Friday, May 24, 2013

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center

My first visit to the center created many wonderful memories.  With the help of a teammate’s phone call and a wonderful bus driver, we found the building in yet another part of Jerusalem.  

On the same bus was a group of trainees with the Christian Peacemaker Team, also going to attend the communion prayer service at Sabeel.  This new trainee group made up of people from all over the world furthering God’s peace and justice.  No pictures or names; I do not want to create anything that will keep them from getting back into Israel. 

The founder of Sabeel, Naim Ateek, led in beautiful remembrance of  Jesus’ sacrifice for our salvation.  

Lunch together and a program of recognition followed for two longtime friends of Sabeel, Doug and Kathy.  After many years, these two servants of God will be returning to their home countries. 

I was glad to be able to talk to Naim Ateek, I saw him last at a meeting in Michigan’s Grand Valley College shortly before I left for this assignment.

 You know my love of books.  How fun it was to learn that one of the books on my shelf back home was dedicated to Kathy who was being honored at this event.

These were some on display here that I hope to add to my library.  

There is going to be a Sabeel Conference in Chicago in November.  Maybe we can attend together.

It was fun meeting the staff and friends of Sabeel. 

Also nice to be able to catch a ride “home” with the United Methodist Liaisons to Israel and Palestine, Janet Lahr Lewis and Rev. Kristen Brown.

Beit Sahour

Walking Day Off

Beit Sahour

Beit Sahour is a small town on the outskirts of Bethlehem, suffering from the occupation and being crowed by the building of settlements illegal under international law.

 I stayed in the home of a Christian family in Beit Sahour.  It was a joy to spend time with this family, meeting their four daughters.  I had a chance to practice my Arabic words, and help the 11 year old with some English.

The family’s neighbors are also relatives.  I learned Beit Sahour has five main families; everyone knows everyone.  They care for and about each other.  This community comes together when there is a need.  Family honor is part of the social fabric.

The father in this family, for the last fifteen years, has worked in alternative travel. His company takes groups around the West Bank to show the results of the occupation.  Alternative Tourism Group-Study Center,

These believers are weary from the occupation.  They have many personal stories and memories of continued violations of their humanity, their dignity.  Their hearts are grieved; tears fill their eyes as they tell of their realities.

Yet they hope!
The Kairos Palestine document puts it this way, “In the absence of all hope, we cry out our cry of hope.  We believe in God, good and just.  They cling to their belief that God’s goodness will finally triumph over the evil of hate and of death that persists in their land. 

If you have not yet read this Kairos Palestine document, please go to and find a link to the document.

Shepherd’s Field

After breakfast, I walked down to a place called Shepherd’s Field.  The walk was warm, but relaxing I was sure I was on the correct road as my host walked part way with me on his way to work.

I enjoyed the beauty of some of the yards flowing over fences.

Beit Sahour takes the Christmas story seriously.  Shepherds Field is a place commemorating the Angle’s message to the Beit Sahour shepherds at Christ’s birth. 

  I was one of the first to arrive, no competition from the tourist busses.  My walk through these grounds allowed me to enjoy this space created to contemplate this blessed event.

There are places that have been set up for groups to gather and rehear the message of the angels.  As I sat here I remembered hearing my three year old son (1969) recite the passage from Luke about this event.

The plants in the landscaping were beautiful reminders of the harsh climate and terrain.

The same rocks and caves from over 2000 years ago.  

Can your imagination fill them with shepherds and sheep?

Sit here in the shade and ponder with me how it must have felt, led by angels to the incarnated God, a helpless baby. 

Inside this structure there are replicas and pictures of this blessed event.

Fast-forwarding to our own life and times, pondering this same God, now through the power of Pentecost, from inside us, illuminating our lives by the Holy Spirit and the Word. 

Lets leap with joy because we get to be part of the showing and telling of God’s love, peace and justice shining from inside us to the world!

A Map and a Place

Praising God, but now it was time for some of the excellent coffee!  

I went to Ruth’s Field Restaurant.  Moreover, having had an excellent cup of coffee there it only seemed right to go to Boaz’s Souvenir Market.

Another Part of My Walk 

Map in hand I proceeded now to a point called, Virgin Mary’s Well.  Thinking I was close I asked the yellow shirted taxi driver, who approached me to ask if I needed a ride.  He put on his glasses, but did not understand the map.  I was again on my own walking and searching.

As often is the case, a group of schoolchildren gathered using their few words in English, “What is your name?”  Not much conversation after the exchange of names, I hope to have more words that are Arabic on my next visit.  

The students  walked with me at least until one of the villagers called them asking for a slight push backward so he could get a rolling start down the hill to start his vehicle. 

These people help each other.

A Palestinian reality is water storage tank being unloaded.  From these tanks, is the only way that there will be tap water in the summer.

Finding my destination, Virgin Mary’s Well, gave me a chance to get out of the sun, 91 degrees with a real feel of 95 degrees.  


The caretaker told me that the Virgin Mary drank from this water.  
I see they are drinking something else now.

Mary’s spiritual journey started like each of ours.  God’s call for obedience, Mary said, “Yes.”  She lived many transitions, realizing through many life events, just how blessed she was to know Jesus, the gift of God to her.  God’s Spirit calls for our “Yes,” through our life events we too realize the blessedness of Jesus, God’s gift to the world!   

Next Church of Nativity Bethlehem

Having been in Bethlehem for a month and yet not inside the Church of the Nativity, I took this day off opportunity to explore.

I couldn't keep up with the priest on his way to work, I had to stop and read these rules.  Once inside there were many beautiful sites.  My photography does not begin to show their beauty.  

Come to the West Bank and See!

I attended a chapel service.  The video will need to wait until I get home.  Sure wish the download had been successful.

This is where Christianity started.  There are Palestinian families here that can trace their lineage here back to Pentecost.  These Palestinian Christians are suffering under occupation.  They have lost land to settlements; losing land is a loss of livelihood since many get their living from agriculture.  The water God gave this land is diverted and sold back to them at high prices. 

We serve a God who sees! 

God sees these Palestinian Christians denied access to worship at their churches in Jerusalem. 

God sees what each of us, Christians from the USA, are doing about these violations of human rights and international law. 

I am here serving in a program of the World Council of Churches, but I am an Individual Volunteer in Missions through the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.  Please continue praying.  I feel God’s power through your prayers in my circumstances here. 

There are many organizations operating here offering help to the Palestinian Christians.  They need prayers and financial support.  In addition, there are many opportunities to influence our USA government. 

Many projects here can be supported by donating through this web,, search Middle East.  Since USA churches cover the administrative costs, 100% of the money donated through this web site goes to the specific works listed by number.  

Back to my reality on the ground.
Lunch, a new way to eat onion and peppers, dipping in warm olive oil, lemon juice and humus.  

You are all invited to my house when I am home for some Middle Eastern food!

Some shopping.  

Yes, a knitting shop.  I know my sister-in-law, Janet, will enjoy this photo.

Then the walking and searching for my way back to the apartment. 

I was seeing sites not yet seen, totally lost in Bethlehem. 

 A yellow taxi to my rescue, a haggling over price was followed by a dangerous, scary ride back “home.”