“Not all who wander are lost.” This is a phrase I heard growing up, but never had fully understood. It has taken me a long time to come to an understanding of what that truly means, but I now believe that wandering is a part of the journey of coming to a place of passion and meaningful interest in life.I’ve spent the majority of my life wandering, unsure of what I was really doing. This wander has led me across continents, oceans, and, much to my surprise, Palestine.
This past May I embarked on a journey that was a little different from that of an average 20-year-old college student. Instead of heading back to my home in Canada for the summer, I found myself getting on a plane and heading to the Middle East for three months.
I had the privilege of calling Bethlehem my home for two months. I lived in the occupied Palestinian territories with a Christian Palestinian family, and was immersed in the culture and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which I really knew nothing about. When I stepped off the plane in Amman, Jordan at the beginning of the summer, I could never have imagined that it would change the person that I am.
It was in this place, where bodies and souls have been broken and resistance movements forged over the last 64 years, that, for one of the first times, I found this sense of peace and purpose that I have struggled to grasp for the previous 20 years of my life. Within this suffering and injustice came a very real calling on my heart, as if God was saying to me, “Forget your past because this, here, is what I have called you to be about.”
I saw mothers whose children and husbands had been arrested for nothing; fathers who had lost their jobs and had been stripped of their dignity through a system of checkpoints, permits, and by the end of a gun held by a teenage boy. I saw blatant racism and hatred, on both sides of the wall, a government doing to others what had been done to them, using a message that clearly said that the actions of the Holocaust would never happen to them again, but disregarded Palestinians and allowed for their ethnic cleansing from the land. I saw a culture dominated by fear and anger, and therefore tricked by their government into the oppression of others. How is this any way to live?
But, still, it is there that I found a strange, calming peace.
On the walls of a refugee camp called Balatta, I read, “If you aren’t willing to die for it, take the word freedom out of your vocabulary.” This comes from a refugee camp where 25,000 people lived in 1 sq km and faced some of the harshest infringements on movement and human rights in the West Bank.
In that moment, I realized that if I actually believe in the justice, mercy and unconditional love of my faith, it has to cost me something. Social change has a cost, it does not come out of comfort or convenience.
So here I am, back at Goshen College. What am I going to allow my faith and conviction to do? Do we allow complacency and convenience to swallow us, or do we make the decision to act on this deep angst that I believe we all have in our souls? Do we allow ourselves to really believe we were created for something more than this?