On April 24th, I embarked on study tour of Israel and Palestine, along with 24 others via the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. For a week now, we have visited some important places where Lutherans are actively supporting the impoverished and disadvantaged communities.
On April 27th, I headed to Bethlehem in the West Bank to visit The Evangelical Lutheran Church School in Beit Sahour. There I was fortunate to meet some of the staff and students, including Rev. Ashraf Tousin who, as a Palestinian Christian, spoke about his hope for peace in Israel and Palestine. The school receives support from CLWR and other faith groups. The children and their parents often make crafts which are sold to provide the school with extra support for its programming. The highlight of the visit was talking to some of the students. They were curious to know who I was and practice their English with me.
On April 28th, I attended a Sunday service at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Old Jerusalem. This was a momentous event: Bishop Michael Pryse of the ELCIC Eastern Synod and Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land and President of Lutheran World Federation, signed an official agreement of partnership. This agreement recognizes the synods as companion churches. At the end of the service, the tour group and I were invited to go to the altar to sing “Salam Aleikum” for the congregation members and a visiting group from Germany. It was truly a moment of solidarity.
On April 29, I headed to East Jerusalem to meet with Mark Brown, Regional Representative of Lutheran World Federation Department of World Service in Jerusalem, at the August Victoria Hospital. He took the group and I on a tour of the grounds and described the various services provided, especially those with the support of CLWR and other international bodies, such as skilled nursing for geriatric patients. He also explained the difficult obstacles and complex context in which they worked to provide Palestinians with access to quality health care. Mark and the staff of the AVH are truly inspiring and CLWR is very proud to support the life-saving work they are doing.
Tomorrow’s plans include a visit to the Vocational Training Centers in Ramallah and Beit Hanina, as well as the Evangelical Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah. CLWR supports these program all of which provide Palestinians with quality education and hope for a better future.
Church Liaison and Volunteer Coordinator
CLWR Eastern Regional Office