I have just finished my first week of work at the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour and at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem. I am continuing to get acclimated to the area, but my host community is helping me along the way. In this message, I am going to share some of my experiences with hospitality in the Holy Land.
On Sunday the 10th, Annie (the other YAGM volunteer serving in the same community as I am) and I went to our host church for the first time. We were greeted with a welcome from the pastor of the congregation. His welcome was not just for our year of service, but for life. The rest of the congregation had similar messages for us and one parishioner even translated the sermon for us, so that we could hear the message for the week. I was blown away by how the members of my church community welcomed to their space.
Following church, Annie and I went grocery shopping and I helped her carry her groceries to her host home. Once we arrived, we were greeted with an invitation to socialize over Arabic coffee. Within a few minutes of socializing with Annie’s host mother and siblings, I had been invited to Sunday lunch with Annie’s host mother’s extended family. Again, I was absolutely amazed by the invitation and I gladly accepted it. We ate musakhan (pita bread, with caramelized onion, and chicken), laughed, and enjoyed each other’s company.
Annie’s host grandfather owns a restaurant that is popular with tourists in the area. One of the groups had requested to see Dabke dancing (an Arab folk dance), so he brought Annie and me to see the dance troupe. It was an exciting experience and I even got to participate with the group during the final dance number. It was a really fun experience and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to be part of such a special day.
I have only shared part of one day that I’ve been here. Invitations, like I shared above, have been the norm, not an anomaly. Whether it’s my host family, teachers at the school, or people that I meet at the grocery store, I consistently get invitations to spend time getting to know members of my host community. God’s love is very present here and I see it daily when I interact with the people here. I cannot wait to see how this group of people help to shape and change me throughout the rest of my time here.