21 September 2010
Summer is gone and we have a lot to be thankful for! Along with the various Youth and Young Adult Encounters, Ramzi and Sara were sent to Denmark in partnership with the Danish Israel Mission Youth to spread the message of reconciliation. Below are the reflections of how God uses all things to show us how we can grow through the various opportunities that he gives to us.
I spent the last two weeks speaking in Denmark about reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. And in the work I am involved we teach that in order for reconciliation to happen, relationships need to form so the walls we call prejudices and stereotypes can be broken down. We build relationships by meeting people face-to-face and learning about them and their experiences. Reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians begins when people on both sides see the other person as their brother and sister in the Messiah and when they learn to love their brother.
I went around Denmark sharing my own reconciliation experiences. I shared with people of all ages and backgrounds that my daily reminder of how I am supposed to treat my brothers and sisters stems from Colossians 3:12-15. “So as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body and be thankful.”
And while I am constantly reminded to love and was reminding everybody else for that matter, I came to realize how many other prejudices and stereotypes were orbiting within me. We grow up with so many stereotypes and prejudices we don’t even realize it until we are faced with it head on. I grew up learning how others were wrong if they did not hold to the same ideological views, especially concerning teachings and traditions. I was constantly taught about the people who were not like us. And while I didn’t always believe what I had heard, I was nevertheless influenced. I may never have understood a person’s reason for their traditions and teachings; I just saw “them” as nice people whose views and ways of doing things were inferior to my own.
And then I went to Denmark. And, I experienced something so beautiful. The love and acceptance of the Messiah through the lives of the people who took me around, opened up their homes, took me shopping, took care of me when I was sick and took time out of their busy lives to drive me from one end of the country to the other. I was so moved by their kindness, their hospitality, their compassion, their honesty and their love. Through long country drives they shared and explained to me their reasoning for various traditions and teachings. And who were these people? Well, if you want to get technical they were Lutherans. Lutherans who belong to the state church – many of them pastors. Yes, we are different – I am an Israeli believer who does not hold to these traditions, but we are called to love each other in spite of our differences. Put all of these labels aside, these amazing people were my brothers and sisters, they are my family because we belong to the family of God and they embraced me as their family.
I was moved as I sat around the kitchen table drinking coffee after confirmation class with one pastor and while eating Apple Crisp on Rosh Hashanah with another pastor, attentively listening to them as they shared their passion to see the lost people in their communities and parishes find God and believe in him. It left an impression on my heart and encouraged and inspired me to reach the people in my own community.
Sometimes stereotypes and prejudices are there in the back of your head and you don’t realize it until God places those same people you held stereotypes about in your face and they begin to show you the love God requires of his children. Our stereotypes and prejudices prevent us from loving our brother; the way Christ calls us to love our brother.
Maybe I was sent to Denmark to impress upon, encourage, challenge and impart to the Danish believers to become reconcilers in their local communities, to bless them and show them that it is possible to break down the walls of bitterness and hatred, demolish their stereotypes and prejudices and to love their brothers and sisters and yet, that is exactly what they taught me.
A special thank you to: Hanne Munk; Erik & Lone Ladegaard; Jorgen & Marta Thomsen; Frans Pedersen; Jeanette Wind; and Jens Arne & Bodil Skjott for showing me the love of Christ.
Youth Department: We’d like to praise God for a successful Youth Leadership training weekend where more than 60 Palestinian youth leaders gathered together for a weekend of studying identity as well as how to apply this to their youth groups. We praise God for their growth and leadership development and desire to see change in their communities.
Women’s Department: Please pray for the women who will be convening in their small groups for follow-up meetings after a busy summer. Pray that God would touch their hearts as they address difficult issues related to their lives and the conflict. These women will be meeting throughout the entire month of October.
Young Adults Department: All of our young adults who’ve participated in our Desert Encounters and Bridgebuilders programs will be meeting October 29-30 for a follow-up meeting as they watch movies that depict Israeli and Palestinian culture and help each other to understand the different historical narratives.
Office Move: Please pray for us as we prepare to move to a larger office space in the same building. We ask that you pray that the move would be smooth and we would be able to continue in our work despite the transition and rewiring of the systems.
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