“God Has Really Called Me Here”

IMG_2656Pastor Dustin was talking to us about Matthew 5:13 and talking about salt. We were talking about how we each have our own gifts and we have to bring our gifts and share them to make the world more tasteful. As I’m sitting outside the Brown’s house, I’m looking over Jerusalem. The one place I keep staring at is the Dome of the Rock, I want to know more information about it. Everywhere we go and there’s an outlook, I find it and take a picture. I feel a calling to find more out about it. I’m also looking at the sky. Dustin asked us why we were here, why we felt the call? I said because I wasn’t able to do mission trips and youth rallys in high school, and I felt the need to open my faith some how, and this felt like my calling. As I was looking at the sky, the clouds and sunset made it look like God was shining down. It made me teary eyed. God really has called me here… I’m just waiting to find the reason.

Kacie Hamm is studying to be a respiratory therapist at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Walking Beside our Christian Brothers and Sisters

IMG_2642As I write this, we are currently on our 2nd flight.  Our 1st flight was from Fargo to Chicago. This flight is from Chicago to Newark, NJ. From Newark we take a direct flight to Tel Aviv, Israel! That last flight will be just under 11 hours long-and for this girl who has never flown internationally before, that is both exciting, but also a little nerve wracking.

For those of you who don’t know what this trip is all about, let me take a few moments to give you some details! This trip is through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (known as the ELCA for short) The trip is a through an ELCA campaign called Peace Not Walls. While on this pilgrimage, we will be learning about the injustice issues involving the Israeli and Palestinian Christians. This trip is not intended to go to a specific location and help “fix a problem,” or “provide relief or build something because it is our Christian duty.” Instead, this trip is meant for us to walk beside our Christian brothers and sisters in Israel, build relationships with them, pray for and support them, learn about the peace and justice issues that occur there, and learn of ways to stay connected and involved when we return home.

It is hard for me to put into words how overwhelmed my heart currently is, and I haven’t even left the country yet! Your financial support, encouragement and guidance, prayers for safe travels and during our time in Israel, and overflowing love for me, truly means more than you know!

Listed below are a few things I myself, am looking forward to, as well as a handful of things that I have some nerves about.

Exciting times to come:
1) Walking where Jesus walked! Could you see that coming? :)
2) Learning about the injustuce and issues that happen in Israel. Learning how to support our Christian brothers and sisters who live there.
3) Spending my BIRTHDAY in a new culture halfway around the world with a great group of people. And floating in the Dead Sea on my birthday! How cool is that!?

Things that I am nervous about:
1) Getting through Customs and Passport control-just getting that over with soon will be nice.
2) Culture Shock. Seeing their way of life compared to how we live in the US
3) How our bodies will adapt to the food. Fun fact: At restaurants over there, they serve meat or dairy, but not both at the same time.

While on this trip, I am going to try to be honest and open about my experiences, in hopes to help you understand what this journey is like for me. But please remeber that these are MY thoughts and emotions. My blog posts will be coming from what I feel, see, and experience, and it will look and feel different for all of us on this trip. I am so excited to see what God has in store for me and our group through this trip. This trip is just getting started, but the excitement and a few nerves continue!

Love,
Karen

Karen Langemo is a student at Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota studying music education. She’s an active member of the Lutheran Campus Ministry there and plays piano really, really well.

Reflecting on my Alternative Pilgrimage

When I first applied to participate on the Alternative Pilgrimage last March, I honestly didn’t know much about the Israeli Palestinian conflict. I recognized a few terms because of what I had heard and seen in the media. I also knew this land was not only significant for Christians, but also Jews and Muslims.  From the world news I had watched and read it was hard to decipher why there was so much violence in this area. Was it a religious conflict? Political conflict? Why did every news story coming from a holy place for many involve so much violence? Although I didn’t know much about the conflict, I thought what a once in a lifetime experience. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to stand where Jesus was born and crucified & to walk the land the Bible references. These places are considered dead stones. Places that have significance to the past. We also saw living stones; people that are currently living in the Holy Land in order to learn about current conflicts and faith. Both living and dead stones played a huge impact on my experience.

HELLO!

It was breathtaking to stand in so many places where Jesus once stood. It was surreal to recognize all the cities on the road signs as they were Biblical sites. From kneeling down to touch the gold star where Jesus was born to standing in the Jordan River to seeing the rough terrain Jesus walked, there was an overwhelming sense of holiness surrounding me. These were all examples of dead stones.

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One of my favorite days during my Alternative Pilgrimage was when we visited living stones at Aida Refugee Camp. This is a Palestinian Refugee Camp right outside Bethlehem which houses over 4700 people. Through the Noor WEG program, a Palestinian family took us in their home with open arms to cook a traditional Palestinian dish, maqulabeh, which translates to “upside down”. This dish was composed of rice, noodles, many vegetables, chicken and a ton of spices! It was cooked in a pot, then turned upside down when it was time to be served. We also made pita bread, salads and dessert. It was the best meal I have ever eaten.

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Over the four hours we spent in this home, we got to know the family, their story and of course how to make delicious food. Although this family lives in a refugee camp literally feet from the separation wall, they are filled with hope, peace and God’s grace.

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This 30 foot concrete wall stands between these people and Israel. In order to cross this wall, they must go through a checkpoint, guarded by soldiers and have valid identification and a permit issued by the State of Israel. This is often a huge obstacle for people. Some Palestinians will never have the opportunity to see Jerusalem because of their nationality and lack of proper documentation. The ease of travel is a freedom Americans take for granted every day.

From my experiences and observations meeting with both Israelis and Palestinians, I found that settlements are the core issue of the conflict. A settlement happens a couple different ways. For example, when a Palestinian family leaves for the day, an Israeli settler will move in and put up an Israeli flag or cut off the Palestinian family’s livelihood such as sheep, olive trees or water supply. This family no longer has a home and is a refugee. These settlements are illegal according to international law. The face of humanity is obsolete in many people in the Holy Land which affects everyone’s day to day life.

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I learned that Israeli’s and Palestinians are very attached to their land. A family’s land is passed down from generation to generation and those family members harvest and tend to the olive trees and land in order to create a vital livelihood for the family. Many of the trees in this area are thousands of years old. Personally, it is sometimes hard to understand as an American because we are a country of immigrants and can and do move easily throughout the country and world if we please. Israeli and Palestinian land borders have changed drastically throughout time. It is important to realize how important land is to these families to better understand why many people do not leave their homes when violence may occur at any time.

I found that the Israeli Palestinian conflict is very complex and intertwined with a lot of people, controversies, history, politics and religion. A quote that really summed up the Pilgrimage and conflict for me was stated by Pastor Ashraf Tannous at Beit Sahour. He said, “Don’t be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. Be pro-peace, pro-justice, pro-mercy. Be Christian.”

There is not a simple resolution to the conflict. But, people cannot be on one side or the other, because lives are being taken every day because the humanity is taken out of the situation. Peace, justice, mercy and humanity are needed in the Holy Land and the stories of hope and encouragement need to be shared. Pray and advocate for peace and justice because we are all human beings.

Anna Moorhead is a senior at Augustana College, Rock Island, IL studying Business Marketing and Finance & is also pursuing a Nonprofit Leadership Development Certificate. Anna went on a trip to the Holy Land with Cheryl & Cassie in January 2015. Anna is active with Business Club, Scandinavian Club, Sigma Alpha Iota (International Women’s Music Fraternity) and Campus Ministries. She is still figuring out her post-graduation plans, but knows that they’ll include something that engages her faith and the world.

Journeying for Justice by Faith

Gaililee Jumping

In the summer of 2013 an idea formed. What would it look like to train young adults to lead other young adults on trips to the Holy Land? This idea became a reality when sixteen young adults from various synods and regions traveled to Israel and Palestine in January of 2014. This project we made possible through a collaboration with ELCA Young Adult Ministry and the ELCA’s Peace Not Walls Campaign.

The goal was simple: to train young adults to lead their peers on accompaniment journeys and help connect their global experience with their local reality. Specifically, this project endeavored to:

  1. Accompany local Lutherans and Christians in Israel and Palestine;
  2. Educate participants about the conflict in Israel and Palestine;
  3. Share the religious, political and social history of the region;
  4. Deepen faith and identity of travelers as they build relationships with global companions and neighbors;
  5. Connect participants with the ELCA’s efforts through the Peace Not Walls Campaign by practicing accompaniment, raising awareness and engaging in advocacy;
  6. Build a base of individuals who not only travel but return home to engage their local contexts in issues of peace and justice.

In 2005, the ELCA Church Council adopted a Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine. The strategy is now in its eighth year of implementation through the Peace Not Walls Campaign. This campaign lives out its purpose through practicing accompaniment, building awareness and inviting individuals and congregations to engage in advocacy. The goal of this project is to aid in meeting the eight highlighted tasks of the strategy by inviting young adults to connect to this church’s efforts by providing a space where justice and faith collide for the purpose of forming faith and developing leaders.

Young adults are often said to be missing from our communal life of faith. This means that people don’t see them in traditional spaces. However, young adults throughout our society are actively engaged in issues of peace and justice and the ELCA has numerous opportunities, strategies and campaigns that speak to this reality. However, the one thing that make us different from other social justice organizations is our faith – our believe in a Triune God who became incarnate in the person of Jesus. This project is not about just enlightening young adults to social, political, historical and cultural realties. This project is not about just about engaging young adults in advocacy efforts. This project is not just about building relationships. This project is about deepening faith and connecting ones beliefs to ones actions in the world.

“The Ministry of traveling is a pilgrimage. It is a journey of people living and loving together. It is a way that goes on foot, alone, in company, in tents, for peace, for justice, by grace. Through faith. This journey is open to you. Love and wonder and praise is our reason to go.” – Adapted from a quote by Pastor Herb Brokering

This year, a total of 8 trips have been planned with one already having gone and returned (LaCrosse Area Synod). The initial model was for trips to be synodically or regionally based, but now, the remaining 7 trips are open to young adults across the country. On this site you will find descriptions of each trip, dates, information about leaders and the goals of each experience. These trips are designed for people who have graduated high school and are between the ages of 18 and 30. Please share the word far and wide. The deadline to sign up is February 28, 2015.

So here’s the ask:

  • Check out each of the trips.
  • See which one works best for you.
  • Read over the specific trip goals.
  • Contact the trip leaders for more information and to sign up. That’s it!

Contact Us if you have any questions. We hope you consider joining this movement of young adult faith-based justice seekers.

Dinner in Bethlehem

The story of a farmer

His hands were rough and worn from years of working the soil. His face was weathered and forever kissed by the warm desert sun that blanketed the hills of South Hebron. He reminded me of my grandfather, who, too, carried his story in the palm of his hands. Amidst his silence was a sense of deep passion and steadfastness for his land and his people. He, like my grandfather, was a farmer, a shepherd, and a steward of the earth. Continue reading

Belated Blogging and Intentionality

I was supposed to have written this blog last week, however, I did not have the proper words to express my experiences and the thoughts and emotions affiliated with them. When I write and speak, I like to convey my ideas through very intentional words; sometimes, this intentional articulation takes time to develop, as is the case with this post. Continue reading