Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people."

by Caryl Weinberg

We can hardly believe it is Monday night. We are halfway through our journey, though it feels as if we've been busy enough to fill three weeks. Our hearts and minds are spinning with the stories we've heard, the people we've met, the meals we've shared, cups of coffee and tea sipped, and words of immense hope, faith, courage and encouragement we've heard again and again from our Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers. This is an amazing part of the world where God is clearly active in the lives of people who love Christ and their neighbor.

On Sunday we worshipped at our sister church, the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem. Pastor Mitri Raheb preached from 1 Peter 5 (in Arabic), about the need for Elders to shepherd the flocks they've been given charge of, with humility and love. Susan Colten read Scripture and we sang and prayed, some each in English and Arabic. Don and Linda had arrived in Bethlehem during the service. So it was good to finally be all together.

Later on, we visited a Palestian family farm just outside of Bethlehem. Our guide, Alam, (meaning hope), told us of her family which has been Christian since the time of Christ. A member of the Christmas Lutheran Church, she expressed a deep faith through her words of hope and love, and her stories of perseverance and action. Her family farm, theirs since 1916, is now on the Israeli demolition list and is being decided in the courts right now. When Israeli soldiers attempted to overtake their land nearly 20 years ago, as a family they stood for 2 weeks in front of their gates. Through an amazing set of circumstances the Army relented. Alam's father then committed their farm to be a place where people of every race, faith and nation might come to learn about peace and reconciliation. He named the farm the "Tent of Nations".  Today the landscape has changed around the farm as they are surrounded on every hilltop by settlements.  Settlements have running water and electricity, as well as access to good roads free of road blocks. Only eight months ago, electricity was installed on Alam's, after their 98 years of living there. They still have only water in cisterns and are not free to drive from the road up to their home. Despite the difficulties, Alam speaks of the life in abundance that comes through Christ, and the hope that they have for Palestinians and Israelis to one day live in peace. "We are all humans. We are told to know and love our neighbors. The tent of Nations is here to help us do that."

Monday began with a tour of the International Center where we're staying. Angie, who first learned to play the bells as a young girl when the group from FPCE visited some years ago, led us around and told of all the incredible works going on through the ministries of Diyar Consortium of our sister church.  From there we toured several of the ministries located a short distance away. Visiting the Health and Wellness Center, we heard about many ministries including the Parish Nursing program which serves over 1,000 people with one nurse and several community workers. We learned about the older adults ministry and saw the clinics for endocrinology, audiology, psychotherapy, and more. And we met with the principal of the primary and secondary school (all in one), and toured some of the classrooms.

The theme throughout was hope. Whether talking about the need for hope for young Palestinians, or for those over 60, the dynamic, joyful staff and leaders spoke of their commitments to faith, their belief in God though Christ, their love for their homeland of Palestine and for all the people they serve. What we didn't hear were complaints or words of despair or hatred, rather a longing to live in peace and in freedom where everyone has the chance to thrive.

Switching gears, I will say that we just heard the news of Alan Borg's death this morning and were all very sad. We talked and spent some time in prayer for Joan, Peter, Alison and Stephen and all their family. We wish we could be with Joan now....But we trust that many are caring for her.

One thought as I think about the Palestinian situation and even the Borg's right now. Psalm 126 says "As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people." We trust that the same Lord surrounds the Palestinians as well as Joan, even now.

No comments:

Post a Comment