(To see more pictures in the photo gallery click the adjacent picture)

I had the unbelievable opportunity to participate in the Middle East Travel Seminar and travel overseas in the spring of 2012. The Middle East Travel Seminar or M.E.T.S has two overriding purposes. Foremost is to provide the participants with an in-depth study tour of an area relevant both to our biblical heritage and to current international affairs. The second overriding purpose is provide a situation in which rising leaders of different protestant denominations can get to know each other and develop some close bonds of understanding and friendship. Moreover, the program provides opportunity for extended interchange between these students preparing for professional careers in the church and non-seminarians who are already playing key roles in business and community affairs. This trip is important to share because for many young people exposure to anything international would only come through movies, books, internet, social media, and school. I want my study abroad experience to encourage and benefit those whom I communicate with every day. This experience will help me to lead and encourage young men and women who have never been out of state and individuals who ridicule the idea of cultural and faith inclusion. This trip helped me to positively impact my community, form substantive relationships, and deepen my cultural perspective.

 

I met so many wonderful people from so many different backgrounds who helped to sharpen my own theological perspective by their willingness to share their story. From discussions about systemic oppression all around the world to discussions about the relevancy of the church in the 21st century, these conversations help to give me a new perception on what it means to think theologically.

 

 

 

 

 

A Message From The Middle East

Colleagues from Columbia, Southern, Emmanuel, Duke, and Candler allowed me to challenge previously held assumptions in a healthy way. These relationships taught me how to experience differing views with my “hands open”, not being defensive, rude, or overly sensitive but to embrace an exchange of ideas that will allow every one’s views to be valued and voice to be heard. Bringing this exchange of ideas back to my community has also taught me it’s important, as Dr. King intelligently proposes “One can disagree without being disagreeable”, which simply suggests there are avenues for all of us to interject a healthy exchange of ideas and thoughts about ideology; even if they are as personal as religion.

This trip also deepened my cultural perspective. During our trip in Israel we had an opportunity to talk with representatives from Wujud Museum and other advocates for the Palestinian people. It was refreshing to finally understand the plight of both sides; the Palestinians and the Israelis. Many of the representatives we met felt as though they were a marginalized community in their own right. On one hand, relegated to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, many of the Palestinian people just want land of their own. While on the other hand the Israeli people feel the Palestinian people are a national security risk and should be confined to a segment of the land. While these issues are happening half way across the world I believe they parallel many of the issues we are facing in our own communities. It is so important to note that African Americans comprise only 12% of the population but account for 13% of the drug users, 35% of all arrest for drug possession, 55% of all convictions on those charges, and 74% of all of those sentenced to prison for possession. Many of the Palestinian young men we met overseas, behind these barricades, feel defeated and don’t think they could ever see themselves beyond “The Wall”. This type of marginalization ignites a passion for me and encourages me to remain steadfast in my call to not only preach the gospel but be the gospel as well. As the people of God we must be unwavering in eradicating oppression and marginalization wherever it is prevailing. This trip to Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and Greece has only fueled my passion to share the liberating love and good news of Jesus Christ. I wholeheartedly believe if we work together and speak into the lives of our brothers and sisters who, from Atlanta to Palestine, find themselves behind walls of socio-economic marginalization, political subjugation, and religious monotony “we can change this world one word at a time”.

(To see more pictures in the photo gallery click the adjacent picture)

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