We are delighted to introduce Hannah, a Young Adults in Global Mission volunteer who is serving part-time with Dar al-Kalima University of Arts and Culture! Young Adults in Global Mission, a program of the ELCA, sends 70 young people from ages 21 – 29 to nearly a dozen country placements, including to Jerusalem and the West Bank. Volunteers with the YAGM program live and serve for one year alongside ELCA companion churches.
Hannah arrived to her placement in Jerusalem and the West Bank in August, along with 6 other young adults from the YAGM program. She serves both with the Dar al-Kalima School and at the Dar al-Kalima University, teaching English and math in the school and preparing English- language publications for the University. She has also volunteered with Bright Stars of Bethlehem in the past as a part of the Bridges of Hope program. We are excited to continue to work alongside her! She’ll be sharing updates about our programs and reflections on her own experiences in Bethlehem. We’ll be sharing snippets from her blog, Yalla, Hannah here.
First, we thought we’d let her introduce herself in her own words:
I grew up in Milton, Washington, a small town about 30 miles south of Seattle. There, in the house that always smells of Tide laundry detergent, my parents raised my younger brother and I to respect others, to push ourselves, and to explore the world around us. They also raised us in the faith, as a part of Mountain View Lutheran Church; that faith, and the family that raised me in it, became the strong backbone of my life.
After graduating from high school, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee (of all places) to study music at Vanderbilt University. Little did I know how much my life would change over the course of the next four years. While music still remains a passion of mine, and I stayed involved with music all through college, I discovered that my vocation, my calling, lay somewhere else entirely.
My freshman year of college, I took a History of Islam course. I realized that although the Middle East and Islam featured prominently in the news throughout my childhood, I knew little about the region and even less about the religion. I found myself entranced by the complexity, the nuance, the shades of gray that define so many issues in the region. By the end of the year I had changed my major to Middle Eastern Studies. Quite simply, I was hooked.
Looking back on it, I can now see the traces of this interest even earlier in my life. One of my first introductions to the Middle East was through my faith and the archaeological study Bible given to me by my parents at a young age. Long before I knew I would one day study abroad there, I was more interested in traveling to Jordan than to Paris. I have long been drawn to the history of the land we call holy and the ways that history affects the Biblical stories I know so well. I have never felt God’s presence so strongly as when I changed my major and set myself on a journey to learn more about this region and its diverse and beautiful people.
I am seeking real connection and relationships with the people with whom I will be living and serving. I want to live alongside them, to understand how they live, to be a part of that life, to know them intimately and deeply. The D.C. policy world can be a bit of an “ivory tower” of wannabe white saviors hoping to “fix” the Middle East and its problems, despite their often good intentions. With every fiber of my being, I want to avoid this orientalist impulse in my own life. I want to get back to the people, to ground myself in the reality of daily life and in strong relationships with real human beings.
Here is an excerpt from her most recent blog post:
“The Forty Days”
You might not believe it, since the image of the Middle East most people have in their heads involves sweltering heat and rolling sand, but it gets quite cold here. Not as cold, perhaps, as the -66 windchill the Midwestern United States is experiencing right now, but cold enough. With houses designed to draw heat out during the summer and no indoor heating, the temperature is often the same chilly 50 degrees inside that it is outside, if not cooler.
We’ve entered what Palestinians call “al-muraba’ia,” “the forty days,” the coldest days of the year. Thunderstorms blow in from the Mediterranean, dumping rain and sleet and hail on the hills of Jerusalem before pacifying in the Jordan River Valley. Wind sneaks in through the windows, making candles and electricity alike flicker. From Christmas until the middle of February, we will wear extra layers and huddle around space heaters for warmth, piling thick fleece blankets on our beds. Then, the warmth will return, spring will break out, and we will move on.
It seems particularly fitting that these days number forty, and that they are coming now, of all times.
Forty is a significant number in the story of God and Her people: forty days and nights of the catastrophic flood, forty years of wandering in the desert, forty days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness. Forty days of darkness and cold in this Holy Land after the business and excitement of the Christmas season.
I feel it deep in my bones, these forty days.
To put it simply, these forty days are hitting me hard. I knew that a year of global service wouldn’t be easy, but it turns out that knowing it wouldn’t be easy doesn’t make it easier. Read the full post here.