Friday, January 27, 2017

Holy Hopes - Final Video Project

This video captures my thoughts and reflections
from my journey to this land we call Holy, 
and completes all Cross-Cultural Experience requirements.  
AMEN and ENJOY!  January 2017.

Brenda L. Greenwald – A PLTS Pilgrim
FT-2203:  Holy Land Immersion
Final Reflection:  Full Video Script found below.

000 PILGRIM SIGN “Closed for Renovation....a spiritual guide of the....” HOLD ON.  I’m not too comfortable with the idea of being CLOSED to anything.  More like OPEN for renovation  – renovation of my heart, renovation of my spirit as a traveller - a pilgrim, and certainly a renovation of my awareness of all that is happening in this land we call Holy. 

001 CANDLES I need to back up a bit, and remember the candles Susan and I lit in the PLTS Chapel, before our pilgrimage even began.  The songs and prayers we sang, and the light that would carry us through what was to be the journey of a lifetime.  

003 SIGN Things were already changing upon our arrival, from the announcements on the plane to the writing on the signs:  we had entered a new land - a land that greeted us with security checks and passport scans, and a land contested throughout the ages. Would we be questioned? Would we be welcomed?  Time would tell.  

004 MARY WE began where it ALL began:  with the story of Mary and the angel that brought her the news of the baby growing inside of her.   Water above, and water below...

004 TREE ....and DEFINITELY some new ideas about what to do with that Nativity scene at church!  Hmmm...IN the tree.  Fascinating.  

004 SYNAGOGUE   Before we knew it, we were in the place of the Synagogue where Jesus had once unrolled the scrolls to read from the prophet Isaiah .  Having JUST preached on this story in California, the earthly connection to our Savior was almost too much for me, and I rejoiced in getting to share this experience with my congregants, who had just heard this story themselves.  JESUS had once been there ....and now, so were WE!
005 JAPANESE With global depictions of Mary encircling the Basilica,  I reflected on the importance this one woman has had in our religious heritage, and the immense burden AND privilege she held upon carrying our Savior into this world.  

005 USA Why, Mary, herself, is the subject of the 19th chapter of the Qur’an , weaving the Christian and Islamic story together, into one fabric.  We visited other holy sites pertaining to Jesus’s birth...

006 GOLAN And....some NOT so holy sites...

006 MINES My discomfort inside the Golan Heights had less to do with the land mines that were still actively found throughout the countryside...

006.1 WATER ...and more to do with the occupation of this Syrian territory by the Israeli forces since 1967 . Not that I approve of what is happening in Syria these days, but this land was taken under the pretense of “Biblical Israel ” and simply setting foot on the land made this pilgrim uneasy.    

007 PEEK We took a peek around the ruins of Capernaum, 

007 GREEK And rejoiced in finding some ancient writings in Greek...that we could actually translate! (Thanks, Dr. Pence!)

007 WINDOW Here we were, standing on the past and the present – old, stone windows everywhere.  But just what was I looking at?  Just what was I looking for!?  

008 SHELLS For me, it’s always a grounding in my call and my purpose, and I find that grounding in the promises of my baptism.  Promises made to this Child of God and promises made to this Pastor of Flocks.  

008 JORDAN Or course, finding it at the River JORDAN was unavoidable!

008 BAP Re-affirming our OWN baptisms left us walking wet, with tears of joy

008 OTHERS Joy that was increased by the FIRST time baptism of people to our LEFT
008 OTHERS ...and on our RIGHT.
008 COMMUNION Being able share with future congregations – Children’s Sermons! – the scene around us as we broke the bread and shared the cup?  I won’t need the Bible text to help me remember the colors and the smells the SOUNDS of this space and place.  

008 BEATITUDE Reading the Beatitudes with my colleagues, side by side, verse by verse.  Matthew 7.  Prophesies , indeed!  Ask, seek, knock....forever changed.  

009 SEA So, too, was the water.  THE Sea of Galilee.   COUNTLESS miracles were performed ON and around this water....

009 FLAGS Yet, I couldn’t shake the conflict that came upon seeing these two flags, side by side.  One, which I greatly respect...and one that brings about emotions of frustration and helplessness.  How can I reconcile the actions of the United States when they’ve worked alongside a country that has trampled the rights of the Palestinians? My answer has yet to come.  

010 EILABOUN The personal narratives from our leader, Pastor Gabi, regarding the massacres of his village folk, touched a deep nerve amongst us all... 

011 GRAFFITI did the painted, signs of hope found throughout his village.  HOPE does NOT disappoint .  God continues to assure us of that.  

013 DRUZE Signs that gave us hope for women in the church,

013 FLOWERS And signs that Arabs, Jews, and Christians WANT to work, side by side.  

014 MED The blues and hues of the Mediterranean Sea could never be captured in a photo...

014 ARCH ...nor could the joy of experiencing this pilgrimage among friends.

017 KING DAVID And then, our landscape changed once again.

017 FLAG Signs of Nationalism in Jerusalem were displayed...

CROWING VIDEO sounds of Biblical stories rang true .  

017 WATER Our journey took us deep below in watery paths leading to the sites of miracles.  I was able to read the John 9 Bible passage for our group when we all reunited, and I had to smile at the sad irony of a half-blind girl reading about the miraculous, restoration of sight.  New perspectives, right ?

019 GARDEN The garden cave had us all scratching our heads, wondering just where does this city draw the line between religiosity and tourism.  At the end of the day, I’ve realize it isn’t so much of an “X marks the spot for me”, but rather a chance to relive the story in, around, and under the narrative of Jesus – much like we believe when it comes to His Spirit at Holy Communion. 

021 BREN PRAY The agony of not being able to pray INSIDE the Garden of Gethsemane couldn’t stop this pilgrim from falling to her knees in prayer.  

021 AGONY The true agony of this Basilica, however, where Jesus fell to his knees in prayer, wasn’t so much the location, but that as Lutherans, we were denied a taste of the Eucharist by the Catholics.  O Lord, have mercy, that one day we can all be united under one Lord, one faith, one baptism .  

021 PATER The joy of praying the Our Father in other languages was enhanced by our own Pastor Gabi (Arabic), Leader Peter (Hebrew), and fellow Pilgrim Guta, who lead us in the Ethiopian petitions.  

023 LVC We were reminded again and again, that WE weren’t the only people doing the watching.  We were there to ACCOMPANY .  

023 TRASH The juxtaposition of the trash found on the streets, and the 

023 POTTERY found inside the Lutheran Vocational center was appalling.  How can a people who have so fiercely contested their LAND take so poor care of it!?  I’m befuddled.  

023 OVERLOOK Being able to walk people through the story with physical landmarks and a renewed understanding will most certainly figure into future educational opportunities for this Pastor, and cannot HELP but shape our upcoming Lenten journeys.

024 TOMB Ah, the tomb of Jesus.  The LITERAL example of what I mentioned about being OPEN to renovation, and in this case DURING renovation

024 JESUS COLOR The relief at FINALLY seeing a Jesus and Mary depicted in their accurate skin tone.  

024 YAD But just as soon as we caught our breath, it was lost again at the horror of the Jewish children lost during the holocaust.  Lord, have mercy.  


026 POLISH But this overlapping journey of pilgrims was upon us, site after site – most notably here with some Polish Pilgrims, who had sung along with us during our Carols around the Holy Manger.  Ah, the power that music has to transcend language and barriers.  

028 FALAFEL We ate up every part of the adventure we could...

028 DIS PAL ...while learning about how Palestine itself was being devoured.

028 BETH LIGHTS The sounds of our Islamic brothers and sister  both shone and rang through the streets.


029 KEY Yet, the past was never forgotten, as shown in this symbolic key , a key not unlike those the Palestinians once took with them, upon being forced to vacate their villages.
030 QUMRAN The stories of the past were discovered in Caves,
030 MINISTRY and are still shared throughout the world.  My fellow pilgrims showed me again and again how ministry is but a shared responsibility, a cooperative endeavor.  

030 DEAD SEA Now, floating without assistance in THE SALTIEST water that you could ever imagine was BEYOND amusing at Dead Seas

031 ZACH TREE As was coming across the trees of our past.  And yes, we sang the Zacchaeus song on the bus, wee little man and all!

033 DESERT But the song that continued to ring out for us all was that of the past, and how it continues to influence the future:  how the deserts Jesus once crossed are like the deserts of the wandering refugees of today.  

033 RETREAT How the retreat centers of the past remind us to take Sabbath time to heal.

033 NEW LIFE And how, even in the driest of places, new life is always springing forth.  

033 GROUP From atop this desert landscape with friends....

034 BETH VIEW the cityscape of Bethlehem, we are forever reminded of this BOTH/AND world in which we live.  Seeing BOTH the humble homes of Bethlehem AND the pristine Settlement in the distance.  

035 SELFIE Understanding BOTH the joy of making new friends...

036 FLAG AND the reminder that the friends of this flag have very, little land.

037 MAYOR Watching BOTH the pomp and circumstance of a local Christmas celebration...

037 SHOES ...AND realizing you can wear those shoes while doing it!

038 SCOUTS Scouts and square trees brought BOTH the hope of the nation to light...

039 REFUGEE ...AND reminded us of the boys that never made it back home.  

039 CHILDREN BOTH the joy of watching children adjust to their settings....

040 CHECKPOINT ...AND the reality that they are always being watched.  If you think this back and forth, emotional roller coaster has been hard to digest during this video, imagine being with the real people, LIVING this story of BOTH freedom AND oppression.  

999 CANDLES So now, as this journey now BEGINS, as it is FAR from concluding, I return to our original imagine: candles of light, candles of hope.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness WILL NOT overcome it.  Amen.  


Chacour, Elias, and David Hazard. Blood Brothers: The Unforgettable Story of a Palestinian Christian Working for Peace in Israel. Expanded ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Chosen Books, 2003.

Greenwald, Brenda L. "Friday, 13 January 2017: Jerusalem." All Shall Be Well: The Adventures of Brenda Lynn. January 13, 2017. Accessed January 21, 2017.

Lutz, Charles P., and Robert O. Smith. Christians and a Land Called Holy: How We Can Foster Justice, Peace, and Hope. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2006.

"Peace Not Walls." Accessed December 7, 2016.

Raheb, Mitri. Faith in the Face of Empire: the Bible through Palestinian Eyes. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2014.

"Rick Steves' The Holy Land: Israelis and Palestinians Today." The Holy Land | Rick Steves' Europe. Accessed December 05, 2016.

Sabella, Peter E. Closed for Renovation: On the Road to Emmaus - A Spiritual Guide of the Holy Land towards a Permanent Pilgrimage. Second ed. Jerusalem: Emerezian Printing & Publishing Establishment, 2016.

Tolan, Sandy. The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA, 2006.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday, 20 January 2017: Tel Aviv / San Francisco

We arrive in San Francisco this morning. Welcome home!

Goodness.  Who knew how important it would be to find a seat between us.  We were SUPER happy campers to have found out we could sit together AND a flight attendant moved the person on the end to a new row, giving these two tired travelers a little more hip, knee, and elbow room for the 14 hour, 37 minute flight back home.  Amen and amen!  And God bless the noise-cancelling headphones Susan brought - they allowed her to sleep and sleep and sleep on our ride back.  Dare I say, it was almost faster to travel back in 1 swoop than breaking into two parts.  

It all seems quite unreal, this bouncing back and forth between continents.  Haven't quite landed, even if we are out of the air.  It was like being dropped into a different scene, and then being snatched back up to our former reality.  Except our reality has changed ever so drastically.  We returned to the United States on Inauguration Day...where that orange-haired man becomes...our...president.  Ugh.  Can't quite stomach even typing it.  And can't quite stomach what atrocities are to come for our own country. 

Here we were, visiting a country so bent on regaining their own land, and we land in a country that's being defended at ALL costs by a leader who looks to push everyone who 'doesn't belong' out.  To say I'm conflicted would be an understatement.  Palestinians so direly want their land, and I don't really care for mine at the moment.  Argh.  I get frustrated thinking about what is to I will try and ground myself in the NOW.  

The NOW of realizing just how this particular, 2-week period of our lives will shape us forevermore. 

The NOW of wondering how to relay that which we learned to those who are curious.

The NOW of answering the question "How was your trip?" when it was so, much more.

The NOW of figuring out how to act on behalf of those we met while now a half of a world away.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thursday, 19 January 2017: Bethlehem / Tel Aviv

This morning we will meet with Dr. Charlie Haddad, Director of Education, to discuss Lutheran education in the Holy Land and visit a Lutheran school. If schedules allow, we will also meet Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL and President of the Lutheran World Federation. Later we will travel to Ramallah for a tour of the city and a visit to the Palestinian Authority governmental site and Arafat’s tomb. This evening we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant featuring a local dancing group before transferring to Tel Aviv Airport to board our overnight flight home. (B, D)

What a delight to wake up HEALTHY!  Yesterday REALLY sent me for a loop, and I'm thankful to be sturdy (though, weak) on my feet again.  PLUS, we're going to go see children...THAT will cheer me up ANYDAY! AND, Susan seems to be warding off whatever I had, so we are one, happy pair.  

The school was lovely and absolutely welcoming - and those children!  Everywhere!  We met in the gym/auditorium/cafeteria to meet and greet the principal and director, along with taking in some musical performances by the kids themselves.  How delighted I was to learn that I would be able to view the dancing group from last night - they were from this school!  It WAS a good decision to stay home and recuperate, indeed!  What a kick to hear the Choir and the Brass group, along with experiencing the dancers.  Such joy - such life - such appreciated for culture.  ALL the while, being an ELC-based school, founded in the tenets of the Lutheran faith.  What a place!

Dr. Charlie was a very stern-looking man, making me wonder how on earth he connected with children...right up until the children came around.  He melted.  Makes me think he just wasn't that thrilled about having to speak in public.  He spoke with nothing but love and pride for the children as he toured us around the campus.  

And the CHILDREN!  They were having lunch while we were there, and they were allowed to be eating it on the entire campus.  GENIUS idea - they can eat in the outdoors and then run it off.  They were so curious as to who we were, too!

We stumbled across a tiny gift shop, filled with the creations of the children.  How we wish we would have known about such a gift shop - we would happily have saved our money to purchase from here, and directly support the children.  Next time!

Off to a refuge camp - which was NOTHING like either of us anticipated.  I don't know if we expected there to be tents or in my case, wailing.  SO different than what I had ever seen on the news.  This was a small community, nestled in-between buildings, off of a main road in a city.  Boom.  You were in the 'camp' - which really was nothing like any camps we had seen.  Our guide delivered succinct and poignant thoughts as we traveled in the narrow and cold streets.  It really was a wake-up call, especially for those of us who live in the Dels.  Here, we complain about our 425 square feet of property, when there are people living in this 'camp', with open windows to the cold, and walls shared by their most direct neighbors.  Children 'play' in the narrow streets, nary a blade of grass to be found.  We have nothing to complain about, unless it comes in the form of protest against such living conditions.  Sigh.    Again, we came across a shop where the women of the camp had hand-embroidered purses and whatnot, all for sale, and all benefiting the members of the camp.  We promptly purchased what we could at ridiculously cheap prices for the beauty they had stitched.

A local Jewish man spoke to us at a freeeeeeezing Synagogue.  The freezing where you lose track of where you are and why you are in attendance.  He spoke for a rather long time.  LONG time.  As in, I might have lost 2-3 of my fingers from frostbite.  He had a quickly-roused temper that would come across in the form of a juvenile, argumentative style that made me quickly tune him out.  Susan and I admired the beautiful glasswork in the church, and even sat through several rounds of the pocket labyrinth she had brought along in her pocket.

This visit to the refugee camp stood in stark contrast to the lush and manicured homes we were able to see inside the settlements later that afternoon.  No boxes of dead and neglected flowers hung outside those settler homes - lush, floral arrangements were everywhere.  Children had their choice of playground equipment, and it wasn't on concrete.  Artwork was displayed in town centers, not graffitied on walls of the camp.  People motored around in mini-vans, and weren't stumbling around on uneven concrete.  The dichotomy between the two locations left a chasm in our hearts.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wednesday, 18 January 2017: Bethlehem

Today we plan to visit the Environmental Education Center (EEC) in Beit Jala. Returning to Bethlehem, we will meet with local Israeli and Palestinian organizations before enjoying dinner in Bethlehem. This evening we will have the unique opportunity to celebrate Christmas with our Armenian brothers and sisters as we witness their Christmas Eve procession to Manger Square. We will return to our Bethlehem hotel for overnight. (B, D)

Colorful pictures on Facebook. 

Our entire group split into two to experience the two opportunities mentioned above. Susan and I chose to stay in Bethlehem, and observe the procession of the Armenian patriarch through the city streets. Gates were erected, guards were attentive, and we had a front row seat at a local café.   Scores of scouts marched through the streets, either drumming or trumpeting their way through Manger Square. We happily watched the crowds, enjoying a slower paced day.

It was a good thing, as I fell ill around noon. We think it was a touch of the flu, but it took me down for the rest of the day. Susan took great care of me as I rested and nibbled what I could.   I'm sad to be missing the final dinner together, but knew I had best rest my body before a full day tomorrow, followed immediately by a 15 hour flight back to California.  Keep praying this passes...and Susan stays healthy!  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday, 17 January 2017: Jericho

Today begins with a visit to ancient Jericho, where we have the opportunity to travel by cable car to the Mount of Temptation and enjoy the panoramic view before enjoying lnch in the Old City of Jericho. This afternoon we will motor to the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth, where we’ll have the unique opportunity to float in the Sea. Next we will see Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, before returning to Bethlehem for dinner and overnight. (B, L, D)

Well, today was one of those crazy-odd days.  No churches, no holy spots, per se, but a WHOLE lot of history, a WHOLE lot of ROCKS, and a WHOLE lot of salt!  

We first traveled to Qumran, the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Apparently, some kid threw stones into a caves, breaking a jar that was inside, and inside the JAR were the scrolls.  TONS and TONS of Scrolls. Who knew!?  There was a short and very lame movie to watch before we sat down to talk (our guide was MUCH more informative than the ridiculous movie).  Great to be outside on suc a nice and mild day.  

Walked around the site a bit, but there really wasn't much to se other than some bathing places and old cisterns.  Cave #4 was visible, but only in the distance.  I would have loved to see more displays and information about the Scrolls themselves.  Thankfully, we heard that the Scrolls themselves are being digitized and will be available for viewing online soon!

Then, it was off to the Dead Sea!  HA!  What a hoot - here we are, a busload of people, piling into the Dead. Sea to float.  We honestly had a BLAST - and what a kick to be doing this in the middle of January!  Temps outside were great and the water was warm enough once you got it.  It was surreal to be so incredibly buoyant - if you swam out far enough, you could "stand" vertically, legs completely beneath you and have your hands high above your head...and not sink!  Splashing was a HUGE no-no, as the water was PAINFUL if you got it in your eyes (only once, thankfully, but it burned like crazy).  THe mud was ooshy and gooshy and was fun to spread all over our arms and legs.  SA bunch of us ladies actually gathered in a circle, started to sing, and did synchronized swimming moves!  Completely ridiculous and great fun to have in the sunshine and the water.  What an experience!

Lunch was in nearby Jericho, and was a delicious meat dish;  A delightful shop was just under the restaurant, and was filled with glorious, colorful items.  I could have purchased millions of dollars worth of items.  SO pretty!

Our final stop in this lazy day of water and sun brought us to a road once through to be traveled by Jesus himself.  We drove to the highest point of the road, overlooking the Judean desert.  Hills, mounds, caves...and more rock!  There was a monastery built into the side of the mountain, and a huge cross stood at the top.  GREAT pictures.

WHat a great day to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy, city life.  A nice chance to learn some more about the geography, but not have to do it beside so many crowds and venders.  Tomorrow is an even calmer day, which I think we both need....although, we are both looking forward to watching the Armenian Christmas Celebration in Nativity Square in the morning. Should be a colorful and majestic display of their Christmas cheer!