Worship on the Water

Outrageous Hope tour members worshiping and dancing on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee.


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God is Here

As I sat in the sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Beit Shour, a Roman Catholic Church in Palestine, I felt the presence of The Lord. I could not understand the Arabic language, I didn’t know what was being said in the liturgy, but I knew that God was there! I heard in my spirit a song by Martha Munizzi “God is Here”‘and I sung to myself. The lyrics: “I feel a sweet anointing in this sanctuary, I feel the Spirit in the atmosphere, come lay down the burdens you have carried for in this sanctuary God is here. He is here, He is here, to break the yokes and lift your heavy burdens, He is here, He is here, to heal the wounded hearts and bless the broken.” I have to imagine in the midst of this injustice, dispensed through an apartheid state that the people gather here to be living sanctuaries of hope. I have to imagine that as the song says that they that gather to hear The Lord speak. Their hope is in the risen Savior who carried our sins to the cross gives us hope in the midst of a fallen world. We can spend our time concentrating on the negative, being bitter, and angry, but the Word instructs us “to be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce God’s righteousness” (James 1:19-20). It is not to say that we should be passive and do nothing. Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10: 4) Our message and actions must reflect the ministry of hope and reconciliation. Psalm 34:15-17 says “the eyes of The Lord are on the righteous and His ears open to their cry. The face of The Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Intercessory prayer, placing our trust in the sovereign Lord,  is the first line of offense and defense ; it is the first response.

Being in that sanctuary brought me joy and gave me hope that trouble don’t last always. As I took holy communion my heart was joined with these believers. If I were at my church I would have been serving but it was nice to receive. I heard The Lord speak into my spirit, all are welcome at the His table, we are one in communion. After service we were warmly greeted and made welcome with Arabic coffee and small talk. I was struck by the community of believers, young and seasoned worshiping together being light was could be seen as a dark situation. I pray that our ministry of presence blessed them as much as I was blessed by encountering them.

— Beverly Moore

“This Can’t Be Life”

It’s Sunday here in the West Bank and today we went to worship at The Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church.  It was my very first Catholic service ever and although I was not able to speak Arabic I still enjoyed being in the service and participating in communion (yes, we were welcome to Holy Communion in a Catholic Church).  We also spent more time with the Salsa family and they provided lunch for us that was awesome.  This family has been so hospitable to us and I am so grateful and thankful for their kindness.

We also went to see the “Rabbi for Human Rights” Organization which continued to shed more light on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and it was great to hear from a Rabbi on the issue.  Although I am feeling particularly moved by the testimonies of those affected, I (and my colleagues) are trying to figure out what is the next move for this community of people?  All we continue to keep hearing is go and tell the story but what we are missing is the “movement” part of the ordeal that I think we’re looking for… the “So Now What?” part.  I am beginning to wonder if it’s because the Palestinian people are afraid of what the Israeli army may do if they try to organize again.  They have suffered many hardships and lost thousands of lives during the Second Intifada and I’m sure that crushed their spirits, but they still are trying to hold on to the little voice they have left in order to find some way towards freedom, even if its not for their generation but for their children and their children’s children.  They are holding on to the Hope that Change is coming!  In the famous words of the rapper Jay-Z, “This Can’t Be Life!  There’s Gotta Be More, This Can’t Be Us!,” I’m feeling the push of the community that wants more and is awaiting the day they no longer have to live under these current situations and political control.

Many of the people’s struggles here reminds me so much of the history of the Civil Rights Movement and how I wish, I so wish that the people of this country could at least have half of the freedom that we as African Americans fought for.  There’s lots to be done in the country to help free these people from the oppression they are under.  My heart breaks every time I hear someone tell me that they are “NOT ALLOWED” to go somewhere.  The Palestinian people need permission to leave out of the country, to expand their homes, to open a business and I’m not talking about the kind of “permission” we need in the US to start a business. It’s totally different.  I’ve seen so many buildings abandoned in the middle of a new project because they have been shut down for ‘building’ without a permit or not paying their taxes (which they would never be able to afford) and so their businesses are shut down.  I am amazed and completely humbled by the grace and hope the Palestinian people carry each and every day as they do what they can to live in the conditions in which they have minimal control over their own lives.  We in the US are blessed to have certain privileges that they do not have and we take those things for granted.  As I continue to wrestle with my spiritual self and humane self, I’m now asking God to help me understand the “Now What?” in this situation.  I’m praying as others are praying as well for an answer.

~HaLana Thompson

Why?

Why do the innocent suffer?  Why won’t the troubling cease? Why won’t my people listen?  Why can’t we all live in peace? Why did I take a class called Outrageous Hope from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary?  Why did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. say “Never lose infinite HOPE”? Why did I travel with Grace Tours and not EO (Educational Opportunities)?  Why did I decide to travel with a group of seminiarians?  Why did we spend most of our time in Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jericho and the West Banks?  Why was the cost $1,000 less with all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) included?  Why was the meeting with Archbishop Elias Chacour a blessing to me?  Why have I never met the International Christian Committee in Israel executive director in my 2 other trips to the Holy Land?  Why come people treat others people like they are less than human?  Why come I enjoyed being on the Sea of Galilee this time more than the two other times?  Why come I enjoyed staying in the Golden Crown Hotel in Nazareth and the Shepherd Hotel in Bethlehem more than I did the Olive Tree in Jerusalem?  Why does the Israeli-Palestine conflict look like, feel like, apartheid?  Why do Palestinians need a permit to leave the Gaza Strip or the West Bank?  Why should I, an African-American pastor from West Virginia be concerned about this issue?  Why am I am my brother’s keeper?

Jesus said if you did it to the least of them, you did it to me.

I believe and know that I took this class because Dr. King was right if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.

I don’t want the people of Palestine to lose Infinite HOPE.

I chose Grace Tours because it’s a justice and human rights issue for me.

I decided to travel with seminarians because I wanted to reconnect with Garrett after 25 years and I knew I would be blessed because I came.

We spend so much time in Nazareth, Jericho, Bethlehem, and the West Bank because I wanted to put faces on the issues, the pain, and their whole experience.

The cost issue is interesting because we are here two days longer and all the meals were included with Grace Tours.

Archbishop Elias Chacour has a heart for God’s people and I was blessed by his testimony.

It’s good to meet people to minister to the poor, the least, the lost.

The comfort of hotels is important but we should never place your comfort over people who are suffering.

I want to be on the right side on the justice issue because I am my brother’s keeper.

I have been called a trouble maker and I honestly consider it a compliment.

When I was in seminary in the 1980’s, apartheid was wrong in S. Africa and apartheid is wrong in 2014 in Israel.

Jeremiah Jasper

Palestinian Hospitality

It is important to make a note of the incredible hospitality we have received so far from Palestinians. Today we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the houses of the Salsa family. Half of our group ate with Rema and Phillip, the parents of our tour guides, Ramzi and Rafet. The other half enjoyed a meal prepared by the family of the third brother, Bashara.

Family is important here. Rafet and Bashara live with their families in flats above their parents. Rafet remarked that the whole town of Beit Sahour is like a family and Bashara said that he knew every family in town.

The fact that the Salsas welcomed us into their home has been only one example of Palestinian hospitality. Ramzi has made the extra effort to make sure that everyone in the group got what they needed from the drug store. We have also been welcomed graciously with delicious meals at Sindyana and Sabeel, two organizations that we met with.

I wish that more US citizens could experience Palestinian hospitality and go to church in Beit Sahour. Hopefully our blog can express what we’ve learned from these friends.

-Eddie Crise