Leading up to this summer, we were praying daily for recruitment for three summer camps and three international encounters (Holland for our youth, Norway for our young adults, and Germany for our family leaders). We generally deal with the challenge of recruitment, but this year has proven to be particularly difficult. Some of our staff members became very discouraged as they were investing significant amounts of time and energy to make phone calls, write e-mails, and visit people in order to find participants, but all of this resulted in limited registration. In any line of work, when you become discouraged, the work ahead of you becomes even more daunting.
One day last month, I went to the gym. Working out beside me was an elderly woman, maybe in her 70s or 80s. She struck up a conversation, and I noticed that her Hebrew had a German accent. As we began to talk, she told me that she is a Holocaust survivor from Stuttgart. I shared that I would be visiting there in August for our Germany conference. Our conversation continued, and she began to speak more of the Holocaust, and she told me that Hitler was not a Christian, and the swastika is not a Christian symbol. Instead, she argued, Hitler was influenced by the cultures and religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. I responded that, nonetheless, there were many Christians who were ambivalent in the Holocaust, and few who stood up to Hitler, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer did.
As we continued to talk, it became clear that she is a believer, and she said that she is a Jew who believes in Yeshua. I told her my name, and to my surprise, she said that she knows me and the work of Musalaha! She told me that she has been praying for us for more than ten years, and she reminded me that years ago we appeared in a film together on the topic of forgiveness. As I finished my workout, I began to leave, and this woman followed me, saying: “Take a stand! You are doing good work! Don’t give up!” She persisted with many words of encouragement, and I was completely overwhelmed by all she had to say. I never expected something like this at the gym, and it was a word from God that uplifted my spirit during this challenging time for us at Musalaha.
As I walked out, I pondered her words, and I continue to do so, receiving this blessing of encouragement. When I left, I suddenly realized that, typical me, I forgot to ask her name.
Her words of encouragement were a blessing and inspiration not only to me, but to our staff. They motivated us to continue and press on in the weeks leading up to our camps. We are now pleased to report that we have just completed three successful camps. As part of my responsibilities as director, I visit each camp to see how things are going. The Muslim children in Hebron were excited, with a spark in their eyes, excited and eager to be a part of the camp every day. The Christian children in Taybeh (near Ramallah) were happy to participate in the camp activities, and enthusiastic to learn stories of the parables during the teaching sessions. Our Israeli-Palestinian mixed camp in Petah Tikvah is ending today, and the children have had a wonderful time building relationships and playing together while learning about targets and goals. This year we have had a record number of children joining in our camps. Many people who have been involved in Musalaha activities in the past have taken a week out of their lives to give of their time to help make all of these camps possible, and we all find encouragement and gratification in the smiles and laughter of these happy children.
Our upcoming Holland, Norway and Germany trips are now at full registration. We have a wonderful team of leaders and participants, and we look forward to sharing with you about these trips in the coming weeks. For more specific prayer requests about these trips, please see the following description.
Thank you for your faithful prayers. We were overwhelmed with the challenge of recruiting and the negative atmosphere in this country, but God has been faithful to us, blessing us once again this year. Your prayers are making a tangible difference, and our work would not be possible without you participating alongside us. Please continue to lift up our upcoming trips. God hears our prayers.
Salim J. Munayer