‘The separation wall is not the only wall in Bethlehem’ says Judy Fox, Founder of Ignite International.’ There are many other invisible walls that are separating people in this region; religious, gender and political’. For Judy this is where sports can play a pivotal role in breaking down barriers. Judy believes sport is a universal language that has the power to transcend any barrier of separation, ‘You roll out a ball and instantly a relationship is made’.
Since 2003 Ignite International is uniting youth and young adults from different contexts, religious backgrounds and gender through sports. Every year Igniteinvites teams of athletes from America for a mission trip where their passion for sports meets their passion for Jesus. Through playing volleyball and other sports, American athletes are invited to participate in the lives of Palestinians and get a firsthand exposure to their situation. The result is friendships formed and new voices that speak about Palestine. For Judy, Palestine is ‘the most misunderstood and misrepresented country in the world’. However, from her experience, it only takes meeting Palestinians and experiencing their warmth, kindness and hospitality to change any wrong perception.
In a context such as Palestine, full of political unrest and violence, sport can provide youth with a healthy form of stress release. But most importantly, it is a tangible expression of freedom and accomplishment. For Judy this gives her, as a coach, the opportunity to encourage young men and women to pursue their dreams and be a voice in and for their communities. ‘Palestine is the land of broken promises’ explains Judy, ‘time and time again Palestinians have been let down by international governments, diplomats and politicians. That is why it is so important to give youth trustworthiness and the opportunity to believe. ‘Ignites’ partnership with like-minded, local sport leaders is giving the Palestinian athletes this opportunity and empowering them to believe.
Over the years Bethlehem Bible College and Ignite International have become partners in the Kingdom. ‘I can’t even begin to express how much I appreciate the friendship with BBC’ says Judy ‘I am grateful to come home each night to “family” at the guest house. And it is truly the staff at BBC whose personal experiences have broadened my perspective related to the complexities of the Holy Land. It is your families who ignited the passion in me to reach your people with the love of our Lord. I gratefully stand with you.’
Bethlehem Bible College is honoured to welcome, every year, Judy and other members of Ignite International. We pray that their hard work will continue to impact youth from the Bethlehem area and beyond.
If you want to know more about Ignite International, be sure to visit their website: www.igniteinternational.org.
Amira is the Social Media Manager of Bethlehem Bible College. She is a committed Palestinian Christian who has a passion for writing about the intersection of faith and seeking justice for her fellow countrymen. To read more of her writings sign up for Bethlehem Bible College’s monthly newsletter.