Finally, The Book I’ve Been Praying For!

 Years ago, when the leadership at Willow Creek Community Church wanted to respond wisely and compassionately to extreme poverty and the AIDS crisis, we challenged our entire congregation to read Dale Hanson Bourke’s books, The Skeptic’s Guide to Global Poverty and The Skeptic’s Guide to the Global AIDS Crisis. We knew there would be a time for more in-depth study, for decisions about strategies of engagement, for vision trips and serving opportunities and fundraising. But first we had to break through myths and stereotypes and ignorance. We had to provide a basic understand of issues, a common language, and a solid foundation upon which to build. My husband and I had known and respected Dale for years and were not surprised to find in her books the perfect starting point for our congregation.

Fast forward a few years. While happily engaged in ministry partnerships in several African countries, I was surprised by a divine nudge to turn my attention toward the Middle East. I began traveling to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Territory. I met Arab Christians who challenged me to learn more about the Middle East, particularly about the ongoing conflict in the Holy Land, which they described as sending ripples of tension throughout the region and negatively impacting their lives. I decided to accept their challenge.

I started by reading book after book after book, piecing together dates and wars and migrations and political perspectives in an attempt to better understand this ongoing conflict. I traveled repeatedly to the Holy Land, not just to visit the traditional holy sites, but to learn from thoughtful people on all sides of the issue—from Israelis and Palestinians, from Christians, Muslims and Jews. Along the way, my heart was broken by the pain that decades of hostility has produced in the lives of all the people in the Holy Land. At the same time, I was captured by Jesus’ call to his followers to love their enemies and by the blessing he spoke upon peacemakers (Matt. 5:24, Matt. 5:9).

As I began telling others about what I’d seen and learned, I came to dread the moment when I’d be asked for a “simple book—a primer—to help me get started.” I dreaded that moment because I had no good answer. I’d recommend Elias Chacour’s book, Blood Brothers, which is a powerful call to reconciliation and peacemaking in the Holy Land. But in terms of the basic facts of the current reality, there was nothing. Most books about this conflict assume too much background knowledge or confuse readers with too many details. Worse yet, many offer a clearly biased perspective, a black-and-white assessment of good guys verses bad, which does not lay the biblical and essential foundation for peacemaking.

I could think of only one solution to this problem of the missing book: Dale Hanson Bourke. As soon as Dale agreed to travel with me to Israel and the West Bank, I started praying she’d be inspired to write about what she saw and learned. I knew it would be the most difficult project she’d ever written on, not just because it’s a complex story, but because it’s a painful story that taps into individual and communal traumas of two distinct people groups. To write this story in a way that would honor all the people in the Holy Land, and serve beginners on the peacemaking journey, would require equal measures of intellectual rigor and empathy, the mind of a dogged researcher and the heart of a passionate Christ-follower. Fortunately, that’s exactly who Dale is.

The Holy Land is not the first place Dale and I wept together as we listened to the stories of people whose lives have been shattered by violence. Nearly two decades ago we walked together through the rubble of war-torn Bosnia and committed ourselves to upholding the cause of suffering people through reconciliation and peacemaking.  It was in that spirit of shared passion that I invited Dale to join me in the Holy Land.  It is also in that shared passion that we have both decided to join the growing chorus of pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian voices, confident that as we submit our hearts and minds to the spirit of Jesus, we will find the way of peace.

I’m so grateful that Dale wrote the book I’d prayed for.  In fact, this blog is taken from the forward I wrote for Dale’s book, The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Tough Questions, Direct Answers.  Please read this book!  Order it right now! It’s not about taking sides. It’s about listening, learning and prayerfully becoming part of the hope and healing needed in the Holy Land.