After several days of immersion into diverse Israeli & Palestinian narratives, our Learning Community was invited by our friends Milad & Manar to work alongside of them with Palestinian kids at The House of Hope in Bethany. In this post, Kristen Kessler reflects on the formational journey of that day and its impact on who she is becoming.
Today, after 6 long days of giving ourselves fully to both the Israeli and Palestinian narratives, we were able to offer our energy in a more tangible way. We entered into the story of Milad and Manar and their organization, House of Hope, whose mission is to give Palestinian children in Bethany opportunities they might not otherwise receive because of Israeli restrictions on Palestine. These opportunities include after school programs, computer lessons, music outlets, writing tutorials, and other resources aiding in a safe, encouraging upbringing. We were invited to lead the kids in activities throughout the day, so we planned a day of drama, music, and games.
I was initially excited about this day because I love hands on interaction with youth. It has always been the area that touches the deepest places in my heart, and I knew it would be a time that would bring me a lot of joy. And it did. However, today was an experiences unlike any I have had. From an observer’s perspective, we led a day very similarly to a Vacation Bible School with stations, skits, and songs. But that was just the surface. I saw in one day at House of Hope what I’ve failed to see during 5 days of VBS in the past. Today, I witnessed a staff of young adults dedicating their lives to developing the future of Palestine. I encountered children who literally welcomed us with open arms and children who played and laughed with all their hearts. I watched Christians, Muslims, Palestinians, and Americans come together as a seamless group to show love to kids in the community. Most importantly, I walked away with a more profound understanding of people and of myself.
I came into today with a lot of knowledge about the conﬂict in this area and the challenges Palestinians face every day. I’ve read the books and watched the documentaries. I’ve walked through the Old Testament and New Testament narrative and have seen the ways our biblical history interacts with the current situation. I have engaged in the Israeli and Palestinian narrative, giving myself fully to the pain, redemption and retaliation in each story. With all of these understandings in the back of my mind, I interacted with the kids differently.
When I was painting some of the girls’ nails, I was holding the hands of children who do not have the same freedom as me. I saw children who have to walk through check points and go days without water because of the occupation. When I looked into their eyes, I didn’t just see the equivalent of VBS kids in the United States; I saw children who are growing up as the next generation in Palestine, children whose family story is probably already embedded in her heart. The thought of those children spending the rest of their lives in the same conditions crushed my heart, but being apart of House of Hope even for a day gave me hope for the future.
My previous knowledge coupled with my interaction with the kids today solidiﬁed that all humanity deserves freedom, justice, and fair treatment. I’ve always conceptually known this, but today that has entered into the fabric of who I am. This is the beauty of The Global Immersion Project. “Mission Trip” is being redeﬁned. I did not come into House of Hope in the posture of a hero, but as a learner. By doing this, I entered today with compassion and left with a deeper understanding of who God has called me to be: a person who sits with the oppressed, sees their pain, and joins them in their hope for justice.