We just returned from two weeks in Africa and the Middle East, visiting Young Life’s ministries in a number of places across that division. What a blessing! Each day was a gift and as wonderful as the day before as we interacted with our staff, local leadership and kids across these beautiful and diverse countries.
Have you ever encountered an unexpected situation that caused a major change in your thinking or perception? That’s what happened to us during our time in the Middle East — we are calling it our “Palestine Paradigm Shift!”
We traveled to a small town in the northern West Bank, which happens to be the hometown of our Palestinian Young Life area director, Yousef. This small town is populated with Arabs and has a slight majority of Christians, which makes it a minority within Palestine, a majority Muslim territory. Of course, the Arabs who live within the borders of Israel are minorities to the majority Jewish population. Furthermore, those people who reside in Israel/Palestine are minorities within the broader Middle East.
“We sang worship songs, danced traditional Arab dances, even had a crazy Young Life skit, and heard a great club talk — all in this little town in Palestine.”
So, we had the wonderful opportunity to visit a town and a group of people who are a minority within a minority within a minority. Oh, but they are full of life, abundant life, as you can see from the picture below! They welcomed us warmly and with genuine enthusiasm. We had a combined WyldLife and Young Life club with the students involved in our ministry at a local community center. There were kids from this town and the surrounding towns — kids from Christian families, kids from Muslim families, and we even had a few Muslim mothers who joined in the fun. We sang worship songs, danced traditional Arab dances, even had a crazy Young Life skit, and heard a great club talk — all in this little town in Palestine.
Later, we had a delicious, traditional Arab lunch at Yousef’s childhood home with many of our Young Life staff and leaders (pictured below). We even met Yousef’s parents.
Joy, joy, pure joy is what we experienced from these leaders! They love Jesus, they love kids and they love one another. They are sharing the gospel and their very lives with young Arab people in many cities and towns in Palestine and Israel.
This situation was unexpected. It didn’t match the picture many of us have of Palestine, or the Middle East. It shifted our paradigm in a major way. The Lord Jesus is up to new and surprising things in a very, very old part of the world. He is calling people to Himself in places we might not imagine — a picture we certainly would not see on the news here in the West. These people belong to Him. He loves them with an everlasting love. They are His sons and daughters. They are our brothers and sisters. Beautiful. Unexpected. All about Jesus.
We will close with a promise the Lord gave to our leaders in Africa and the Middle East many years ago. It comes from the book of Isaiah:
“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen the cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities” (Isaiah 54:2-3).
Susan and I could not be more joyful about being part of a mission led by the Lord to make Isaiah’s prophesy come to life all around the world!
In Christ For All Kids,
Newt and Susan