Heart and spirit in the Holy Land
By Amy Olson, Correspondent
“Luther Seminary presented both of us with an exceptional academic community with deep ties to world mission and ministry,” says Colin Graangard, who, along with his wife, Jeni, is currently leading the YAGM program in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Today, the Grangaards, both 2009 Master of Divinity graduates, juggle their YAGM responsibilities with parenting their 2-year-old daughter, Josie.
“Every day, we plan and we plot, and then something comes up and we start over,” Jeni jokes. “They say that if your day is only 30 percent thwarted, it’s a good day. With a toddler, 30 percent is miraculous!”
It’s a busy life, yes, but one both Colin and Jeni feel is their destiny.
Their current role brings together the couple’s respective passions. Colin was a YAGM volunteer in Scotland from 2004- 2005. After graduating from seminary, Jeni was awarded the Graduate Preaching Fellowship from Luther Seminary, which allowed the couple to spend five months in Israel and Palestine.
“We had long felt called to return to this place and people,” Jeni says. “The call to YAGM, along with the return to Israel and Palestine, is the perfect combination.”
In accompaniment with ELCA partners in Jordan and the Holy Land, the Grangaards accompany six young adult volunteers in their year of service, giving support, guidance and space to grow spiritually and learn.
“Being Lutheran in the Holy Land is a profound experience,” Colin says. “This is a society that identifies people by their religious background. Being Lutheran here means learning from the example of the Palestinian Lutherans, who have lived so long identified as a minority oppressed by world powers and occupation, yet continuing to share a powerful Christian witness calling for peace, justice and hope in God’s power to transform.”
“While in college, I was traveling to Mexico. I met a woman who told me, ‘Without faith we die. Every day is a gift from God.’ It’s been 14 years since I heard those words and they remain with me,” Jeni says. “Faith is a way of life, Jesus is a way of trust. Faith in Jesus frees me to embrace my neighbor.”