Al-Quds! Yerushalaim! Jerusalem! It is the Holy City, a city of two peoples and three religions! This is the emotive cry that comes out daily from the mouths of politicians, religious leaders, academicians, analysts, lobbying parties and interest groups. by Dr Harry Hagopian, LL.D, Doctor in Public International Law
A Jubilee Summer In Smakieh by Mary Floye Federer Summer 2000 was truly a â€œjubilee summerâ€ in Jordan for volunteers from First Presbyterian Church of Houston. For the second year, mission volunteers from Houstonâ€™s First Presbyterian Church returned to Smakieh, Jordan, an all Christian village in the south of Jordan to help with the 4th Annual Summer Camp for the youth of the village. The camp of St. Michaelâ€™s Latin Catholic Church under the leadership of Father Rifat Badr provided stimulation and enrichment for the young people of the village during the summer months. The presence of the Presbyterian volunteers also provided vital Christian fellowship for this small community of Christians in a predominately Muslim country. The Houston volunteers were all enriched by the faithful dedication of the Christians in the village and at the conclusion of the camp, left with different perspectives and priorities due to the experiences from the summer. All involved in this partnership were transformed through the love of Jesus Christ and through the witness of the faithful Christians in Jordan. The Summer Camp in Smakieh is just one of several projects which First Presbyterian Church of Houston has in partnership with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem to strengthen and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ there in the Middle East. For the volunteers who returned to Smakieh and newcomers, Summer Camp 2000 was an uplifting and wonderful experience! Working hand in hand with our dear friends, the Smakieh volunteers, over 250 children age 5 â€“ 18 years participated in the Summer Camp. This year at the request of the Smakieh volunteers, the camp was extended to 5 weeks, from July 4 â€“ August 3. The youth of Smakieh participated in daily devotionals, art, music, recreational activities, computer classes and English lessons to name a few of the daily activities. Campers were also treated to field trips to Amman, Karak and surrounding areas during the run of the camp. Ten volunteers from Houston spent from two to seven weeks in Smakieh, assisting with the planning and running of the camp as well as cherishing fellowship with the villagers of Smakieh. This yearâ€™s volunteers included Mark Borst, Marilyn Borst, Kelli Drenner, Jason Edwards, Mary Floye Federer, Robert Moore, Linda Moore, Susan Myers, Susan Ray, and Sofia Westblom. Because of the wonderful relationships that developed last summer and which were maintained during the year through emails and letters, the volunteer leadership team was able to work closely together, debate and develop new ideas and activities to ensure the success of the camp. Another result of the deepening friendships and resulting trust was the use of daily devotional guides published by the Catholic Publishing Company which were brought by the Presbyterian volunteers and provided the basis of the daily discussions during the evening English lessons. At the end of camp, it was exciting to learn that the volunteers in Smakieh wanted to continue to use the devotional guides even after our departure. One of unique highlights of the time in Jordan this summer was the opportunity to experience several of the Jubilee 2000 celebrations with our Smakieh brothers and sisters. Smakieh was the location of the Patriarchate â€œMarch and Mass of the Martyrsâ€ held on June 30, honoring the sacrifice that our Christian forefathers have made throughout history. The Presbyterian volunteers joined 1000 fellow Christians who came from all over Jordan as we marched from a nearby village to Smakieh were the Mass was held under the patronage of the Latin Patriarch, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah. This was a historic event in Jordan, being the first open air mass held outside of a church. It was a wonderful ecumenical experience for all involved. For those that experienced the hospitality and love shared in Smakieh, it was truly a life changing experience. The Houston volunteers have returned with a changed sense of priority and desire for simplicity, which was demonstrated by our friends in Smakieh. It is so revitalizing to know that we are all one in the body of Christ, no matter our cultures, languages or denominations. Working side by side as Christian brothers and sisters in Smakieh, we experienced what Paul describes in Ephesians 4: â€œThere is one body and one Spirit â€“ just as you were called to one hope when you were called â€“ one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in allâ€. This truly was a Jubilee summer!