The Just Sharing Fellowship, a partnership between young women in Bethlehem and Unstoppable young United Methodist Women in Western Pennsylvania, allows participants to exchange stories and get to know others of their generation who are living in a completely different context. The goal is to empower young female voices to use story-telling as a tool for advocacy and conflict transformation. It was organized after Global Mission Fellow Grace Killian, a member of Mt. Lebanon UMC, spoke via Skype from Israel/Palestine to the Unstoppable group last July during Mission u 2014 at Grove City College. Grace provided this recent update.
The Just Sharing Fellowship is moving forward with progress and vision. At the latest workshop meeting in Bethlehem, we had 26 participants. The participants are eager to share their stories and learn more about life in America. However, this project has also been a continual process of creative problem solving. While we intended to begin the project in October and finish by the end of January, certain circumstances have pushed our timeline later.
First of all, tensions were especially high in Israel and Palestine in October and November. The Wi’am Center, the host of the project in Bethlehem, is located at a flash point. Most Fridays, the best day for the participants to meet, clashes erupt next to the Wi’am office, resulting in tear gas, rubber bullets, and skunk water. For this reason, our meetings were postponed several times.
Eventually, we found an available location safely in the heart of Bethlehem, away from the flash points, that was within our budget. However, this greatly delayed our ability to move the project forward, especially in conjunction with difficulties in navigating communication trends in Bethlehem.
I have learned that email is not the preferred form of communication. Many participants are not entirely sure of their correct email address and prefer to rely on Facebook and telephone. With the extra challenge of language barriers, it was apparent that organizing the project was nearly impossible in Bethlehem without physically meeting together as a group.
Furthermore, commitment is rare in Bethlehem. As life under occupation is overwhelmingly unpredictable, greatly affecting one’s perspective of day-to-day routines, cultivating commitment to projects and meetings is a challenge. Similarly, a project that depends on a set list of participants, rather than simply ensuring a certain number of attendees at a meeting regardless of continuity, does not translate well to participants or staff members.
Nonetheless, the project is moving forward. Many participants have spoken with their partners, enjoying the opportunity to learn about life in a completely different context while still discovering the similarities in their lives, from extra-curricular activities to hopes and dreams. At the latest meeting in Bethlehem, we discussed the elements of an engaging and meaningful story. We hope to have a blog available online within the next two weeks, posting two stories every week.
I am grateful for the continuous support of the United Methodist Women and the patience of all the participants and leaders who have entered into this adventure. I am eager to watch these relationships flourish more and the realities of the participants’ lives be shared boldly.