In Jerusalem and the West Bank, Young Adults in Global Mission connect closely with our companion church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). Palestinian Christians have been in the Holy Land since the first Pentecost, though the roots of the ELCJHL are in the mid-19th century when German and English missionaries came to teach and minister to the local people. Today, pastors and other leadership of the ELCJHL are primarily Palestinian Lutherans.
Bishop Sani Ibrahim “Charlie” Azar has led the church since his consecration in 2018. He is the fourth Palestinian Bishop of the ELCJHL. Under Bishop Azar’s leadership, the congregations of the companion church are located in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, Ramallah and Amman, Jordan. The congregations are engaged in a range of diverse ministries in their respective communities, including four schools, which together serve more than 3,000 students per year. The denomination also administers three additional educational programs, including Al-Mahaba Kindergarten on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, the Martin Luther Community Development Center in the Old City of Jerusalem, and the Environmental Education Center in Beit Jala.
Through the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program, young adults ages 21 to 29 serve in accompaniment alongside the ELCJHL. Each YAGM serves in an educational setting, along with being involved in the congregations for regular worship and fellowship time.
The Holy Land holds an extraordinarily rich culture and history. There are Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian holy sites with deep cultural and religious significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims, among others. While the emphasis of the program is on service in accompaniment with our Palestinian companions, YAGM also have opportunities to explore some of this culture and history. A natural extension of the program in this setting is our shared exploration the significance of the place to our own faith and the faiths of our neighbors.
The political situation in Jerusalem and the West Bank is complex. YAGM serving in this context will learn about the political situation and its related history. YAGM are often able to help others better understand the context upon returning home after service.
There is political tension in the region today, but the communities and neighborhoods we serve provide YAGM with a great deal of care, information and support. The country coordinator stays closely informed about any rising security issues. All Global Mission personnel, including YAGM, are not permitted to attend or observe demonstrations or protests. When political and/or racially motivated violence does occur, it is generally targeted and almost never directed at international visitors and volunteers. A network of people well-informed on the politics of the region stay in close contact with the country coordinator. Through the years, several contingency plan scenarios have been prepared should the situation necessitate them. That said, in the daily life of a YAGM, security concerns are eclipsed by the more immediate, rewarding and meaningful work of serving in an accompaniment relationship with the schools and the people of the churches.
The relational aspects of the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program are as important as the work we do. The program helps foster relationships, builds bridges across communities, and improves cross-cultural understanding. The service work is important, but it is only one part of the experience that makes it meaningful for most ELCA young adults.
What opportunities are available?
The ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission assignments in the Jerusalem and the West Bank context are largely set by our companion church whose ministries are in educational settings. Below are some of the ways that YAGM have been in service: