Thursday, June 26, 2008

quick udpate

I am a bit overdue for a good update. This has been a VERY full week, to say the least and I am exhausted. There is a lot I could write about. Overall things have gone really well and I have been able to meet some amazing people. It is really a privilege to be at a conference full of THE leaders of conservative Anglicanism in the world. At the same time I have seen how broken the church really is., Even here, despite all our finger pointing at the liberal church for its problems, we have been divided and have had our own issues here. I have see the lust for power and the game of power here like never before. Thank God for his mercy.

Today I took a group from the conference to Bethlehem (West Bank) to introduce them to the Palestinian situation. An amazing experience. I feel like crying as I write this. These people’s perspectives were changed for ever and I know that they will pray for peace in the this land back in their home countries. The Palestinians we visited were SO happy by our support (and by my Arabic). We brought joy and hope to their eyes. The day ended with an old man who was infront of us at the checkpoint who gave me a wooded cross made out of olive wood. HE was so grateful that we had come to work for peace and encourage his people. “by this you will remember me” he said. This is why I want to work in Israel/Palestine.

I will be here until Tuesday. The conference ends on Sunday and then I will be meeting with some people and visiting friends. I appreciate your continued prayers! J

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"Shalom Y'all!"

Israel/Palestine is a bizzare place, full of contradictions, clashes and just weirdness. One of the best examples of this is in the t-shirt selection available in the Old City of Jerusalem. "Shalom y'all" says the face of Bush, with his classic little grin, pasted onto the turbaned and bearded head of Mr. Bin Laden himself. Amazing. And this beside the Harley Davidson shirt in Hebrew.

The last two days with Stewart and Justin have been full of such encounters with the bizarre. Yesterday we went to Hebron, a city in the south of the West Bank which is home to roughly 30,000 Palestinians and a small contingent of roughly 300 extremely zealous settlers (and their armed guard of roughly 300 Israeli soldiers) who have their settlement in the heart of the city. In part of the city you see Israeli settlers who have actually built their homes ontop of Palestinian homes and throw their trash down on them.

Our first experience was walking through a checkpoint into the Israeli part of the city (which only foreigners and Israelis can access) and being greeted by a very unfriendly Israeli soldier who asked us if we were Jewish and then went on to tell us that this was a Jewish only road that we were on (which wasn't true). A warm welcome indeed.

The last two days have been a rich time overall, full of laughter and great times of connections between the three of us. Stewart, Justin and I, beyond seeing some amazing sites and places (Bethlehem, my host family from last year, Hebron, the Mar Saba monastery, the Old City, a messianic congregation) have had some amazing talks about ministry in this part of the world, about the need for the church to see both the personal and social dimensions and implications of the Gospel, and about nonviolence and other ways of resisting evil without mirroring it. We have grown closer to each other as well as learned much from each other's perspectives and experiences. It has indeed been a blessing.

Tommorow the conference begins as does a whole new phase in our time here. There is much to look forward to.

Please pray for good connections with other leaders during the confernece as well as other people we would like to connect with while we are here. Please pray also for a filling and guiding of the Holy Spirit, both in our individual lives, as well as in the life of this confernce.

In his peace,


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In Jerusalem!

We made it! We arrived in Tel Aviv this morning at 5:15am, just in time to see the sunrise over the ocean. By the time we were through security and had taken the taxi into Jerusalem it was around 9AM. Stewart had some problems at security due to traveling to Pakistan and Afghanistan previously. In the end they let him through, though they didn't stamp his passport. This is good if he wants to travel on this same passport to other muslim countries. The bad thing is that it might cause us some trouble if we are ever stopped while in Israel (which we certainly will while traveling in to Bethlehem and other parts of the West Bank) since he has no official proof in his passport that he came in the country. We'll see tomorrow, when traveling to Bethlehem, if this is an issue.

This afternoon we will spend in Jerusalem, visiting the old city as well as having a meeting with the director of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (, an NGO that works on justice issues for Palestinians in Jerusalem whose homes are demolished by the Israeli government. Tomorrow we will be traveling to Bethlehem to see my host family and friends from last year, as well as to show the city to Stewart.

I appreciate all your thoughts and prayers for our time here!



Tuesday, June 10, 2008

On the Road to Jerusalem

Thank you for all of you who actually read these wandering and often incoherent thoughts and musings. I especially appreciate those of you who are in dialog with me, for whom these thoughts spur further conversation. Of late I have had several people take issue with some of what I have written and challenge me on it. This is really great. Bring it on! :)

Much of this, I suppose, I write for my own benefit, to help me process the things I am learning and the inner struggles I face. At the same time I write to share with others what I am learning, to challenge others as I have been challenged. I hope to humbly offer thoughts and ideas that, even though uncomfortable, different or strange, may spur us in the pursuit of truth. Most is simply what I am learning from others.

Personal Update:

This last Thursday I returned to my family's home in North Carolina after three weeks at Eastern Mennonite University where I took two amazing classes in Peacebuilding. For the last several days I have been resting and preparing for my trip to Jerusalem. I leave Monday, June 16th, for Chicago where I meet up with Ft. Stewart , the pastor of my church, and Justin a friend of mine from church. We will then fly out together for Jerusalem.

We will be spending 5 days together before the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) starts on Sunday the 22nd. Since Justin and I have spent a fair amount of time in Israel/Palestine, we will be taking Ft. Stewart around. We will be meeting up with some Rez. folk in the area as well as seeing some of mine and Justin's friends.

The GAFCON conference, which begins on Sunday the 22nd, is a meeting of 1,000 Anglican leaders from all over the world (largely the Global South), gathered to discuss the current crises in the Anglican church and how to move ahead in mission. It is a tremendous privilege to be invited to go as a young, simple layman. Part of my hope for the conference is to learn from the wisdom of these Anglican leaders. Also, I hope to give an informal presentation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as this is a topic not addressed by the conference and one that I think many people don't really understand. I appreciate your prayers as I prepare for this.

Also, it is my hope to meet with different leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian, with whom I would like to work in the future. It will be an important time of connection and meetings.

May the peace of the Lord be with you!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Painful Self-Reflection: What is "America"?

(dinner with friends from Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zimbabwe, Ukraine and Egypt)

After a whirlwind three weeks at the Summer Peacebuilding Institute of Eastern Mennonite University, I am sitting here waiting to be picked up to head back home. It has been a rare moment in the last weeks that I have been able to collect my thoughts and to process all that I have been learning. I can't put it all on paper, but I do know that I am a different person than I was before I came three weeks ago.

The two classes I took, Reconciliation and Peacemaking and Identity and Conflict Transformation where both excellent classes full of tools and theories that I know I will use in peacemaking, both in the U.S. and in Israel/Palestine. Though these two classes were great, most of what I learned was outside the classroom and came from interacting with the other beautiful and amazing people from all over the world. These participants came from some 40 countries and are all working for peace in their contexts, most of which are simply mind boggling. What must it mean to work for peace in a country that has lost half of it's population to genocide? These people show such courage and strength while living in these contexts. They set an incredible example to me.

Encountering this multitude of international students, most of whom were in the U.S. for the first time, in a sense functioned as a mirror to my own country and culture as they encountered life in the U.S. for the first time. Questions such as "Why is there no one walking outside?" and "Why do Americans drive such big cars with only one person inside?" peppered my time here and encouraged me to reflect, often painfully, on our life in this place we call "America."

It seems that we "Americans," or at least we middle-class white "Americans" tend to live in a bubble. We hold strongly to this myth that the U.S. can do no wrong, that this is the country of freedom and that this is the best place in the world to live. Everyone out there (in say, Zimbabwe) is un-democratic and uneducated, while we here are a model of democracy and fullness of life. If this myth is ever challenged, very strong emotions tend to arise for people. (Is your blood pressure rising as you read this?) How would you react, for example, to the comment that the U.S. is the most violent nation in the world?

One guest speaker, Lisa Schirk, encouraged this kind of self-reflection by stating in a talk this comment: "The U.S. is the most violent nation in the world." Based on murder, crime, and suicide rates studies have shown that we are the most violent nation. This is not something we are accustomed to hearing very often. A different prof. commented in class how since World War II the U.S. has directly attacked over 50 countries. Yikes. Almost all the international participants in my classes had some very experiences with the U.S. Many of their countries had been attacked, occupied, or coerced by the U.S. in recent years. One man commented "Americans think they are God." Another noted how much of our news and media was inward focused on how little attention was given to international affairs.

I could continue to list the criticisms of the U.S. shared with me by the international students here, including those listed by the African Americans and the First Nations peoples (often called Native Americans) who attended the classes here.

These criticisms should be a wake up call for each of us, a call to reflect on who we are as individuals, communities and as a nation. Each of us needs to begin with ourself: who are we and what are becoming? How can we begin to make the necessary changes in ourselves that will lead to a different world tomorrow, a world more peaceful, loving and just.

(As usual, I would to hear your comments and feedback, so please write!)