Michigan man safe in Bethlehem
Often, what’s reported on our TV screens, iPads, newspapers or other favored media, remains a distant reality. Though we are connected through bonds of compassion and faith to God’s people everywhere, miles and cultural differences conspire to keep events and issues seemingly remote. However, as the recent news cycle brings to our awareness threats of war, violence and, now, fragile cease fire, the face of a familiar someone brought all that is going on between Israel and Gaza closer to home.
John Daniel Gore (JD) hails from Grand Rapids, MI. However, since September of 2011, he has been living in Bethlehem and serving as a Mission Intern of the General Board of Global Ministries. His assignment is to the Wi’am Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center. JD has been “on the ground,” though in a safe place, throughout the recent hostilities.
JD acknowledges, “Since the conflict escalated in Gaza, I know my welfare has been increasingly in the prayers of my relatives and church family. I was feeling the weight of serving here in the month preceding Palestine’s sudden surge to the front-page.”
JD reports the depression he earlier sensed “has bloomed into disappointment and anger.” From his perspective as one who champions peace, he encourages others to open a bigger window on the area where he now lives.
Through his eyes
On Nov. 22 JD wrote:
“Each type of media has its fundamental challenges and those of newspapers and networks have gone unaddressed for too long. We need to remember that bias is a property of information and we cannot rely on any one source or read uncritically. Though each place has its problems, I can tell you frankly that I see a harmful thread running through British and U.S. media that prevents us from mobilizing against the injustices that I see. It is especially disturbing that my co-worker was recently dismissed by a friend in Alabama as ‘biased by being there’. Though I need the perspective of people from outside to enrich my understanding, of all biases I choose the bias of ‘being here’.
“The attack on Gaza was nakedly political by Israel, part of the narrative of fear the Likud government uses to cudgel their own people. Meanwhile, Hamas has at least the temporary support of all Palestine since the Palestinian Authority seems too compliant with Israeli injustices. I could write an essay but I will summarize with this: the young people of the West Bank are setting rubbish fires beneath the guard-towers and throwing stones. Considering that the annexation wall was declared illegal by an international court, I think they have the right no matter how ill-advised it may be. The cease-fire in Gaza precipitated a KGB-esque operation in the West Bank: 55 people taken prisoner with no warrants nor any promise of trial on ‘secret evidence’.
“In short, this conflict began long ago and it will not end until the hearts of everyone around the world feel truth and compassion. Please pray for my continued improvement as a peace-builder. I feel more distant from God than I would like and at the mercy of coffee and a twitter-feed to maintain sanity.”
A Mission Intern, like JD, serves 18 months in an international assignment followed by 18 months in a similar U.S.-based ministry. JD returns to the United States on February 1. He and his intern colleagues will share in two weeks of mid-term training. Then he will spend a brief time in Michigan before visiting supporting churches and moving on to his domestic assignment.
In the meantime, his work as a peace-maker continues. JD’s recent Facebook post showed photos of The Friday Children’s Club with this comment, “Signs of sanity, posting photos of the children instead of outbursts of anger. They are our joy for the present and our hope for the future.”
Looking ahead to his return from Palestine, JD notes, "What was once a commitment to Wi'am Center in Bethlehem must become a commitment to a sense of wi'am (cordial relations, love for neighbor) between these two places." He looks forward to the opportunity to be a builder of bridges and a sharer of visions. "This is a chance for Americans to find their hearts again and begin to build a new culture of collective responsibility and mutual caring," he says. Though the location of his new assignment has not been confirmed, JD is firm in his sense of purpose. "No matter where I am stationed, my greater work is to keep reaching-out, keep learning, and start new conversations."
Pray for peace
In a recent statement the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) condemned the use of violence in the region and asked for prayers for a just peace in the Holy Land. Children and civilians were among the 100-plus persons killed in the fighting.
The head of Global Ministries, Thomas Kemper, was in the Holy Land in October at the opening of the Methodist Liaison Office in Jerusalem. Urging compromise, Kemper says that “Hamas must recognize the right of Israel to exist within secure borders. Likewise, Israel must stop building illegal settlements in Palestinian territory. Sending rockets into Israel is as unacceptable as bombing Gaza.”
Addressing the most recent events, Kemper continues: “This is another example that violence only begets more violence and will not lead to a lasting peace. When I was in Israel and Palestine, I saw for myself that maintaining the status quo is not a solution. I am grateful for our partners and missionaries who are supporting peace-building efforts. They provide valuable perspectives of the situation from the ground.”
JD Gore is one of five United Methodist mission staff serving in the Holy Land. Others are Janet Lahr Lewis, Kristen Brown, Alex and Brenda Awad. Global Ministries is in regular communication with them. Please join GBGM in prayer for all involved, that they may find a diplomatic solution to the conflict in the days to come.
Your gift to Middle East Emergency Advance #601740 will provide emergency relief and humanitarian assistance in the region. Contributions to JD's support as a Mission Intern may be made to Advance #3021335. Remit to the West Michigan Conference Treasurer, P. O. Box 6247, Grand Rapids MI 49516.
~Reported by Kay DeMoss, Weekly News Senior Writer; GBGM feature by Melissa Hinnen contributed to this story. Homepage photo shows a section of "wall art" on the barrier that separates the West Bank from Israel.