“I have an idea”
“I have another idea”
And so Keyla’s* walking cadence blends with her thinking cadence and her rhythm of new ideas, always new, never old, comes and tells me (in Arabic – aren’t you glad I translated it for you?):
Keyla: Dawn, I have an idea.
me: yes, Keyla?
Keyla: You can stay in Bethlehem. Don’t move back to the US. Stay here.
me: (laughter) Thanks, Keyla, but God has said to go. I will miss you. And I’ll see you again.
Keyla: but even my mother cries when she thinks of you leaving. (pause) I have another idea.
Keyla: go to the US, get your husband, and bring him back here.
me: (chuckling) that’s a nice idea, Keyla, but I must go back for a time. I don’t know if I will live here again.
Keyla: but we will miss you so much. Who will dance with Jesus with us?
And so the conversation floats and glides each evening. For over a month I have walked three evenings weekly with three MBBs from a camp in Bethlehem. Keyla, Zaara, and Lydia. It is their initiative that established the habit. And it is a gorgeous time for discipleship as we walk up and down the hills of Beit Jala, through orchards and around wadis (empty river beds). They stop and pick figs, grapes, apricots, cucumbers, apples, plums, pears, sunflower seeds and the regular free bottle of water from the restaurant 2/3 up the mountain. We also gather spiritual tasty treats: Joseph’s overnight journey from the prison to the palace, what it means to wait on the Lord, how to maintain one’s peace, what to do about those who are violent against them, what GRACE is, and how we train our hearts to love EVERYONE just like Jesus did. Of course, the girls do not speak English so, I find myself getting a mental workout that exceeds the physical workout as I fold together Arabic sentences like an origami paper swan in my mind.
It’s amazing to see the way these women encounter Jesus. Since they are from a M family in a very M camp in an 80% M city amongst a 99% M people, they do not have a rubric for what walking with J looks like. They also are without a community of believers. Moreover, because of potential persecution, they remain low-key about their faith. ALSO, they are women and thus, they are their family’s honor – if they do something to dishonor their immediate family or their extended family their lives could be in danger.
One day I was gleefully dancing along our walking path, singing to my Beloved and they began laughing. “Who are you dancing with, Dawn?” “Jesus!” I shouted back. And thus, it began… they have all begun spontaneously dancing with Jesus as we walk and even after they return to their house. Zaara says any time she feels sad if she starts to dance with Jesus a huge smile comes on her face! And she remains happy. And when she sings praises to Him she feels His presence! haha! One day she said, “Dawn, I have a question.” “Yes?” I replied. “Whenever I go to a meeting and sing songs to Jesus, when I go home I can’t stop singing and often I wake up in the middle of the night singing songs to Jesus!” She looked at me expectantly. “Um, Zaara, what is the question?” I asked. “Why?” she said.
I grinned a cheshire grin and winked at the Holy Spirit. And thus began another talk about the Holy Spirit and the things He gives us. : )
I love these women. Every evening as we scale the hills, when they tire and I maintain steam, they say, “Dawn, you are ACTIVE!” haha! I suppose a more exact translation would be energetic, but active (نشطة) has a different connotation in Arabic. Yet, somehow the Holy Spirit stirs in me in the midst of their observation – the joy of the Lord is my strength! (Neh 4:12) Even physically as we scale large hills.
One day recently I suggested we replace our walk with a journey to King Herod’s summer palace, Herodian, about 30 minutes outside Bethlehem. The girls had never been. We had a joyous time! We even got to see the remains of Herod’s tomb which was discovered only two years ago! As we were atop the mountain, we spied an Israeli Army outpost with many tanks outside. The girls were intrigued. One of them blurted out, “I love the Jews!” And the others chimed in, “yes, Dawn says Jesus loves all the people so we must also. So, WE LOVE THE JEWS!” I was happy-struck! WOW! To think, when I picked up the girls at their house that day they were tired because they hadn’t slept much due to the Israeli Army barging into their neighbors’ house in the middle of the night and the confrontation that ensued. They said they were very scared, but nevertheless, later that day they were atop Herodian proclaiming their love for the Jews!
” For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier,
THE DIVIDING WALL of hostility,
by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”
From the Herodian we journeyed to Kheritoun – the largest cave system in all Israel/Palestine! It’s over 2 miles in length! After we poked inside one of the rooms the girls said, we should come back here again and sing worship song in English, Arabic, and HEBREW! (Mind you, the girls don’t speak Hebrew, but it’s remarkable to see the way reconciliation grows from their hearts!) They understand that, though it’s a hard call, they must love those their culture says are their “enemies.” They are living out a radical call to LOVE, to forgive, to approach those who have hurt them, and to sing praises to the Lord through a new river of unity!
I would say, that these women are ACTIVE! Active in love, in learning Jesus’ ways, in learning to calm themselves and listen to the Spirit despite what their environment says. And they are paving an irresistible revolution! They are forerunners! They are making the way for their entire camp and their entire people group to follow Jesus in passionate pursuit! It is a high honor to know them! I can hardly wait to see what the Lord does in them in the years to come! WOW! WOW! WOW!
* names have been changed