JERUSALEM, 21 November 2011 –More than 40 high-school-aged youth from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) gathered in Nazareth earlier this month as part of the ongoing Sahiroon Youth Leadership Program of the ELCJHL.
From those more than 40 youth, 28 were part of the original Sahiroon group (Seniors) formed in 2009, and 15 were part of a new group (Juniors) formed this fall. The formation of this new group marks the maturation of the Sahiroon program, as the Seniors finish out their third and final year by mentoring the Juniors who will continue for the next three years.
The Seniors and Juniors gathered together each day for morning and evening worship, small group time, Faith Talk, meals, and activities. Then split up into their groups for sessions specific to their programs.
Seniors focused during this retreat on issues and complexities of Identity. One of their sessions centered around four adjectives of identity: Arab, Palestinian, Christian, and Lutheran. Seniors were invited to discuss, define, and rank these identifiers in order of importance and meaning in their everyday lives. This topic was a continuation from the last meeting that focused on Martin Luther, the Reformation, and Lutheran identity.
During another session, the floor was opened up to the Seniors to address and discuss questions relating to faith and society in a safe, open, and non-judging space.
Conversations from both sessions continued long after time was up.
Juniors focused on an overview of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, working with Wartburg College Professor Emeritus Rev. Dr. Fred Strickert. They were so enthralled by the presentations that they asked to continue their sessions after their break.
The retreat also invited relationship building through a visit to the Church of the Annunciation and the city center of Nazareth (including a very long and steep walk), games, and a costume dance party.
The Sahiroon Youth Leadership Program is now in its third year of programming. For the past three years 30 ELCJHL youth between the ages of 13 and 18 have gathered to study the Bible, Lutheran theology and identity, and to develop their leadership skills.
Due to difficulties within the ongoing political situation, it can be difficult to gather the youth together regularly from the different congregations. Therefore, retreats like this are planned six times a year to gather the youth together for leadership training and equipping.
The ELCJHL is thankful to the Lutheran World Federation for its generous funding of this program.