• PALESTINE \ May 20, 2002
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    Mennonite Solidarity Group Headed to Palestine
Mennonite Solidarity Group Headed to Palestine HARRISONBURG, Va. ? It's being called "A Solidarity of Eyes, Ears, Hands and Feet with the People of Christmas Lutheran Church, Bethlehem."

Eleven persons representing Eastern Mennonite University, Virginia Mennonite Conference and other churches will journey to Bethlehem, Palestine, on May 23 to lend support and encouragement to people seriously affected by the recent Israeli army occupation of the West Bank town.

Dorothy Jean Weaver, professor of New Testament at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, and Kevin Clark, pastor of Big Spring Mennonite Church, Rileyville, Va., have organized the delegation.

One specific objective is to assist with clean-up and repair work on the Christmas Lutheran Church and the associated International Center of Bethlehem (ICB), buildings that were vandalized and received major damage during heavy street fighting that occurred just outside the church complex.

Dr. Weaver's relationship with the peoples of Israel-Palestine developed over many years of teaching and study in the Middle East. In May of 1998 and 2000, Weaver took seminary-based study groups for two-week stays at the ICB. She also spent the fall semester of 2000 teaching a course for Palestinian tour-guide students there.

"The basic purpose of this visit is to demonstrate the solidarity of American Christians with Palestinian Christians and Muslims who are suffering because of the ongoing hostilities in Israel/Palestine," Weaver said.

Weaver said the delegation will make personal contact with Rev. Mitri Raheb, the pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church, its church members and other residents of the town where Jesus was born.

"We will seek to offer a caring, listening and pastoral presence to people who have been deeply traumatized by the terror and violence of warfare in their towns, streets and houses," she said.

Delegation members plan to assist with whatever cleanup and repair work they can provide on the facilities of Christmas Lutheran Church and the ICB.

Group members and the churches they represent are:
Susan Balzar, Hesston Kan., Hesston Mennonite Church;
Ryan Beiler, Washington, D.C., Washington Community Fellowship;
Kenton K. Brubaker, Harrisonburg, Shalom Mennonite congregation;
Shirley Yoder Brubaker, Harrisonburg, Park View Mennonite Church;
Kevin Clark, Harrisonburg, pastor, Big Spring Mennonite Church, Rileyville, Va.;
Brenda Holliday, Waynesboro, Va., Springdale Mennonite Church;
David Kreider, Harrisonburg, Community Mennonite Church;
Dave Osborne, Hesston, Kan., Hesston Mennonite Church;
Tim Peebles, Chicago, Ill., Living Water Community Church;
Daryl Ritchie, Hinton, Va., Bridgewater Church of the Brethren;
Dorothy Jean Weaver, Harrisonburg, Community Mennonite Church.

"The Eastern Mennonite University vision calls for the offering of healing and hope in our diverse world," said EMU President Joseph L. Lapp. "It seems appropriate for us to endorse this delegation to Bethlehem as one way of 'walking boldly in the way of nonviolence and peace.'"

Virginia Mennonite Conference has also endorsed the solidarity delegation.

Community Mennonite Church of Harrisonburg has set up a Middle East Compassion Fund to receive contributions from church members to be carried as a love gift to the Christmas Lutheran congregation.

A commissioning service for the group will be held 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, in Martin Chapel of the seminary building and is open to everyone.

The delegation plans to return to the U.S. on June 3.

David Kreider, in a special intreview for "Come and See" said: We're looking forward to coming, though are disappointed to hear of the recent suicide bombings that will no doubt complicate the prospects of peace again. We pray for wisdom and restraint and the ability to forgive, and for insight on the part of leaders in the making of peace. We also pray for strength and perseverence and for vision on the part of all of us as Christian brothers and sisters to be effective ministers of reconciliation in these difficult times. Pray for us travelling mercies on the way".