Family and good ground

‘Ahlan wa-Sahlan! I enjoy this familiar Arabic greeting when extended as
welcome by a host to a hotel, a shop, or to the home of a friend. Though a
simple expression, it reaches beyond the casual to real hospitality. It
means: “Family and Good Ground.” The idea in it is that the host invites a
sojourner to join in full membership with the family wherein safety, rest
and renewal abound. Family is a big deal in the Arab world. It constitutes
a shared experience of story and soil, blessed privileges and obligations
extending throughout and beyond this life.

In a quarter of a century of guiding groups in the middle east, I have
travelled often with the closest members of my family. My daughter and son
have come and look forward to the next time. And I shall not have sustained
my stamina and enthusiasm long had not my dearest friend, my wife,
accompanied me on many occasions. On this trip past, however, the
experience of family reached another dimension. Joining me for the first
time was my brother, a pastor from northwest Iowa, with his wife and some
really great folks from the surrounding area. I had not imagined how
meaningful it would be to be here with my brother for these days. Our love
and regard for one another was awakened amongst the sites and experiences of
this trip. And though we have seen one another rarely in recent years, we
found here together “family and good ground.”

I always encourage participants who plan to come without their loved ones to
consider the benefits of being in this holy land with family. I have often
seen relationships enriched, commitments reforged, lives repaired when
families find each other here. Indeed all of us discover a new heart with
and for one another in this land where God does His best work. This is not
surprising. It is He, after all, who is our Host here, welcoming us to
“family and good ground.”

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