Passages Israel recently interviewed Rachel Bullard, a graduate of the University of Georgia, on the podcast Stories from Israel. The piece below is adapted from Rachel's story—you can read more about her experience at Passages, passagesisrael.org/stories/, and listen to the full interview here.
It doesn't take much for one to see that something is broken in our country. Headlines and constant social media conflicts tear us further and further apart from one another. Racial injustices persist and spark violence. Celebrities and social media influencers often glorify unhealthy and toxic lifestyles. And now we're in a global pandemic that has kept us from connecting with those we love. We have a situation primed for chaos and hopelessness.
Yet in the midst of all this, Christ calls us to be peacemakers.
It took leaving my home in the United States for me to understand that call. For a few brief days in 2018, I traveled with Passages Israel to the Holy Land, walking in the footsteps of Jesus. Like the many Christians who took this journey before me, I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the land. But in the midst of all that beauty, God whispered a quiet challenge into my heart:
"Blessed are the peacemakers."
I had the chance to stand on the very ground where Jesus spoke those words from the Sermon on the Mount. This moment and those words moved me greatly, but what impacted me even more was watching my fellow travelers put those words into practice.
Passages brings together Christian college students for a nine-day trip to Israel. Participants come from a variety of different regional, educational and denominational backgrounds. With all these different people crowded together on a small bus—each of them young, intelligent and passionate—you'd think there would be an explosion of conflict and animosity. But that's the amazing thing: There wasn't. It was beautiful to witness the display of love and respect as everyone listened to each other's perspectives about the church, theology and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Equally inspiring was the witness of two men who gave a presentation to program participants. David was an orthodox Jew, and Steven was an Arab Christian. They approached the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from totally different backgrounds and had totally different opinions.
Yet these men so clearly cared for each other and shared a deep friendship. Not even generations of violence and hatred could interfere with their abiding love and respect for one another. This convicted and inspired me. Our political differences in the U.S., though certainly stark, are nothing like the divisions that separate Israelis and Palestinians, Arabs and Jews.
Without my trip to Israel with Passages, I wouldn't have realized the impact a peacemaker can have in an atmosphere of hate and division. The trip was truly transformative for me.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by the chaos and uncertainty at home, remember, God gives us the gift of peace through any storm. Let's ask God to give us His eyes and ask Him what part we have in being a voice of peace and healing in every situation we face.
In pursuit of this, I would encourage everyone to explore travel to the Holy Land. Away from the noise of our culture and politics, you just might be able to hear God's whisper.
Rachel Bullard is a content creator and manager professional and a recent graduate of the University of Georgia.
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