Episode 19: We Are Present

Over the next couple of weeks, you are going to hear me reflect on some experiences I shared with a group of 21 delegates who toured the Middle East. We visited our Mission Partners, whose on the ground work and witness makes an unbelievable difference in the lives of countless people who suffer unjustly.

One of the Partners has a motto. It reads, simply: we are present.

We are present.

Think about what says for just a second.

In the face of human suffering, in the presence of untold cruelty in unimaginably horrifying conditions, in the aftermath of trauma and tragedy – sometimes presence is what is required.

These brave souls, sent into places where human misery and suffering is undeniably evident, these brave souls often do little more than be present.

At the checkpoints in Hebron – we are present.

At the Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan and Bethlehem, we are present.

In the living room of a mother whose 15 year old son was gunned down in the back by an Israeli soldier while playing soccer on his school’s playground – we are present.

On the playgrounds of the kindergarten classes maintained in substandard conditions for refugee children, we are present.

In packages of food and toiletries handed out in a refugee camp just south of the Syrian border – we are present.

In alliances being forged across national and religious boundaries with Muslim, Jewish, and Christian leaders across the Middle East – alliances that often stand as the last hope of a peaceful coexistence between tribes of people being taught to hate each other – we are present.

In the volunteers from Norway, Ireland, and America who stand watch over the human suffering and give witness to the pain – we are present.

Mixed in with visits to refugee camps, to neighborhoods blighted by war and occupation, to the homes of mothers grieving the loss of children whom violence and malnutrition have taken – were visits to Mosques, temples, synagogues and churches.

If ever the spiritual, the political, the commercial, and the military all met together in one place – it would be the Holy Land. Old Jerusalem is a place with rich food, extravagant color, intricately woven fabrics for sale, strong coffee, narrow streets, historic religious sites watched over by Jew, Muslim, and Christian alike – and all under the watchful and wary eye of armed soldiers on high alert.

In the midst of this, we remain fully present: as witnesses, as providers when and where it is possible and appropriate, as accompaniers, as colleagues, as friends. Our presence bears witness to something larger than all of this – the ongoing, abiding presence of a sacred spirit that calls us together beyond the barriers that threaten to divide. This presence is palpable, real, and stunningly beautiful.

Wherever you reside, be it in a land of peace or a land of strife; be it with family close by or far away; be it in homeland or on foreign soil; be it in grief or in joy; may there be a presence that seeks to heal the human spirit and reshape human community. May that sacred presence be felt wherever it is you find yourself on your own journeys Into the Mystic.