The second in our series of reflections from our Winter 2014 Israel/Palestine Learning Lab participants, courtesy of Kurt Willems.  (To read the first in the series, click here.)

Kurt and friends

The Global Immersion Project continues to change my life. One of the things that I realized, besides growing to understand so much from grassroots peacemakers in Israel and Palestine, is that I lacked margin. My life had become so full of clutter, albeit it good clutter, that applied what I was learning on this trip in concrete ways was not possible. Because of this, I really believe that the Holy Spirit gave me a gentle nudge that released me from one of the jobs I was working at home. Currently, as a result, I’m starting to take the first steps towards living a life of reconciliation in my neighborhood. Some of these things involve things like learning to love my Muslim neighbors and connecting with local organizations that are doing good things for the poor.

Now that I have time and a fresh sense of vision, I’m finding the opportunities for peacemaking are all around me. Just the other day I met a couple of Middle Eastern Muslim college students at the beach. We are currently texting to set up a time to get our families together! Without TGIP, I don’t think I would have had the eyes to “see” these gentlemen at the picnic bench next to me as possible friends. This is one of many examples of how I’m beginning to see my neighborhood and neighbors in a whole new light.

Not only did TGIP have a profound impact on my personal life, but much of what I learn is now informing our new Church community that we are cultivating. The core practices of peacemaking that we thoroughly discussed and saw applied in the holy land are: see, immerse, contend, and restore. These four words are becoming second nature for our first missional community.

One of the tangible ideas that came out of my experience with TGIP was to invite our group to co-create just-peacemaking experiments. So, every other week we do exactly that: we eat dinner, talk about our experience in the neighborhood, and designed an experiment that invites us to utilize the four practices of peacemaking. We became so excited about this vision of just peacemaking that we discern which one of our female core team members that she ought to serve as our Pastor for Just-Peacemaking! She is currently getting to know our local organizations that are involved in this kind of work so that she can build bridges between our church and the great work that God is already doing in our neighborhood.

If all of this wasn’t enough, people who are part of our church but have not lived in our neighborhood are now doing all that they can to relocate as soon as the opportunity presents itself. TGIP invites us to root our peacemaking practices in a particular neighborhood, and so our whole community is taking that invitation quite seriously.

I’m so excited for the many ways that TGIP will continue to have an effect on me personally, my family, and our church. I hope to take a group of folks to the Holy Land in the next couple of years with TGIP so that we can continue to grow as just-peacemakers in our neighborhood, city, and world!

Kurt Willems (M.Div., Fresno Pacific) is the founding pastor of Pangea Communities – a movement of peace, justice, & hope. He is also a graduate student at the University of Washington focusing on early Christianity, Greco-Roman Religions, and Classical Languages. Kurt writes for various print and online publications including his site The Pangea Blog and is also on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.

To learn more about joining an existing TGIP Learning Lab or designing one for your community, click here.

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