Four Ways to Stay Engaged when the Holy Land High Fades Away / by Kaitlyn Barnhill

For those of us who have taken trips to Israel and Palestine and had life changing experiences from the friends we have made in the land and the relentless conflict we so desperately want to find a solution to, we know what it is like coming home from a trip like this, eager to make that next step. And many of us do take that next step, sharing stories with friends, speaking at our churches and school campuses and trying to stay connected with our friends and the news in the Holy Land. But as time goes by and we naturally engage in the life happening around us and our own personal pursuits back at home, a lot of time can go by without actively being engaged in our passion and interest for our friends living in the land.

Many of our friends there continue to invite us to come back to visit. But for most of us, this is not always a possibility. The default can become an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, where we can fade into less and less engagement. But the truth is, our friends in the land will never get the luxury of having an “out of sight, out of mind" mentality, the conflict is their every day life that they cannot escape. And our truth is that we really want to be engaged and active in their plight for justice, we just don’t know how to remain active from so far away.

So how can we continue to stay engaged and actively pursuing our passion to be ambassadors for peace? Here’s a few helpful ways my friends and I have found to stay involved.

Host a monthly Middle Eastern feast where stories and updates are welcomed and shared. As we all know, food is the main gathering feature in the Israeli and Palestinian culture. This would be a fun way to learn some of our favorite Middle Eastern recipes with friends and be reminded of the times we ate similar foods in the land. I was recently given a Palestinian cookbook and hope to use this as a tool to gather my friends around a table and reflect on our journeys to the land.

This can also serve as a tool to help people meet their personal deadlines and action steps. Within your community of friends who have connections to the land, maybe someone is pursuing a blog, or planning to lead a trip back to the Holy Land, or involved in a Middle Eastern Studies group, by gathering friends with alike yet diverse visions, together you can work to encourage one another to keep pressing on and live out their goals.

Create a podcast. Find out about some people in your community who are from the land, who have had an experience there, or who are in the midst of studying about the conflict. Once a month, sit down for a cup of coffee with one of them and ask to record the conversation. Pick their brain, ask them all about their experience there or what they have learned throughout their studies and what their hopes and visions are for a better future. It can be simple. Come up with a few questions you would like to ask and just try to guide a naturally conversation. And if you are the one with plenty of stories to tell, ask a friend to lead you into a conversation where you can have a platform to tell about your experiences. Share your monthly podcast on social media and create a voice for those eager to tell their stories!

Get in touch with your artistic side. There are many ways you can do this. I am not a painter but I have wanted to explore the slow process of painting and reflecting simultaneously. Maybe this could be practiced by printing a picture you took during your time in the land. Let that picture be your subject to paint across your canvas. You may not be experienced in this at all, but it doesn’t matter, let your mind notice every subtlety and capture it in the best way you know how. As you take in each detail, let the memories of that scene or that person soak in and remind you of the friends and the land you deeply treasure. It doesn’t matter what you do with the painting, it is the act of reflection that is essential in the processing your soul requires.

Imagine your personal artistic expression. Painting, writing and poetry, sculpture… practice the art of reflection through the process expressing your experiences artistically.

Find out what’s happening around you. One of the best ways I have found to keep my thoughts engaged and to be actively involved in conflict resolution is by getting connected with groups, organizations and talks around me. Immersion is key. We can gain a lot by reading email subscriptions or following national organizations news reports, but there is something significant about going and being a part of a local conversation about global issues. Find a peace center, church or school’s calendar to follow and keep an eye out for conversations you would like to engage in. Our experience and interest in the Holy Land and our heart towards conflict resolution in and of itself equips us to be a part of the greater conversation for world peace. Be willing to go participate in a conversation or seminar outside of your interest, understanding and/or knowledge. The parallels will surprise you, and the universal pursuit for peace, empathy and acceptance will be inspiring.

I am a writer, adventurer and dreamer. I  graduated from Tennessee Tech University, with a Bachelor's in Communications and Journalism. Over the years I have been exploring the world of writing through marketing, blogging and using it as a tool to bring awareness. My love for people and travel has taken me to the Middle East several times in partnership with organizations and friends in their fight towards justice. I currently live in New Braunfels, Texas where I attend River City Vineyard Community Church and learn about the peacemaker Himself. I hope to extend forth the good news of peace, love and justice for all people during my life.