This blog post was originally posted on Holy Land Trust News.
When I was in the airport on my way here, I was so nervous that I wrote a Facebook post in an attempt to work through it. I wrote, “And I’m off to Israel/Palestine for a month! My first time in the region, my first time out of the country for a month, and my first time traveling abroad without people I know. Good thing the last two years in the US has taught me to be brave!” It turned out I didn’t need much bravery. I have stayed in lovely places - both at the guest house and with my host family. I have had amazing people at Holy Land Trust looking out for me, and I made local friends who have ensured that I am having fun while I am learning. And I have made what I can only hope are lifelong friends in my Iktashef group. We have functioned as a team - we support each other, we challenge each other, we humor each other, and we affirm each other. I cannot imagine a group more demographically distinct from me, and yet this group embodies the qualities I hold most dear. First Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest is love.” For all the fear I had a month ago, I leave with faith, hope, and so much love.
My own Christian faith has been deepened from my conversations with the group. I have more hope for the region from having met so many incredible people who are invested in a just peace. And as the passage says, the greatest thing I leave with is love. My love for the people living in the Holy Land is no longer generalized; I now love very many specific people whom I will carry in my heart as I continue to amplify voices from the region. And I leave with an enduring love for each of the people who were my teammates as I traveled through the Holy Land. Like love itself, they are patient and they are kind. The Bible tells us that love never fails. Just as it transformed my fear into faith and hope, my prayer is that love continues to spread throughout the Holy Land, relationship by relationship, community by community, until this region becomes the model for loving peace that it is meant to be.
On the first day of the program, we wrote ourselves letters. Mine included a wish for my today self: “I hope that your heart is so full that it is ready to explode.” That wish came true. In my final reflection yesterday I wrote, “1 Corinthians 13:13 says, ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest is love.’ For all the fear I had a month ago, I leave with faith, hope, and so much love.