As part of our work in the South Side, CLDI hosts college-age interns through a 9-month program called the Fellowship House. The Fellowship House seeks to recruit and encourage kingdom-minded, eternally focused disciples of Jesus Christ. Throughout the year, interns reside as neighbors in the South Side to love God and love others; work 35 hours/week with CLDI or one of our partner organizations; participate in weekly reading assignments and discipleship to learn more about practicing the ways of Jesus; and finally, the interns participate in an international exposure trip to see firsthand the work God is doing throughout the world. This March I was blessed to take our interns to spend time with a brother in Christ as he and his family seek to make disciples in Israel, specifically working with Palestinians. Upon our return, I asked each person to write a three-word description that described our trip, so read and enjoy!
Palestine: The trip was incredibly insightful to hear and learn first-hand the complexities of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. My eyes (and heart) have been opened to better understand the plight of the Arab people, both those in Israel as well as Palestine. Additionally, to meet, discuss, and interact with both Arab’s of Muslim and Christian background was a true blessings. I was struck by their common bond for the desire of ‘freedom’ and ‘liberation’. Something the gospel of Jesus directly addresses. May His Spirit move in the hearts of both Israeli and Palestinian people to come to know Jesus as Lord, the source of life, forgiveness, and ultimate shalom.
Arab-Grace: I was consistently amazed by the grace demonstrated by the Arab Christians given the challenges they face in their day to day life, simply because of their Arab heritage. Such believers as Y* and N* modeled amazing grace and Christ-likeness. Rather than responding to the oppression upon them in hatred and anger, they continue to humbly model the way of Christ, offering undeserved love and true grace.
Astounding Beauty: I was amazed by the beauty of the country. Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus, was a place of stunning splendor, as was the countryside of Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, and many other places. I will always distinctly remember Mount Arbel as the ‘hike’ very much reminded me of Montana and Wyoming.
Relationships: My favorite part of the trip was getting to meet and build relationships with some amazing people.
Knowledge: I gained some very cool knowledge that will change how I read the Bible and look at the modern world.
Short-Term Blindness: I opened my eyes in the Dead Sea and was temporarily blinded!
Insight/eye-opening:Phenomenal experience to be exposed to different cultures and glean a far better understanding then before about what is going on in that region of the world.
Encouraging:So incredible to have a brief window as to how God is moving in other parts of the world, connecting with other believers, continuing to grow my heart for people of every tribe, tongue, and nation.
Variety/depth:We got to see some amazing places (beautiful churches, historic sights, and gorgeous country). Better yet, we were able to spend time with some fantastic people (brothers and sisters in Christ, high school students, ministry leaders, a fellow lover of Montana and rad family, as well as what has got to be one of the sweetest Palestinian families).
Indescribable:I truly cannot find the words to adequately sum up what an amazing and encouraging experience this trip was. Traveling and experiencing the beauty and history of Israel while being graciously invited into the lives of those living in Israel/Palestine made for an impactful combination.
Eye-opening:Three ways. Exposure to a different culture and language excited me. Meeting individuals that love and follow Jesus in another culture/context encouraged me. Learning about the conflict in Israel from the perspective of Palestinians significantly altered any views I had regarding the conflict and those of Arab heritage.
Confusing:I left Israel with a great desire in my heart to return, which I was wholly unprepared for!
Beautiful: The land and country itself was far different than I expected. I was surprised by how green and lush it was. Granted we were there during the spring season and I understand it would get brown later, but nonetheless, it was beautiful. I really enjoyed the Galilee region, seeing the green rolling hills and the Sea of Galilee. One of my favorite places was on top of a small hill where Jesus may have given the Sermon on the Mount. Seeing the empty green field and looking out over the sea was truly beautiful. I loved the opportunity to get out and hike, drive, walk, and experience the country in many different ways.
Relational: I really enjoyed getting to tour the country and see places that have significance, but for me one of the top highlights of the trip was the opportunity to interact with different people, to be able to ask questions, and hear about the lives of people who live in Israel. I really loved getting to know some of the high school students in Nazareth and to hear about their lives. Having the opportunity to sit with a group of 20 or so high school Arab students as they sang worship songs and studied the Bible was an impacting experience. Also, spending time with Y* and his family was absolutely amazing. It was beautiful to see the life of an Arab Christian pursuing Jesus and loving others in his community. To hear the stories of things that have happened in his life and in his ministry gave me a great respect for him and a better understanding of the struggles of following Jesus in Israel. There are many Arabs who love and follow Jesus in Israel and the interactions we were able to have on this trip really opened my eyes to the importance of supporting the Church, especially in Israel.
Eye Opening: Because of our interactions with Arab Christians, and the lecture we attended at Bethlehem Bible College, I feel like I have a different perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in Israel. Getting to talk with the Arab Christians and to hear their stories and struggles living in Israel really opened my eyes to the oppression they are under. One of the most impacting things for me regarding Arab oppression was having to walk through a check point to enter Jerusalem. Standing next to the wall built around the city to keep Arabs out, being herded through the check point as cattle, and seeing the racial discrimination gave me small feeling of what Arabs must feel regularly on a greater scale. I felt very devalued, untrustworthy, and shameful. I could really understand why people living under this oppression would react with anger and aggression; they are seeking justice. This also gave me a greater respect for Y* and those like him who are filled with grace and forgiveness.