I just returned from the 19th biannual SAYF retreat (Sitting At Yeshua's Feet) held in Tiberias. A two day prayer and fellowship retreat for Jewish and Arab (both Israeli and Palestinian) Christian leaders of the land. There were about 80 of us with three (maybe four) generations represented. (Out of this number there were 9 Arabs; 5 from the north including Hanna Eid and myself, 3 from Jerusalem and 1 from Bethlehem.) The organizers of these retreats have been encouraging the leaders to bring in the younger generation of leadership in their congregations, so that the cycle will continue. (My father was of the people who organized the first prayer summit of this kind in 1995).
The two main aims of this retreat are one, for the leadership of the congregations to take two full days (beginning noon on Tuesday and finishing noon on Thursday) off of their responsibilities and duties and come to take the time to sit at the feet of Jesus, worship praise and pray with each other, for each other and for our country and issues that face our ministry in this country. The second aim is to work on the unity of the body of Christ in the land by building relationships and strengthening bonds.
The theme of this retreat was the fear of God emphasizing that our righteousness and fear of God is what pleases God and that is what He seeks in us in general, and how much more, of us as leadership and shepherds of His people, to whom we are also to set an example that reflects God's love.
On Wednesday (the second day) we started out early (before sunrise) and went up the southern tip of the Golan Heights to a forest park that used to belong to Syria before 1967. This is also where one of the tribes of Israel settled after coming back with Moses. The spot is a wonderful place overlooking the Sea of Galilee. We are dispersed with 3 passages from the Bible for meditation, for 5 hours of solitude with the Lord. This was the highlight of this retreat. The 3 passages were Psalm 25; Psalm 18 and Proverbs 3:5-12.
Relating to the issue of our unity, all of us realizing the significance of it for the Lord's name in our country, specifically, yet we all know that there is a lot to work on. Difficulties in accepting each other are still present and effective. We know that within the group there are some who still hold on to the issue of the land, instead of dealing with the heavenlies (on both sides); there are also those who are genuinely open and have a sincere heart of unity, and that is felt easily.
There is a lot to do, but we can't give up. We are determined to go on going on, doing our best to work out these issues as we share God's love with one another and build those bridges. One of the Jewish brothers, in his prayer, called the Arab brothers, "the ones who keep the balance within the group"!
Part of fearing God is loving God and loving His people! Grace is joy and love through suffering and tribulation. And the good news is that His grace is sufficient for us, if we depend on Him and rely on His strength and grace putting aside what is not of Him and not His concern, as we are His servants, His ambassadors and we need to live for Him, reflecting Him and His love to one another and to the whole world.
We conclude the retreat by sharing the Lord's supper together.
Saleem Hanna, Israeli Team Leader
Christian HolyLand Foundation