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A blog from Claire Welch, Churches and Volunteers Manager, inspired by her recent visit to All We Can’s work in Jordan.
We entered the military controlled zone as we drew closer to the Israeli border. The heat was intense in the Jordan valley, as was the atmosphere that division breeds. We meandered along the path to reach the site believed to be where Jesus was baptised. On the opposite side of the river, only a few meters away, were other eager pilgrims. We shared in the same experience, yet we were separated by guarded boundaries. Among the pilgrims were members of the same family, some on the Jordanian side and the others on the Israeli side. They hadn’t seen each other for 16 years. This was the closest they could get.
In Jesus’ baptism, we see a coming together of two sides, heaven and earth. An affectionate voice of a heavenly Father speaks affirmation to his earth-born Son, and the Holy Spirt descends on him as a peaceful dove. Unity.
At this point in the trip, I had heard many stories of the pain caused by the Syrian conflict. Loss of lives, homes, way of life, and of what they described as ‘heaven on earth’. The conflict had brought separation – people had died, others had ran in different directions, some people had stayed. The most vulnerable are the women who no longer have their husbands, as it is impossible for them to get a work permit. It was with these women that I spent the majority of my time. All We Can has brought together these women to start their own small enterprises, making things like soap and candles, delicious food, and some groups developing their sewing skills to create clothing. These new skills and creative products are beginning to earn the women an income. But the impact of the groups was clearly greater than this – unity.
In Jordan, all work with Syrian refugees has to include 30% participation from vulnerable Jordanians. This helps to ensure that any resentment towards Syrian refugees is tempered and it aids community integration. The groups I met were a mix of Syrian and Jordanian women who had developed relationships. They laughed, shared life and enjoyed one another, and I was privileged enough to have been welcomed into their group where I absorbed the affection that they had for each other.
On my final day in Jordan, I visited Mount Nebo, the site believed to be where Moses viewed the Promised Land before he passed on. In contrast to the valley, it was cool allowing me to enjoy exploring my surroundings as I looked out on the horizon. On top of this mountain, lively young Christians who were singing modern worship songs in a different language, joined us where we were. As we offered our own worship and prayers, they blended together with the songs of our neighbours, and in unity they were received by our affectionate heavenly Father.
Sometimes divisions in this world can seem as wide as a mountain top is from a valley’s depths. I’m sure it did for that family who had been separated for 16 years. While at other times, it seems that differences can fade as easily as joining in with a stranger’s song. What I did witness from the family at the river’s edge and with the women who gathered in their enterprise, is that hope is a powerful force that helps to overcome divisions, even if sometimes, in this life, it’s short lived.
Thank you for creating all people as brothers and sisters in your family
In you we see perfect unity and peace
We ask for healing and reconciliation to come to where there is pain and division
Help us to image you in how we live with one another
and give us a hope that spurs us on to bring positive change to our world
To your praise and glory
Claire Welch is Churches and Volunteers Manager for All We Can. She is responsible for producing materials, including Bible studies and services, and provides support to our volunteer coordinators and speakers.