Mission Differently: Understanding Another Side
Abby Parker Herrera
When the idea of “mission trips” first came about, they were specifically about evangelism and growing the Kingdom of God through education. Many went to foreign countries to teach people about Jesus and scripture, seeking to lift them from sin and into the light of Christ. Later, the focus became “social salvation”; showing God’s love by attempting to save people from the effects of poverty with free construction projects provided by novices under the direction of an expert (hopefully). Those in mission have begun to understand that God is already at work in the lives of those we meet on mission trips, attempts at quick fixes often backfire, and the love of Christ and God’s saving work happen within deep relationships that change everyone involved. Therefore, many groups are turning toward a new kind of missional understanding, that of pilgrimage and journeys of holy listening. How can we be in a missional relationship that opens us all to the work of the Holy Spirit in our faith journeys?
Last spring, a small group of young United Methodist leaders from around the world attempted such a journey to Israel. Marquice Hobbs, a young leader from the South Central Jurisdiction, shared how such missional journey impacted him:
How can we be in a missional relationship that opens us all to the work of the Holy Spirit in our faith journeys?
“This was my second time in Israel. In the winter of 2015 I traveled to the Holy Land with Dr. Waddelton of my home conference, the Texas Annual Conference. On that trip, we saw the Holy Land like any Christian pilgrim would; we saw the Holy sites, the temples, and all the gift shops. We traveled roads that Jesus traveled and got to see the great city of Jerusalem. Visiting the Holy Land this summer, however, was a different kind of experience.
We did visit many of the Holy sites and had fun hiking up mountains with no cloud coverage in the dry heat and hiking up other mountains to stop at a waterfall and pond. The group and I were also able to climb down a mountain, experience God on the Sea of Galilee, visit Biblical towns, and stay at a hostel in Nazareth with a breath taking view. The trip overall was a blessing, and there were many parts similar to my first pilgrimage. It was also fascinating to see the connection of our denomination with there being so many young adults from various parts of the world. We were a group that came from different geographical areas to this one place just to experience God and each other. Nonetheless, what will always remain with me from this trip are the stories of the living stones we saw and the artifacts of their lives the average traveler never sees.
It was also fascinating to see the connection of our denomination with there being so many young adults from various parts of the world.
Our tour guide and tour company were both Palestinian, we had a focus on conflict resolution, and we met with locals. Most of our time was spent in Palestinian territory where we were able to see the Holy Land from the viewpoint of the oppressed. There was a refugee camp in the city of Bethlehem. Within its walls were children and families who lived displaced by Jewish settlers that confiscated the Palestinian lands forcing them to be refugees in their own country. It was also at this refugee center where we learned that Israeli soldiers would tear gas children on the playground, grab them from their school by their hair into the streets, and where one innocent child was murdered by a sniper in a guard tower only a few feet away from the refugee center. It was different experiencing the Holy Land in this way where Israel controls the water supply of the Palestinians granting them access every couple of weeks, sometimes only every two months; where many Palestinians have to pass through a security check point in order get into Israel occupied territory such as Jerusalem, and where Palestinians near or in Israel-controlled areas appeal only to the military court and not the civil court.
We read about the ancient stones of Israel and biblical landmarks, but we don't read about the living stones and places where Israel has removed the cornerstones of communities resulting in migration and corrupted social structures. My experience in the Holy Land this summer showed me that we should not neglect to see the people in the places we visit. As a group, we were blessed to see the Holy Land from the Palestinian perspective, to have dinner with a Palestinian family, to learn about conflict resolution, and to see in action how a problem can have many layers.”