2 Million and Me: Alone in the Hall of Names

January 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

There is a phrase in Hebrew that means “a memorial and a name” — it is used in Isaiah 56:5 which says, “And to them I will give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name that shall not be cut off.”  In transliterated Hebrew, this phrase is “Yad Vashem”. 

“Yad Vashem” is what Israel chose to call their Holocaust Museum, established in 1953.
A visit to any Holocaust Museum will change you, but understandably, none of them compare to Israel’s own.

On a very hot July day ten years ago our bus wound its way up the western slope of Mount Herzl on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem. I think it was July 5th. The previous day, our group of 35 American young people had splashed through Hezekiah’s Tunnel underneath the Old City, stood on the Mount of Olives, gazed across the Kidron Valley to Mount Moriah, and strolled near the Garden of Gethsemane. During dinner that night, at the hotel in Abu Gosh, we’d sung The Star Spangled Banner in celebration of our Independence Day, many Israelis and other guests joining in to sing and cheer with us for a rousing finish.

In the middle of the whirlwind 12-day tour of Israel, it was a short three days in the Jerusalem area filled to the brim with those and many other incredible highlights. Next on the itinerary was Yad Vashem.

From the moment we stepped out of the bus, the design of the place began to take affect. Set on a high green hillside, the low black buildings were surrounded by a stunning view and the whole place was intently silent. A long white stone pathway led up to the first structure. Lined with beautifully tended trees of varying ages, and at the base of each tree, plaques bearing names of all nationalities. This walkway is called The Righteous Among the Nations. Each tree is planted in grateful honor of any family that housed and protected Jews during WWII.

I have no skill to describe to you how the experience unfolds as you go inside and slowly walk the halls. Even though it was undergoing major renovations/additions at the time (a whole new complex opened the following year), none of that distracted from the power of what was presented there. Careful thought was put into each display, each room reflecting an exquisite attention to detail. It is totally consumed with honoring the lost, bringing you inside the world that crushed them.

One particular memory is an entire hallway wall that is a floor-to-ceiling, life-size photo of stacks upon stacks of bare metal cots; the pinched, haggard faces of men look out at you with utterly dead eyes. You can hardly stand to meet their gaze. You feel guilty for the clothes on your back and the food in your stomach. For the muscle on your bones. For being alive.

I searched each face, looking for one trace of defiance or hope.

Emptiness.

When it was nearly time to go back to the bus I found myself in a wide hall with some offices at the far end, and momentarily feared that I’d wandered into an area not meant for guests. But just inside and to the left was a small dark room and I approached close enough to read the little plaque by the door. Hall of Names. I went in, with some trepidation.

Everything in this room was black. Carpet, walls, ceiling, benches, lampstands, and black velvet ropes marking off an area filled with black shelves, laden with large black notebooks. Near the ropes, a small black podium with one of the notebooks lying open. A picture of a small girl. Her name, some biographical information, and a supposed date of death.

I suddenly realized what this was.

One of Yad Vashem’s documentation goals is to create a Page of Testimony for every single one of the 6 million Jews who perished. At that point, a little over 2 million of them had been identified and documented, and I was standing alone with all of their names.


Post renovation, the Hall of Names is quite different but doubtless equally powerful.
http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/about/hall_of_names/about_hall_of_names.asp
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Arkansas to South Africa: I can hardly believe it!

January 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

They call it A World in One Country...

They call it A World in One Country…

This coming summer, I am doubly blessed!  First, I have the joy of joining sixteen others from my church to serve on a short-term mission trip to Pretoria, South Africa where we will care for orphans, work on construction projects and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to many! To double that excitement, this will be my first return to South Africa in twenty-one years, since the time my family resided there for eight months in 1993. It has been such a long wait to see my “other country”, and so many friends, once again!

When: May 18-27, 2014
Who: 17 very enthusiastic folks from The Bible Church of Little Rock
Cost$2,500 per team member
Purposes:

a) To work with the Muphamuzi Baby Home to care for orphans and foster children, providing relief to the usual caregivers and lavishing as much love as we can on these precious little ones.  http://www.1hope4africa.com/index.php/extensions/muphamuzi-baby-home

b) To participate in construction projects to help national pastors and their churches in areas like Standerton, Modemolle, and Sunnyside.

c) To lead Bible studies in refugee areas like Salvokop.

d) To work with Living Hope Church in Sunnyside, doing children’s ministries (AWANA), evangelism, Bible study, worship ministry, etc. http://www.livinghopechurch.co.za/

e) To engage in street and door-to-door evangelism with the local churches.

f) To serve the missionary teams, both those supported by our church and those from 1Hope Ministries Intl., in any way we can.  http://www.1hope4africa.com/

We would so appreciate your Prayers:

1) That God would prepare the hearts of those to whom we will give the Gospel, and that many would be saved!

2) That I and my team would have servants’ hearts prepared to do whatever is needed with a ready and cheerful spirit, showing the love of Christ to all we encounter.

3) That this trip would pave the way for further ministry in RSA for The Bible Church of Little Rock, Living Hope Church, and 1Hope Ministries.

I am most excited to see what God does in and through us as we endeavor to be the hands and feet of Christ in a place that has seen so much turbulence and pain. Please commit to pray for us; your prayers are of the utmost importance and I have confidence that our LORD will accomplish much through them.

If you would like to help me prepare financially, please make a check payable to The Bible Church of Little Rock, with the MEMO line reading RSA: Elizabeth Howell, and mail to me at 8100 Cantrell Road, #808, Little Rock, AR., 72227. Or, visit this link to give online: www.youcaring.com/ElizabethLovesSouthAfrica

Thank you in advance for your involvement, and may God greatly bless you!

In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ,

Elizabeth Howell

The 12 Hours of Cornerstone: A (Belated) Christmas Parody

January 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

It was winter, 2010, and we three in the Medical Records department at Cornerstone Clinic for Women were running the daily gauntlet of locating patient charts. Our chosen theme song: U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. Hustle-and-bustle doesn’t begin to describe it. 4 days a week for 10, sometimes 12 hours, chart numbers buzzed through our heads and charts themselves miraculously disappeared before our eyes; “It was JUST there!” our constant refrain.

We dashed about, always searching, eventually finding, with only occasional success at stifling the yelp of joy that accompanied an actual discovery. All around us phones rang, patients waited, nurses nursed, schedulers scheduled, coffee brewed, and fax machines inevitably broke.

This was not an environment conducive to coherence, for us three anyway. Brains were scattered everywhere. Metaphorically. Under-breath mutterings of chart numbers and rushed half-sentences were expected of us as we prowled the halls and offices, perpetually on the hunt.

One day during a rare stroke of lucidity, a fellow MedRec (a.k.a. MedWreck) and I composed a parody of The 12 Days of Christmas that we hoped provided an accurate, light-hearted reflection of moment-to-moment life at the clinic.

We truly loved working there, and of course *always* remembered to look up and smile at the patients who made all our insanity worth every minute. Well, we tried. 🙂

This jovial, parodical offering goes out to all those who know and love that bastion of sound female fettle, Cornerstone Clinic for Women.

In the first hour of Cornerstone the clinic gave to me,
A cartridge in the mail machine!
In the second hour of Cornerstone the clinic gave to me,
2 coffee pots, and a cartridge in the mail machine!
In the third hour of Cornerstone the clinic gave to me,
3 MedRecs, 2 coffee pots, and a cartridge in the mail machine!
In the fourth hour of Cornerstone the clinic gave to me,
4 brain cells left, 3 MedRecs, 2 coffee pots, and a cartridge in the mail machine!
In the fifth hour of Cornerstone the clinic gave to me,
5 SCHEDULERS! 4 brain cells left, 3 MedRecs, 2 coffee pots, and a cartridge in the mail machine!
In the sixth hour of Cornerstone the clinic gave to me,
6 scanners scanning, 5 SCHEDULERS! 4 brain cells left, 3 MedRecs, 2 coffee pots, and a cartridge in the mail machine!
In the seventh hour of Cornerstone the clinic gave to me,
7 doctors running, 6 scanners scanning, 5 SCHEDULERS! 4 brain cells left, 3 MedRecs, 2 coffee pots, and a cartridge in the mail machine!
In the eighth hour of Cornerstone the clinic gave to me,
8 lines a-ringing, 7 doctors running, 6 scanners scanning, 5 SCHEDULERS! 4 brain cells left, 3 MedRecs, 2 coffee pots, and a cartridge in the mail machine!
In the ninth hour of Cornerstone the clinic gave to me,
9 charts a-missing, 8 lines a-ringing, 7 doctors running, 6 scanners scanning, 5 SCHEDULERS! 4 brain cells left, 3 MedRecs, 2 coffee pots, and a cartridge in the mail machine!
In the tenth hour of Cornerstone the clinic gave to me,
10 nurses nursing, 9 charts a-missing, 8 lines a-ringing, 7 doctors running, 6 scanners scanning, 5 SCHEDULERS! 4 brain cells left, 3 MedRecs, 2 coffee pots, and a cartridge in the mail machine!
In the eleventh hour of Cornerstone the clinic gave to me,
11 faxes faxing, 10 nurses nursing, 9 charts a-missing, 8 lines a-ringing, 7 doctors running, 6 scanners scanning, 5 SCHEDULERS! 4 brain cells left, 3 MedRecs, 2 coffee pots, and a cartridge in the mail machine!
In the twelfth hour of Cornerstone the clinic gave to me,
12 patients waiting, 11 faxes faxing, 10 nurses nursing, 9 charts a-missing, 8 lines a-ringing, 7 doctors running, 6 scanners scanning, 5 SCHEDULERS! 4 brain cells left, 3 MedRecs, 2 coffee pots, and a cartridge in the mail machine!

Courage, Brother! Do Not Stumble

January 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Part of my job today is flipping through a beautiful 1934 hymnal. 

Courage, brother! Do not stumble,
Though thy path be dark as night;
There’s a star to guide the humble;
“Trust in God, and do the right.”
Let the road be rough and dreary
And its end far out of sight;
Foot it bravely, strong or weary;
Trust in God,
Trust in God,
Trust in God and do the right.

Some will hate thee, some will love thee,
Some will flatter, some will slight:
Cease from man, and look above thee;
“Trust in God, and do the right.”
Courage, brother! Do not stumble,
Though thy path be dark as night;
There’s a star to guide the humble–
Trust in God,
Trust in God,
Trust in God and do the right.

(Rev. Norman Macleod, 1857)

A Heart to Go and Half a Mind to Stay

January 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

Moving from one home, state, or country to another is a strange amalgamation of hassle and excitement. It’s usually a big mess. Often an emotional one too. Still, if you’ve done it enough times the manual-labor aspect becomes second nature, and it’s easier to enjoy the creative and social opportunities that come along with such change. New ways to arrange the furniture, neighbors to meet, etcetera.

But at the age of 29 I have moved 15 times. Only 4 were state or transnational moves but combined with all of the apartment/house/city re-locations in between, I’ve always felt like somewhat of a nomad. You should see the pictures of me at 5 years old, standing by the “SOLD” sign on the front lawn of that little blue house on Bradley Street in St. Paul, my face red and puffy from crying. It was the second home I’d lived in but the first one I remembered. We were leaving the only church and friends I’d known and gallivanting off to “the land of fruits and nuts”: California. Since then, my memories have been compartmentalized into chunks according to what house we lived in, where. Minnesota for nearly 6 years (2 homes), Santa Clarita for 3 (2 homes), South Africa for almost 1 (3 homes), back to Santa Clarita for 6 (1.5 homes), to Lancaster for 3 (1 home), back to Santa Clarita again for 4 (college dorms), then Arkansas (5 homes)…

The longest I have resided in the same house is 6 years. But I did live in California a total of 17 years. Viewed that way, it really doesn’t seem so bad.

On the opposite of the spectrum from “not so bad” is the wonderful blessing that I’ve been able to visit 9 other countries. Visit lengths ranged from 4 hours to 9 months, and I am incredibly grateful to have seen so much of the world. That first international trip — moving to South Africa at the age of 8 — instilled in me a deep love for traveling. I love the atmosphere of an airport at 5:15 a.m., even when the lines are long. They’re great places to meet people too, all sorts. [We saw Jerry Mathers in the Phoenix airport (my dad spoke with him), and at LAX my sister and I “met” Kiefer Sutherland in the baggage claim when he tripped, bringing all three of us and our suitcases tumbling to the floor in a heap.]

More to the point. From the suburbs of Johannesburg to the delicious little Italian place on the Thames in London, from horseback-riding in the Jordanian desert to walking the magnificent halls of Pergamon Museum in Berlin, travel has lent real perspective to my worldview and led to wonderful friendships across the country and around the world. I’m very aware that these are not blessings granted to all who desire them, and I am extremely grateful to the Lord.

When it comes to the future, naturally I’ve often mulled over for what purpose God orchestrated my life this way. Of course there are the primary reasons of sanctification, character and personality development. I know He’s given me a desire to do some kind of Christian mission work and evangelism in foreign places, though my makeup is not such that I want to do so alone. Specifically in regard to future moves, I’ve wondered, is He preparing me for more? Or, knowing that He placed within me a love for travel and a certain enjoyment of change, could He perhaps have prepared me to be content with one place for the rest of my life? Sometimes I struggle with envy of those who’ve enjoyed an established home in the same area, near family, for many years. The homebody part of me really wants that, too. The positives and possibilities of both ways of life are clear to me. And I realize it doesn’t have to end up being one or the other; for all I know my future could simply be a mixture similar to what most Americans experience.

This summer, I realized I’d been in Little Rock for 6 years. Something about that gave me an inkling, a sneaking hunch that change should be on the horizon. But I have a great job, a comfortable little apartment shared with my sister (a situation which has vastly improved our relationship), an amazing church family, and many dear friends. Richly blessed! If God leaves me here, my heart would long for some get-up-and-go but I certainly would have no reason to complain.

If He picks me up and nudges me out the door again, well…bring it on. May I always seek His will first and pursue contentment with His plan.

Where Am I?

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