We’ve been in Jerusalem for close to a week now and the narrow and bustling market streets are starting to feel like home. The overwhelming sensory experience of crowds and colors, where the crossroads of religion and ethnicity meet, were once intimidating and frenetic, but are now met with eagerness and excitement — an invitation to engage in the diversity of human experience, spiritual alertness, and the real lives of real people.
Each day our leadership groups have been going out with the mission of creatively finding ways to bring about bits of shalom, making shalom more than a mere greeting, but instead a redemptive act that ushers in the kingdom of God, in big and small ways. Here are a couple of stories from the past few days of how our students have seen God’s presence here in this city and in these people.
Leadership Group 1 (Sarah Katharine, Kirsten, Mary, Marie, and Gabe)
“Yesterday we had the opportunity to serve in a physical way with one of the Nehemiah Team’s oldest friends. A father and his two sons own a coffee shop in the Old City called Al Mufti and we started in on a job of cleaning his ceilings for them. Our arms were super tired by the end of it but it was really worth it to be able to continue the relationship and conversations that have been had for almost a decade now. The father of the shop mentioned he feels like a father to the students on our team. It was a great opportunity to serve in a tangible way. On top of that, we had many people walking by stop and ask what we were doing and why we would spend our time cleaning. We were able to share a little bit about our heart to serve Jerusalem.”
Leadership Group 2 (Solomon, Wyatt, Breanna, Emma, and Kylie)
“As we were headed to the Cardo area (near the Jewish Quarter of the Old City) to do our quiet time, we found a picturesque olive tree and asked a man in a uniform who was standing near by to be in a picture with us. Sol sparked up a conversation with him and eventually also the man who took the picture for us. They were part of a Zionist organization and we had the chance to ask them about their views. As the conversation continued, we had the opportunity to share with them some of our views as well — including who we believe the Messiah to be and what we believe the Messiah is supposed to do. It was interesting because although we have different beliefs we were able to have a great dialogue regardless. They were very kind to us and it reminded me that in our differences we are all still seeking God.”
Leadership Group 3 (Rachel, Marisa, Grayson, and Mariah)
“Yesterday we met a shopkeeper, Honi, who it turned out didn’t have any business all day, so as we were looking at a couple of coffee cups he was trying to sell, we told him that we would buy one as long as he shared with us his story. When we first asked him to tell his story, he seemed really confused, put off even, defensively asked us why we wanted to know. When we said it was because we care, he started telling us about his family, showed us pictures of his kids, told us about his move to Europe during the first Intifada, and how he moved back to Israel two years ago to run his shop. It was an awesome experience to be able to get to know someone who initially seems so vastly different than us, but recognizing the image of God in him.”
The Timothy Team (Joanna, Ellie, Elizabeth, Dylan, and Daniel)
“Yesterday we spent time with a Palestinian shopkeeper in the Old City of Jerusalem who told us about when he was given a Bible three years ago by a previous Nehemiah Team. Unsure of whether or not he was a Christian, we asked him if he trusted what he read in the Bible. He shared with us about the last pilgrimage (hajj) he took to Mecca in Saudi Arabia (in keeping with a core Islamic tenet) and how he experienced the appearance of an angel, assuring him to continue to seek after God, feeling (who he now understands to be) the Holy Spirit to trust the words of the Injeel (Bible). Since his return, he’s continued to study the Bible and has been meeting with some other believers in the area for study and personal discipleship. He did share, however, that the cost of following Christ here is high, especially amongst his Muslim family members and fellow shopkeepers, and has had to be careful in what he says and does, so as to not get in trouble with the greater community here. In short it was amazing and encouraging to talk to an old friend after three years and to see the progress he has made in his faith. It was a blessing to see the very real and tangible ways God moves and works here in Israel.”
We only have a few more days here in Jerusalem, with each of them being completely directed by each of our Leadership Groups. This is a part of the hands-on leadership experience that this team is specifically geared towards. On Monday we’ll say goodbye to this beautiful, complicated, and holy city as we head to our debriefing locale on the shores of the Mediterranean — Jaffa.
For the Kingdom,
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