Catching up: VLMCC Summer Intern 2017

Hello again! It’s been about a year since I’ve posted anything here, but was encouraged by Pastor Rebecca Littlejohn to update you all on my recent endeavors. I had the privilege of serving as a Summer Intern at Vista La Mesa Christian Church (VLMCC) in San Diego, California, for the last two months. As this summer comes to a close, I feel honored to have been able to continue some of the work I started last summer as a DPF Peace Intern. (I fly home on Monday, August 14th, prayers for safe travels are appreciated!)

Some of the things I did were: workshops on the Israeli Occupation of Palestine at CYF I and CYF II (high school) camps in Loch Leven, California, at General Assembly in Indiana and in the Pacific Southwest Region at First Christian Church of Fullerton; counseled at junior camp at Loch Leven; helped lead VBS at VLMCC using the ‘Ahlan wa Sahlan’ curriculum from Global Ministries; and created a short promo video for the San Diego Kroc Center as their Marketing Intern.
Fortunately I was given time to explore San Diego and share meals with members of VLMCC which I enjoyed very much! I’m very thankful that the church community was welcoming and made my time in San Diego so enjoyable!

I had the opportunity to share faith stories a few times at VLMCC on Sundays and I’ve copied a few of them here to share with you:

July 30th, 2017:

Yesterday I returned from a week of counseling junior camp, and it was exhausting to say the least. But, I really enjoy camp. It’s a special place where people can come together and create community, have conversation, and learn from each other. I’ve counseled at camps before as a Peace Intern, but that was always middle school and high school camps. You definitely need a lot more energy and patience for the 4th and 5th grade campers. I had no idea who I was going to meet or what I was going to learn this past week, but I was certainly challenged.

The story from Matthew chapter 17 came up in my family group this week. It’s the one where Jesus, Peter, James and John hike up a mountain to be alone. Jesus’ appearance changes, his face shines bright like the sun and his clothes white as light. Moses and Elijah appear and have a conversation with Jesus. This encounter excites Peter and he quickly jumps to say “Lord, this is so amazing! Let me put up some tents for you, Moses and Elijah.” Peter wants to stay up on the mountain. But suddenly God’s voice intervenes and says “Listen to my Son.” Jesus tells them to get up, not be afraid and leads them back down the mountain.

This story amazes me because first of all, Jesus went on a hike. And the other thing I find interesting is that something about going to camp for a week is like hiking up a mountain and having a great spiritual experience like Peter, James and John did. A lot of times people go to camp and it’s kind of like an escape from the world and from reality. Often in that escape we are able to experience, hear and see Jesus a lot clearer than we normally would. And we can get excited and want to stay in that space, but we must be reminded to go back down the mountain; to our everyday lives in the world.

I find myself put in this situation where at camp, it’s easy for me to forget about Palestine, the military occupation and the struggle that we try to fight. It is such a nice relief to just be a counselor and not have to worry about what is happening right now in Jerusalem where Palestinians, Muslim and Christian, are protesting the metal detectors the Israeli police put in Al Aqsa Mosque.

We can get caught up in the camp atmosphere and community (or any other community really) and forget to continue the job Jesus calls us to do—to love others, fight for justice, and help build his kingdom on earth.

This job is a working process. It’s a continued learning experience. Sometimes we NEED to take a break, hike up a mountain, go to camp or a retreat, pause and reflect on how far we’ve come and what we’ve learned. But it is so important that we remember to come back from those experiences spiritually refreshed and encouraged to complete the good works God began in us.

August 6th, 2017:

This week we ran Vacation Bible School (VBS) at VLMCC and every day we connected stories in the Bible to children who live in the locations where those stories took place. We read letters from those children daily. We talked about Beit Sahour, Ein Karem, Jericho, Nablus, and Jerusalem.

During snack time one day, we started discussing the attributes of Jesus and who was most like Him of the group. Some claimed Pastor Rebecca to be most like Jesus because of her role as pastor and role in breaking the bread every week for communion.

I suggested that Emma was most like Jesus, being that she was the youngest person amongst us. We know from the scriptures that Jesus has a special place in his heart for children. He tells us that we should become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, that we shouldn’t cause children who believe in Jesus to stumble, and that whoever welcomes children in his name welcomes him. Jesus himself welcomed children, took them into his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Sometimes as adults we forget that as young as they are, children might have more insight to some things we tend to overcomplicate.

We learned a lot from our letters from Palestinian children. I would like to take this time to share parts of letters from the children because I believe in their voice and feel that it’s one that needs to be heard.

From the story of the shepherds in Beit Sahour, Marianne, aged 9, tells us “We are the shepherds, and we have to repeat the story that Christ is born to save us all. It happened in our small village. What joy! The presence of the churches here reminds of that great story and the angel telling the shepherds not to be afraid. As Palestinian children, we try our best to live normal lives. Because of the occupation, we are not like normal children nor can we live a normal childhood. Our country is beautiful but the Israelis have occupied it and they want to keep us uneducated. But we will keep learning and living. Come and visit us. See that we are people too, and it is because of our faith that we do not give up hope.”

Rula, age 12, from Nablus says, “Two thousand years ago, Jesus visited and stayed in our city, Nablus, for two days. I feel so happy when I imagine Jesus walking in the places I also walk today. I imagine him sitting at Jacobs well when I visit the site. I wish I could talk to him like the Samaritan woman did. Please friends, pray for us, the Palestinian children who live in constant fear. A month ago, Israeli soldiers entered my home at night, kicked us out, and started searching the house. We were under curfew for two days. We could not go out to school, play, see our friends, or buy food or milk. We were so scared of the military planes, tanks, guns, and bullets.

I want to tell you that I pray every day and ask Jesus to save us from the occupation of our land by Israel. Because Jesus loves us, because of his great love for us, he knows our problems. He can give us peace, because he is our peace, and life, since he is the giver of life.

The Israeli occupation makes us frustrated and unhappy, but I believe Jesus is just and loves justice and will give us back our joy and give us his joy.”

A consistent theme in the letters from the Palestinian children was frustration from the occupation but hope in Jesus. I often feel defeated because of the oppression in Palestine, but was encouraged by the hope of these young children. Please join me in praying for them.

Dear God, we would like to pray for the children in Palestine. We ask that you protect them and keep them safe. Please give political leaders the wisdom and humility to come up with real solutions to the conflict. We ask that our world would see true justice. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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