I stood just outside of the garden and looked toward the city, tears running down my cheeks. Now anyone who knows me isn’t surprised to read that I was crying; they all know that any encounter with strong emotion, either my own or someone else’s, no matter where I am or how silly the situation, will cause my eyes to immediately and uncontrollably well up with tears. But these weren’t those kinds of tears; these weren’t the ones that I could open my eyes wide and push on the end of my nose to make go away. These were the big, fat, heavy kind that flowed all the way down my face, dripped off my chin, and landed on my shirt. These were the kind accompanied with sobs that had to be muffled, a heart heavy enough to fall into my stomach, and the question “Why?” on my lips. I stood there alone and surrounded by people, waiting for his response.
It was November 2014 and I was in Jerusalem outside the Garden of Gethsemane, and I was trying to make sense of what I was feeling. I had been there three times before and had heard over and over about the difficulties of this place- a place where feelings of resentment and anger, fear and hopelessness, dwell within people, always just below the surface, threatening to boil over at any moment. This time, somehow, I understood. I didn’t know where the sudden understanding had come from or why I hadn’t experienced it this fully before, but it had come and left my heart terribly burdened. I stood there asking God, “Why have you shown me this?” It was not a question asked inquisitively, but one asked accusingly, with hostility. “How am I supposed to go home and resume my life after experiencing this?” I continued, but before I could even finish forming the question in my mind, I knew the answer. I couldn’t, and God knew it. This was one of those burdens that required my response; this was a burden that I could neither ignore nor forget. “But what in the world do you want me to do about it?” I asked, still a bit defensively. Because, let’s be honest, I’m just a 34-year-old girl from small-town, Ohio; what in the world can I do about the conflict in the Holy Land?
God’s answer was clear and irresistible; it instantly filled my heart with peace and resolve. God said, “Come and let me show you.” I knew then why; I knew then that although I was just a 34-year-old girl from small-town, Ohio, I’m a girl who trusts the Lord enough to answer yes.
And that’s where the new adventure began; I walked toward God’s call, and he has done his part in throwing the doors wide open in the amazing way that only God can. Now, after a short time of connecting with friends and family in Ohio, in just a few short days I will be heading back to Bethlehem, to continue this journey. I will be starting my second year as an Individual Volunteer teacher at Jerusalem School Bethlehem, a Christian school in Palestine that is staffed by American volunteers. Not only is teaching one of my gifts and passions, but high school math education is the profession that I’m trained in.
Elizabeth Heft, a member at St. Paul UMC in Dayton, is returning to Bethlehem, Palestine, for another year of teaching at a Christian school there.
I would love for you to join me on this adventure by praying for me and the people in the Holy Land, byreading and interacting with my blog, and by allowing yourself to be inspired by my pictures and stories. You can support my work in Bethlehem here.