This year, we used our Annual Women’s Conference to introduce as many new women as possible to the need for reconciliation. We proposed an idea to our experienced participants to bring a friend, acquaintance, and ideally someone younger than them, so that we could pass on our hope to the next generation.
Our women did not disappoint! Twenty of our current and committed women brought a friend, and in some cases, two. For the first time that I know of, a Musalaha women’s event had equal numbers of participants from different cultures and there was a waiting list to attend. I have worked for Musalaha for four years and never had to turn away participants– rather the opposite. Recruitment has always been a challenge for us. This time, however, with 80 women registered, I had to tell some that there was no more room at the inn.
We began our time with simple questions: Have you had contact with any followers of Jesus from the “other” side? In your congregation or church, do you normally worship with the “other”?
The group answered with a resounding no. There is no contact on a daily basis, no relationships, no visiting for holidays or weekends. We are almost surgically removed one from the other, even though we may live in the same city, never mind being unable to cross the checkpoints to enter or leave the Palestinian Authority.
Acknowledging this, we dove in. We asked the participants to arrange themselves at tables by the color of their name tags (I had already ensured there were several participants at each table who could translate in all the languages). We asked them to describe how each of them physically arrived at the conference that day. Of course, some had simple answers like, “I got in my car, drove, parked.” The learning came when others described traveling four hours on a bus or crossing a checkpoint and having to remove their shoes on a cold January day.
We continued our weekend with teachings about God reconciling us to him (symbolized in the downward portion of the cross) and our responsibility to reconcile with each other (symbolized in the horizontal portion of the cross). Two of our participants who have been trained to teach our curriculum lead the group to an understanding of God’s desire for each of us to have a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
We ended our weekend with a dramatic interpretation of the story of the Good Samaritan. We discussed how the world beats us down daily, as this man was beaten. It is up to us, as sisters in the Kingdom of God, to sacrifice our time, money and comfort to heal each other. This is the Kingdom of God. This is our ministry.
Hedva Haymov, Women’s Program Director