July 5, 2006 | Leave a Comment
It is summer 2006 and Dr. Kathy Lopez sits in a house in the small village of Habka, Jordan near Galilee, drinking Turkish tea with the women of the house and some neighbors. As a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Jordan, she enters the secret world of Arabic women only to find that she is one of them—wife, mother, the creator of beauty and comfort in her home. To the East, Iraq is embroiled in civil war and the tensions in the bordering countries of Syria and Iran threaten to erupt at any time, but in Habka, Lopez, who is an assistant professor of the Old Testament at Campbell University, and her husband Allen work side by side with their Muslim friends to create a home for a young family, to build a bond that transcends ethnicity and religion. Several years ago Lopez traveled to Jordan via a Middle East Travel Seminar funded by a foundation established by Georgia commercial developer, Pat Patillo. His desire is to enable as many people and ministerial students as possible to visit the Holy Land. This was the seminar's 25th year. In order to honor Patillo's generosity over the last 25 years, those who have participated in the Middle Eastern Travel Seminar committed to building 25 houses through Habitat for Humanity Jordan. The Lopez' participated in the building of the first house. "What I have gradually come to learn in life, and what was confirmed for me during my time with Habitat for Humanity Jordan is that there are likely no heroic answers to the problems of this world," said Lopez. "But we keep trying, relying on huge organizations to make things happen, to solve for us the problems that we as individuals feel so helpless to address." Lopez, who has a Ph.D. from Emory University, said she is the most unlikely person to help build a house. "I am small, not very strong and given to clumsiness," she said. "But we felt called to go to Jordan. For me the part of working together as Christians and Muslims was phenomenal, just to know that we got along so well and that the things that divided us on a larger scale were not present." As part of a construction team that consisted of five Muslims and six Christians, the Lopez' ate meals of curry and rice, tomatoes, cucumbers and yogurt with their Jordanian hosts on cushions on the floor and drank the strong traditional tea served in tiny glasses with mint and lots of sugar. "Their hospitality is amazing," said Lopez. "They use the most interesting spices and everything was very good." Although it doesn't appear to be, Jordan is the third most water poor country in the world, Lopez noted. It has no natural resources like oil, but the process of irrigation has made it possible for the country to export vegetables and fruits to other Middle Eastern countries. The war in Iraq has hurt the Jordanians who depend on Iraqi oil, however. Still Jordan, the only country in the Middle East to grant citizenship to the Palestinians, has been able to walk that fine line to maintain peace. "They are an ally of the United States and very friendly to Americans," Lopez said. "I think what captured our hearts about Habitat for Humanity Jordan is the possibility of reconciliation between America and the Muslim world. When people are just groups, we can objectify them, but when we see them as individuals just like us, then you can't go back to talking about them as objects." The Lopez' church, Memorial Baptist of Buies Creek, N.C., contributed $1,000 to Habitat for Humanity Jordan.
Photo Copy: Campbell University's Dr. Kathy Lopez and her husband Allen volunteered with Habitat for Humanity Jordan this summer to help build a house for a young Jordanian family. Also pictured is Abu Mejd, far left.
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