Wednesday and Thursday

Trip Start Jan 08, 2008
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Trip End Mar 18, 2008


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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dear Family & Friends,
We want to share with you our Wednesday & Thursday.  We are a day late because we took a little time off to celebrate Valentines Day.  On Wed. we spent most of the day reading and writing.  We both were able to catch up on our disciple work.  We consider ourselves cyber-students.  We did get to the market to get a few things and went home to prepare our dish for the pot luck Lenten service.  Each Wednesday in Lent the Lutheran Church has a service and a meal at one of the member's homes.  This one was at the home of the head of the Lutheran World Federation in the Holy Land.  He & his wife live across from the Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mt of Olives.  We took a city bus to get there.  There was about 20 people at the service.  It was a simple service lasting about 25 minutes.  There were 4 young people there who provided music.  The room we met in was a high ceiling domed room so the sound was incredible.  Our singing sounded just great and the musicians were a wonderful addition to the service.  We ate after the service in different parts of the house.   Jolene and I ate with a doctor that has been here 4 years and though she has no official sponser, she is, in the true sense of the word, a medical missionary.  She has an official PO box but she lives in three different places (Bethlehem, Jericho, Jerusalem). She practices mainly in Bethlehem, and Gaza.  She is from Great Britain.  Nancy is one of the interesting people we have been privileged to meet here.  Supper was a mixture of salads, soup and chili (very hot). We have found that being a part of this diverse congregation has been an unexpected blessing.  I have always believed that if we have an attitude of expectation that God will bring to us possibilities, then we will find many unexpected blessings in life.  This is one of the reasons I enjoy being a local pastor of a congregation -because the people provide unexpected blessings- as you all have to us.
On Thursday we went to Bethlehem.  Jolene has been there before, but this was the first time for me.  Musa, our cab driver, took us to Herodion- a palace of Herod, the Shepherd's fields, the Church of the Nativity, and finally to the school that Jolene goes to in Bethlehem. 
Herod built this palace/fortress as summer place.  Before it was built, Herod had the top of the hill taken off so he would have a flat place to build.  This may have been what Jesus was referring to when he told his disciples, "If you had faith as much as a mustard seed you could move this mountain".  Jesus was using an example of a seemingly impossible task to show His disciples that if a human can take off the top of a hill then you with Gods' help can move a whole mountain.  The Shepherd's fields is the place tradition says the shepherds were watching their sheep at night when Jesus was born. It was a bit of a distance from there to the Church of the Nativity. This Church ( you can see in the picture how small the door is) is the place that Helena (Constintine's mother) was told by the residents that Jesus was born.  This took place in about 323 C.E.  Right next to the Church of the Nativity is the Church of St. Joseph.  Under this church are a series of caves that were used by Christians as a place of study.  St. Jerome translated the Bible in these caves.  You can see in the video clip worshipers in the cave. 
We finished our day by going to a school class that had a guest speaker from the Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center.  He talked to the kids (11th graders) about self-esteem, honoring your heritage, and living in peace with others.  It was very well done and we noticed that when the kids talked about who they were they did not make a distinction between being a Christian or Muslim.  They saw themselves as people.  These were very sharp kids and I hope they become political leaders in their country some day. The School's action plan involves 5 C's: Christianity, Communication, Cooperation, Conflict resolution & Community. The school is teaching these areas while it is teaching the basics of general learning.  The school is a place where these 5 C's are acted out in all they do.  As we were leaving, we saw some after school ping pong taking place.  It was fun to watch and hear the kids as the played, talked and laughed (all in Arabic). Their parents came to pick them up in a driving rain. It made for a very confusing time- I loved it! 
The only down side of he day was our first view of the Wall constructed to keep in the folks in Bethlehem.  We have been to the city before, but never saw anything like the wall.  I know that the Israeli government is concerned about weapons and armed men coming into Israel to cause trouble.  But, I also see how it has turned the city into a giant prison.  It does not matter whether one is Christian or Muslim - for everybody it is hard to get out of the city to go to work in Jerusalem or just out to your fields.  Musa's son had to leave a university he was studying at because he could not get through the check points in time to get to class and take tests.  He is now in a university in Bethlehem, but it does not have engineering, which is what he wanted to study.  These people need peace so that they can make a living.  Musa kept saying that, "if peace comes it will be a wonderful place to live".  The governments (that is the radicals in the governments) need to chill out and let people live
I want to end on another high note.  Hospitality is held in high value among the folks we have been introduced to.  A shop we went to first offered us tea and coffee before we started looking at something to buy.  We went to lunch with Musa.  It was falafel and hummus and an assortment of vegetables. At lunch we received a lesson in thanksgiving.  We wondered if we should offer a prayer - not knowing if Musa was Muslim or Christian. Before we decided what to do, Musa prayed.  Of course, we had to ask him what he said and he told us he was asking God to bless the meal. We told Musa that we would like to buy his meal, but he had already taken care of it. Musa has 6 children (we met 2) and he drives cab for a living.  He said he wanted to go to university but he was only able to go to 9th grade because he said he was "unlucky".  I think that means that circumstances forced him into work early.  This man, with a ninth grade education, knows three languages and a lot about current times.  He, like a number of people we have met, are very bright-they just have not had the opportunities or family circumstances have forced them into jobs they are over qualified for. 
We enjoyed being in Bethlehem and seeing how hope has not been extinguished.  Even after all the years of disappointment and loss of freedom, people still have hope and believe that God is still alive and with us.  The words of Paul in Romans 8 come to me, "There is nothing in all of Creation that will separate us from the love of God".
We may be far away from you in miles, but not in spirit!
Peace!
Michael and Jolene
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Comments

dguild
dguild on

Wednesday and Thursday
Hi Mike and Jolene,
I just wanted you to know that we are thinking of you and keeping you in our prayers. Amazing to read about and see some of the things you are experiencing. One doesn't get the same sense of the wall in Bethlehem from reading the newspaper or watching TV. Your travels are expanding our lives, too. We can ride right along with you and Musa--well, almost! Though, of course, usually we must think of walking along with you, not riding.
Take care, be safe.
Love, Debbie and all Guilds
P.S. My heart goes out to the teachers and students who must make-do with so few resources.

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