Mission Crossroads

FAL 2018

Mission Crossroads is a three-time-a-year magazine focused on worldwide work of the PC(USA). It offers news and feature stories about mission personnel, international partners and grassroots Presbyterians involved in God's mission in the world.

Issue link: https://missioncrossroads.epubxp.com/i/1024538

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8 | Fall 2018 A spiritual pilgrimage Experiencing the Holy Land with Palestinian Arab Christians The Rev. Dr. Victor Makari (left), the Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb (center) and the Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac greet visitors and parishioners after Sunday service at the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem. Douglas Dicks or Christians worldwide, a trip to the Holy Land has often been regarded as "the trip of a lifetime" — and it usually is. All too often, however, visitors and pilgrims end up running in the land where Jesus walked! e Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, cannot understand why so many Christian visitors rush through the land where Jesus walked. "Jesus also took time to sit with, visit and be amongst the people," he said. A journey to Israel and to the Palestinian territories can deepen our faith and teach us to read the Bible differently, after having experienced the places we read about in Scripture. My work with World Mission involves helping make connections between Presbyterians and Palestinian Arab Christians. As visitors join in worship, share a meal together and hear about the hopes, dreams and struggles of Palestinian Christians, it creates a more authentic experience with the people and the land. While religious or spiritual pilgrimage should be a significant part of any trip to the Holy Land, the political realities in which Palestinian Christians live, breathe and witness to the risen Christ cannot be ignored. All too often, the Arab-Israeli conflict is perceived as too complex to understand. Yet it is not difficult to understand at all. It does, however, require listening to competing narratives and revisiting historical accounts of the conflict, oftentimes through the eyes of those who witnessed these events firsthand. Over the years, closer relationships have been forged between Middle East churches and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations. Repeat visitors have sometimes become group leaders and have recruited new pilgrims from their own communities. I personally get great satisfaction working with first-time visitors and watching their transformation as they experience the culture, the cuisine and the hospitality of the Palestinian people. It is equally important that U.S. Presbyterians see firsthand how their financial support has been invested over the years, and continues to be invested in efforts to promote justice and peace in this region. We Presbyterians are encouraged by our partnerships and long-standing relationships created in Israel and Palestine. e PC(USA) also has invested time and money to have mission personnel, including me, strategically placed to be present with the people of the Holy Land. As such, I can offer current and relevant advice and experience in helping Presbyterians plan and implement a meaningful program that will enable them to make the most of their journey. I especially hope that my presence here helps the Palestinian Arab Christian community overcome their growing sense of isolation. My life bears witness daily to the ongoing struggle for dignity, recognition, justice and peace that is so longed for, yet so elusive, in this land we call holy. F Douglas Dicks

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