Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Mosque

Last week our interns began studying introductory Islam and read through the entire Koran. As a way of concluding the week, our team visited a local mosque for their holy day (Friday) sermon. It was my third time visiting a mosque, but I still enjoyed being in the foreign atmosphere. Out of respect for their holy place, shoes are removed outside the front door and women cover their heads. There are two separate doors of entrance, one for the men and older boys, and one for the women and children. Once entering, the women and men are entirely segregated by a large curtain. Attending mosque is mandatory for the Muslim men and optional for women. When I attended two years previously, the women were able to view the service on a tv monitor from their assigned room. I was disappointed to find that the monitor has since been removed for unknown reasons. The sound was rather muffled through the curtain and we only saw the four women who came to worship, but the experience ended well with the wonderful hospitality of an Islamic woman, originally from England, and her two little girls. She allowed us to ask her questions about her life and experiences as a Muslim. I found it fascinating to have a glimpse inside her life and I was very grateful for this added interaction. The imam (pastor) of the mosque spoke to our group for awhile, but it was very difficult for me to understand him through the heavy material between us. I fought feelings of frustration for that curtain and must admit I was happy to return to the sunlight out of doors.
Overall, I suppose I was most reminded of my strong sense of female independence as an American Christian woman, and how I might always feel rebellion toward forced submission, whether right or wrong. Never am I so aware of my freedom until I find myself in situations such as these where I am required to relinquish some of it. Yet I have also been given the freedom to experience these places with great hospitality from my hosts and for that I am most grateful.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Making History in Iraq

(Rev Pat Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki)
Our missions director, Kris Keating, was granted the opportunity to travel to Baghdad a week ago with five other Americans to speak to the Iraqi prime minister and three cabinet members in an Iraqi Prayer Delegation. These are the photos used in the Iraqi news release. Kris is located third from the right in the second photo. For those wondering, the empty chair is where the translator sat. He removed himself from the room each time a photo was taken as he recognized that his life might be in jeopardy. This meeting is one more reason to praise God for his obvious and apparent hand that is still over the nation of Iraq. Please join me in praying for a peaceful nation as you remember them.


At 6:30 on Sunday morning, the day after I arrived in Bristol, CT, about 30 volunteers from the Hillside Community Church family drove for 3 hours into New Hampshire. Our mission was to staff a week-long summer camp for kids aged 8 through 17, which was divided by ages into two separate camps. As one of the senior camp counselors, I was assigned to six 13-15 year old girls. What a week! I was still exhausted from my long drive, but God provided me with the energy to love and encourage the girls in their all-too-familiar, roller coaster phase of life. Many of the girls attend Hillside Community and I look forward to building relationships with them this year.
A slight twist in the camp plans occurred when the lead keyboard player/singer for the junior camp had to rush home for a family emergency. My name entered the conversation between two of the musicians and I soon found myself on stage behind the keyboard with a microphone at my mouth. It wasn’t a perfect rendition by any means, but my passion for both music and the Lord quickly masked any nerves and I truly enjoyed being able to lead fifty 8-10 year olds in open worship.
Another high point of my week was in ministering to one of my girls who suffered from panic attacks and paranoia. She lived under the constant fear that anything she does may make her deathly ill. For example, we had a teenage boy attending the camp who drank too much water after a very aggressive sports competition, resulting in vomiting most of it onto the grass. After watching this, the girl became extremely concerned to the point of tears that she might get sick from watching this young man throw up. She also explained that she had been talking to him earlier, which caused her further worry. If this situation had not been so serious I might have laughed at the ridiculousness of it. To my credit, I only smiled a few times and never laughed at the constant flow of concerned questions she flooded me with that week, such as 'will an extra piece of cake make me sick' and 'this butter is a little melted, is it okay to eat'. After talking with her for a little while, I discovered that panic attacks are a generational curse in her family. This curse has affected not only her, but her mom, and her grandmother, and who knows how many generations before.
She came to me in tears on one of the last nights during our evening chapel worship time and asked me to pray over her.
"I'm sick of being afraid all the time," she said. "I know God doesn't want me to be afraid and I need to you pray over me."
I asked God for the strength to break this curse that had held her family captive for so many years. And I asked that the Lord would replace her fear with His love and peace and joy in this girl's young life. It was the most intense prayer I've ever prayed for someone and I could feel the Holy Spirit's presence like a thick fog, three or four feet deep in that chapel. What an awesome experience. This girl's attitude changed after that night into a completely different person. I can only describe it as a miracle. Full of energy and life, she couldn't stop laughing at her new found freedom. The next morning, the girl told me she didn't want to take her panic medication anymore because she believed God had healed her. Sadly, the nurse on duty was concerned that she would get in trouble for not fulfilling her duties in providing the medication, so the girl was forced to take it. I reminded the girl that she would be on her own once camp was over and she could stop her meds at that time if she still felt the same. That day we had a picnic lunch, which most often guarantees a less-than-sanitary atmosphere. Our drinks had tiny bits of dirt that had fallen into them-something harmless but still visible. My girl was sitting next to me eating when she noticed the little black dots in her lemonade. She looked at me and drank it silently. I was floored speechless. I'm so proud of her and I can't wait to see how the Lord moves in her life in the months to come. Her name is Joanie, please keep her and her family in your prayers.