Anytime some sort of pilgrimage is made, there’s always a sense of shift in emotions as travels are completed and when one is met by the routines called daily life. For the definition of “what is normal?” seems to be altogether challenged. It’s hard to imagine coming back home with everything looking exactly the same.
Such a sigh of “I’m now back at home” has found me today as I’m awake at 5 am with jet leg. For, the more time I’ve had to reflect (Aziz and Elad, tour guides aren’t here to plan my day any longer), the more I’ve realized how much I truly loved being in Israel.
International travel is not new to me. In fact, I’ve mostly experienced the type of overseas adventures in 3rd world nations. Service trips have taken me in the past 12 years to places like Tanzania, Kenya, Burma, Rwanda and Uganda to learn about culture, religion and women’s issues. But, usually my response has been that I was glad to come home once the trip is over. Really glad in fact. I missed my bed. I missed American food. I missed freedom to come and go as I pleased. I was never beneath the practice of singing “My Country Tis of Thee” when the wheels of the airplane hit the ground with glee in my soul. “Finally I am in a country where I belong” has been my decree!
But, this time when we arrived on American soil in Boston (long story as to why we made an emergency landing there), I didn’t sing a patriotic song. I didn’t wish to run to the nearest establishment to get a good plate full of American food. I didn’t feel excitement to drive to my house when we finally made it to DC.
Instead, I was a bit sad. Life in Israel was good. I wasn’t quite ready to be back.
Not only was the food wonderful– the hummus and the bread in this region of the world are to die for– but my heart felt quite connected not only to the people I’d met there but also to my traveling companions: Aziz, Elad, Rob, John, and Yusuf (and of course, Kevin, the one whom I gladly get to live with all the time).
There had been true community created among our little delegation over the course of our ten-day travels. Deep community that can only be built through the presence of authentic dialogue, laughter, and a deep sense of trust with one another. I laughed so hard on several occasions over dinner time conversations that I got an ab workout. We truly enjoyed one another’s company. Answering with a resounding “YES” every time it was asked of us, “Can an Imam, a Rabbi, and two Pastors of different denominations really get along?” For each of our open spirits had opened up the possibility of our truly seeing and respecting each other for exactly who we were– nothing more, nothing less.
I’m thinking about so much in response to all that I saw and experienced and gained through the bonds of community. I am challenged to re-consider how I might increase my daily interactions with people who are of a different faith or culture than me. I am challenged to be more bold in the particular witness of the congregation where I am called to serve: that God has given us peace building work to do (come Sunday to worship to hear more). I am challenged to a pace of life that includes more time for un-hurried conversation and hospitality. I am challenged to consider how more of my ministry as a clergywoman needs to be spent in Interfaith circles. I am challenged to pay greater attention to news of Israel and Palestine– being a voice when at all possible of those on the ground attempting the tremendous undertaking of seeking the peace of the nations.
Israel nourished me in ways I’m sure I will continue to be unfolding for days, months and years to come.
While I continue to let out one huge sigh of, “I’m back at home” I’m trying to find ways to take what I experienced and offer it as nourishment to others as well.
Two tangible opportunities for you to share in this in the immediate future (if you live in the DC metro area) are on the next two Sunday mornings. This week our joint adult Sunday School class called, “Conversations about Israel: An Interfaith Perspective” continues with Aziz Abu Sarah, Director of Middle East Programs at George Mason University will be speaking at 9:30 am in the Plaza Room at Washington Plaza Baptist Church, Reston. Aziz has a wonderful story of personal family crisis, forgiveness and life mission that you will NOT want to miss. Then, next Sunday at the same time, Kevin and I will be sharing a Powerpoint presentation with pictures, stories and reflections of our Israel adventure. All are welcome, regardless of faith or tradition.
While piles of laundry call my name and there is much catch-up work to do at the church, I’m glad that the richness of my recent journey is staying close. I have much to treasure in my heart.