Pieces. Kickball. Palestine.

Part 2 of my recent trip. Part 1 is here. Part 3 is in my head.

kickballI hated “picking teams” in grade school. With the exception of one glorious fifth grade kickball season, I was never the first player chosen for a team. “Mennonite Molly” claimed that title. A leggy blonde a whole year older than the rest of us; she was  terror in a denim skirt.

It begins in our bones and stays there until something breaks. That dualism. The US vs THEM mentality.

Last month I had the opportunity to visit people in Palestine and Israel, which unexpectedly broke me into pieces. What I saw in real life isn’t what TV and the Internet told me I’d see.

I learned things I didn’t know about the Palestinian way of life, living under occupation, the things hidden from news stories and Facebook feeds.

Like a pendulum, my emotions swung from trying to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to outright hostility toward Israel. This surprised me. I did not expect this trip to yank at me emotionally, tugging at the thread of injustice from both sides.

I’ve learned about Israel ever since my first Sunday School teacher slapped a White Moses on the flannel graph board in 1980 and declared the Israelites God’s chosen people. I have a college degree in Bible and Theology. I know the characters, places and events like family.

What I was never taught was that in Bethlehem there is a Christian Palestinian mother with six daughters. She runs a little bakery that serves feta-rosemary bread. If you ask, she’ll heat it for you in the wood stove so the cheese melts in your mouth.

Upon hearing I lived in South Africa, she said, “I’d like to travel. But, I’m not allowed to leave the West Bank. My daughter, she wants to travel. She met a guy from the USA. He’s from a place called Grand Rapids, Michigan. Do you know it?”

“Yes, I know Grand Rapids.”

“Is it like here? Hot?”

“No, its green and it gets very cold in the winter. It snows.”

“It snows?! That would be glorious, to see snow.”

Or what of the teenager who works afternoons in his uncle’s grocery store-his arm wrapped in a cast, the result of a basketball game. He’s studying. He wants to be a doctor. He doesn’t allow me to purchase the hummus I bring to the counter but instead offers his top recommendation.

“Let me ask you something. When you go back to the US, what will you tell them about us?” From the graffiti artwork on the Separation Wall, it’s clear he already knows what the world says about them.
When I peeled back the covering, I saw. Real people, with pain and fear. Families, babies, celebrations, and that one auntie who sends irritating  Candy Crush requests. I saw the refugee camps, meant for 10 days. It’s now been 60 years.

IMG_0008I rode the bus everyday from Bethlehem into Jerusalem in the shadow of the Separation Wall. I fumbled for my passport at every checkpoint in the presence of an impatient guard and his machine gun. It unnerved me every time.

While dropping us at our apartment one day, our taxi driver mentioned the death toll in Gaza. I noticed before he turned away the faint glisten of a tear and the glitch in his voice.

I can feel the claustrophobic frustration. Before the trip, I couldn’t tell you that West Bank has a different government than Gaza. I assumed they were all some shade of Hamas. Heck, I didn’t even know that Bethlehem is in the West Bank, although, I did know that Judea and Samaria are the West Bank so, go figure. After what I’ve seen and heard, quite frankly, I would be tempted to throw rocks too.

But then I spent time in Jerusalem.

I sat in a row of white plastic chairs in the heat of the mid-day sun while I closed my eyes and listened to the prayers and cries of the women of Israel as they gently tapped their heads against the giant stone wall. I wrote my own prayers on the slips of paper, folded them and placed them with countless others, in the cracks of the great wall.

The rise of the women’s cries give way to the agonizing, oak-like strength of the men’s prayer. Although separate, the two sounds twist together and fade back into the wall itself.

My chest feels physical pain when I hear a little boy ask his father, “Daddy, is Iron Dome working today?” “Yes, it’s working my boy.” Only pieces of innocence remain where a whole child should have stood.

I hear the air raid sirens, I hear the bombs and gunshots. A piece of me cringes, at death’s ugly sound. I’ve only listened for a few weeks. I can’t imagine what is left of a person when they hear the sound of death without end.

Both sides of the story pull, taking pieces, leaving me torn. I knelt in the church, the site where Jesus was born in Bethlehem. I stood in the garden tomb, where Jesus rose from the dead. I walked the Old City streets, the Via Dolorosa. My Sunday School teacher would be proud. I’m here, in flesh and blood, not a one-dimensional character on a flannel graph board.

But I feel like I’m living in halves; divided.

Archbishop Elias Chacour tells pilgrims to both Israel and Palestine, “If you’ve come to take a side, for Israel or for Palestine, don’t come back. You will leave us in pieces. But if you come to love Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and to learn about the situation, you are welcome because you bring peace.”
2 Corinthians 5:18 says, “But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him].”

Can we choose teams and still be in the business of reconciliation?

Every few weeks the older sixth grade class would call ”permanent teams.” Predictably, the presence of BobbyRay always incited this powerful kickball alliance. A vision in Wrangler jeans, BobbyRay was a hefty farm boy whom puberty visited often and early. His mere shadow at home plate induced panic in the outfield.

“Permanent teams” only ever lasted for a few days. Us fifth graders would appeal to the recess monitor to forcibly break up the unjust pact. Ms. Smith would charge onto the field in her high-wasted elastic pants and chunky necklace made of wood blocks. She smelled like  apples and cats. But she always divided the permanent teams and leveled the playing field so it was still a fair fight, no matter which team picked BillyRay.
At what age can we stop choosing teams and invoking  permanent team rules? At what age do we take Jesus’ words seriously and actually LOVE our neighbors like ourselves?

There is life and wonder on either side. If we are reconcilers, that role mandates that we know each side. We can’t see accurately if we only see from one perspective.

The Kingdom is a kaleidoscope. Every color and shape forms together, tumbling and shifting together to form infinite creativity.

What if instead of broken glass to be avoided, we see each other like colors in a kaleidoscope? Design upon design, the colors link and overlap; they appreciate and build upon one another.

The only permanence is the continuous Light which beams through the lens and a Creator who peers through the dark tunnel into the masterpiece and says, “Now they’ve got it. Finally, they understand.”

Yeah, let’s play that way.

We love because God first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from God is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. I John 4:17-21

“Why Have You Come Here?”

ssphoto**Part 1 in a series of who knows how many about my recent trip to Syrian refugees, Israel and Palestine.

Have you ever caught yourself thinking about or intrigued by a specific person, people group or place? Maybe even a cause? You know, you try to put it out of your mind, but at random times, it returns? You don’t even know the person, or have never been to the place, but you feel a connection with it; a responsibility or longing to know more?

The first time I felt this particular connection to someone was Michael Jackson in the fifth grade. I may or may not have been misguided by hormones. This is not what I’m talking about. This is stalking. Continue reading

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Christina Quist: The-Not-So-Good-Samaritan

It was late afternoon, on a mild winter Cape Town day. I coerced Kevin into taking a walk around our neighborhood. It’s kind of an intense path. There’s a big hill. It involves stairs, lots of stairs. My mind was focused on both breathing, trying not to collapse and maintaining dialogue.

As we descended the hill, I saw her, sitting on the curb, shuffling her feet in the gravel. The bobby pins in her hair held certain sections more adamantly than others. Her pants were a brown cotton, an ugly brown. Continue reading

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My Neighborhood Watch Can Beat Up Your Neighborhood Watch

This post has no motivational or spiritual significance. After years of living in a relatively peaceful, predominantly white suburb in the US, we are still discovering little nuances about living in South Africa.

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Our neighbor’s had a “yard sale” as a result of the eviction. This was day #2.

Our neighbors were finally evicted from their house. They ran a pretty successful meth lab and bed and breakfast. It’s probably not the type of B-n-B you’d want to stay with the family. People slept inside the cars, outside in the backyard, on the front lawn. There is no sign of food, but there are signs of other activities. Mostly between 2 and 6 a.m. If we complained to the police about the activities, some were rewarded with a gift of human feces in their lawn the next morning. Continue reading

Porcupine Designs-Send Your Heart to South Africa

10491974_652566544813627_6333383087184781437_nEvangeline, Dylan, Ethan (otherwise known as Porcupine Designs) successfully delivered blankets to 16 kids in the community of Dunoon. Thanks to several friends who pitched in and helped!

The next delivery we would like to make is to a group of kids in the community of Mountain View. There are 10 kids total, 6 girls and 4 boys. They range in age from 3-6. It is a poor community and two of the children live outdoors. Continue reading

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I Hope He Remembers to do His Laundry

 

It took me almost his entire 19 years for me to believe that he was never designed for the typically prescribed American educational mold. College plans? Not so much. And that’s ok. Because while I worried over his GPA and future occupations, he followed his own heart and passion.  And he astounded us with his gifts for film and photography. Frankly because, neither of us have those gifts, so we don’t now where they came from. Continue reading

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Check Out These Photos!

Guess what? Our oldest son Jackson is headed to a YWAM Discipleship Training School on the other side of South Africa. He will be gone for 6 months. He also must raise his own funds to pay for his fees, because, as you know, we can’t legally work here in SA.

To pay for his $3000 fee, Jackson is offering some pretty stellar photos of Cape Town. Now you can have a slice of South Africa in your home! The photos are free, in lieu of a donation to his DTS. Continue reading

Cape Town, South Africa

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