“Ahlan. AH-LAN. Somebody say, ‘Marhaba,’ you say, ‘Ahlan,’” said Julie, struggling to find the right English words to communicate her point. She decided to intervene after listening to me butcher the Arabic ‘hello’ ritual with two guests of the Global Hope Network office here in Jordan.

“Allan. Ahalan. AHlan…good, right?” I said optimistically.

“Ok,” she conceded.

Moments later, another guest arrived and offered the expected, “Marhaba!”

“Ahlan,” I replied, trying to mask my enthusiasm for nailing this critical Jordanian greeting.

“Keef eck?” he shot back. I just smiled blankly, wishing I knew the next part of the ritual.

Julie rushed around the corner and ushered the guest into another room for his meeting. She walked back to me, leaned over and annunciated, “Temam. Te-mam. Keef eck? Temam.”

None of these things are in my pocket-sized Arabic phrase book. In fact, everything I say from that darn book— complete with world’s best-selling phrase books boasted across the cover—is met with blank stares, a combination of my horrible accent and the evolving, slang-laden language itself.

Jordanian life is mix of modernity and Middle Eastern tradition, like this red and white “kufia”—the male headscarf of Jordan and the gulf countries.

Obviously, words will not serve me well here in Jordan.

A Different World

Much of the Jordanian life is new to me. For starters, it’s not just a country—it’s the ‘Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.’ The capital city, Amman, carries itself with as much poise as being a ‘kingdom’ suggests. The streets are clean, pedestrians saunter on smooth sidewalks, occasionally interrupted by a carefully placed tree, and beautiful Arabic script accentuates the arches of stone buildings. There’s still bustling traffic and open markets, but they bristle with life instead of chaos.

The rituals enthrall me—the two or three or more kisses for hello, the right word for thank you when someone feeds you (as opposed to other expressions of gratitude) and how people can enjoy hours of conversation around a cup of tea with cardamom.

I’m also enthralled by the omnipresent politics. Politics are big here in Jordan. Even the 11 year-old son of my host family loves watching the news (a close second to Turkish soap operas).

Beautiful shapes and colors accent the buildings of Amman.

Good Reputation

Jordan is the Switzerland of the Middle East, sitting precariously between Israel, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The nation enjoys amiable relations with all of them, aided by the fact that it’s accommodated millions of refugees over the years. The situation makes for an interesting political, cultural and religious dynamic.

Before arriving in Jordan, I knew it had a good reputation for freedom of religion. The country is over 90% Sunni Muslim, but it respects the rights of people who practice minority religions.

That tolerance opens the door for organizations like my host ministry, Global Hope Network International (GHNI). GHNI is working outside of Amman to support development in rural Jordan, to bring hope to the hidden and hurting—and they’re doing it because of Jesus.

The village life in Jordan is not as luxurious as the nice sections of Amman and other Jordanian cities.

Without Words

But what does religious freedom look like in a place where you must register your religious status with the government? Where “proselytizing” to Muslims— but not to any other group—is against the law? How does an organization like Global Hope Network pursue relief and development with Gospel-based principles without mentioning…well, the Gospel?

I asked Rami, Global Hope employee, that very question.

“We just show love,” Rami told me. “I don’t say a thing. We just love them.”

For me, that’s easier said than done. Being in a foreign land reminds me how much I rely on words. The Global Hope philosophy causes me to reflect on my own spiritual life. Are my words doing the talking when it comes to my faith? Do my actions alone reveal what I believe?

Global Hope employees, Julie and Rami, work to bring help to people and villages throughout Jordan.

Actions that Speak

If I follow a doctrine that calls me to be among the afflicted, then I want to be there. It’s so easy to get hung up on intellectualizing our faith, but in the grand scheme of things, arguing about the proper distribution of the sacraments might hinder the broader, more important messages we have to share.

Christians in Jordan may be limited by the powers that be, but the problem calls them to step up. Their actions must speak. Not only must their actions speak, but Christians here must be in communion with all people—of all faiths—to end poverty and injustice, to focus less on the title of “Christian” and more on the universally accepted teachings of Jesus.

And the teachings of Jesus call for action. We have much to learn from Global Hope and others working for social justice here in Jordan. I’m excited to follow in the wake of people who speak daily with more deeds than words.

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Next Steps
    • Start learning about Global Hope Network at globalhopenetwork.org
    • During the course of the day, consider how many things you do that speak about your beliefs. What are your actions saying?
    • Ever get confused about the difference between words like Arab, Arabic, Muslim and Islam? Take three minutes to learn: Click here.
    • Pray for the work of Global Hope here in Jordan—that they continue to show love and strengthen communities.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Laura is a journalism fellow with World Next Door. She graduated from the University of Arizona, Tucson with a degree in Animal Sciences and a minor in Spanish. She is constantly learning, making friends, dancing, and trying to understand her role in alleviating the suffering of others. Laura also attracts a lot of awkward situations.

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Comments

  1. Barry Rodriguez said... 

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    November 14th, 2011 at 12:01 pm  

    Can’t wait to read more about your trip and the Global Hope Network!

  2. Steve said... 

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    November 14th, 2011 at 4:14 pm  

    “Do my actions alone reveal what I believe?” Gee, thanks Laura. Looks like I have some contemplation to do.

    In all seriousness, I’m really looking forward to this series. I feel so terribly uneducated to what’s going on in the Middle East. Thanks for being willing to help us learn.

  3. Julie B said... 

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    November 14th, 2011 at 4:16 pm  

    Laura, how exciting and challenging! I am very, very much looking forward to reading about your time in Jordan and with Global Hope Network.

  4. Laura Stump said... 

    Reply

    November 15th, 2011 at 10:49 am  

    Thanks all! There is certainly a lot to learn and understand about this region. I’m excited to share more.

  5. David Nix said... 

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    November 25th, 2011 at 9:59 am  

    Great to meet you in Amman Laura and read about Global Hope. As our “Wheels” team worked in Jordan I did wrestle with the idea of “doing Christian ministry” and avoiding verbally sharing the gospel. The gospel is, after all, news which Christ called us to proclaim in the great commission. In our work we prayed that some would see us involved in some act of sacrificial care and ask questions. We then can respond with the gospel, like 1 Peter 3:15 prescribes. But Peter and John (and countless others throughout the book of Acts) continued to proclaim the gospel even when warned by the authorities to desist. Well, as I said, I continue to wrestle with this as I think about more work in a Muslim context. Great writing Laura! I look forward to more!

  6. Laura Stump said... 

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    November 27th, 2011 at 10:45 am  

    Hey Dave! Thanks so much for your comment. It was great to meet you too.

    You’re right, it is tough to know what to do in these situations. But in the New Testament, the majority of the language from and about Jesus is about social justice–caring for the poor and the widow, promoting peace, healing the sick, etc. Maybe that carries more weight than the words we say.

    But there are definitely several opinions out there about the topic :)

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