I (Jer) always tell people that Jon and I met “online.”
He and I were a part of an online learning forum being facilitated by Fuller Theological Seminary and were both drawn to each others’ faceless contributions to the experience. At the conclusion of the forum, I emailed this Jon Huckins from who-knows-where and thanked him for his thoughtfulness and creative expression. I remember commenting to him that it seemed as though we were of the same tribe and that we’d, no doubt, be great friends if we lived in the same village. His response was mutual, we became facebook friends, and then the two of us got on with our lives.
Fast-forward the clock nearly 12 months. I had just unofficially graduated from Fuller and was embarking upon my swan-song experience: a two-week course on just-peacemaking being facilitated by Drs. Glen Stassen, Marc Gopin, and David Gushee in, of all places, Israel & Palestine. I had just arrived in East Jerusalem and had stepped into the lobby of our hotel when I spotted a vaguely familiar face. I cocked my head to the side and asked, “Jon Huckins?”
Jon responded with his mischievous side-ways grin and asked, “Jer Swigart?”
And just like that, our shared journey throughout Israel & Palestine began. As we navigated into the narratives of new Jewish and Palestinian friends, we recognized that we had both been deeply imprinted through the practice of entering into the narratives of other global friends. Processing through our experiences together, we discovered that we both shared a passion for peace-building through friendship-making and that our shared passion had taken us both all over the world. What’s more, we both understood that God had cultivated us through immersion in global narratives and that we lived, loved, and led differently within familiar soil because of it.
That’s when the dream emerged…and it sounded something like this:
“What if peace-building through friendship-making is possible on a larger scale?”
“What if peace could be built as we we assumed the posture of a learner rather than that of a hero with our global friends?”
“What would happen if we were to literally expose USAmerican difference makers to global issues of injustice, conflict, humanitarian crises, and human rights violations being experienced not by ‘people-groups’ but by ‘friends’?”
“What if we were to design a concept that fused global travel, spiritual pilgrimage, holistic formation, and leadership development for people in the US?”
“What if the people that came along with us allowed themselves to be shaped by the journey such that they, too, lived, loved, and led differently upon their return?”
Fast forward the clock another twelve months, and here we are. The dream has emerged: our first and incredibly humble and diligent learning community is prepared to immerse in the narratives of our Jewish and Palestinian friends. They have been preparing for four months to enter into a conflict scarred location filled with conflict-scarred friends as learners and friendship-makers. We leave in six days and we will not be the same when we return.