A guest post from our dear friend and participant on our most recent Israel/Palestine Learning Lab, Matt Chapman. Originally posted on Matt’s blog, which you can follow here: http://www.chapmanslife.com.
Why give your life to peacemaking when it seems so futile?
Over the course of my 36 years I have had the opportunity to travel the world and participate in many different types of humanitarian trips, but none have impacted me in the same way as my recent trip to Israel/Palestine. Traveling with the Global Immersion Project wasn’t about doing humanitarian work; we didn’t paint fences, play with orphans, or go on a typical Holy Land tour. Instead, we simply went to be with the people who inhabit the land. We heard the stories of heroic Palestinian Christians, Muslims, and Jewish Israelis who have chosen to wage peace instead of war. Their stories stirred my soul.
The people we spoke with have a conviction that politics alone won’t bring peace.
They believe that peace is about unity, oneness, co-creating, and love. They understand that in order to live the command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” one has to know their neighbor. This type of peacemaking is radical because it means cultivating shared futures together and becoming friends with the “other side”. It’s stepping into the deep end of the pool. It’s risky. They have all lost friends, been shunned from their community, been called normalizers, and many of the non-profits have had their employees walk away because the social pressure is too great.
I struggle with wanting to win. Maybe it’s my culture, my upbringing, or just because I’m human, but I want my efforts to pay off. So I find myself asking, “is this really worth it?” Will there be peace? The land has been in conflict for 7,000 years. The chances of these peacemakers seeing the results they are longing for (in their lifetime) are slim. This is the reality. So why not give up? Why not move to another land if peacemaking seems so futile? Why do they continue to persevere? This question would haunt me throughout the entire trip.
While the answer was echoed in all the stories of the peacemakers we met with, none hit me harder than hearing the story of Amal and her work with the Tent of Nations.
Tent of Nations is a Palestinian farm in the West Bank that seeks to bring people of various cultures together to build bridges of understanding, reconciliation, and peace.
As you enter the farm there is a sign that says, “We refuse to be enemies.”
Since 1991, the state of Israel has been trying to take the land that Amal’s family has lived on, owned, and farmed since 1916. Last year the IDF (Israeli Army) arrived in the middle of the night and cut down 1,500 of their fruit trees. It was a devastating blow, yet they refuse to be enemies.
Again I found myself saying, “you can’t win!” And then it happened. I was forever changed as I learned the reason for their perseverance. Simply put, all of these peacemakers refuse to give up because they have a conviction to pursue life the way God intended it to be lived and experienced. They recognize that God did not intend for us to hate each other, to live isolated lives, and for inequality. So they refuse to be enemies by standing up for the way of oneness, love, and equality. For Amal, this means that when the government of Israel comes with bulldozers, she and her team will stand in front of them. When they try to drain their funds through expensive court fees, they raise the money. When one tree gets cut down, Amal responds in joyful conviction, “we will plant 10 more.” For Amal and all the peacemakers we met in Israel-Palestine, they chose to persevere because they believe that there is a better way to live. They see the results as each new heart is softened, and peace begins to reign in the soul, even if it doesn’t reign in the land.
I’m not going to quit anymore.
I’m not going to distance myself emotionally when I don’t see the results I think I crave. I’m also not going to exhaust myself by focusing on the wrong objective. I’m with my brothers and sisters in Israel, and will give it all because I hear the Spirit of God telling me that this is the way we were meant to live.
What are your passions?
Do you have dreams to see the marginalized flourish? How about a longing to see the Kingdom of God come to your neighborhood? Perhaps you feel called to influence a new kind of church? We all have dreams for our family, work, and the world. May the stories of our friends bring you to a holy ruin.
Take joy my friend. Your dreams and longings are whispers of the Spirit saying, “this is the God-intended-life to be lived and experienced.
Matt and Amy Chapman lead a mentoring community that is embedded in the diverse Columbia City neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. Having experienced the beauty, the mess, and the transforming power of intentional faith communities, They would be the first to tell you that it is absolutely worth striving for. Matt and Amy and their two boys have lived and led in three uniquely different communities in three very different states. Matt is a certified life coach, and has also spent a number of years on the staff in a large, traditional church. Serving in these diverse settings has filled him with a passion to see the church–in all her forms–be places where people experience deep community and the church lives out her calling. http://thresholdscommunity.org