Thursday, February 5, 2009

Returning to Everyday Life

As I stood at the Philadelphia airport yesterday waiting for all the group's luggage to appear on the carousel, I looked around at the faces of those whom I had spent the last 19 days with and recalled the four who had departed a few days earlier. I marveled at how this trip was a pilgrimage to a place of great history, but also how it was a journey that taught us about what it is to live in "community" with one another, as our group had for over two weeks.

There is so much to process that it will be days or even weeks before I can organize my thoughts, stories, photos and memories enough to attempt to convey the amazing experience that I have had over the last few weeks. If you asked me the highlight of the trip my first thought would be the journey to the top of Mt. Sinai . . . truly an awesome experience on so many levels - the sense of accomplishment, the deafening sound of silence, the majesty of the view from the top, the honor to walk where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God . . . and so much more.

With further consideration the group may list some accomplishments like . . . crossing a Cairo street alone, riding the Metro without group leader assistance, navigating the sidewalks without being "accosted" by the vendors along the way, learning to leave food on our plate without guilt, counting from 1-15 without pausing . . . ask us about these things and we would be glad to explain!

Although we all read about what we would experience in Egypt prior to our arrival, I don't think anyone was prepared for the reality that we found when we were immersed in the society. As a woman on this journey, I was very concerned about being sure that my clothing was conservative enough to not offend the people we would be walking among for several weeks. By the end of the trip, I found myself noticing the way some female tourists were dressed and being myself offended by their lack of consideration for the customs of the society where they were guests.

I thank God for the opportunity to participate in this awesome journey and hope that I will be able to share the experience in a way that will inspire others to want to learn more about our brothers and sisters in the Middle East.

Peace and blessings . . . Stephanie Rhoades

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