July 10, 2009
We would like to share with you just a glimpse of our Youth Leader’s Training Seminar that took place in Turkey. And, we would like to thank you for your prayers as God has truly united these youth workers with his Spirit.
Conferences are very difficult to predict. Musalaha conferences are even more difficult to predict. Bringing a small number of people with diverse backgrounds together is a risk, but a good one. Therefore, I’ve learned to attend those conferences without any expectations. Our youth leader’s training seminar in Turkey was no exception. So, I was ready for any surprises, whether good or bad.
Meeting with people you have never met before at the airport throws you into a “battle” that heeds no previous warning. You’re forced to greet everyone. There is no hiding behind your friends or parents and you’re committed to being involved until the end of the trip. Usually, it takes people 2-3 good days before they begin opening up to one another; this conference was an exception. Both Israelis and Palestinians started having deep conversations with each other from the time we landed in Ephesus as we were driving to the retreat center. As we arrived lunch was served. The food was simple and delicious. Nothing was wasted; no one complained that they did not have enough. Conversations continued through lunch time.
The first full day of the conference is the one that gives you the 'feeling' of it – which was the second day. You can see whether people are getting along with each other. You can sense how dedicated they are to the program.
The second Musalaha session was about breaking down the wall of separation (Eph 2:11-22). Before getting to that, I have to say that I suffer from what I call the novice-teacher complex. I always think that what I have prepared will not fill the assigned time for a certain lecture, or, in this case, a session. So, I prepared a lot of questions. Our discussions were so deep and intense that we only dealt with two questions. The first one was: What was the wall that Jesus abolished between Jews and Gentiles? And, the second: Are we building another wall, and if so, what is it made of?
To answer the second question we formed two groups, one Israeli and one Palestinian. The groups had to write down the walls that exist in their societies, walls the people in their societies build and walls that the other society builds. I took it for granted that everyone understood the assignment. While the Palestinian team completed the assignment correctly and quickly, the Israelis understood that the assignment was what were the walls as believers. They could not come up with a concrete answer because in Christ there should not be any walls. I consider this my fault as I was not clear in explaining this. I should’ve said what are the barriers and/or obstacles that exist within our societies.
However, I had a feeling of sadness, more than a feeling of anger. It is painful to realize how many walls exist within our society. But, because of this realization and discussion together with our brothers and sisters from the other side we were able to grow closer together. We belong to the family of God and in this family we are not looking for someone to blame, but instead, ways of restoring this relationship. We wrapped up this session by saying that what we are doing in this kind of conferences (i.e. meeting, talking, praying, playing, and eating together) is an important step toward tearing down, or at least living with, all kinds of barriers, obstacles, and walls.
On our last day we went to ancient Ephesus. It was not an easy job to follow Murat’s (our Turkish guide) very fast English. But this was my second time there (in Ephesus), so I was able to grasp more of what he was saying. The place was awesome. It had remnants of a parliamentary building, a Roman bath, a public bathroom, ancient library and a mass amphitheater. Still the best part was the group itself. But, after touring around for a couple of hours we were hungry. Murat took us to a very nice restaurant, BUT made us watch a carpet exhibition at the same place. This wasted another hour or so from time we didn’t have. This, as far as I’m concerned was the worst part of the entire trip.
But, many relationships were formed and I only hope those relationships will make a difference in the body of Christ in the Holy Land.
We are thankful that God provided us an opportunity to train youth leaders and scratch the surface as to tearing down barriers and dealing with our obstacles. The success of this conference reinforces our ministry. We are grateful for your prayers and hope to share more about this trip in our upcoming newsletter.
By Pierre Tannous
Youth Leader Seminar Instructor
God has been doing an amazing work in Bethlehem as we just completed the first of our three summer camps. Despite a number of illnesses by children and counselors the camp was still full and we had a productive and effective time. Please keep our next two camps in prayer – our camp for Israeli and Palestinian children which will take place the week of July 20. We will also be hosting another Palestinian children’s day camp in Zebabdeh the week of July 27. We ask for strength for the leaders and that God would use these camps to minister to the children as they study the life of the prophet Daniel.
Please uplift the Palestinian, Israeli and Norwegian young adults who will be participating at the bridgbuilders conference in Norway, August 6-18. Pray for the young adults who are participating in a Musalaha program as they are exposed to the cultures, customs and people from the other side for the first time. As the Israelis and Palestinians have more exposure to each other they can establish trust and friendships in a neutral setting that Norway provides. Pray as we finalize the plans and the remaining visas and airline tickets are processed. Musalaha is partnering with the Palestinian Bible Society, Caspari, Bridgebuilders, fri kirken and Den Norske Israelsmisjon.
In about a month a group of Israeli and Palestinian families will head to Germany for our family/leaders conference. We ask that you keep them in prayer that God would prepare their hearts for meeting with one another and be equipped for the leadership training. That they would return to their respective communities willing to rise up and be agents of change through reconciliation. Pray also for Near East Ministries (NEM) who will be running the youth activities and for our German hosts at the Langensteinbacher Höhe Bibelkonferenzzentrum who have a lot of preparation prior to our arrival.
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Salim J. Munayer, Ph.D.
Director of Musalaha