A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary

Global Vision - Spring 2010

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Glimpses of Hope in the Holy Land

by Tracy Behrendt, Correspondent

Stephanie Bliese, M.A. Senior

Children in the United States are taught that one person can make a difference. But, in Israel and the Occupied Territories of Palestine, hatred and violence have destroyed much of people's faith in each other and God. In three months of volunteering in the region for the Lutheran World Federation, Stephanie Bliese found glimpses of hope.

"I learned very quickly that it was in the smallest things that I made my print" holding a child's hand when they're going through treatment, learning to say hello in Arabic, listening to someone's story," said Bliese, an M.A. student in church history and theology. "After being in such a heartwrenching place where there seems to be no hope, the Holy Spirit found me in the smallest moments and places."

The Lutheran World Federation, a communion of 140 Lutheran churches worldwide (including the ELCA), has directed humanitarian efforts in Jerusalem for nearly 50 years. Bliese's work with the organization late last year included both archiving the LWF's history in the region and serving in various capacities at Augusta Victoria Hospital. She spent time with children seeking medical treatments and also led hospital tours, making visitors aware of the region's conflicts and poverty. Bliese also spent nearly six weeks harvesting olives from trees grown around the hospital.

"Every year, the LWF picks the olives, sends them to a monastery to be pressed into olive oil and sells this oil all over the world," Bliese said. "This money goes toward 'The Poor Fund,' which helps pay for medical bills that can't be paid."

Though she has now been home for several months, Bliese still has a hard time describing what her experiences mean to her and her faith.

"There have been small instances where my time there and its effect have popped up, but I know that its true effects have not begun to surface," she said. She also recognizes that she returned from the Middle East with a greater understanding of the people, the region and, ultimately, the Bible.

"For the first time in my life, the Bible is an emotional, living Word," Bliese said. "When I hear about villages, seas, deserts or the temple, I can see them, hear their sounds, feel the heat and know exactly where it all is. When I hear the prophets or any text on justice, I weep. When Jesus looked over Jerusalem and wept because he knew of its future, I cry, too, because I know a little of what he saw, and my heart breaks."

Learn more about the Lutheran World Federation