“I am one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do. What I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do. Lord, what will you have me do?”
This “Daughters of the King” prayer was for me a constant, as I considered the JAI Keep Hope Alive Olive Tree Campaign. Once I decided to participate, friends who were aware of my plans began to make thoughtful inquiries. I shared mission goals and itinerary highlights, acknowledging my visit would obviously not change the world, but I could lend a hand, and in being present, hopefully say “I see you” to those who are unseen.
The journey to Israel/Palestine would be an anticipated opportunity to serve and embrace new cultural experiences. The journey would be also touched by “Christ moments,” clearly meant to be experienced on a path walked in this place, at this time. Here are some of those moments:
* Walking in God’s holy life space: Nazareth, Cana, Jericho, Galilee, Bethlehem and Jerusalem. All experienced as pilgrims.
* Walking and working with people of different nations and beliefs, with the common goal to “Keep Hope Alive” as we helped plant trees with Palestinians who are trying to hold on to their land, their heritage and their dignity under very difficult circumstances.
* Walking and reflecting with my fellow traveler sister and new friends, on the uniqueness of the Holy Land, the story of Christ, and the tragic need for renewed wholeness in a land falling into un-holiness.
* Walking through a Bedouin village, a community generally ignored, until the government chooses to see them for the purpose of depopulation. They move them and use their lands for new Israeli towns.
* Walking into the graciousness of Palestinian host families, guides and shop owners, who welcomed us and were open to hard, no-excuses conversations. Some welcomed us as strangers into their homes for a shared coffee, so we might all walk forward blessed by time together.
* Walking with others of faith in the power of prayer, to lay hands on the Wall of Separation, to pray the Lord’s Prayer, to pray for the power of God’s love to overcome so much fear.
* Walking with a Hebron citizen guide on his street, until stopped by Israeli military occupiers who told us we as visitors could continue to walk, but the same access to our guide would be firmly denied. Hearing voices, hearing my voice say “No, if he can’t go, we won’t go” and turning to walk away. Having that same guide approach me at the end of the afternoon and inquire “Excuse me, where are you from?” I shared I was from the United States and live in Alabama. He paused, “I heard your voice. I heard you say ‘No’.” I affirmed, that yes, we were not going to go off and leave him behind. Tears welled in his eyes and he said quietly, “Thank you for not leaving me….thank you. We do still have hope.” I assured him we were present because we also have hope and we would share his story.
“I see you.” I can think of nothing more painful than feeling you are not even seen.
It was remarkable to visit so many holy sites and grasp how Christ was literally able to walk from one place to the next, sharing HIS word, letting the multitudes know they were seen and loved. It was remarkable to be reminded we are called to walk and do the same.
“What I can do, I ought to do. What I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.”
As promised to my friend in Hebron, I have been and will continue to share his story as I walk.
In February 2017, Rev. Dr. Jeff DeYoe, pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, Florida, led a group on a Keep Hope Alive (KHA) trip to Israel/Palestine. The KHA trips are part of the East Jerusalem YMCA/YMVCA Joint Advocacy Initiative providing an international presence as solidarity and witness for the Palestinian olive harvest in the fall, and for olive tree planting in winter. This was Rev. DeYoe’s 5th trip to the region. The articles appearing this week are reports from the ground by “people in the pews” who went with him and stood as witness. Each traveler approached the trip from a different place in their faith and life journey. Through these posts edited by Noushin Framke, Ecclesio is pleased to take you to the olive groves in Palestine through their varied lenses.
Elna Lewis a retired public school teacher, retired army officer’s wife, and never-retired mother of two accomplished daughters and two beautiful grandchildren. She and her husband of 41 years live in Madison, Alabama and worship with the community of St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Madison.