Dear ones of Southeastern Iowa Synod,
I write to you this morning from the Eastern Iowa Airport as I prepare to board my first flight en route to Palestine, Israel, and Jordan. I am traveling with a contingent of 23, including bishops and ELCA Churchwide Staff from January 17-31, 2023. We are traveling as guests of Bishop Azar and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan & the Holy Land and through the generosity of the ELCA Peace Not Walls program with Elias Tours. I am ready to listen and learn on my first visit to this area and to gain a deeper understanding of the complex realities for the people, particularly for the Palestinian people and our Lutheran Church partners.
I give thanks for the many people in our church and in our synod that are deeply committed to advocacy and education through the Peace Not Walls program. In preparation for this trip, I watched a couple of short films and read a few books. If you are interested, I especially recommend watching “The Present” on Netflix and reading “The Lemon Tree” by Sandy Tolan and “The Other Side of the Wall” by Pastor Munther Isaac (who serves in the ELCJHL). If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Pastor Chris Cowan, who chairs our synod’s Peace Not Walls network.
There will be many highlights for sure but one that we are eager for is the opportunity to celebrate the Ordination of Sally Azar, who will be the first woman ordained in the ELCJHL. Please pray for soon-to-be Pastor Azar as she begins her pastoral ministry. I welcome your prayers for our group as we travel, as we listen, as we learn, and as we return with stories to share about how our hearts encountered the living God in these holy lands. I welcome your prayers for our siblings in Christ in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan & the Holy Land.