Sunday, November 05, 2006

Texas Volunteers - Sunday

After yesterday's hard work harvesting olives, we weren't sure we'd be able to get our volunteers up today, but they bounded out of bed this morning ready for a new day. OK, I'm exaggerating, but they did get up! They worshipped with the congregation at the Ramallah Local Church. In the afternoon, we drove south to visit Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.

Comments from Don about the first day in the country:
Hello to our church in Texas. First, thank each of you who are praying: for our safety, for the Lord to open our ears, eyes and hearts to His truth for us on this trip, and that our representatives in the Holy Land would have God's wisdom and discernment for our time here. Each of these prayers has been answering in a mighty as only God could do. Even though there was a baggage strike at Tel Aviv when we arrived and we couldn't pick up our luggage until 24 hours later, our friends picked us up and took excellent care of us seeing to our every need. What is truly amazing is that we could leave the plains of Texas one day and be visiting where Jesus walked in Galilee the next day. Is was a life changing experience as we rode and walked through the Galilee area. Now when I ready the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 I can almost hear and see Jesus as He was teaching His disciples and the crowds on that mountainside for I have truly walked where Jesus walked and my heart has been opened in a way that will bless me for the rest of my life.

Comments from Jim about the Olive Harvest:
This day stated with prayer for opened hearts and guidance from God through the Holy Spirit. Our plan on this first full day of my first outreach trip was to help a Muslim family harvest olives. This was meant to build a relationship with the families here and allow us to carry out good works that God gave us to do. After a day of: spreading tarps, climbing ladders, beating branches with sticks, bombardment by falling olives, gathering sieving, bagging and transporting, taking photos, exchanging smiles, laughter and respect and sharing food and drink, the prayer was answered. I believe the Holy Spirit did guide us through the day and did open hearts to God's will. It was not only the hearts of those we helped, my heart was opened as well. I truly did not know what to expect to learn or see from helping what I had been told was an average Palestinian family. What I did learn was respect for these warm, genuine, honestly needing and grateful people. I was allowed to see just how much these people were like the trees we harvested from. The olive tree has been used in the Scripture of the Old and New Covenant as an illustration of the people in the Holy Land. As did the Jews and then the early church, the Palestinians certainly follow in line with the illustration. The olive tree struggles to thrive in the harsh Palestinian landscape. Sturdy and steadfast they grow in rocky soil surrounded by sharp thorn bushes and broken walls. Yet, even in this environment they are capable of producing useful and beneficial fruit. These average Palestinians are likewise struggling to exist in a harsh, poverty-stricken environment. Surrounded by the bristling thorns of politics, hatred and mistrust; and the broken stone walls of unforgiving, legalistic religions. They are likewise striving to produce useful and beneficial fruit in the form of their lives and children. How can we who were once grafted into the olive tree of God's family not feel the need to help new branches also be grafted into the body? My heart was opened and my mind was given guidance today. I say we cannot.

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