A Controversial Conference, Tear Gas and Rubber Bullets in Bethlehem, and a Beautiful Engagement Celebration

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Jeremy Reynalds, Founder & CEO, of Joy Junction covers the third Christ at the Checkpoint Conference.

Along with hundreds of people from all over the world, Jeremy Reynalds, the Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, and the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, left Bethlehem a few days ago, where he was covering the third Christ at the Checkpoint Conference for the ASSIST News Service (ANS).

Notably, he was also there to reunite with his fiancee who lives in Tel Aviv, and to celebrate, amidst the contrasting discord that exists in this part of the world, their engagement.

The conference opened with a word of greeting from Rev. Munir Kakish, president of the Evangelical Council in Palestine. He said, "As a religious group we are unable to practice our civil rights ... Our council prays for peace and justice to rule our land."

World Evangelical Alliance CEO, Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, also greeted delegates. He began by requesting official recognition of his group's member churches from the Palestinian Authority, adding “I will bring the same message to Israel later this week.” His concluding thoughts were, “My hope and prayer is that as evangelicals we can be on the leading edge of peace, so that in coming years there may be a new bridge of peace.”

More conference sessions came and went. In truth, there were a multitude of viewpoints presented, some of which proved to be more controversial than others. When speaker Dr. Bill Wilson, the current president of Oral Roberts University, presented his message there was a tangible torrent of disagreement that rippled through the audience when he said that he felt safer since the wall, or checkpoint, had been built. Clearly, not everyone agreed with his sentiment.

In strong testimony to the disharmony that exists, just a few hundred yards from the hotel was a quiet reminder of what the conference is all about. A sign read, “Warning. This is illegally occupied land. State of Palestine.” This is an area where ongoing tension bubbles just beneath the surface and sometimes spills right over.

One conference participant, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that killings are not “a reason to retaliate. It is senseless,” she said. “Walk away. Be a bigger man. Isn’t that what this (Christ at the Checkpoint) Conference is all about?”

However, Rev. Ashraf Tannous from Beit Sahour Church, had a different point of view: “When we are killed and humiliated without reasons, we have the right to say we’re mad about what’s going on. Whenever Israel attacks the Palestinians and kills someone, this is what happens. These people are telling the world by throwing stones that we are people who want to live in the land.”

According to Tannous, the “Zionist country is trying to damage and distort the image of God in Palestine.”

He added, “We are all created in the image of God. No one is better. We are all included.” Tannous had a message for Americans as well “Come and visit us and see what’s going on. Never ever judge the situation without living it. There are Christians here who need you.”

Reynalds experienced the varying points of views expressed during the conference, the tear gas in the streets, and the reality of the Middle East political situation.

He also experienced what happens when love brings people together. The highlight of the conference for him was the engagement dinner for he and his fiancee, Elma Cabug, on Sunday night at The Old Man and The Sea in Jaffa Port with a number of friends from Elma’s church family (including her pastors) in Tel Aviv.

He left the conference filled with prayers for God’s continued blessing on he and Elma as they prepare to begin their new life together, and most importantly, for peace in the Middle East.
For more information contact JeremyReynalds(at)gmail(dot)com.

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Jeremy Reynalds
Joy Junction
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