ELCJHL Youth Gather to Explore Identity

Senior and Junior Sahiroon members gather in Nazareth for leadership training.

JERUSALEM, 21 November 2011 – More than 40 high-school-aged youth from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) gathered in Nazareth earlier this month as part of the ongoing Sahiroon Youth Leadership Program of the ELCJHL.

From those more than 40 youth, 28 were part of the original Sahiroon group (Seniors) formed in 2009, and 15 were part of a new group (Juniors) formed this fall. The formation of this new group marks the maturation of the Sahiroon program, as the Seniors finish out their third and final year by mentoring the Juniors who will continue for the next three years.

The Seniors and Juniors gathered together each day for morning and evening worship, small group time, Faith Talk, meals, and activities. Then split up into their groups for sessions specific to their programs.

Seniors focused during this retreat on issues and complexities of Identity. One of their sessions centered around four adjectives of identity: Arab, Palestinian, Christian, and Lutheran. Seniors were invited to discuss, define, and rank these identifiers in order of importance and meaning in their everyday lives. This topic was a continuation from the last meeting that focused on Martin Luther, the Reformation, and Lutheran identity.

During another session, the floor was opened up to the Seniors to address and discuss questions relating to faith and society in a safe, open, and non-judging space.

Conversations from both sessions continued long after time was up.

Juniors focused on an overview of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, working with Wartburg College Professor Emeritus Rev. Dr. Fred Strickert. They were so enthralled by the presentations that they asked to continue their sessions after their break.

The retreat also invited relationship building through a visit to the Church of the Annunciation and the city center of Nazareth (including a very long and steep walk), games, and a costume dance party.

The Sahiroon Youth Leadership Program is now in its third year of programming. For the past three years 30 ELCJHL youth between the ages of 13 and 18 have gathered to study the Bible, Lutheran theology and identity, and to develop their leadership skills.

Due to difficulties within the ongoing political situation, it can be difficult to gather the youth together regularly from the different congregations. Therefore, retreats like this are planned six times a year to gather the youth together for leadership training and equipping.

The ELCJHL is thankful to the Lutheran World Federation for its generous funding of this program.

Click here or on the photos above to view more photos from the event.

Shepherd’s Scouts of Beit Sahour Organize “Freedom Marathon”

Members of the Beit Saour community line the street leading to the Evangelical Lutheran Church and School property which served as the finish line for all races.

JERUSALEM, 30 October 2011 – Earlier this month the Shepherd’s Scout group of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour invited their community to come out, come together, and run, bringing back to life a long-standing tradition of ‘town marathons’—races that traverse the streets (and hills) of the small West Bank community of Beit Sahour.

Generations of Beit Sahourians have grown up watching and participating in races like this, but due to lack of funding, town races had not occurred for the last few years.

And so, the young leaders of the Shepherd’s Scout group decided to take on this year’s planning, preparation, and execution themselves. “We are capable of organizing such an event,” the youth said, “and we will prove it to the community.”

The youth decided to call their race the “Freedom Marathon” to inspire the community to continue along the long path toward peace, justice, security, and freedom for Palestine and Israel.

The enthusiasm of the youth was so infectious that soon the Beit Sahour municipality, many local organizations, and the community at large were eager to support and to be a part of the upcoming event.

More than four months of preparation and countless hours of work later, it was a joy for these young leaders to see 380 participants line up to run and countless more community members turn out to cheer on the runners and join in the festivities.

Participants were divided into five different age categories, with different courses for each category. Courses ranged from just under 2 kilometers up to 5 kilometers. Prizes were awarded at the end of the day before a large crowd at the Evangelical Lutheran Church and School property in Beit Sahour.

Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, Beit Sahour Mayor Hani Al-Hayek, and the General Leader of the Scouts Mr. Dafer Kassis were on hand to address the attendees and offer their congratulations to the participants.

In his speech, Bishop Younan praised their work of the Shepherd’s Scout group, noting in particular their young, enthusiastic and inclusive leadership that garners much respect in their community; the thoughtful and creative stewardship of their lives and resources; and the responsibility they take up within and for their community and the larger Palestinian society.

Younan pointed out, with joy, the decision of the Shepherd’s Scout group to donate all profits from the event’s activities to the municipality of Beit Sahour for the rejuvenation of the roundabout at the entrance to the town.

Mayor Al-Hayek expressed his great appreciation for the Shepherd’s Scout group and encouraged them in their continued example that they set not only for the community of Beit Sahour, but for Palestine as a whole. He welcomed this year’s event as the first in a new annual tradition to be led by the Shepherd’s Scout group.

Mr. Kassis, in turn, expressed his thanks to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour as a congregation of the ELCJHL for its continued support, to the municipality for their help throughout the preparations, and to the Beit Sahour community whose support helped this idea come to fruition.

The Shepherd’s Scout group in Beit Sahour has been in existence for more than 15 years. Two years ago the group was rejuvenated under the leadership of Mr. Dafer Kassis, the current Group Leader, and other young men and women of Beit Sahour, ranging between the ages of 20 and 30. The Shepherd’s Scout group now has more than 160 active young men and women. It is open to all members of the community, regardless of denomination or religion. Members participate together in the Brass Band and Snare Band, along with various community and leadership capacity building activities, and other recreational activities.

Click here to view photos from the event.

ELCJHL Youth Gather for Leadership Training

To the right, browse through photos from the event by clicking the arrows, or click here to go to the photo gallery.

BETHLEHEM/JERUSALEM, 9 September 2011 –Over this past weekend 27 youth from ELCJHL congregations in Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank gathered in Bethlehem for a 5-day workshop on Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the role they play in the lives of Palestinian Lutherans today.

Presentations took the youth through the life and work of Martin Luther from his training as a lawyer, through the thunderstorm revelation and call, to his days as a monk, his theological training, to his teaching, the nailing of the 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral, his trial, the translation of the Bible into German, the Augsburg Confession, and beyond.

The deep, animated discussions surrounding each presentation evidenced the youth’s interest in learning more about their Lutheran identity and how they live out their faith amidst their predominantly Muslim society.

Central to their discussions of Martin Luther and Lutheran theology was a Lutheran understanding of Scripture as that which shows forth Christ, and Luther’s small catechism, especially Luther’s explanation to the Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.

Throughout all of the presentations was an emphasis on the Lutheran understanding of Justification by Grace, through Faith on account of Christ.

The workshop also emphasized the nurturing of leadership skills in the youth and the lifting up of the youth’s voice within the ELCJHL as the church of today, not the church of tomorrow.

The youth also took some time out for relationship-building, with an afternoon excursion to the pool and a final barbeque and campfire at the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour.

When asked at the end of the workshop to reflect on their learning, responses included:

  • “Reformation starts from within.”
  • “Everyone in society counts; don’t underestimate your abilities.”
  • “I learned that I could be a leader.”
  • “In everything we’ve done, I came to see the other person as my brother and sister, not just as a friend.”
  • “I learned that an effective leader listens to others, and doesn’t take into account on his or her own opinion—others count.”

The ELCJHL is very proud of their youth, and is so happy to be able to spend time and effort empowering and equipping them to be faithful leaders in the church today.

This gathering was part of the Sahiroon Youth Leadership Training Program of the ELCJHL. The Sahiroon program is now in its third year of programming, through which 30 ELCJHL youth between the ages of 13 and 18 have gathered to study the Bible, Lutheran theology and identity, and to develop their leadership skills.  To learn more about the Youth Ministry of the ELCJHL, click here.

The ELCJHL is thankful to the Lutheran World Federation for its generous funding of this program.