We're here! Most of our group arrived yesterday afternoon without incident. Unfortunately, David and Anne Eaton, two members of our group who were flying separately, were delayed and are due to come today rather than yesterday.
We proceeded directly from the airport to Bethlehem late yesterday afternoon, driving through the plains, the Judean hills, and the outskirts of Jerusalem. The landscape really invites reflection on Christ's saying from the Sermon on the Mount of the Christian calling to be a light on a hill.
Coming to Bethlehem feels to me a bit like coming home. I walk the streets remembering where I used to buy bread, buy groceries, buy shwarma or felafel, etc. After arriving at the guest house of the International Center of Bethlehem and having dinner, I led those who were had not yet passed out from fatigue on a brief walk through the neighborhood. We enjoyed the very pleasant cool breeze in the process.
Only one of us slept through the night, as we are all dealing with a fair amount of jetlag. The call to prayer wafted into our rooms at 4:00 a.m., waking myself and a few others, reminded us that we aren't in Kansas anymore -- or, in this case, Texas. I watched China play Japan at ping-pong on television at 4:30 in the morning. Fortunately, we have time this afternoon to take a nap after we worship at the Lutheran church this morning. Today is a part of the World Council of Churches' World Week for Prayer in Israel/Palestine. We will be joined in worship by a Japanese group from Hiroshima, with whom I was able to practice my Japanese.
Salaam, Shalom, Peace,