Great moments occur from time to time in our lives regardless of whether or not we notice them. One of my most recent moments happened during Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Central Committee’s two week “Come and See” tour to Israel and Palestine.
As we traveled through the land of Israel and Palestine, the scriptures suddenly came alive in a fresh manner.
- As I observed mountains, hills, valleys and walls, I thought to myself, “Indeed, the Old Testament is true.” In Deut. 11:11, Moses said of the Promised Land: “but the land that you are going to possess it is land of hills and valleys which drinks the rain from heaven.”
- The massive wall of Jericho described in the book of Joshua was erected by its inhabitants in the name of security thousands of years ago. The Israeli government is using the same kind of walls now to fence off the Palestinians and the Arabs in the disguise of security.
- At the Sea of Galilee in Nazareth we were ferried in a fisherman’s boat probably not unlike Peter’s boat of the days of Christ.
I concluded again that the Scripture is not only true but sufficient for all life’s questions.
Today’s Christendom is filled with the unnecessary confusion concerning truth, relationships, life challenges, suffering, unjust discriminations and building of walls because we have neglected scriptures designed to help us with them. As s born-again child of God, I expect the world to reject the Word of God; I don’t expect the church to do so. But reject it they do.
Though born in eternity, God’s Word is rooted in history and speaks to every generation that will listen. We must believe the sufficiency of the scriptures.
The heaviness of the first day’s tour along with unpleasant stories heard caused me to toss and turn all night. I fervently and desperately prayed to God for an answer to the lack of peace in Israel and Palestine.
I awoke and looked eastward through the window.
The view of both churches and mosque minarets co-existing peacefully on the landscape sent shivers down my spine, simply because it did not translate into peace in the hearts of those who frequent these two places of worship.
My prayers from the night before had been strongly marked by just one expectation: for peace and hope for the oppressed. The elusiveness of this expectation seemed so tangible that hunger fled and I skipped breakfast. In my observation few people around the world have suffered more constant despair, hopelessness and daily oppression in the last 50 years than the Palestinians, Christians and Arabs living in the state of Israel.
We heard narratives from Palestinian and Israeli perspectives.
I could describe endless atrocities regarding the conflict between Israel and Palestine, including the involvement of international communities such as United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League and the role of Zionism in our country.
Various peace accords and agreements reached by these international communities have not led the conflict anywhere but to the multiplication of pain, violence and wars.
In the midst of observing and assessing this dire situation, I chose to look unto God. In this spiritual exercise and action of seeking the face of God for a lasting solution, I found hope in a hopeless and depressing situation. As I read the Bible, I found that everywhere in the scriptures we are called to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Even Christ our Lord and Savior wept over the city during his lifetime (Psalm 122:6, Luke 19:4, 41-48).
As we continued the tour I was still deeply troubled by the immense suffering and painful stories of unjustified pains afflicted on the Arab Christians. I prayed even more in my hotel and the Lord gave me Isaiah 62:1-12 to mediate upon.
That is when I knew that the Lord wants us to give voice to the suffering of our Palestinian brethren and to take action in seeking peace, justice and reconciliation between the Israeli and the Palestinian people. I also believe the greatest action that we can take is to pray unceasingly to our God who knows that our human efforts and that international community alone cannot bring lasting peace. We need to turn to him with sincere, heart-rending prayer. When we do, then what is impossible for all the nations of the world will reveal itself as a piece of cake for our God.
All slumbering believers of peace gospel need to wake up from their napping and call upon the Lord in fasting and prayers until God rains down righteousness on the surface of the earth which will cover Jerusalem and all of the regions that surround it.
Olufemi A. Fatunmbi is the moderator for Mennonite Church USA’s Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference and the pastor of Royal Dominion International Church in Los Angeles.