April 10, 2010
It’s Passover, a few days before Easter and 45 Israeli, Palestinians and Sudanese youths, ages 12 to 15 head down, way down south to Israel’s Negev Desert. It is there, covered by a blanket of stars, they sit staring, wondering, judging, amidst their friends and so-called enemies. As the political situation continue to hinder reconciliation, believers continue to remain committed to the message of the risen Messiah.
They were faces embarking on a journey, embracing a challenge, and engaging in reconciliation on our annual Youth Desert Encounter. This formative trip had physical and spiritual results that helped bring these youth closer together as a unified whole.
As is typical of most of our trips, the Israeli youth stood together in pockets of two or three scattered on the sands of the southern desert giggling, catching up and excited for the new adventure, distant from the Palestinian youth who like their brothers and sisters from the other side meshed among the Arabic speakers, those from their local communities and those whom they had not met before.
But, Musalaha’s youth leaders were quick to end that with typical ice breaker games and dinner. But, what bonded them together was the worship. The girls were excited to learn songs from the other side. One of the favorite chorus’ was from an Arabic song, “Bidi amshi ma’am, hata bein elashwak, asabih smak, fish haya balak!” Not only were these words plastered to facebook statuses following the trip, but they bear a very symbolic meaning to the theme of the trip. In English they translate to, “I want to walk with you, even when times are hard. Praise your name, there is no life without you.” And, so, the pillars, built on the foundation of our faith, began to erect one by one.
Worship led to evening devotionals, guiding the youth on a purposeful journey over the next couple of days. Around the mammoth flames lighting up the night sky, the youth were motivated to be like Joseph. He was a man of reconciliation. Their main goal for the week: Love God and then love your neighbor. They were challenged to reach out to their brothers and sisters from “the other side.”
Joseph had many people angry with him, and many times we have people who are angry with us, without cause. How do we deal with this anger?
Like Joseph, we are caught in bad situations. In these situations, are we trying to be a blessing to our enemies? Also, we are free in Messiah, what are we doing with our freedom?
And, like Joseph, we need to be reconcilers. Joseph, though suffering from injustice, chose to follow God’s commandments, forgive and love his brothers. Through his choice, he united his family, which brought about survival and eventually salvation for us. And, reconciliation is essential for our relationship with God.
Caravanning on camels across Israel’s vast deserts gave the youth a refreshing taste of God’s goodness to his people and his land. And there in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a few desert plants a mob of Israeli and Palestinian male youths pumped up the football (soccer ball) and began one of history’s best forms of male bonding: sport. After hours of playing in the desert, these boys were united as one. Later that night, when it was time to go to bed, the guys headed to one end of the desert and the girls to another. While a few boys started trotting off to form their own circle, the leaders gently guided them back to one and not before long began the one-on-one wrestling matches, with chanting, followed by songs and raps led by some of our Sudanese participants, the natural bridge between the two groups.
The Sudanese youth in this country speak Hebrew and have integrated somewhat into society, but they also speak Arabic. And, during the male tribal chanting and rapping, one of the Sudanese participants had the guys mimic different rap variations before he found the one he liked. The words he rapped: Sudan for life! This phrase quickly caught on to all of the participants on the trip who sporadically through hikes, games and meal times could be heard chanting “Sudan for life.”
This is not to say that the desert was all elated bliss. There is something about the desert that brings about complaining, as we know through our biblical history. There was complaining of the excruciating hike, the bathrooms – an open area behind a hay stack and of course the wandering from one camp site to another. And there were annoyances, such as the donkey’s whining during prayer and the rooster’s crow at the crack of dawn. But, overcoming obstacles, hindrances and yes, even annoyances is what we strive for.
At the end of the trip, there was no longer the Israeli kids to the right and the Palestinian kids to the left. It was one group of teenagers who believed in suffering together, eating together and worshipping together. On the last evening, during testimony time, one of the leaders told the youth, when you go home people are going to ask you about Musalaha and what is reconciliation and what did you learn about it. It’s not about what we learned, it’s about what we did by living together, eating together, praying together and walking together, we have been living reconciliation. Like Joseph, we have chosen to love our enemies, be a blessing to our enemies and be reconcilers in the midst of our suffering.
By the end of the trip they said, “Bidi amshi ma’am, hata bein elashwak” (I will walk with you even when times are hard) and for it we “asabih smak, fish haya balak!” (Praise you name for there is no life without you)!
God Bless, The Musalaha Staff
Pictures of the trip will be posted soon on facebook.
If the Lord should lead you to partner with our Youth program, below are the following contribution addresses. You can also make a secure online donation on our website at www.musalaha.org
P.O. Box 52110
P.O. Box 238
Medina, WA 98039-0238
Tax ID # 91-1960797 Schweiz:
CH – 4153
PC – Kto. – 40-33695-4 Deutschland:
D – 79541 Loerrach
Sparkasse Loerrach (BLZ 68350048)
The Andrew Christian Trust
Rockwood, Storth Road
Cumbria LA7 7PH
Registered Charity Number: 327845
The Netherlands Postbus 30,
3780 BA Voorthuizen NL