The Bible Came Alive

 

St. Peter's Fish meal at the Mount of Beattitudes

St. Peter’s Fish meal at the Mount of Beattitudes

July 8

Today was an incredible day. We visited many key areas that are in the Bible. Today for me the Bible came alive. It was a great day to ask myself some ‘I wonder’ questions, such as I wonder what the energy in the crowd would have been like. We visited Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine. We even got to taste some wine and imagine what it would have been like to be present for this miracle. We visited the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus first called his disciples. As I dipped my feet in the water, I wondered about what new things Jesus was calling me to, and how to follow him when I return home. The Sea of Galilee was a great place to think about how Jesus invites me to follow him every day and what that invitation can look like. We visited the Church of the Primacy of Peter and Capernaum where Jesus lived. I enjoyed seeing Capernaum where one of my favorite Bible stories took place, the healing of the paralytic man. We visited Tabgha, and had lunch at the Mountain of Beatitudes.

My favorite place to visit was the Mount of Beatitudes. It was so beautiful and peaceful there. As we ate Peter’s fish and enjoyed one another’s company at the table, there was a real sense of Christian community and love. During our time of reflection on the Mount of Beatitudes I was wondering around marveling at God’s creation when I stumbled upon a plaque that read, ‘Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink, whoever believes in me as scriptures says, rivers of living water flow from within him’.  Beside this plaque was a beautiful fountain, and this created a lovely and powerful image for me. It made me think of those who have gone before us and the amazing rivers that flowed from them, rivers of love, perseverance, faith, courage, and hope. It also made me wonder how we too can have vibrant rivers flowing from within us.

Today was a very unique experience for me and when I read the Bible stories that took place in these villages I will always have these memories and images. Although most of the villages now are rather empty these stories are still important to us today. The Sea of Galilee where Jesus first called his disciples, leads to Him then commissioning them to go out and teach others. These stories remind us of the equality, justice, and peace that Jesus lived and taught. They remind us of the kingdom He continuously shared.

Whitney Pyche Melanson, St. Andrew’s Dartmouth, NS

Heather beneath a not-so-cursed fig tree on the Mount of Beattitudes

Heather beneath a not-so-cursed fig tree on the Mount of Beattitudes

Journey to Nazareth

prayer outside children's prison

prayer outside children’s prison

July 7
Today we left Bethlehem. It sad to say goodbye to the friends we’ve met. I’ll really miss some of those people. Now we’ve started the post-conference and though I miss some people, it’s nice to be a smaller group. We think we’re about forty people.
Today we drove through a check point. Because we were all internationals we just drove through. My friend beside me pointed out that if that’s all we ever saw of checkpoints, we wouldn’t think they were a big deal at all.
We stopped at Jerusalem for some falafel at the Sabeel office. Finally I got falafel! Then we were back on the bus. As we drove along Omar (our leader) said “look, children are playing.” There were about six young children playing in a very small cage/cell like structure. We were passing a prison where they keep children. We pulled in and got out. I couldn’t believe we were doing this! A soldier came down and Omar in his brave humour invited him to join us and said we’d use the loud speaker in case he wanted to hear us. We formed a circle, sang, and prayed for the children. It was really moving and I invite everyone to pray for the children and that the hearts of the soldiers and interrogators may be changed.
Once we arrived at Nazareth we went to The Church of the Annunciation where Mary is believed to have lived. All that remains is a store house built out of a cave. It was a really gorgeous church. Though it’s hard to be sure of the exact spot, Narareth was really tiny 2000 years ago so you can’t be far off! Our second stop was a church built around Nazareth’s only spring, so we know Jesus got his water here. There was a place to drink from it and that was really powerful. I drank from the same spring Jesus did!
After checking into a convent we had a pretty relaxing night. We finally got to do laundry! It was so good to relax and reflect. I think about what the church is called to do. In scripture, when asked “what does the Lord require of you?” The first response is “To seek justice.”  So the question becomes, how do we, in love, seek justice here?

Amy Kemp, Chalmers PC London ON

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The Last One

Practicing the flash mob at 'The Castle' museum and cultural centre in Bethlehem.

Practicing the flash mob at ‘The Castle’ museum and cultural centre in Bethlehem.

Sat. July 6
Today was the last day of the conference portion of our trip and we went
out with a bang.

We traveled to Jerusalem and once again went through the checkpoint
together as a group to show our solidarity with our new Palestinian friends. It was a poignant moment for me because a few of our new friends could not join us as they do not have permits to visit Jerusalem and would
have been sent back at the checkpoint.

This particular visit made me feel guilty, because as we were joyfully
singing “We Shall Overcome” and “We Are Marching” and entertaining the young Israeli soldiers, I couldn’t help but think about how much our absent
comrades would have loved and appreciated that moment. It was heartbreaking
to watch the Palestinians in front of us show their papers to the guards
hoping to be let through while I barely flashed my passport and walked
through the turnstile freely.

Here these people are, losing their liberty to roam freely across their
homeland, and I was complaining about losing my earrings to the screening
machine, it was a very humbling experience.

The reason we went to Jerusalem was to participate in a flash mob in
Damascus Gate. It was a thrilling experience, I was dancing right next to
our instrumental accompaniment and the energy alive in the square was
amazing. People could tell something was going on when we started running
in and clapping along with the drumming. At first it was a bit intimidating
to join in with the vocal portion of our dance, but I realized that it was
the least I could do for the friends we couldn’t bring with us through the
checkpoint. The flash mob was a huge success and I felt very proud of what
we had done. As we made our way through the crowd to regroup I could hear
people calling out to us, recognising we were part of the flash mob. It was
an amazing feeling.

We had some free time in Jerusalem and Heather, Whitney and I went to visit
St Andrew’s Church of Scotland in Jerusalem. It was fascinating to see the
roots of our church in the Holy Land (even if many of our own churches are
older than St Andrew’s which was built after WWI) and it’s comforting to
see how similar things are here compared to home.

We have another few days here left to explore the Holy Land with a smaller
group of people, but many of our friends have already left and more will be
leaving tonight and tomorrow. It’s hard to say goodbye not only because I
know I won’t see most of these new friends again but because the people
here already understand what I’ve seen and it’s going to be hard to tell
the people in my community about Palestine without that support system to
fall back on. I will have to make use of my new connections and friends
when I return. Jasmine Nathaniel, Chalmers PC, London ON

Whitney and Jasmine at the gate of the Presbyterian church in Jerusalem

Whitney and Jasmine at the gate of the Presbyterian church in Jerusalem

 

 

 

We Shall Overcome

soldier's tower overlooking the wall with Israeli condos in the background

soldier’s tower overlooking the wall with Israeli condos in the background

04 July 2013

Today, we spent eight hours rebuilding a house that has been demolished seven time. On the way to the house, we marched through the check point singing “We Shall Overcome”. At first, I was not perfectly comfortable to do so. In my understanding, marching and singing seem to have the connotation of declaring war. “How are the Israelis going to feel?” I thought. I was afraid they might feel threatened and get the wrong message. We are here for peace and reconciliation and peaceful solutions between two beautiful peoples. I had been concerned that while protesting against the bad policies executed by the government, we might lose focus on why we are here.

And it turned out that I got a totally different understanding about this protesting. The Israeli soldiers did not look offended. In fact, they looked pretty interested; some of them hummed with us, even took out their phones to videotape. I am not sure what is unsaid in smiles, perhaps they are just amused; but perhaps there is one of them who smiles because the beating of our songs echoes the beating of his or her heart under the machine gun on the green uniform. Perhaps our voices have been an encouragement to someone.

This is not a fight for Palestinians against Israelis. People’s lands are taken or occupied illegally, and they should have it back, that’s it. along with their freedom and dignity.   This is a fight for the Palestinians, the Israelis, and all of us in the world to overcome injustice and to have the audacity to hope. “We shall overcome…We are not afraid… Truth shall set us free… ” the policies are actually trying to build a monstrous image of both sides and make the people feel that they are justified to hurt each other. We shall all overcome the fear and strife for the truth; we shall all overcome the particular mindset that the authority tries to tell us it is the absolute truth. Nobody should be expropriated of the right of getting to know the others as how they truly are and fall in love with them. This God given gift is beautifully divine and sacred. “We walk hand in hand… We shall live in peace…”

LiPeng Wang, Taiwanese Robert Campbell, Montreal QC

 

LiPeng singing a traditional Taiwanese song at the talent show.

LiPeng singing a traditional Taiwanese song at the talent show.

 

 

A Leadership Challenge

The whole team ready for our third day of volunteer work (Amy Kemp, Whitney Pyche Melanson, Jasmine Nathaniel, LiPeng Wang, Heather Paton)

The whole team ready for our third day of volunteer work (Amy Kemp, Whitney Pyche Melanson, Jasmine Nathaniel, LiPeng Wang, Heather Paton)

The house at Tent of Nations on Day 1

The house at Tent of Nations on Day 1

 

Friday July 5

Out into the dusty hills we ventured for our third and final day of house building.  I went to the ‘Tent Of Nations” site which is a farm/land owned by a Palestinian family that is working for peace and justice.  The land is surrounded by Israeli settlements that want to turn the ‘Tent Of Nations’ into a settlement too.  Even though the Nassar family has held the ownership papers for their land for centuries, because it is in area C of the West Bank it is illegal for them to build on the land.  So as an act of resistance (and survival), they are building underground.  There are caves throughout this hillside that are being turned into homes.  Our team had helped build the walls and roof with cement, cinderblocks and rocks and on this final day the roof was being completed by pouring the gravelly cement onto the top of the roof.  Another part of the team was responsible for drilling and clearing out a cistern to hold water for the farm.

Not only was this difficult physical labour with the sun beating down on us as we lugged bucket after bucket of heavy cement up onto the new roof, it was emotionally demanding as well.  Throughout the week there wasn’t always enough jobs for everyone to do since there were so many conference participants keen to help out.  A lot of the day involved waiting around to be told what to do or watching the ‘experienced’ people do most of the work.  At first I found this incredibly frustrating.  As someone often in charge of organizing events like this I wanted to make sure everyone knew what their job was or at least when they would have a job (especially since I’m not keen on the whole mission work project thing in the first place).  I wanted everyone to feel like they were contributing even if they couldn’t lift heavy buckets or shovel stones.  But since I wasn’t in charge  I had to let go of my expectations of what was the right way to do things and relax.  I know this laid back attitude is crucial for any kind of mission experience but when I am on little sleep and no solo time, fully letting go is a challenge for me.    By this third day, however, I was able to find my place and appreciate the inclusive rhythm that had established itself.  It was a process of learning that efficient wasn’t always needed to be communally productive. Sometimes we used a line of five people to do what two people could do.  It involved being very patient for my turn and sometimes giving my turn to others.  It involved a lot of understanding that people were just trying to help as much as possible even when it seemed like they were being pushy or selfish.

 

By the end of the day we had most of the roof at the ‘Tent of Nations’ complete and the house at the other site was finished too.  We had a great sense of accomplishment and solidarity as we felt like we were a part of the resistance taking place in this land.  I also learned a value leadership lesson about trusting the awkward process and letting the Spirit work even in my frustrations.

To celebrate we shared in a beautiful banquet at a cultural centre in Bethlehem followed by learning one dance and enjoying the traditional dances of others.

Rev. Heather Paton South Nissouri/Dorchester PCs, Thames Ctr ON

LiPeng and team moving buckets of gravel to spread on the top of the house.

LiPeng and team moving buckets of gravel to spread on the top of the house.

The house at Tent of Nations on day 3.

The house at Tent of Nations on day 3.

 

Working Hard

house reconstruction at Beit Arribeya

house reconstruction at Beit Arribeya

 

July 3

Today was our first day of volunteer work in the surrounding communities. We went to Jerusalem and helped a family rebuild their home for the 7th time. It has been demolished by the Israeli army 6 times already. We had to get off the bus at one point and go through an Israeli checkpoint by foot. This was like no other experience I have ever had. The family whose home we were rebuilding made us a delicious lunch, they were incredible hosts. We then returned to the hotel for supper and Bible study. The evening was ended with a wonderful talent show. Various individuals and groups from the conference got up and shared a song of dance from their home countries. It was amazing to see all the talent and have a taste of some of the many cultures present here in Palestine.

Whitney Pyche Melanson St. Andrew’s Dartmouth, NS

Where Our Lord Was Born

DSCN3740

July 2, 2013

Today began with sessions on environmental sustainability, human rights, and economic justice. I think everyone agrees the human rights talks were most engaging. The first man, Gerald, spoke about the violations of human rights pertaining to how young Palestinian children are treated in the justice system. Young boys ( and I mean young, the boy I met yesterday at the refugee camp was only eleven) are attested in the middle of the night, often not knowing why they’ve been arrested, zip tied, blindfolded, and thrown onto the metal floor of the truck. Many boys report being kicked, slapped, and punched. They’re thrown to the ground and left for hours in the elements until the interrogators start work. A confession is forced out often through threats and sometimes violence. The Israeli soldiers are not required to prove the charges. One in four Palestinian males spend time in Israeli prisons and these children and people are left severely traumatized.

After lunch we headed to the Church of the Nativity. It is the oldest church in the world and the place Jesus was born. To be honest it was pretty surreal and I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I did feel a great deal of joy and gratitude as I stood where the stable was. It’s amazing to think that’s where my Lord was born!

Most of our afternoon was spent with a family. We were all taught how to make stuffed grape leaves. I was with five others at the home of Kabkal. She’s is a lovely woman with a beautiful family. We went into her garden to pick grapes leaves and then learned how to roll them with rice, tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices. It was so much fun and so delicious! We all exchanged information on our cultures and laughed at the now absurd notion that anyone would be afraid of these people and this place. I admit I was, but really the people are so kind and welcoming and I feel completely safe here. It’s a beautiful place.

After dinner we came back. Some people performed a resistance song from south Africa. It was beautiful and soon we all joined in and sang and danced. Then we had bible study and debriefing and now it is time to sleep!

Amy Kemp, Chalmers PC, London ON

Amy with her host family among the grape leaves

Amy with her host family among the grape leaves

Incredible, Eye-Opening and Exhausting

July 1 2013

My day started about 1.5 hours after arriving at the hotel. I only managed
to sleep for about 15 minutes before I was woken up for breakfast.   I realized I
was too excited for what awaited that I wanted to jump right into the
conference and wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep

Our morning was filled with welcoming speeches from Sabeel and Diakonia
staff and some top level information about the conflict in West Bank.

Our first glimpse came from Cedar Duaybis who was forced to leave her home in Haifa
to make way for Israeli settlements in 1948.  Cedar explained to us the personal struggles she has had to overcome  throughout the occupation such as losing her national identity and her crisis of faith when the Bible was used to justify the oppression she had to face.
This is how Sabeel came to be when Palestinian Christians had to reconcile their faith with the Occupation.

Our next speaker was a woman named Catherine Cook who works for the U. N.
And gave us a 2 hour overview of the events, statistics and legislation
that were related to the Occupation.
After lunch we split into three groups to go on exposure trips visiting
various locations throughout the Bethlehem area.

My group visited the Aida Refugee Camp which borders part of the Separation
wall. We spoke with one of residents of the compound and had another
resident give us a tour. As we walked around he explained the art that has
been drawn onto the Wall and other buildings. As with all the other
Palestinians I have met, he was very knowledgeable about the history of the
people and the land and shared how his grandfather had to take his family
and leave their home in 1948. He went to the refugee Camp and took a week
to rest and when he went to go back to his home the next week we was told
to rest another week. Eventually the tents in the camp became block cement
buildings and the residents of the camp consider themselves there only
temporarily, waiting to return home.

After our visits we visited the YMCA which keeps a “Shepherds’ Field” and
we sat there for worship where we sang together and had our first bible
study. Because of our location, we discussed the Shepherds who visited baby
Jesus according to Luke and tied it in with our own journeys to this
Festival. We heard from people coming from Sweden, Australia, Brazil, Costa
Rica, the US and of course Palestine. And that was just my group.

Finally we walked back to Bethlehem, chatting with our new friends from all
over the world and taking a bus back to the hotel.

By the time we returned I was exhausted not only from not sleeping or
walking, I was overwhelmed by the amount of information I
had received throughout the course of the day. I was overwhelmed by the
incredibly different ways Israelis and Palestinians live, not just
culturally but their quality of life, and infrastructure that’s been put in place.

It was an amazing first day, we saw many things and learned a lot about
what the Occupation looks like. I am eager to learn more and to share what
I’ve seen.

Jasmine Nathaniel, Chalmers PC London Ontario

the separation wall stretches 700 km

the separation wall stretches 700 km

 

 

Ahlan Wa Sahlan (welcome)

DSCN3755

On June 29th five participants from the PCC embarked on a journey to Palestine/Israel to participate in Sabeel’s Global Young Adult Conference called Moving Mountains: Reshaping The World.  Young adults from 38 different countries have gathered in the holy
city of Bethlehem to learn about Palestine, participate in activism and celebrate our faith.  Thanks for joining us on the journey