First report from Gaza

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October 6, 2014
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I am writing this from prison. All 1.8 million of us who are living in Gaza are in prison. The walls around Gaza keep us (except us privileged foreigners) from leaving to work, to shop or to go to another church, town or country. We cannot sell our crops or manufactured goods. Some have meager food and very little money to buy it. We are trapped in a small space about 40 miles long and 10 miles wide."

Alex Awad, a trusted teacher at Bethlehem Bible College, explained how frustrations reached a boiling point, and in a desperate effort to force Israel to open the siege under which Gazans are living, the rockets began to fly. The rockets did very little damage, but they were a cry to the world from this prison saying, "Help us!"

The devastation is heart breaking. I have taken photos of piles of rubble that were once homes, businesses and factories. May they help us to reach out with a healing hand. Mennonite Central Committee is actively recruiting help. Bethlehem Bible College, with whom I am working at their extension site, is seeking to raise $100,000 for 1,000 families.

Within this broken city are some wonderful, peace-loving people with whom I am having the opportunity to work. Tomorrow in a small way I will seek to encourage the three small churches—Orthodox, Catholic and Baptist. In my class of MA students I have teachers, church workers and a doctor together with his wife and son. Together we are seeking to learn how to listen, to show compassion, and to offer assertive help and hope to people in this troubled place.

My room is muggy and often without electricity. I am writing this by candlelight. In compassion, my students checked me into a hotel for one night. I am alone here at nights, but there is a watchman at the gate. Monday I return to Bethlehem where I will work for three weeks while my students do reading assignments, verbatim and research. I will return October 13 to finish the course.

Gaza is almost 100 percent Muslim. Five times a day in this densely populated area loudspeakers from a hundred mosques loudly fill the air with calls to prayer. The Christian school where I am teaching, located in the center of Gaza City, is required to teach the Koran and is prohibited from teaching the Bible. "We teach our faith by the way we live, speak and tell stories," says the principal, who is in my class.

It is my privilege to be here. I am not allowed to go out alone, but I feel safe. While my special travel insurance in this red zone is $150 a day, my students say, "We will take care of you!" I love them. They have invited me to their homes. Life is in contrasts. Today we will go to the beautiful Mediterranean beach where three boys lost their lives while playing in the sand.  

While I covet your prayers, you do not need to feel sorry for me. God is good.

--Sept. 25, 2014

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