From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Palestinian Lutherans Worship Despite Curfew

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Fri, 21 Feb 2003 15:16:19 -0600


February 21, 2003


     BEIT JALA, West Bank (ELCA) -- Twelve communicators from the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) drove here in two vans
from Jerusalem Feb. 2 to attend  worship at a Lutheran church, but,
with an Israeli curfew in place, the Lutherans wondered if anyone
else would be at the church.
     Beit Jala and other towns around Bethlehem on the West Bank
were shut down, under curfew from the Israeli military.  No one was
allowed to drive, walk or be outside of his or her home.
     With their flashers blinking, two Lutheran World Federation
(LWF) vans, following a car driven by the Rev. Munib A. Younan,
bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (and Palestine)
(ELCJ), were the only vehicles approaching the Bethlehem check point
for entry into this area.  Normally busy streets were empty of cars
and people. After a brief negotiation, the sergeant allowed the
vehicles to pass.
     The group was traveling to worship at Reformation Lutheran
Church here where Younan was scheduled to preach and lead worship.
The communicators were joined by the Rev. Mary Jensen, ELCA
missionary and ELCJ communication director, Jerusalem.
     A full congregation of "illegal" worshipers greeted the ELCA
group as they arrived at Reformation Church. "If God calls us," said
one congregation member, "we're coming."
     The worship was lively, with congregation members singing the
hymns and liturgy in Arabic from memory. Younan's sermon was
translated line by line for the ELCA visitors by his wife, Suad
Younan.  Based on the Gospel lesson of Jesus stilling the storm-
tossed sea, Younan's sermon was about God's ability to quiet every
storm in life, even the "storm" of the situation in Palestine.
     Lessons were read in English by two ELCA members and then in
Arabic by the bishop.  The Rev. Eric C. Shafer, director, ELCA
Department for Communication, and group leader, greeted the
congregation, sharing with them the prayers and support of the
members of the ELCA.
     This experience was typical for the twelve ELCA communicators
who traveled to Jerusalem and the West Bank, Feb. 1-8, Shafer said.
     In addition to Beit Jala, the group visited ELCJ congregations
and schools in Bethlehem and Ramallah, and LWF projects in Jerusalem
as well as LWF's Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives,
Jerusalem.  The LWF is a global communion of 136 Lutheran Churches in
76 countries representing 61.7 million Lutherans.
     Visits to ELCJ schools in Bethlehem and Ramallah were among the
trip's highlights, Shafer said.  Seniors at the Lutheran School of
Hope in Ramallah shared their hopes and fears with the group.  Asked
about their plans for after graduation, one student replied, "we
can't have any plans beyond next week" because of the situation in
Palestine.  Another added that he hoped to continue to "get educated
and come back to serve my country."
      Five years from now students fear "the situation won't change"
and "maybe it will get worse."	"Nothing is guaranteed; maybe we'll
be dead," said one student.  "We can't live like others," another
said.  "We go to sleep not sure if we will wake living or dead."
     Still, they "hoped to live" and "hoped to change the situation"
in Palestine, and, the students were quick to add that they did not
hate U.S. President George W. Bush or Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon.  Rather, they hoped Bush would visit Palestine.  "Come see,
we are not terrorists," said one student.
     ELCA members provide support for humanitarian projects in the
West Bank through Lutheran World Relief, the overseas development and
relief agency of the ELCA and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; through
the LWF, with funds from the ELCA World Hunger Appeal and the ELCA
Division for Global Mission, Chicago.  Projects supported included
the LWF vocational school in Jerusalem and a new International Center
in Bethlehem.
     Joining Shafer on the trip were Wendy Blanck, Palatine, Ill.;
the Rev. Nancy Curtis, Kane, Pa.; Marcia and the Rev. Mark Holman,
Minneapolis; Amber Leberman, Elmhurst, Ill., the Rev. Paul Lintern,
Mansfield, Ohio; Wendy McCredie, Oak Park, Ill.; the Rev. John
Richter, Wyomissing, Pa.; Kris Shafer, Park Ridge, Ill.; the Rev.
John Spangler, Gettysburg, Pa.; and Sister Virginia Strahan,
Baldwinville, Mass.
     View photos from the ELCA communicators' visit to the Middle
East at on the ELCA Web

     For more information on the ELCJ, visit on the Web.  For information about
ELCA ministries in the Middle East, visit
on the Web.

     *The Rev. Eric C. Shafer is director, ELCA Department for
Communication, Chicago.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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