Thursday, July 3, 2008

2 Weeks in Israel/Palestine: An Unmerited Gift


(From left: Jonathan, Stewart, Phil-a friend from Wheaton, and Justin inside the Jaffa gate of the Old City of Jerusalem.)


I returned last night to my parent's home in North Carolina after 49 hours of travel (51 if you include the drive to the airport on both ends). What an amazing 2 weeks it has been. Praise the Lord!

This trip has been in the works since December when I first heard about the GAFCON conference and realized that it would be crucial to somehow be in Jerusalem at the time when so many leaders would be gathered together, including likely leaders from my own church. I was right. These last two weeks,an extremely important time for global Anglicanism, have also been an critically important time for my and my church's eventual work in Israel/Palestine. God worked it all out and put all the pieces together in a miraculous way providing the finances, the invitations (last minute) to the conference, and the connections with just the right people while we were there.

The first five days or so were spent together with Justin (a close friend of mine from Rez. and someone who I will likely be working with in Is/Pal) and with Fr. Stewart (the pastor of my church in Chicago). Justin and I, who have both been in Is/Pal before, spent these days taking Stewart around and introducing him to the Holy Sites, our friends, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was deeply touched by the sites, places and stories that he encountered. We were so blessed to spend this time together with him.

Following this time was the GAFCON conference, an incredible week long conference in Jerusalem of the 1,200 most important conservative Anglican leaders worldwide. This was truly an international gathering with the strongest numbers coming from Africa where Anglicanism is strongest today (over 10 mill. in Nigeria, for example, if I am not mistaken). Here I was likely the youngest delegate, with most of these people being pastors, bishops and archbishops representing large numbers of constituents. This was a historic gathering, which came together to deal with the future of Anglicanism. The result was also historic. In essence, a document called the jerusalem declaration was written and a new body was created made up largely of the Global South Anglicans and conservative Anglicans in the North which no longer is under the archbishop of canterbury and no longer associated with liberal Anglicans. Please see www.gafcon.org to read more about the results of the conference.

The last few days I spent in the West Bank. I spent two days visiting the family of one of my close Palestinian friends from Chicago. His family warmly received my and welcomed me in. They showered me with gifts and love. What a blessing this was for me. Then I spent a night in Bethlehem seeing some of my friends again. This was a wonderful way to end the trip.

This trip further solidified my plans to return next year long term to work and many details came together towards this end. Ft. Stewart's presence was very key, as now he truly understand the situation on the ground there and is committed to himself and Rez. supporting me in that direction. His understanding and support is invaluable. I am very grateful to him and to God for this. Also, I was able to meet and connect with important leaders doing work presently in Is/Pal who I plan on partnering with in the future.

The faces and stories all crowd my minds' eye. They are too many to write in this simple blog entry, but I hope to get a chance to share them with you personally. To all who supported my in this venture through prayer or through finances, thank you. I can't tell you how important this trip was for me and how important your involvement was. To those who prayed, I could feel it. More than ever I recognize the importance of spiritual protection and covering when I am there. You provided it for me this time and I am grateful. God protected me, both physically and spiritually this time.

Praise him for this trip and for what he has accomplished and will accomplish through it.

1 comment:

dthaase said...

Jonathan,
It has been a delight to follow your journey and travels and what a great pic of great people!
Peace...