Reflection on Talitha Kumi/Environmental Education Center of the ELCJHL

An excerpt from a sermon preached on Sunday, June 28, 2015 at Saint Luke Lutheran Church in Silver Spring, MD. Gospel: Mark 5:21-38

“One day during our trip to Israel and Palestine, my group visited a Lutheran school for children of all ages in the village of Beit Jala, which is near Bethlehem, in the West Bank. We visited this school to tour the Environmental Education Center of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (or the ELCJHL). We toured the garden containing both plants and trees that are native to the land, as well as foreign plants and trees that are not. We walked on fun, kid-friendly boardwalks and even got to climb into a kind of treehouse.

We saw the water treatment system, which filters and renews waste-water from the school to water the garden. This water treatment system represents good stewardship of God’s creation. It is also useful because Palestinian communities frequently experience water shortages.

The name of the school is from the Aramaic language, the same Aramaic we hear in the gospel reading for this morning. The name of the school is Talitha Kumi. ‘Little girl, get up.’

The Palestinian children of Talitha Kumi are confined to a limited geographical area due to policies of the Israeli government. They or their family members may have had firsthand exposure to violence due to tensions at military checkpoints and some cities in the West Bank.

At their school, at the Environmental Education Center, the children can, and do, get up.

As they learn about conservation and care for God’s creation at the Environmental Education center, their understanding of the world grows. The children are not powerless victims. They are empowered children of God. The education and care that they receive at school strengthens their minds and their ability to live in a world where they may not always feel welcome. In a world where a tall concrete wall that runs between the olive groves, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem usually prevents them and Israeli children from getting to know one another. The empowerment that they receive through programs such as the Environmental Education center reminds them that a way of more peaceful living is possible.”

Anna Ernst
aernst@lstc.edu

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Jesus Would be a Palestinian

IMG_2752 2We visited the sites of the Galilee today. The places Jesus walked and taught. We put our feet in the Sea of Galilee, prayed at the Church of the Annunciation, visited Capernaum, and remembered the stories of Jesus teaching the beatitudes, feeding the multitude, and healing Peter’s mother.

When we left Capernaum, we took a road that went through the West Bank to get back to Jerusalem. Filled with the experiences of the day, I inadvertently called to mind a song of my childhood by Michael W. Smith as we drove titled, “Secret Ambition.”

“Young man up on the hillside
Teaching new ways.
Each word winning them over.
Each heart a kindled flame.

“Old men watch from the outside,
Guarding their ways.
Threatened by the voice of a very God
Leading their lambs away.
Leading them far away.

“…but nobody knew his secret ambition was to give his life away.”

And I suddenly realized, envisioning Jesus in this land and place and remembering his teaching and ministry, if Jesus were to be born into this land today, Jesus would be a Palestinian. Continue reading

Home.

Today was our third day on the ground, and we spent it in Bethlehem. Getting from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is a process, as it always is when one is trying to get from Israel to Palestine and vice versa. In 2004, the Israeli government began building a wall around Palestine for security reasons, making the commute between the two regions lengthy and cumbersome. We walked along the wall on the Palestinian side after making it through the Bethlehem checkpoint. The wall was decorated with beautiful and uplifting graffiti that won’t be found on the Israeli side of the wall. Continue reading

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?

Continue reading