Earlier this summer, myself and twelve others flew in from London to help Bethlehem Bible College run a day camp for local kids. My main concern before going was that we were going to be more of a hindrance than a help, as none of us spoke Arabic, and we only had a basic understanding of the context and the culture. But those concerns turned out to be unnecessary, as we were blessed with fun and meaningful relationships with the BBC team, amazing opportunities to talk about the Bible, and several occasions to learn more about the culture and ongoing situation in Palestine.
The first evening we arrived, we were warmly greeted by some of the BBC staff and taken to a restaurant for a Palestinian dinner. That evening and the following few days were our introduction to Palestine. We heard the stories of so many people, learned the history of the land, and experienced warm Arab hospitality. There were even several nights I felt I had eaten so much that I could barely walk home!
As we learned more about the situation in Palestine and heard people’s stories about visa issues, land confiscation, and random arrests, I realized that living there is much more difficult than I had known. Just one day was enough to leave me quite discouraged. As I asked people how they coped with it, they admitted that it was really difficult, but it was also evident that they loved Palestine, and that they felt they were there for a reason. Their faith and perseverance were encouraging, and challenged me to remember that no matter how difficult a situation may appear, God is the one who is ultimately in control.
Summer Camp Begins
The day summer camp started, one hundred kids from the local area flooded into the College’s auditorium. We weren’t totally sure how it was going to go as different concerns arose each day, but as the week went on kids started to bring their friends, and it was clear that both they and all the volunteers were having a lot of fun. We would pray together for the camp every morning and send emails with prayer requests back to our friends in London, and it was so evident that God was answering each and every request. I found that so encouraging—praying for so many specific things and then seeing them all taken care of.
I was working with the youngest group, the 5 and 6 year-olds, most of whom did not speak English, but the translators working with us were helpful and enthusiastic. And they, like the kids, were from both Muslim and Christian backgrounds. I was surprised to find out that this almost never happens. In fact, the president of the Bible College told us that some of the Christian families didn’t let their children attend the camp when they found out there would be Muslims from refugee camps were also attending. I felt privileged to be part of a team that was bridging that gap, bringing together people who live close to each other and yet otherwise would never meet. It was a reminder to me that Christ is the one who does what the rest of the world cannot; He is the reconciler.
Our God is a great big God!
One of my favorite memories from those two weeks was seeing my little children standing up in the auditorium (where all week it had been nearly impossible to get them to sit still and pay attention) doing the hand motions and singing enthusiastically that “our God is a great big God, and He holds us in His hands.” I think that’s a memory that all of us will cherish, knowing that these children from different backgrounds and with varying levels of English were going home singing about the God who knows them and loves them. It was stuck in my head for those two weeks, and it became increasingly clear throughout my time in Palestine just how true those words are.