how Jesus was born into the world to teach peace and loving your enemy and ten minutes away from his place of birth there is a large wall separating two groups who can’t find a way to live harmoniously together.

It has also been an incredible experience living with a family in a completely different culture from my own. They have been so hospitable and accepting by feeding me delicious food, giving me tea constantly, including me in conversations even if they have to translate, teaching me Arabic and letting me participate in their daily lives. However, it makes the weight heavier in my heart to know how loving and accepting they are despite their current reality. Even though it’s been a whirlwind of emotions, life in Beit Sahour has been an awesome experience so far and I can’t wait to keep learning about this wonderful culture.

- Martha Bell


Hike to border wall, Mexico

Exploring immigration on the border lands

20 January 2015

Isaac at El ComedorOur group arrived in Tucson, Arizona on January 8th shortly after midnight, and we spent several days in a hotel there while beginning our study of immigration issues at the US/Mexico border. Our first activity on the morning of the 8th was crossing the border to visit El Comedor (a soup kitchen just across the border in Nogales, for newly deported migrants). We also heard migration stories from several women being protected in a woman’s shelter there in Nogales. For being our first day, it was flooded with a lot of emotional heaviness.

The next few days included visits to two different detention centers in Arizona, where a few of us got to speak with the detainees, a beautiful hike in Saguaro national park AZ sunset(where the biggest challenge was avoiding the Jumping Cholla cactus), and some much-needed relaxation time at the hotel. Sunday morning after church and lunch with members of the humanitarian project “No More Deaths”, we set out for Agua Prieta, where we spent a week in a community center just a short distance from the wall, which we visited several times. We experienced shopping on a maquila (factory) worker’s salary and cooking dinner and breakfast together, visited a drug rehabilitation community, heard from several passionate speakers on border issues, and participated in a vigil for those who have died crossing the desert in Cochise County. We visited a border patrol facility at the end of the week and heard their perspective as well. Our time at the border included a lot of U-turns, bathroom stops, and Spanglish as our group starts to get to know each other and figure out the sometimes chaotic schedule of each day together.

The biggest lesson I have learned this week is that I have grown up with an immense amount of physical comfort, and that what I have to go back to in the US is a privilege. I’ve never been out of the country before, and having a toilet that flushes every time and a sink I can drink and wash my hands from are things I’ve taken for granted for the last twenty years. I’ve also been privileged to live my whole life in the safety of Harrisonburg, and this week my sense of security has been challenged, too. Early Wednesday morning, a couple of us woke up to [what sounded like] machine gun fire nearby, and I had trouble falling back asleep, even though Agua Prieta is pretty safe during the day.

I’ve definitely been appreciating all of the prayers and support being sent our way. We will be heading to Guatemala mid-week to begin the next part of our trip, and I think we’re all looking forward to meeting our host families and developing a more steady and relaxing routine there.

-Kari King


Sunset over the Dead Sea

Into the desert

19 January 2015

Marhaban – Hello from the Middle East 2015 group! This week has been a whirlwind of new sights and experiences, smells and sounds. From the Bedouins calling out to us, encouraging us to buy their wares, to the enticing dishes at each meal, we have arrived in a new world. Over the next semester, different students will have the chance to share their thoughts on this blog- we hope you enjoy our words, and thank you all so much for your support!

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“Our two days in Wadi Rum (Jordan) are hard to describe in words, but I’ll do my best. After arriving at the visitors’ center, I thought we were close to the camp. However, to our surprise, we got to ride jeeps the last hour of the trip. In the back of pickup trucks, we drove through the open desert until we finally reached the Bedouin camp. Our hosts were unbelievable. They provided food, fire, and plenty of entertainment, which included music and dancing with the locals. It was so nice to sit in the tents, around the fire, and to sit and enjoy each other’s company– no wifi, no phones, only conversations, laughs, and plenty of stories and stargazing.

On Saturday, we woke up in our tents with the excitement of getting to ride camels. We rode through the desert for about three hours on our camels. Even though they weren’t the most IMG_0002Rcomfortable, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. The Bedouins were so hospitable, offering us tea, fire and friendship the whole stay. What an unbelievable and unforgettable couple of days.”

-Ruthie Beck, Junior, History Ed.

 


Synergy

13 November 2014

She stomped onto the bus, long, loose red curls swinging from side to side, framing her weathered face. With a gruff expression, she brought us to attention with a shout of “hello.” She leaned against the side of a seat, resting momentarily. After gathering herself, she stood up straighter, emboldened, and shouted forth what information she deemed critical for us to know: “let’s get one thing straight: I am not a missionary, so don’t call me that.”

This proclamation was bold, and instantaneously, I loved this woman.

Despite her disassociation with the term “missionary” the work Sylvia devotes herself to is bringing forward the kingdom of God. She moved to Bulgaria and has loved and been loved by the people for the duration of her time here. She is an anomaly: after her organization failed to provide her adequate funds, the Bulgarians supplemented her salary and supported her. This is completely unheard of and testifies to her work ethic and cultural sensitivity. Currently, she is working at one of the few Syrian refugee camps. For two days, she briefly allowed us into her world.

When we first entered the camp, everyone was forced to acknowledge a spirit of despair that permeated our beings. Our surroundings reinforced what we felt intuitively: the sky was dark, full of foreboding clouds, our feet sank into the soggy ground, and the land was stacked with rows and rows of temporary housing. The air was slightly damp and I noticed how quickly my fingers and toes seemed to turn to ice.

We stood at the gate, freezing, gaping at our surroundings for what felt like an eternity. Finally, our group was herded into another building to meet with the camp director. The residents at the camp had been informed that a group of Americans were coming and had formed a large group, waiting to see us. We marched through the clump of people, holding one another close. I looked up occasionally, stealing glances that I had been warned against. My eyes met blank faces of young men, older men, children, mothers. I remember the collective large, dark eyes. They did not look at me expectantly nor defensively, I was merely being observed and I have never felt more vulnerable.

I found myself ushered into a classroom reserved for the camp administration. The room had buzzing fluorescent lights, gleaming desks, and our muddy shoes squeaked as we trod over shining linoleum tiles. Enticed by the prospect of a view, I wandered toward the window. Looking out, I saw the large group of residents slowly making their way back into the grid of temporary housing, smoke billowing up from trash fires; I saw the wall that separated the camp from the city. On the horizon, I could see the outlines of communist block buildings. All I could see was oppression– current and historical traumas. And none of it felt real.

The week before, our group was exploring the city of Veliknovo, Turnovo. While in Turnovo, we had the opportunity to meet with several different men who shared ideas and perspective with us at the university. I felt particularly impacted by Marian’s discussion. He adamantly insisted that humanity is at its best when it is engaging in relationship.

As Westerners, we can find ourselves wrapped up in our individuality – thinking only of ourselves in a cyclic and destructive way. After establishing the prominence of this tendency, Marian asked us, in the most gentle and unassuming way, “what is the cost to love?” Our simple answer was a whispered response of, “nothing.” Marian continued, and telling us of the beauty that abounds when we break out of these cyclic mentalities. The most basic reward of relationship is to have the eyes of another, acting as mirrors for us to see ourselves. As we engage further, synergy of people and energy is produced. We learn how to give and be given to. The synergy molds us, changing us for the better.

I could not escape Marian’s words that day in the camp. I could not escape the vacant stares. I was nervous to engage with the residents.

Our group was organized into two before we left the classroom. A handful of us assembled groups of shoes to be dispersed to family groups. The rest of us spent the day slushing through mud, dragging metal bed frames from one building to the next, then assembling the beds.

Initially, we were watched as we carried the bed frames from building to building. The residents were curious about us, but withdrawn. An hour into the process, several young boys had enough of simply observing us. They joined in, happily running through the mud, meeting us as we emerged out of one building, taking the bed frames from our loaded arms, carrying the weight themselves. The boys were ecstatic — invigorated by the work and the opportunity to simply do. Each time they met me with expectant, outreached arms, eager to shoulder the burden of the heavy metal frames.

The next day, our group organized games and activities for the children in the camp. We found ourselves in a similar classroom as the day before, one that felt completely surreal and entirely unused. We threw down crayons, markers, face paint, balloons, and candies onto the shiny, unblemished desks. Children and mothers flooded in, and in moments, the room was transformed. The room, once stale, now housed squealing children, proud mothers, and all of the resultant joyful noise. I thought of the synergy that Marian spoke so passionately of — here, I could see it blooming.

For the hour, I painted faces of the residents. I was given the opportunity to give all of my attention to each child in the seat right in front of me. I tried to give safety and affirmation to each person as I traced simple hearts onto pure cheeks. The smiles I received in return made me swell with affection. I will cherish those exchanges for the rest of my life.

Throughout, I considered the paradigm shift that I experienced. I moved from fearfully stealing glances and seeing vacant stares to learning how to maintain meaningful eye contact. Before establishing relationship with the residents, I hated my reflection in their eyes. In that mirror, I saw my privilege and felt nothing but guilt. As the relationship evolved, so did the reflection. I began to appreciate the ways that I could give and be given to. I hope that my eyes mirrored back the beauty that I saw, the resilience, the hope.

I will also never forget Sylvia’s initial greeting: she does not proclaim to be the sole giver. She engages in relationship. She stands beside the hurting. She makes room for synergy by not claiming superiority. She is not found in vacant classrooms — she will be found trekking through the mud, delivering shoes, exchanging smiles, giving meaningful squeezes. Within Sylvia’s synergistic relationships, she is constantly moving, constantly changing, constantly learning. She is constantly giving, constantly engaging in relationship, constantly learning how to love more fully.

-Hanna Heishman


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Learning Bulgarian time

5 October 2014 DSC_2282

Time flies.

Our first assignment once we had settled into Bansko was to head out into town, find a cafe, order a drink, and sit for at least 2 hours. Andrew stressed the importance of this assignment: in the Balkans, afternoons are leisurely and time is understood relatively. Here, productivity was not measured in activities completed, but rather, in relationships maintained and bolstered by quality time. Elated, many of us were convinced that we had just been given the easiest assignment. We trotted down the cobble road in pursuit of a cafe, loudly and obnoxiously excited, breezing past the locals seated on benches along the road.

The challenge of our assignment became apparent 20 minutes after ordering our drinks, when quite caffeinated, we twiddled idle thumbs and tapped our feet, anxious to move once again. After all, the reality that we were finally in Bulgaria had just set in — and we were ready to go, to explore, to document. Somehow, we persevered, sitting through our allotted time, before dashing off on the next adventure.

Eventually, we were able to appreciate the leisure, but not before being sufficiently frustrated by it. To name a few testing moments: We have had dinners at 10:00 at night, had waitresses forget about us, and learned to sit in traffic. Slowly, but surely, our eyes began to register the beauty of the minutia events; people watching and journaling became favorite activities, and waiting lost its excruciating pinch.

I knew that our group had embraced Balkan time when one afternoon, I passed by Amber, seated with two babas on a bench. The babas had enveloped her in their arms, whispering to her. Amber was immersed in the interaction, smiling and squeezing the women’s hands, affirming their words, but doubtlessly not comprehending any of their Bulgarian wisdom. But no matter, she was creating relationship and engaging her present surroundings.

Nearly always, we are given the opportunity to soak in the sweetness and goodness of the present. All we are asked is to tune in and engage. This revelation transformed my experience, and I am confident that this narrative is shared amongst the group. Together, we have been actively seeking out the divine and the lovely, which we discover in both the ordinary and the extraordinary.  God has revealed Godself to us as we are overwhelmed by natural wonders, but we also sense God in smaller moments. Conversations with waitresses, taxi drivers, and housekeepers have left us amazed. In broken Bulgarian – English, we have pieced together life stories, full of both joy and suffering.

Now, a month into our cross-cultural experience, the first few days in Bansko feels worlds away. But we carry with us our significant learning, and are eager to apply it to our new context: Plovdiv. The city dwarfs meager Bansko, offering endless activities and excitement. For the first few days, we scurried round the city, trying to do everything that the city offered, before realizing the impossibility of this effort.

We are asked now to be intentional about how we spend our time, where we engage, how much energy we put forward. In a city, with opportunity around every corner, we have to be intentional about taking time to appreciate each activity and interaction to the fullest extent. We are continually learning how to slow down, how to open our hearts to the present, how to listen for God. For now, we are encountering the divine in silly moments with host families, in the creativity of street art, and the energy of the bustling city.

We are milking each moment, loving it entirely.

-Hanna Heishman


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Relationship beyond language

3 October 2014

BabasYana, my beautiful Bulgarian host, is a typical Bulgarian grandmother through and through. Two things I have come to realize throughout the past week and a half of living with her is that 1) She notices everything, and 2) slippers are key to success in life.

When I was first dropped into her apartment in Plovdiv, Bulgaria I was unsure of the possible success of the situation. Here I was a 20 year old from a small town who spoke minimal (and that’s being generous) Bulgarian, and I was supposed to live in a big city with a woman I didn’t know. A woman who doesn’t speak any English (besides the word hockey)? I was pretty sure the entire thing was going to be a disaster, but it is not. The whole arrangement is working quite well, and I hope it continues to do so.

Yana is so gracious. She is constantly over feeding us delicious food, wondering if we are wearing enough clothing, and packing us snacks to take to our Bulgarian lessons (that’s after the ten course breakfast we eat). She keeps the chuckling at my misspoken Bulgarian to a minimum, and tries to inform me what is going on whenever we watch television, whether it’s Bulgaria’s version of Big Brother or the news.

Sometimes it’s frustrating when I can’tPlovdiv get across what I want to communicate, or sometimes it’s sad when she is desperately trying to tell me something important that I can’t get. Both of us get exasperated sometimes, but whether we straighten it out or save it for another day, I believe that the needs of both parties are being met. I feel the most connected to Yana when we are doing the simple things, like making food or sharing photos. We have found ways to connect without using language. Through love, food, laughter and our general flawed natures we are recognizing each other’s humanity and forging bonds that will hopefully last for a long time to come.

-Devon Fore

SEBalkans hike

A beautiful beginning

Leaving
Goodbyes and hellos
Well wishes and bus rides
Excitement
Finally getting there
Jet lag

Gazing out bus windows,
Picturesque landscapes.
Flashbacks to past travels
Tight, cobbled streets
Breathtakingly beautiful
Babas and stray cats

Greeted with bread and the salt of life
Settling in and finding ground
Traditional architecture,
Romantic stone walls holding histories
Red roofs and red roses
Geranium leaves

Venturing out to the
Pirin mountains, a hike to crystal waters
Slippery rocks
A divine energy embracing us
Endless skies and endless love
Exploration of God’s creation

History lectures
Smoke clouded memories of
Stories of empires and communism
Incredibly in depth
On sight, hands deep learning

Meals shared
Full of pastries and cheese
Meat and potatoes
Piping black coffee
Juicy fruit
Endless calories and conversation
nourished bodies, fed souls

Roma day camp
Smiling faces
Musical exchanges: hymns and Bulgarian ballads
Flower crowns and sticky bouquets
Tiny fingers clutching mine
Heavy hearts, but full embraces

Sunday mornings,
Smiling translator
Familiar melodies, sung in a different tongue
Flickering candles
Blessings to children
Shining icons, gleaming gold

Dance lessons
Edno, dve, tre–1,2,3
Gendered dance off
Joy in mistakes
Laughter in learning

Anticipation
Continued excitement
Departure for Greece in the morning!

In the past week and a half, we have been blessed with a multitude of experiences and sacred moments. It would be difficult to provide any concise and complete picture of our first steps into a semester of adventures. So, we provide what we can: fragments and phrases from a beautiful beginning. From our first departure, to day camps and dancing lessons, we have been richly fulfilled.

-Hanna Heishman


Sevilla courtyard

Sevilla

It’s true. The sun does shine here in Sevilla. A lot. It shines until it is 100 degrees (10 second pity party- my house has no AC and no fan. Also, this is my second attempt at this post because I somehow messed up after writing for a solid 35 minutes…I’m all smiles right now).

The transition to a new city has been rough. We went from going to the beach everyday to avoiding the sun as much as possible; seeking any shade we possibly can. From spending free time together to taking advantage of siestas to recover from our exhaustion. From exploring a great little city to sticking to the streets we know.

Sevilla is the capital of Andalucía (the region of spain we are visiting) and is much larger than Cádiz. Even after three weeks in Cádiz, I felt like there was so much I didn’t know about it. Coming into Sevilla, I knew I would only be here two weeks. And two weeks wouldn’t be enough time to really get to know a city this size. Regardless of all this, even the heat, Sevilla is a beautiful city, and it’s been a great experience.

along the river in sevilla.

Our days are full here. Mornings consist of either history classes and a tour or volunteering. Evenings are spent with the group. Classes are so interesting. I love learning about the rich history of Spain. Again classes are taught in Spanish, so I feel like I am missing a lot. But our leader translates as much as possible, and we have handouts for each lecture. After lecture we go to different areas of the city and apply what we just heard. We have been to different alcázars, city ruins, cathedrals and museums.

alcázar in sevilla.

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gardens at the alcázar in córdoba.

Two days a week we volunteer. I loved my volunteer placement, Hospital de la Caridad. It is a retirement-like home for elderly men. Built in 1674 by Miguel Mañara, a wealthy man who was going through a difficult time in his life. He lost his wife at a young age and was struggling emotionally, physically, and spiritually. In order to find peace, he sold all of his possessions so he could help others like him. He built a church and a hospital. This hospital was for men who didn’t have a home and needed medical assistance. Both the hospital (now similar to a retirement home in my opinion) and the church are still functioning. It was great to have the history of such an amazing place as our foundation before we began serving the residents and staff.

We started the mornings playing memory games and bingo with the residents. Man do those men love bingo! After bingo we would go for a walk. The first day, a nurse “assigned” each of us a chair and showed us the way out. It was overwhelming because none of us knew if the nurse would accompany us, or if we would be flying solo. Thankfully the nurse walked with us, showing us which streets to take and helping us manage the bumpy roads. Just imagine six young, American girls, each pushing a wheelchair down Sevilla’s crowded cobblestone streets. If that doesn’t make you chuckle, it should. Even as we were walking, I couldn’t help but smile at the sight our little caravan must have made. I wish we would have had more time with the men at Hospital de la Caridad.

go ahead. chuckle.

Time is something I have thought a lot about on this trip. The first couple weeks went by so fast. Now, we are only a week from departing this beautiful country.  I often long for more time. More time to enjoy all that I have been given. Sevilla has been a breath of fresh air for me. Afternoons are free for us as the whole city seems to take a two hour siesta because it is so miserably hot. some days i take advantage of siesta and sleep. But others, the Lord has given me energy to dig into the Word. Something I have been so thankful for. There are no distractions. The city sleeps. God has been using this trip to open so many doors. Doors to friendships and great conversations. I pray these friendships would continue to grow as we finish our time abroad and as we return to the states. We only have a few days left in Sevilla. And then five quick days together in granada. Where did the time go…

-Rachel Yoder

la catedral de sevilla.


Spain

Immersed in the Babel

The Tower of Babel-Genesis 11: “So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” Since coming to Spain, I have been in awe of the many babbling voices I hear. The rapid talk of my cashier at Supersol, a loud mom walking her child to school, cigarette in one hand, child in the other. And the laughter, flavor, and expressive musical tone I hear on the streets, markets, and beach. The echoing Spanish, French, English, etc. that I hear all around is becoming my new normal, and I love it. I recalled this story in the book of Genesis as I sat with my host mom. Learning a new language and listening to the babel made me wonder what it would be like to bring the whole world together. What an incredible, awesome babel that would be. I also wonder what it would be like to have a universal language. Perhaps it would be less complicated. Maybe connections would be easier and long distances would seem less intimidating. But I think it was certainly God’s plan to have a beautiful mixture of languages. It is my wish that others would desire to broaden their knowledge and understanding by immersing themselves in the babel and unknown. It is extremely nerve-wracking, eye-opening, and entirely refreshing. Enjoy God’s music and the sweet babel of the world’s peoples.

-Anne Marie Baer