From HUGer Kaila:
I'm sitting on the plane, heading back "home" to Athens, trying to figure out a way to put the experiences and knowledge gained in the past nine days into words. We've done so much and had so much fun that it is really hard to summarize such an incredible experience. I never dreamed that I would be able to visit the Holy Land for a day, much less nine.
The concept of peace has been a significant theme during this trip. Justin spoke about peace in the chapel before we left. "Shalom," which means "peace," was the first word we learned in Hebrew. We walked in the footsteps of the Prince of Peace. We got to explore Jerusalem, which literally translates to City of Peace. We saw the word everywhere we went. It covered everything from t-shirts to graffiti and we were asked by many to pray for peace.
I saw both peace and a lack of peace during this journey. We went to the Church of Annunciation, whose size apparently caused street fights at one point in history when Muslims planned to build a mosque to tower over it and block it from view. Churches all over the world had donated great sums to decorate the walls surrounding the church's courtyard with mosaics of Mary. What speaks more of peace than the Church working together to make something beautiful? We stood in a corner of the courtyard and listened to our brilliant tourguide, Yossi, play Ave Maria on his flute. As he began to play, the church bells began to ring, which was supposed to symbolize communication between God and man and man and his fellow man. Yossi temporarily paused his song, but when it became clear that the bells were not going to cease any time soon, he began to try to play over them. The Jewish Shofar soon joined in, along with the Muslim gong, all attempting to overpower each other. All trying to win, but I wondered, what would "winning" accomplish? We often do this in conversations. We shout past each other because we know that the loudest person is the one that will win an argument. The noise becomes so loud that it deafens and closes the ears of all who hear. A peaceful and respectful conversation is much more likely to win people over, though.
Unfortunately, I also saw this lack of peace individually within the three main religions in Jerusalem. Jewish sects were divided, as clear seen, even in the way that they chose to dress and cut their hair to differentiate themselves from others. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was divided into Catholic, Armenian, and Greek Orthodox sections. One chapel within the church had been burned three times by another part of the Church that wanted to gain ownership of the chapel. Monks belonging to different parts of the Church walked in, one after another, swinging their incense in the same areas. It looked like they were trying to mark their territory. We did not have much of an interaction with Muslims on this trip, since we had already been to Turkey, but we heard a little about the division of Sunnis and Shiites.
Even still, we did experience great peace during this trip. We were welcomed into two prayer centers in Jerusalem that focused on worshipping JESUS and praying for peace among the Nations. Neither prayer center belonged to the same denomination that we belong to, but as the Church, we were able to come together and fellowship as brothers and sisters in CHRIST in a common hope that GOD's peace would overcome the world. I used to view peace as a light, almost weak feeling, but I have come to the conclusion that it is enormously powerful. Like Lydia's stream in Philippi, it looks serene and gentle, yet its current is enough to overcome you, emptying you yet filling you, leaving room for nothing except love for GOD and for mankind.
As you think about it, please pray for Israel and Greece. We love you!
P.S. Hi Mom and Dad!!!
Dr. Clay Beason, CSCS
Director, Harding University in Greece