So to explain my next length of time living overseas I need to write a bit about my particular denomination, which is Mennonite. (The link goes to the website of the national Canadian office. There is also an American national office.) We are related to the Amish and the Hutterites, but we are a very liberal branch. What makes us most unique is our commitment to community, our belief in believer's (defined as "adult") baptism, and our commitment to Jesus' teaching on peace, nonviolence and attention to social justice issues.
There is an organization, supported by our denomination, called Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). It was started when a speaker, at one of our world conferences, challenged us to have as big a commitment to our way of seeking peace as soldiers have to their way of seeking peace. We should also be willing to risk our lives for our belief that peace and nonviolence are viable options. CPT grew out of that call. They train people in nonviolent action and then send them into situations around the world where CPT has received an invitation to work. You can either work as a reservist (serving 2-8 weeks a year for three years) or as a full-time person, serving 8-10 months a year for three years. You work in rotating groups of teams, with 3-5 full-time people which are then supplemented by the reservists. I worked full-time with CPT for about two and a half years.
CPT never goes into a situation where it has not been invited by a local partner. When I served with them overseas I was in Hebron, Israel/Palestine, which is about 30 km (20 miles) south of Jerusalem. At that time, we worked with Palestinian families who were living under home demolition orders, and with making connections between Palestinians and Israeli peace groups. We also participated with the Israelis, as much as possible, in their work which varied from group to group.
I was also living in Hebron when The Second Intifada started. In fact, on Thursday, September 28, 2000 when Ariel Sharon visited The Temple Mount (the event many people see as the initial event that started it), I was 2km (1.5 miles) away doing a step class at the YMCA in Jerusalem. I was annoyed afterwards because I could not get into The Old City to practice piano at The Lutheran Church for the following Sunday, as was my habit after Thursday morning step class. I am sharing this example because to me it speaks so profoundly of how people are often obliviously going about their normal everyday life when history changing events are happening just a few steps away from them. Just as I was that Thursday morning. After that day, the remainder of my time in Hebron was spent writing news articles, visiting families in Hebron, and trying to process the events going on around me.
I also got to attend a conference in Cyprus while I was overseas and my parents came to visit and we went to Petra in Jordan. I had never been all that excited about "walking where Jesus walked" and would never have done a Holy Land Tour, but I have to admit, it really made the Bible come alive to be in Israel/Palestine and see many of the places where Jesus lived and taught and died. I now read the Bible with new eyes since I have been to a lot of the places it talks about. I got to spend Christmas in Bethlehem and Easter in Jerusalem and neither holiday has been the same for me since.
I also spent some time with CPT working in their main office in Chicago and working with native lobster fishers in New Brunswick, Canada. I realize this post probably raises more questions than gives answers, and a lot of them are really big. If you want to ask them in the comments I will answer them as best I can. I probably should have dedicated about a month of blog posts to my time with CPT but I'd rather continue to blog about what's happening in my life right now :) Thank you for reading and thus ends my very lengthy response to Tracy's questions about living overseas. Part One can be found here. And if any of you have experience living overseas I'd love to hear about it. Blog about it when you can't think of anything else to write about!