Monday we were in Bethlehem. We visited ministries of the Diyar Consortium diyar-consortium.org which is an organization that connects Lutheran schools and other ministries in Bethlehem. It is the brainchild of Pastor Mitri Raheb and has developed the Dar al-Kalima School and College as well as other ministries. Dar al-Kalima educates children (75% muslim, 25% christian) from ages Kindergarten to Bachelors. The college focuses on creative arts including filmmaking, interior design, and other creative outlets not offered by more traditional colleges.
We had an extensive visit and opportunity to see the vast new library that was still under construction when we visited in 2016. We also had conversation and lunch with Dr. Raheb and had a chance to reconnect . Truly amazing work being done through this ministry.
In addition we visited Christmas Lutheran Church, the oldest church in the ELCJHL and had time to meet their new pastor. After that we toured in Bethlehem a bit, went to an olive wood shop, and finally had dinner with the ELCA YAGMS (Young Adults in Global Mission) who are working here in the Holy Land. Inspiring to meet these young people of our church who are giving a year of service as well as to learn, grow, and discern where and how God is working in their lives. After a lovely dinner we had to take a “YAGM selfie” of course. #NTNL#Diyar#ELCJHL#YAGMS#InMissionTogether
Tuesday we left early to travel north to Ramallah. This is a Palestinian city located 10 km north of Jerusalem. To travel there we took advantage of our privilege and ability, with Jerusalem license plates and U.S. passports, to take the highway. This is a route that makes the trip just under an hour, including the checkpoints we passed where our documents were checked. This route is not available to most Palestinians which results in their travel time being extended an hour or many times more.
At Ramallah we visited Hope Lutheran Church and school. The church building is one of the youngest in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land built in the 1960s. It is also one of the larger congregations as well. There pastor gave us an inspiring talk on the nature of the name Hope. That they have Hope in the midst of the challenges. One of the challenges they face was the need to expand their school. They have done so, opening the new school in August of 2017. The school educates over 450 students, grades K-12, 64% boys, 36% girls, 71% Muslim, 29% Christian. The new facility has up to date science labs and other facilities including a 25 meter pool. One of only 2 in Ramallah (a city of 300,000).
After lunch we journeyed south to Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives. This ministry of the The Lutheran World Federation is the only Oncology, Nephrology, and Hematology hospital available to the 5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. Occupying a hilltop on the mount of olives it is a gifted asset first purchased by Kaiser Wilhelm in the late 19th century and intended to be a guest house for German pilgrims. He named it for his wife, Augusta Victoria. The land was given to the LWF in the late 1940s at it became a hospital for those displaced during the various armed conflicts in particular Palestinian refugees.
We were blessed to be given 2 hours to visit with the CEO of the hospital and learn from him of the various opportunities and challenges they are facing. Currently they are adding another nuclear accelerator for radiation treatment which will bring the number of patients they can treat on a daily basis to over 200. While well short of the capacity recommended for a population the size of the Palestinian community, it remains a sign of hope in the midst of challenge. Gifts from Lutheran congregations, US AID, the European Union, and various Islamic charities sustain this ministry.
We left at sunset, enjoying the beautiful view west over the city of Jerusalem. Tomorrow we leave Bait Jala to travel to the Allenby Bridge (the only point of departure for Palestinians) into Jordan. We will visit Mt. Nebo (where Moses saw the promised land), the The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethany Beyond the Jordan, and then travel to Amman to visit the Lutheran church there. Then after a visits on Thursday we transfer to the airport on Thursday night for a 2:15am departure Friday morning to Frankfurt and then connections to the U.S. Looking forward to being home by Friday afternoon after another enlightening and challenging experience in the Holy Land.#NTNL #ELCJHL #HopeRamallah #InMissionTogether