"Among the Most Strangely Exquisite Forms of Happiness": Volunteering at BethBC

For the past seven years, I have had opportunities to travel and teach abroad.  This summer I had the privilege of teaching two beginners’ English classes at Bethlehem Bible College. I felt fully supported with all materials and copy needs that I had and classroom management issues that arose.

Teaching and reading are my passion, so I always pack a literary classic in my suitcase. I read War and Peace in Oman, The Count of Monte Cristo in Turkey, and this summer I read Les Misérables in Palestine! I never cease to be amazed by the parallels that transcend culture and history! One of my favorite quotes is from Les Misérables: “To be blind and beloved may, in this world where nothing is perfect, be among the most strangely exquisite forms of happiness…The supreme happiness in life is the assurance of being loved; of being loved for oneself, even in spite of oneself; and this assurance the blind man possesses.”

I absolutely loved all of my students, but one of the teenagers held a special place in my heart; Every day he overcame the obstacle of blindness and brought joy, eagerness to learn, and musical talent to our English class. During class, he learned with the help of his computer and during break, he played the piano for us. When I need inspiration, I look to George!

Touring Bethlehem

After a rigorous five-day teaching schedule, our team set aside our lesson plans and set off as tourists. Each weekend, we visited a different location.

Our tour guide Issa led us to–and through!–the caves of Shepherds’ Field where Mary likely gave birth to the baby Jesus. Climbing through the caves transformed my image of the nativity scene. I had always pictured Mary and Joseph knocking at the door of every inn and finally being pointed out back to an Americana-type barn, fragrant with the scent of fresh hay and echoing with lullabies of lowing cows and bleating sheep. Our tour guide explained that caves were common dwellings as they were dry and insolated–and served as home to many of shepherds guarding their flocks by night. The Chapel of the Milk Grotto was one of the day’s highlights for me!  The imagery and sacred atmosphere resonated with my soul.

After getting our shawarma on and munching on hummus and falafel at Afteem Restaurant in the Old City, we set off for a terrace view of Battir, a major Palestinian cultural landscape. Battir is a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its “Roman pools” or ancient irrigation system with egalitarian distribution. It also features agricultural terraces for the cultivation of olives and vegetables.

Our tour ended abruptly at a mound in the barren mountain road. Our tour guide told us we would get out and walk from here to the Tent of Nations. Yet there was no tent or establishment in view, only wilderness, brush, and settlements as far as the eye could see. We obeyed and began our trek, taking the path less traveled and (to borrow from Robert Frost) that made all the difference. We arrived at a stone that read “WE REFUSE TO BE ENEMIES.” We met with Daoud Nassar who shared the history and vision of this Palestinian Christian family’s farm project, the Tent of Nations “, which was dedicated to the Lord to be a meeting place of reconciliation.

And Galilee

Our experience in Galilee was phenomenal. We departed from the Little Town of Bakah for the little town of Caesarea on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. My favorite part was the Caesarea National Park.

From the Mediterranean Sea to Mount Carmel, our next stop was where Elijah contested and defeated the prophets of Baal by a mighty demonstration of the power of God (1Kings 18). The Muhraka Monastery is at the top of Mount Carmel and provides a perfect place to stand, sit, meditate, and pray over the panoramic view of Nazareth and Mount Tabor.

Our final destination was the Church of Annunciation. The Basilica, an outstanding building in the heart of Nazareth, is one of the most magnificent in the Middle East today. It was designed by Italian architect Giovanni Muzio and built at the believed home of Jesus’ parents Joseph and the Virgin Mary.

After a refreshing night’s sleep, we set off by boat from the shores of Galilee…yes, the same Galilee where Jesus called Peter to cast his nets on the other side after a fruitless night, where Jesus pulled a coin out of a fish’s mouth to prove His point, and where Jesus called Peter to step out of the boat and walk on water. Faith, Hope and Charity were the names of the three modern day boats. Our destination was Capernaum, the home of Peter and many of the miracles of Jesus. The location features both ruins of the synagogue where men met for conversation next to a church built over Peter’s house.

I am eternally blessed by my experience in the Holy Land this summer, especially at Bethlehem Bible College. Words will never be able to fully express how deeply I was touched or how profoundly I was transformed.

If you are interested in volunteering at Bethlehem Bible College, The College is looking for full-time volunteers to fill the following positions:

  • Manage the Guest House
  • Assist in the Communication & Development Department
  • Teach English
  • IT: Code writer and/or software developer
  • Web Developer
  • Proposal writer/reporting skills
  • Trainer on writing skills (intermediate – advanced)
  • Short term video editing – proficiency in After Effect

Check this link for more information: https://bethbc.edu/volunteer/

By Jennifer Erickson