I asked Michel,”So, how do you want to change the world?”
His stared at me with his eyes wide-opened, “How do you know I’ve been thinking about that?”
I met Michel at Musalaha’s summer camp. Six days with 83 children means hours of screaming, sweating, water-splashing, running around, all in the summer heat. After a day full of activities and two hours of dragging the four girls from their gossiping and giggling to their sleeping quarters, I thought to myself,
“What do all these have to do with reconciliation?”
As volunteers who have flown all across the globe to participate in Musalaha’s summer camp, we all had a beautiful, idealistic image of reconciliation in our heads. At least, I did. I had imagined every activity with Musalaha to be full of deep conversations, discussions on current issues, moments of inspiration, tears and hugs. At least, something “deeper” than competing with children to see who can burst a water balloon first.
My fellow intern from Singapore decided to hold a Chinese language class during track time, to which I offered my help. I didn’t really expect many to be interested, and I thought this would be just another activity so that the children could have some fun.
On the second session of our Chinese class, we had children who only spoke Arabic and others who only spoke Hebrew, and they all had varied levels of English. With the help of our amazing counselor-translators, we delivered our lesson, teaching basic conversational phrases, words and numbers. As the children quickly picked up phrases, they started to communicate with one another, in Chinese! Since all the children were learning Chinese for the first time, their initial differences no longer mattered. They were all helping one another with their limited English/Hebrew/Arabic/Chinese/body gestures. They became a team that was eager to see one another succeed.
As I discovered, reconciliation is not a formula. “Do this and that and you are guaranteed reconciliation”. As Daniel, our camp director said, “We have to let the kids be kids, and build relationship using kids’ ways.” Reconciliation is as much about sharing meals, playing volleyball, dancing and laughing as it is about discussion and seminars and all that “serious stuff”. We can only establish trust and genuine friendship when we are willing to lay aside our agendas and experiences. And from that friendship and trust, we can build something completely new, together.
Looking at the team of camp counselors who have grown up with the summer camps, I understand more about how seeds of friendship can transform individuals and communities. This group of counselors, 18-20 year-old Israelis and Palestinians from all over the Land, worked like one body to make the whole camp happen. They designed activities, led worship, translated, took care of children, and oversaw every minute detail. They created an environment in which children and volunteers from all different cultures and native tongues, feel at home. They are articulate communicators, passionate about changing the world in which they live, and fearless in reaching out to one another. In one of the counselor’s words, they are ready to turn the world upside down.
Michel finished his art piece, and looked at me with a philosopher’s gaze. “I don’t like the world’s current situation, you know. Too many people get drunk, there’s too much hate, too many wars, too much evil.” He pointed to the earth that he drew. “It’s messy, you know. I don’t like it.”
“But if you let me change the world, I’ll say stop to every mess, and I’ll give it peace, love, and God’s blessings.”
I was struck by the 11-year-old’s wisdom. What could have been his experience of the world’s injustice, and what put such bright ideas in his head? I gathered my thoughts to ask him a follow-up question, ” How did you…
“But, see,” he cut me off, “It’s not like I can change the world if I say I wanna change the world. It’s God’s world, after all. If the world changes, it’s not because of us, it’s his work.
Yes, young man, thank you for your reminder. It’s not about what we can build, but about how willing we are to let God shape us and transform us. My prayer is that you’ll never stop dreaming with Him and through him. You and your generation will, indeed, turn the world upside down.
Jane was a summer intern with Musalaha. She was born and raised in Hong Kong and she loves traveling to places, listening to people’s stories and facilitating dialogues.