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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Visions of a World Hungry

Excerpt from the book - Visions of a World Hungry by Thomas Pettepiece

Recognizing that the earth and the fulness thereof is a gift from our gracious God, and that we are called to cherish, nurture, and provide loving stewardship for the earth's resources.

And recognizing that life itself is a gift and a call to responsibility, joy, and celebration, I make the following declarations:
  • I declare myself to be a world citizen.
  • I commit myself to lead an ecologically sound life.
  • I commit myself to lead a life of creative simplicity and to share my personal wealth with the world's poor.
  • I commit myself to join with others in reshaping institutions in order to bring about a more just global society in which each person has full access to the needed resources for their physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth.
  • I commit myself to occupational accountability, and in so doing I will seek to avoid the creation of products which cause harm to others.
  • I affirm the gift of my body, and commit myself to its proper nourishment and physical well-being.
  • I commit myself to examine continually my relations with others, and to attempt to relate honestly, morally, and lovingly to those around me.
  • I commit myself to personal renewal through prayer, meditation and study.
  • I commit myself to responsible participation in a community of faith.
More updates to come soon!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Prince of Beit Air

Now, this is the story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I'd like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I'll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Beit-air

In west Beit Jala born and raised
On the streets was where I spent most of my days
Chillin' out maxin' relaxin' all cool
And all kickin some futbol outside of school
When a couple of guys
Who were up to no good
Startin making trouble in my neighborhood
I got in one little fight and my mom got scared
She said 'You're movin' with your auntie and uncle in Beit Air'

I begged and pleaded with her day after day
But she packed my suite case and sent me on my way
She gave me a kiss and then she gave me my ticket.
I put my walkman on and said, 'I might as well kick it'.

First class, yo this is bad
Sipping tea out of a champagne glass.
Is this what the people of Beit-Air living like?
Hmmmmm this might be alright.

But wait, I hear the prissy, booze, whine, all that
Is this the type of place that they should send this cool cat?
I don't think so
I'll see when I get there
I hope they're prepared for the prince of Beit-Air

Well uh, the bus landed and when I came out
There was a dude who looked like a cop standing there with my name out
I ain't trying to get arrested yet.
I just got here!
I sprang with the quickness, like lightening disappeared

I waved for a cab and when it came near
The license plate said prince and it had dice in the mirror
If anything I can say is that this cab was rare
But I thought 'Man forget it' - 'Yo home to Beit Air'

I pulled up to the house about seven or eight
And I yelled to the cabbie 'Yo homes smell ya later'
I looked to my kingdom
I was finally there
To sit on my throne as the Prince of Beit Air

Thursday, March 10, 2011

WOW!!! That's a low price!!!

The group jump rope .

Jump roping is something most of us have not done since elementary school.  Theres a spinoff activity that is a great experiential learning exercise called group jump rope.   As I tell the students this is not a game but a learning activity.  The goal is to get every person through jumping once including the spinners with one person constantly jumping in the middle and the rope can never stop spinning.  Sounds easy right?

It the exact opposite.  I started using this game with youth in a psychiatric care and have loved it since.  It gets every student involved and usually ticks peoples off really quick.  Once achieved a group can go from poor to great!

A couple of weeks ago, I started making students do the group jump rope.  
During the first week - it was absolute chaos.  People were fighting, yelling, frustated, unmotivated, etc.  Most students gave up all together. Then I would step in a process through the experience with them and tell them to do it again.  

After doing this activity for past several weeks, we did it this past tuesday again.  I tell the students that we are going to do this until we achieve it.  I thought after the first week they would not want to do but I was completely wrong.  The students repeatedly come back and try it again and again.  

I would love to say that they have achieved it but not yet.  It has taken weeks to get to this point.  Last tuesday I witnessed a group of students cooperating well, no perverse or cruel comments, everyone was engaged with moments of unfocus, no arguments, etc. This group of students had a strategy and kept building on that.  They had much improved communication which is primarily listening skills.  

They didn't achieve it but they go within 4 people of doing it.  The persevered and despite frustation after doing this for weeks on end, they have all seemingly bought in to it.  They talk about in school and are starting to relate concepts in the activity to those things in life that hard to deal with.  

The sad thing is that I will not be here next tuesday to witness them achieve success.  This was the first moment the other day that WOWed me.  I wish that I could just get one glimpse of what will happen for these students upon success of finishing the activity.  They will be able to transfer so much esteem and confidence to other areas of life.  

On a side note:

I return back to the states this monday with the goal of figuring out where I fit in to possibly teaching at a school next year.  For those that are confused - I was originally supposed to come to the ME for 5 months to help this organization finish its school programs for the year.  It would allow me to determine to stay long term with them or to teach for a couple of years at a school they worked with.  It seemed perfect as God has shown favor to this point and directed me to coming here.  

After getting here - I experienced some rather difficult environments all of which could have been prevented from happening.  My relationship with the organization deterioated quickly due to personal values, professional ethics, and spiritual views coming into conflict with others and organizational structure.  Long story short I decided to distance myself and observe at the school for a while before coming back to the states.  I would have never imagined this to happen especially when I absolutely love being involved in lives of students through experiential learning.  So I lasted three weeks and on my way home.  All I can do is ask for prayer as I seek God's direction and will from here.   

The journey so far...

Here's an interesting recap of my couple of weeks here so far.  I typically would not have that much time to write things except for weekends but right now don't have too many other things to do.

2 Days Prior to leaving: started having sinus like symptons, swollen nasal passages, hard time sleeping at night, lots of headaches etc.

Departure day: altitude plus nasal congestion = not very pleasant flight experiences

Day 1: still congested, starting to adjust to time difference, and toured the leadership center. Upon entering a car pulls up and takes a gun out to shoot at a bird right above our heads.  It happened so quick we just ducked on the ground and the bird fell right in front of me.  I guess the locals needed to scare us a little.

Day 2: Started having a lot of doubts, nasal congestion is improving, experiencing no showers, and very cold nights

Day 3 - 5: congestion is almost gone, able to get some sleep but limited to people partying in the house I was at, discovered warm water for tea, started experiencing knee pain - i will admit that I decided to go on a run to try and clear out congestion.

Day 5: worked all day by myself in the office, contemplating decisions, still congested, headaches

Day 6: slept in and had my own extended church service before going to work, found myself in a not good environment

Day 7: first day in charge of programs, and spending countless hours trying to finish curriculum, and facility inspections, got a good sunburn 

Day 8 - 9 - implemented disciplinary boot camp for 6 graders, got another good sunburn

Day 10  - informed organization of my decision to stay, received a gift of second hand smoke and other things

Day 12 - relocation of environments, developed sore throat, bad cough, chest pain, headaches

Day 13 - 15 - took most of weekend trying to recover from sickness, fatigue, no sleep for several nights, etc, 

Day 16 - 17- still coughing, sore throat - started subbing for classes in school, observing others

Day 18 - sore throat is gone, cough is much better, got to take a hot shower for first time.

day 19 - i thought it was all over - woke to stomach cramps, general fatigue - this is where I am at now.  

There has been a lot of really amazing things happen but it hard to focus on those things when your body goes through so many things and some could have even been prevented.  What else is there to do when you are laying in bed sick, have things that need to get done, and dont want to do anything except run to the bathroom countless times for relief. 

Reminds of a quote a friend told me once: "Sometimes the bottom falls out of your world and the world falls out of your bottom."

Theres about 100 more crazy adventures in the days above but not too much I can actually write about.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Quite a bit has happened over the course of 7 days.  I really dont even know where to start.  This whole blogging - writing thing is still new to me but I get so many emails from people I feel like this is the best way to keep people updated.  Once again thank you to all of you that not only have listened to me, prayed for me, and continue to support me despite the events that have occurred over the past couple of weeks.  

I am pleasantly happy to say that I am in a much better place now and even had a good week despite the side things that happened.  Last week I spent the whole week focusing on trust issues with students.  Since I had started working with 6th graders at the German school we have had 3 serious fights, lots of verbal abuse, and one broken arm.  Oh and the students have the complete control of the workshops.  This only lasted a week before I called a meeting with the school and attempting to make serious changes in order to regain that power back.  Despite these things I had some good questions and comments from students.  Most of them centered on issues of trust and that they have been told all of their lives that they cannot trust anyone.  As sad as this is it allowed us to share with the students about how to determine trustworthy people and issues for rebuilding trust with friends, family, and even neigbors across the wall.

I have finished up my time with the organization I was working for and have transitioned to helping at another school.  For the next couple of weeks I will be observing classes, and continue to subbing for teachers when needed, and any other assigned tasks.  In addition I was able to attend a weekly night ministry for high school students.  It closely resembled a western youth service with typical small groups afterwards.  The guys that I had kept goofing around so I decided to start asking some tough questions for them.  And I got some interesting responses.  One student told me that he does not feel comfortable sharing his faith with friends because he believed they need to find it for themselves and did not want to step on their religion.  Another student expressed more of a pluralist view that it did not matter what religion that a person had but would end at the same place.  Over the next couple of weeks I hope to really build relationships with some of these guys to push them to explore what it means to live in a relationship with Christ and what that really means in our world today.

You might be wondering what the title of digestives means?  

Since weds night I have developed a severe cough, sore throat, head aches, overall sickness after being exposed to a house full of second hand smoke and other things.  I find myself hard to breath at nights and still can't get solid sleep even though I have moved out of the environment.  While I have been feeling sick for several days now I have found one thing that has pepped me up - DIGESTIVES!!!!

Dont confuse these with medicine or laxatives.  They are actually cookies!!! Delicious, wonderful wheat cookies with a little bit of chocolate goodness on top.  When I was in Northern Ireland for a summer I was exposed to digestives.  I remember going to wimbledon for several days and all we bought were digestives to eat on because they were so cheap.  it just so happens that I found them here in the WB.  There are a little pricy but its good to treat yourself from time to time.  Add a cup of tea, good book, and sunshine and you are in heaven.  

Heres some latest photos from start of week 3:

If we called these digestives in the states, no one would ever buy them.

Where else in the world can I dry my underwear on the front porch.

We trust one another!!! Really?  lets make them go blindfolded to a tree and see.

Monday, February 28, 2011


For those of you new to experiential education we use initiatives and challenge courses to help people develop life skills and learn how to work as a team.  Experiential education is a very western idea which makes it difficult when bringing it into a ME context.  

The idea of processing or debriefing after a learning activity is not very common here.  Students do not mind expressing their ideas or answering questions but it is typically aimed viciously towards other students.  I have only been here for one week and a tough one at that.  Originally I was supposed to be in an interim position before I go full time in running all the organizations programs.  For right now  I have focused on its core program core Global Leadership.  The goal of the program is develop basic team building skills and leaders out the students.  I absolutely love the challenge of working with the students with this goal in mind.  

The challenge is developing a western concept into a successful ME program in schools when we only have 25 - 35 minutes a week with them.  Thats extremely difficult when theses themes could actually be more important than basic math.  We are talking about life skills here.  The things that will transform a community that has been greatly affected by regional events in the past.  

Today was my first official day taking students through programs.  Some groups were not able to do the activities due to behavioral issues.  Apprarently I am the first person to be really mean and do not allow students to jump around hitting one another.  After they were able to compose themselves we proceeded to due a sherpa walk.  Basically we blindfolded students and gave them a rope and they had to depend on one another to get around the school.  They only had noises to give them directions.  They had to climb over things and fully trust one another.  

We had some bullying, some people showing genuine concern, and others that just didn't care.  We started processing through what trust is and what it means to be a trustworthy person.  Then I asked students to relate it to their lives.  I was amazed at how many students were able to relate trust to their life in context of dealign with their family or trust in a different ethnic group.  The sad thing is that we only had 5 minutes to debrief when these kids really wanted to ask questions about how do we build trust after its been broken.  We never really got to get into that too much but a foundation has been laid for a future generation that could change a seemingly never ending conflict in ME.

Here are some photos of two different schools that we worked at today.  The first is with a school completely in Arabic with 6 graders in a mediation program.  The second is with the American school with students that speak pretty darn good english.    



Sunday, February 27, 2011


I have never imagined that so many things could happen in one week of time.  I have officially been in M.E. for one week.  Of all the hard times in my life that I can remember going through this one has been one of the toughest.  This week has left me searching for answers . . .  searching for a reason . .  . searching for God’s will. 

Before I go much further – I want to thank all my family, friends, extended support group for you much sought after counsel, advice, and for speaking TRUTH into my life during the past week.  When after a couple of days I wanted to give up, you spoke the truth of God’s word which has deeply encouraged me to persevere through these trials. 

Two nights ago – I felt like I was surrounded by Satan himself attacking me from every angle.  I would read through the Word and feel peace and then something else would happen and I would lay in my bed praying for hours.  I don’t think I have spent more time in prayer than I have this week.

For the past several months God has been transforming my world by first removing the things that used to consume it.  I never even felt remorse for giving up the American dream and financial security in the new job offer that I had.  Now I get to where I am now and through out the week Satan has been speaking non truths into my life making me regret giving up my job, house, and comfortable lifestyle to live in a rats nest in ME. 

Without going into too much detail about the very complex situation that I am in right now I can let you know that I will be transitioning back to the states much sooner than imagined.  The original plan was to decide which opportunity to pursue long term in this area.  One very much reflected my interests in life, professional interests, and allowed time for ministry.  The other allowed me to teach in a local school and disciple students.  It has been a disappointing week because I had so much hope in the organization that I am working for right now that I would be able to impact the community through various programs while playing a role in a discipleship ministry.  Things can be quite a bit more deceptive than ever imagined.  My desire is to follow Christ.  And from every approach imagineable I can seem to make that fit within this organization and truly live to the standards that Christ calls me too.  There has to be a reason why I am here though?  So many unexplainable things have happened over the past several months for this to be a waste? 

My spiritual life, believes, even the reason I exist has been questioned by so many individuals this past week.  I have been conversations with so many believers and unbelievers that it has been very hard.  I have had people trying to get me to loosen up and just experience life.  I have had people trying to convince me that the God I love and believe in does not exist.  I have had people laugh at me when I explain why I am here.  I have had people mock me for standing firm for my faith in Christ.  Isn’t it crazy that all this exists in the context of that I am 5 miles from the birthplace of Christ himself.

Today I have felt God has reassured me that He is in control.  That He is with me despite the evil around me.  That He wants to be my source of strength and that life flows from him who lives within me.  God wants me to give him control.  To surrender every bit of my life – my emotions in anger, frustation, my heart, my mind, etc. 

A friend of mine had recommended reading through the book of James.  Sometimes when I experience these things I don’t know where to even turn in the Bible.  I am glad the HS speaks through other people.  The entire of book of James has either convicted me of things or reassured me of things. 

James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

You too be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.

I am not worthy of having such an amazing creator.  God thank you for your guidance even when I want to be in drivers seat, thank you for your provision when I attempt to still do things on my own at times, thank you for your power that trumps all evil in this world and that with it you can accomplish many things through this servant of yours.  Thank you for your grace that covered my sinful life.

I know that if you read all the way through this you may be confused.   I don’t even know exactly what I just wrote especially when I am not the writing type but it does help me express and process through what is occurring in life right now. 

This next week will be even more difficult as I expect to do some transitioning between things.  I ask that you pray that God would open up the hearts of individuals buried in a sinful life, that believers would be showed truth what it means to live a life more that of Christ, and that they would be firm in their faith when interacting with the international community present in ME.  Pray that God would transform the minds of students across P as this will be my first time actually leading students through classes.