Hope School is an incredible place. It is exciting to see the passion and enthusiasm of the school’s head master and board of directors. They are “all in” to see it thrive and expand. The goal of the school is to see every child achieve academic success, even those with disabilities, behavioral problems, or a low income. It strives to be a safe place for any child to grow and learn, whether they are Muslim or Christian. It’s student body is about 52% Christian and 48% Muslim. That is a very good ratio considering that Beit Jala as a whole is 97% Muslim and 3% Christian. The staff and students are encouraged to love one another and be tolerant of each other’s differences, especially with regard to religion. This message of Christ’s love being visible and tangible to others through His followers’ actions and behaviors is inspiring. The head master and board have made very clear how important TMI teams are to the school. (Welcoming us on our arrival were two big banners they had made with our team picture from BC and another with a very thoughtful message of warmth and greeting. Will attach pictures of each one with this report.) TMI teams have had a great impact in helping the school reflect a positive image to rest of the community. Our team can walk around the property here and see the 20+ years of TMI handiwork from teenagers that have come before on other teams and in whose footsteps we have followed. Looking at the big picture, what a difference our examples can make…who knows who will travel here next as a result of your son or daughter’s journey to the Holy Land this summer.:)
We have been busy cleaning the school’s property of trash and debris. We are working at clearing all the weeds and trimming back all the overgrown hedges, bushes, and trees. We have dug our footing for the two walls we will be erecting for a raised garden bed in the school’s outdoor patio area too. We have also had a strenuous time chiseling through rock and busting up old concrete in order to prepare for pouring a new patio.
Yesterday we worked a half day. After lunch, we walked down to Bethlehem. When I say “down”, I mean it literally. The town of Beit Jala is built on a steep hill, which isn’t so bad when you are walking down it. When the time comes to walk up it though, that’s a whole other story!! Doing that hike a few times would whip anybody into shape! (A few of us-Eaton, Jordan, Ben D., Albert, Barrett, Spicer, and myself, Michelle-decided it would be wildly fun and crazy to run down and back up the monster hill again right after we returned from the first long hike up. Needless to say, my legs are sore and I am exhausted as I sit here writing this report to you! There is talk of doing it again “just for kicks and giggles” too!) While in Bethlehem, we visited the Church of the Nativity. (You guys should google it…what a historical treasure it is!) The church was packed with pilgrims desperate to lay hands on and kiss the silver star marking the spot where Jesus Christ was supposedly born. One door into the church is called the Door of Humility because you have to bend down to fit through. This church, like many other ancient, holy monuments, is divided in parts controlled by either the Roman Catholics, the Greek Orthodox, or the Armenians. There is great emphasis placed on rituals and traditions inside the church but none is placed on evangelism, pointing people to Jesus Himself for salvation. There is an emptiness that surrounds all the grandeur as a result. Afterwards, we enjoyed a dinner of falafel or shawarma (cultural food for this part of the world) paired with a cold soda. Words can not explain how delicious it was! We shopped some too and many teammates put their bartering skills to good use and got some great deals. You all have some fancy gifts coming your way when your child returns home…lucky, lucky!! Today we are venturing to Jerusalem for church as well as some sightseeing, so I will have much more to write about next time. Keep praying for us: many are struggling with some nasty colds and sore throats. We have not received any mail yet either due to the difficulty of getting post in Palestine. I am sure that some post office somewhere is overflowing with letters for our team! Maybe it will get so full, that they will have to deliver it just to make room in their offices!!!