I'm returning to Israel/Palestine with 2011's NCC Mission Team. I have been reflecting quite a bit lately about last year's mission and the things God taught me in the Holyland. I thought I'd share a few of my answers.
What did I really enjoy about the trip?
~The unity. I think Pastor Dave and his wife, Kate, did a beautiful job shaping out the unity that the Holy Spirit was pouring into our group. I know it was exhausting, but the intentionalism with which they kept us together in prayer, worship, and celebration was the highlight for all of us. I think the biggest lesson of I/P was that we really are the Church - one Church. No matter our background, political persuasion, age. That is if we agree to be who Christ has called us to be.
~Personally, I loved being in the middle of it all, so close to the heart of Jerusalem. The bustle, yet the peace of the White Sisters hostel where we stayed. Sharing every meal around the same table together. I loved visiting all of the sites and am anticipating taking in new things this year. I can't explain what it is like to worship with a persecuted church. With people that are in hiding from their families because they believe in Jesus. What pain and loss flavors their joy in Christ.
~Not many words about spending two days in the Refugee Camp. But I left with a holy sense of a need, not desire, to return. To really see the Palestinians. To really see the Israelis. To see and to love.
What would I want to do more/less of?
~Again, back to the schedule...I think the order of the trip was perfect. Especially the first couple of days and ending at the Sea of Galilee. Essential was the time for reflection and worship - that was key to the experience. That said, I think listening to speakers in the evenings - an Imam, an Orthodox Rabbi, a married couple who followed Jesus, Rabbis for Peace - was the only way to hear their voices, but I think we missed an opportunity for real growth as a community by not being able to process what we learned. Maybe next time we could begin the day as a group reflecting on the conflict/peace talks from the previous night before we start out for the day?
~I feel like I missed out on a lot during the Settlement day. I think we were exhausted by that day and the tour just seemed too long. But I think this perspective is only because of where the tour fell in the week - I would love to go again.
~Jericho was a bust for me truthfully-I didn't need to see the Zacchaeus tree, though the picture of Mark with a headdress on was worth it . I kept wanting to see where the Jordan was in relation to the city. What I would have liked is to see it from above - get a perspective on crossing out of the desert and into the promised land.
~Galilee was perfect. I can't really describe what God did on this trip, but Galilee represents peace. Wild revelers, party music, and hooka while we camped in the middle of it all did nothing but confirm in me that God is passionately in love with his creation and that I have been gifted with a chance to love in His way. Back to back sleepless nights - bring it on!
What do I want my role to be, in returning to I/P?
1. I would like to put together a devotional that prepares the team for the pilgrimage portion of the trip. I would like to put together the historical background on each site, the biblical references and personal reflection/application questions. The team could use this before traveling to I/P or while on site. I would also like to put a reflection "book" together from 2010's team. I'd like to ask people to send me journal entries/thoughts on The Mount of Olives, The Garden, The Western Wall, Bethlehem, The Sea of Galilee, etc. I'm not clear right now if the reflections would be part of the devotional or not. I think reflections from the team will be a valuable addition to perspective, but I also think people should have the chance to experience without influence.
2. I'd also like to put together a book drive for the kids in the refuge camp and at the orphanage for girls. This seems so simple to me, like it's maybe not a lasting offering, but last year when the kids at the camp had the chance to take things from the suitcases, it was the books they wanted. They learn English at the community center, so I'd like to collect as many books as I can so that some can be at the center and the children can take one home to own. I don't know how we explained the gifts we brought in last year. I already have people in Utah that want to be part of this and haven't spoken to anyone here yet, but imagine this will garner a lot of support.
3. Whatever my role, last year was an entrance to a different life-stage for me. I've been in the mentoring role before, but God claimed my heart for listening, hearing, encouraging and "doing life" with the Mosaic and Buster generations - the 20-30 yr olds. I'm not claiming age and wisdom over those I traveled with, but I do have a great desire to do what I can to speak into the lives of this generation of believers that faces the challenges of not only apathy towards the church, but an open dislike/hostility towards it and a stubborn, resistant clinging from many older "insiders" to not change how we "do church". Obviously I have no more clarity than that - maybe you do? I'm an encourager by His design and would love to be part of the encouragement team. That said - my gifts are listening, talking, hugging - I'm not very fun! Amanda, I think your's and Adrienne's shoes are too big to fill though. Use me however you think will glorify God.
And finally, thoughts for the next blog. Understanding the difference in Watching for Jesus and Watching with Jesus.
~I'm moving from watching for Jesus to watching with Jesus. Sure, I'm always going to watch for him. But I think we as Christians, especially American Christians, can be very focused on watching for the work Jesus does IN us. He called his closest friends to go with him in his darkest hour and watch WITH him. Both are essential for my spiritual health and growth. I think on the I/P trip I learned to watch with Jesus better. I remember walking through the crowded city after the Garden and talking with Pastor Dave about this great melting pot of Jews, Muslims, Christians, pilgrims. I believe God is in control. I believe He has a plan at all times. And I believe it's in the watching with him - watching the people, their actions, their pain, their celebration - that I have the best understanding of what hope is and how to offer it.
"Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." Matthew 26:38
I'm heading back to I/P in April. I have a lot of watching to do in the meantime. Looking forward to sharing those thoughts soon.
"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." Psalm 27:13,14
Blessings Favored One!