Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I have posted a new newsletter over on the Adventures in Mission: Egypt site. The link is bright blue in the sidebar...or of course you could use the one in this post! :-)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I just have to do it...

I have been trying not to blog about the General Assembly or the highly controversial Peace, Unity, and Purity (PUP) report. But as I’ve been reading the news, other blogs, and reactions, I just really feel the need to say some things.

The passage of the report in its entirety is, in my opinion, a good thing. I understand the objections about “local option” (which, technically, this is not) and the other standard objections (content-wise) as well. But, realistically, I think what this report does is say to presbyteries and sessions, to Committees on Preparation for Ministry, that we expect them and trust them to do their job.

When a person feels/hears a call to ordained ministry, they go through a few years of pretty intense scrutiny. They meet with their session, with their Presbytery Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM) and with the whole Presbytery at a stated meeting. During this process, they write essays, statements of faith, and various other statements (about 9 essays per year). They sit in meetings in which the session and CPM grill them on all topics—both related to what they’ve written and not. At the “end” of the process, they stand on the floor of the presbytery they are being called to and answer more questions. And during this whole process, the session, the CPM, and the Presbytery figure out what the person believes and doesn’t believe, whether the person has a genuine call to ordained ministry, and whether the person has any “scruple” (to use the 1729 language) with the teachings of the church or the constitution of the church. And those bodies--session, committee, presbytery--regularly decide whether those things are so essential or not.

In other words, the sessions, committees, and presbyteries charged with overseeing the ordination process for church officers already do exactly what the PUP report suggests they do. They already apply the national standard to each person and their sense of call. They already use the spirit of that clause in the Adopting Act of 1729 and the constitutional standard that says that those being ordained are entitled to freedom of conscience, at least as far as non-essentials are concerned--and those bodies regularly decide what’s essential. And we don’t see a whole bunch of atheists being ordained. We don’t see a bunch of people who declare a scruple with the resurrection or the Trinity.

What we do see is diversity of opinion and diversity in expression of faith. What we do see is a reflection of the Body. What we do see is that some people make it through the ordination process and some don’t, for a variety of reasons. What we do see is historic Reformed processes at work every day. And so I predict that we won’t see a substantial change because of this “authoritative interpretation”--except that we will, hopefully, see CPMs across the country taking their job seriously, knowing that the trust of the nationwide church has been placed in them.


One of my mom’s favorite bands was Styx. You know, the south-side-of-Chicago band of the 70’s and 80’s…and 90’s. The rock-ballad band famous for “Babe” and “Lady” and “Mr. Roboto” and such. They are one of my favorite bands as well, because their songs are easily sing-a-long-able, they aren’t afraid of political statements, and, well, they’re cool. It’s good music.

When I was in high school, I took clarinet lessons in Seattle. That meant that every week or two, on a Sunday, my mom and I would drive from Yakima to Seattle (about two-and-a-half or three hours), I would have a two hour lesson, we would eat lunch somewhere and head home again. And, of course, this was just at the beginning of the CD era. We used an ancient portable CD player and hooked it up to a boombox (remember those?) in the backseat of the car—which was the only place available for all that stuff! Later we finally got a car with a CD player in it and we were amazed. I remember one time listening to a CD in the car with my mom and it stopped because the CD player’s batteries died…and we both said “wow, it didn’t slow down or get warped or anything, it just stopped!!” Incredible. Anyway, the point of this story is that we used to organize our CD listening so that the Styx Greatest Hits would be the last thing we would hear on the way home. And if we’d been listening to too much other stuff, we would organize it so that Come Sail Away (track 9, I think?) would be the song playing when we pulled into our street. We both loved that song. Every week we would listen to this CD at the end of our weekly mother-daughter road trip. And when I left home and went to college, then to seminary, we took many more (and much longer) road trips, and we listened to Styx at the end of every day.

When I went to college I of course left that CD for my mom and later bought for myself the “Return to Paradise” 2-CD set, which is of their live shows at the Paradise Theater in the late 90’s. It has more songs on it than mom’s, obviously, but it has all our favorites. I brought it with me to Egypt too because, as I said earlier, it’s one of my favorite bands. It’s fun to listen to.

Well, since my mom died, I haven’t listened to any of the music we used to listen to together. I haven’t listened to Styx, to Chicago, to the Moody Blues, or to any 60’s folk rock at all. Until last night. While I was cooking dinner, I was just really craving some rock ballads, you know? So I put on the first disc of the Styx: Return to Paradise, and chopped lots of vegetables. So many, in fact, that the first disc ended. So I put in the second disc. Still chopping, then eventually cooking, then stirring up cookies, etc…and suddenly there was Come Sail Away, and everything was different. The thought of never taking another road trip with my mom was overwhelming. I think I almost cried in the cookie dough…oops. I couldn’t even sing along. I had thought I could manage this music, but apparently not. Or, on the other hand, this was something I was going to have to do anyway. An opportunity to celebrate some of my favorite moments with my mom, and to have her with me again. Maybe.

Well, after that, I recovered. But then it came to the last song, which I should have remembered about but didn’t. It’s called “Dear John” and is written to the band member that died not too long before the tour now memorialized in a 2-CD set. It always used to make me cry even before my mom was sick or gone, so I should have seen this coming. But I was out of the room baking cookies (my oven doesn’t work so I have to use a different one) during the preceding tracks, so I didn’t notice it was coming. So to walk in to lines like “Dear John, how are you? God knows it’s heaven where you are. Find some peace there, may it never end” and “there’ll be a celebration, where all will be revealed; we’ll have a reunion high on a hill…” was more than I could handle. I definitely was crying now. I miss my mom so much, and I want to be able to take road trips and listen to silly music with her. But I’ll be doing it with myself next time, I guess.

Dear mom, how are you? I know it’s heaven where you are. Please, find some peace there. and if the angels turn out to have a space ship, send me a message so I’m not surprised! love, Teri.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Today, one man has redeemed Egypt.

Jason and I shared a taxi today, though we were going to different places. The taxi driver dropped me at the seminary, then took Jason down to Attaba, the square where the Synod of the Nile office is located. Jason got out of the taxi...and then realized he'd left his wallet. He called me in something of a panic and said he was going to borrow some money so he could go home and start making cancellation phone calls for his credit cards, etc. All we could do here was pray. Unlike American cities, there's no real recourse if something is lost in a taxi. Taxi numbers are relatively irrelevant here, there's no number to call, no way to find a taxi.

About an hour after Jason left me here, I got a phone call from the seminary president's office. The taxi driver was there! I ran over (about, oh, 50 feet) and met him. He had Jason's wallet completely intact, credit cards and everything, and only wanted 50 Egyptian pounds (about 8 USDollars) for his trouble. He said he found it when he picked up someone else and took them across town. He went back to the square where he dropped Jason and looked for him, then he asked about the seminary and rushed back here because someone told him we were only open until 1.30 (it must be the president's office!). He recognized me, of course, and made a big show of telling me--and everyone else--that everything was there and he had driven all around looking for us. He was a truly nice man, an honest Egyptian. It was quite an experience.

Thank God for this honest Egyptian taxi driver.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

back again, with more goodbyes

Well, we had a vacation. I can't say with any confidence that we had a "retreat" per se, but we did get to hang out on the beach, go on a glass-bottomed boat tour, sleep in, etc. We had only two debriefing sessions, which I found unhelpful. We never discussed any of the impact on or implications of our year here on our faith. We did not at any point apply Bible Study or prayer to our experiences. We spent a lot of time talking about "solitude" as a spiritual practice after a year in which many of us have been inordinately lonely and unsupported. We spent a lot of time listening to Lynn's experiences here (mostly negative) and the reasons they stay here rather than going home. We spent no time whatsoever discussing our group dynamic.
We returned from our weekend with sunburns, of course. Bad ones for me and Jason--ugh. And we returned to leaving preparations for four volunteers--at this moment all three other women and one of the men has left and they will be arriving home tonight. This Sunday another man is leaving. Jason and I will be the only ones here in Cairo for the next month, since we are not leaving until July 17. Saying goodbye to our friends was not easy. I woke up this morning and my first thought was "all my friends are gone!" Their flats are open and empty. It's pretty lonely around here right now.
We returned from our weekend to discover that the flat upstairs had things stolen--a digital camera and a digital video camera. There have been workers renovating the other flat upstairs, and they finished the work over the weekend. One of them was seen by our cleaning women trying to get into Lynn and Dick's flat as well. When the boys upstairs tried to file a report of theft, they accidentally filed an accusation because the person translating for them neglected to translate that paragraph. Now there's a big thing, because several workers were arrested. When the boys found out and tried to say that wasn't what they wanted to do at all, they were threatened with a lawsuit for libel and false accusation. Great. Now that it's all in motion, they are kind of stuck. They are being forced to press the charges...except that they have left/are leaving the country this week! So they had to sign a power of attorney for this case over to the lawyer for Ramses College. Basically, it has to go to a trial (in two months) and then, after that, it's possible (likely?) that the foreman/engineer guy will then press a suit against the boys. OY. This situation is not the way they wanted to leave Egypt. It's also really distressing to think that our house is not even a safe place. I know that in the US these things happen (it's happened to me more than once), but here we don't feel really like anywhere is a safe space. Grr. Anyway, hopefully nothing will come of this for the boys, and also hopefully they will not have this as their overwhelming memory from their year of service.

I am working on a newsletter and so won't be posting as much for a couple days. But I just have to say that the streaming live feed from the General Assembly is not helping me to write the newsletter. It is helping me to get a good dose of decency and orderliness, which I definitely feel lacking in this country.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


we YAVs are going on retreat to Hurghada, leaving in a mere 9.5 hours. We'll be worshipping, talking, snorkelling, lazing about on the beach, and generally getting sunburned. enjoy your weekend...

Friday, June 09, 2006

Saying some goodbyes, already!

It has been an eventful week here because it has been the end of school. I said goodbye to my RCG students almost two weeks ago. And last week was the seminary graduation, when I said goodbye to a few of my students and also to a few students who have been friendly to me this year. The graduation celebration at ETSC is long—like four days long. Guests come from around the world (including a big group from Peachtree Presbyterian in Atlanta). There’s a big party and baccalaureate-type event, with snacks and music, with speeches from various students about “what the seminary has meant to me,” with honoring the guys who graduated 50 years ago by inviting them to speak on various topics (for WAY too long—they were each asked like 5 questions!), with thanking the foreigners who helped during the year (Jason, me, and Esther), etc. The place was packed, but the translation equipment fell through so all the foreigners—including the group from Peachtree—were practically in the dark. For part of the time some of the professors were translating for small groups of people, but they ultimately trailed off and gave up. Foreign guests slipped out until there were none left…and THEN they were thanked and honored. nice move, 50-year-ago-graduate-question-asker!

The graduation ceremony, at the Kasr-el-Dubara church, was nice, though. It was also packed, but there was in fact translation equipment. The headphones kind of hurt my ears, and the translation wasn’t great, but overall it really helped. The commencement address was about the Trinity….it was long and not at all related to the scripture text that had been read earlier (which had already been preached on by a graduating student). In fact, I’m not at all sure what pastor Gindy said about the Trinity, because it was confusing and not well translated. What I remember are his transitions. “And now, the Son.” “What about the Holy Spirit?” It was pretty funny. I also remember the random Egyptian man who sat down next to me when Jason popped up to do his job as informal photographer. He said (in Arabic), “are you American?” (yes) “America good!” (ummm…) “what’s your mobile number?” (I don’t know) “here, take mine and call me right now so I’ll have your mobile number.” (not now, in the middle of the graduation, weirdo! And also, not ever!) Luckily Karla saved me just at the end. The guy wrote down the number for me, which I tried to leave behind, and then he handed it to me telling me I’d forgotten it. Then Karla stepped in with a very mom-voice admonishment “mish kwayes!” (not good!). It worked.

After the graduation I said goodbye to my students. Though I’m working in the seminary library, I’m not likely to see many of them. The ones who didn’t graduate will be busy in their churches or with writing their theses this summer. The only one I’ll see is Esther, who also works in the library. I’ll miss them—though I was nervous at first about working closely with Egyptian men (even though they are Christian and pastors) because we had been lectured about not becoming friends and whatnot, about keeping boundaries with Egyptians, etc. It was a good practice for me at setting pastoral boundaries. Unfortunately I didn’t do it well by cultural standards, apparently…yesterday I had one of the students tell me that on my first day when he invited me to his dorm room to drink tea and I declined, he was offended and didn’t invite me again. In spite of it being in every way culturally inappropriate for me, a single woman, to go to the dorm room shared by two men (one single and one married, but still), I somehow didn’t convey that I was trying to set a boundary. Instead I conveyed that I was unfriendly and didn’t want to be friends with Egyptians. oops. I think I rectified that throughout the year, but wow. Keeping pastoral boundaries is tough work, especially in a cross cultural situation! I hope I can be more sensitive next time, but still hold the boundaries. I also hope that next time I have a “first day” I know a little more about my options! I wish I had known that we could have just gone to the canteen (which is spelled “kanten” on the sign) and sat under the trees with our tea. Oh well…live and learn…and say goodbye to friends of all different kinds.

On Saturday night we had a going-away party for Tukei (pronounced 2-K), the Ugandan student in the Masters program. He has been a really interesting friend this year, because he’s an all-around interesting guy! He’s a Pentecostal pastor from Uganda. He’s witty and smart. He really and truly believes that the Word is the only way to life, that the Spirit indwells those whom God chooses, and all kinds of things. He’s incredible during prayer times, he’s a fiery and passionate preacher, and for a while it looked like he wouldn’t pass on his thesis because he was so passionate in his apologetics RE iconoclasm. As in, he is iconoclastic and he’s living in and writing about the Coptic Orthodox church and its potential relationship to African Traditional Religions. Now, there are plenty of issues with that whole thing, but ultimately he passed and he graduated on Friday…and on Saturday we had a surprise party! A bunch of us gathered together at Brice’s flat in the seminary. Brice took Tukei out for a while, and brought him back to us where we surprised him with food and us! It was incredible. Sung Min, Brice’s girlfriend who is from Korea, made sushi and soup. There was fruit and cake and sweets and pastries and all kinds of things. And after we ate, we talked about all kinds of things—where we’re from, who’s from “the south” of wherever, etc. And then we started the singing. Tukei brought his guitar from his room and sang us some of his original songs he uses for prayer. He sang us a Ugandan song. We got one the Koreans to sing us a Korean song. We sang a Sudanese song with Charles, a refugee. We sang “Father Abraham has many kids” (instead of sons) with Brice. We sang “rock-a my soul in the bosom of Abraham” with Bob the Californian English teacher who was so excited to meet other Christians working in Egypt. Esther (a middle-aged Chinese woman from the Philippines) sang us a Chinese children’s song about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. It was a really wonderful international sing-a-long. I loved it! That is the kind of thing that just really excites me and makes me happy to be part of the body of Christ—to sing in different languages together. So fun. We had a great party. And now Tukei has flown away to Uganda, where he’s with his family and his church again. God’s blessing on him, and on the other graduates who are beginning new legs of their adventures.

Things I saw and heard at church

* Two weeks ago, the Episcopal Bishop of Egypt and North Africa was at St. John’s church for the confirmation service. He preached during the service, and then did the confirmation ritual for about 8 kids, all expats. One of the things the bishop kept saying was that God wants unity, not uniformity, in the body of Christ. I know we’ve all heard that before, but it was so interesting to hear that out of the mouth of an Egyptian. The culture here (and in Arab countries in general) is a lot about uniformity, conformity, doing what the authority figure wants, etc. To listen to an Egyptian priest say that unity is more important was incredible.

It’s interesting to think about the difference between unity and uniformity, particularly as it relates to church life. The bishop talked mostly about worship style—about the high church and low church differences in the Anglican Communion, I suppose. And of course we recognize that there are diverse ways to worship, different ways to pray, different ways of relating to God (even the dreaded “Jesus is my boyfriend” is one way that helps people be in relationship with God). It’s interesting to think about all those different ways and how they are still really doing the same thing—not uniformly, of course, but worshipping the Holy One nonetheless. The unity of the church is not dependent on whether we all worship the same way, whether we all interpret every word of Scripture or the confessions the same way, whether we recite the Apostles or Nicene or some other creed, whether we pray in English or Arabic, whether we sing Watts hymns or yesterday’s Christian pop. What the unity of the church is dependent on is simply grace. It’s God’s church, not ours. It’s Christ in whom we are one, not our ideas or theologies or interpretations. It’s the Holy Spirit that unifies us in God’s love. We are children of God…and that is unity. No two children in a family are ever the same, but they are still one family. And so in this culture that holds conformity as one of the highest values, it’s truly countercultural to proclaim that diversity is part of unity.

Strange how those cliché catch phrases, like “unity in diversity” can take on new meaning when they come out of different mouths…

* Last week it was Pentecost, and the pastor preached on the Holy Spirit’s rushing wind as an “invasion” of God’s reality into our perception of reality. It made me think of Elias Chacour and how he said that the Holy Spirit “stormed their minds and hearts” that day, and keeps doing so even now. The “Holy Wind” of God, like in the el Greco painting. It was cool. I like to think of “holy wind.” There’s a pretty substantial amount of wind here, mostly coming out of the desert. And I’ve lived in pretty windy places—near mountains and seas and lakes, in big cities with wind tunnels for streets, etc. I like to think that as the wind blows (as in John 3.17), God’s Spirit is rushing off around the world, inspiring and exciting and calling. But I don’t know how I would feel about that image if I lived in tornado alley or in the hurricane belt. I don’t know what kind of holy wind that can be, or if it can be unholy wind in spite of being part of God’s creation, or if that kind of image is too upsetting to people in those areas who’ve lost so much. Since clearly God doesn’t send hurricanes or tornadoes to punish or even to test, it seems a little insensitive to talk about wind being holy in those places. And now I’m rambling about that…but what I want to say is that to me the idea of Holy Wind is as cool as the idea that my mom is in every ocean I visit because we scattered her ashes in the Pacific. She’s everywhere I go now…just like God and wind are everywhere I go.

Also cool, and an idea to tuck away in the Sunday School file: the kids came back from church school wearing flame hats. A piece of orange paper was cut like a flame, then stapled to a paper wrap-around headband, and their name and a language they could speak was written on it before it was sized to their head and stapled together. In an international church, this is really interesting. Kids came in with all kinds of languages emblazoned on the back of their heads, and with flames sticking up from the cowlick place on the back of their heads, and they loved it! I loved it too. I wanted one.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


*Last week the hose came out again. Outside our building there is a little “green space”…except it’s mostly brown. The hoses came out and they left them on…and on…and on…until we had two small Great Lakes out front. And of course my first thought was, “great…a shot in the arm for our most popular mosquito breeding ground!” And my second thought was, “haven’t they learned that this doesn’t make the grass grow?” Well, I went out and when I came home later in the afternoon I found that a flock of small brown birds was using one of the lakes to play. The birds were drinking, washing, fluttering around, splashing each other, chirping happily. So…no grass, more mosquitoes, and a wonderful birdbath party!

*Jennifer and I have started working at the seminary library. Each day we walk out the gates of RCG and flag down a taxi. We then hand the driver a small pink slip of paper with the address and landmarks and intersection info written on it in Arabic. He nods and we get in the car. Now, I know about two main ways to get to the seminary—one by walking, and one by driving down Ahmed Said street. In the past week we have driven three different ways from RCG to the seminary. Sometimes I wonder if we’re even going to get there. Sometimes we end up lost and I have to give directions to get us out of the industrial neighborhood near the seminary. Sometimes we just go the way I expect. Once we went a totally new way that surprised me with its ease and speed. I am completely intrigued by how taxi drivers take totally different ways to get to the same place at the same time each day. Bizarre. (sometimes, though, they just drive around a long way because they want me to pay them more. It doesn’t work. ha!)

*speaking of the seminary library….Jennifer and I did a shelf-read this week, getting all the books in order before we start the inventory. We learned that sometimes the English alphabet goes in the same order as the Arabic alphabet: a b t th g h kh d dh/z r z s sh S D T Z ay gh f q l m n h w y. And sometimes it goes abcdefrstuvghijklmnop. And sometimes 9 comes before 6 and 7 before 3, etc. It was pretty exciting. We came home one day and joked about playing “library Phase 10.” Phase 10 is a fun card game where you have to complete each phase in order to move on to the next one, and whoever finishes the phases first and has the lowest number of points wins. Each phase has things like “two sets of three” or “a run of 8.” We figure that with this plan, every hand is an automatic winner!

*Yesterday I lost a lot of things. I am really sad about this. In the morning I was supposed to have a meeting with the first-primary teachers so we could say goodbye to one another. Out of 8 teachers, one came. I lost my opportunity to say goodbye to some friends who have been with me all year…and I lost a little of my sense that I’m worth seeing and being around for and important and valued.

At lunch I put a bowl of leftover vegetable risotto (the previous night’s dinner) in the microwave. I was using my loaves-and-fishes mosaic bowl from Tabgha, in Galilee. Well, when I pulled the bowl out of the microwave, it was so incredibly hot that I burned my fingers pretty badly…and dropped the bowl. It broke into a bunch of pieces AND I lost my lunch too. It was my favorite bowl. I am so sad about this, I can’t even tell you. I loved that bowl. I have a matching mug but it is currently missing. I hope to find it tonight, but we’ll see. If I don’t find it, I think I will cry…more.

I was writing in blogger last night and when I tried to save…it had an unscheduled outage. I lost everything I had written. it was the perfect end to the day.

It was a bad day yesterday.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

where in the world is...(are)

So I got the newer version of my site tracker (Extreme Tracking) and now I have the option of seeing what city and state and country y'all are in. And this is really cool. Except now I want to know who exactly this is looking at my blog from Norman, OK, and from Monrovia, IN, and from different suburbs of Chicago and from Pennsylvania and from all over California. I think I know who some of you are (Richardson TX, I know you! Ditto Staunton VA and Snellville GA and Yakima WA!), but there are lots of you that I really want to know.

Also, how come I never get comments? I look at other blogs and they're all commenty. Mine isn't like that. Granted, I haven't been writing exactly stellar things on exciting topics lately, but seriously. Just say hi. It's lonely in this country and getting comments (and emails) makes me happy.'s an idea. Drop me a comment and tell me where you're from. As long as you leave YOUR website address (or name or email or something!), just type in your city and state (or country) and then I'll have something to connect to those random little flags that tell me your city when I hover my mouse (well, my finger, since I have a laptop) over them.

To use a strange phrase I taught my English class last week: "I'm dying to know!"



I am hungry after a LONG day (3 hours) of work in the seminary library. Today Jennifer and I went through two boxes of books and looked them up in the system, then classified the ones we don't already have. It's quite a project since neither of us has ever classified books before. Luckily I know some of the books or authors and almost all the subjects, so it's not TOO hard to figure out what a book is about and what kind of category it goes in.

Except, of course, for those books that defy easy classification by combining two or more topics into one. Or by using words that make it sound like one thing when it's really about something else...a tactic common among theologians and philosophers.

If only they could all be simple, like "commentary on Matthew" or "liberation theology in Luke" or something like that. What subject, exactly, do you use for a book like "hermeneutics as method, philosophy, and critique"????? Especially when I want to put it somewhere useful, like the sections I would look for something like that (biblical interpretation, homiletics, etc) but it maybe doesn't really go there? This is doubly complicated by the fact that we were working in an office, not the actual library, and couldn't just go to the stacks and see what was in those various sections. (The library is still full of dust and lacquer...see below.) grr.

I am now hungry, and don't know what to eat. Suggestions? (I had kraft mac-n-cheese yesterday, filling my ration for the suggestion, thanks!)