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Long term missions lure alumnus

With the campus’ celebration of its 30th anniversary, graduates have begun to share their stories following high school. Alumnus Dawn Richardson, ’97, finished high school and began her journey as a long term missionary overseas.

Richardson graduated from Vanguard University in 2001 with a BA in English. She also has an MA in Religion and an MA in Counseling
from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 2005.

Currently she is working on an MA in Middle Eastern Cultures and Religion while living in Jerusalem.

Richarsdon responded to what she believed to be her calling when she moved to Israel in August of 2006.

Richardson believes God called her specifically to Israel. She retells her experiences while encountering the Israel Defense Force (IDF). The following is her story after arriving in Jerusalem.

It was unnerving just to watch.

Nonchalantly, the IDF guy walked back to me and picked me up where he left off, “yeah, you can’t go that way to the Hebrew University. It’s too dangerous.”

“Why is it too dangerous?” I asked.

“They are throwing stones. There is a protest.”

“Oh, OK. Well, how do I get to Hebrew University then?”

“You have to go that way, down that road and then up around” he explained, gesturing to my left and then up to the hilltop (Mt. Scopus) where the university was in plain sight.

“Okay. Thanks.”

I went that way; ahead of me on the road were two Arab boys on their bikes. They were probably about 12 years-old. I felt awful for them. I don’t think they knew that even 12 year-old kids on bikes needed to stop at the metal blockade temporarily positioned across half the street where I had been standing moments earlier. I’m not even sure they had noticed it or the three IDF men standing to each side. They certainly didn’t expect the swift neck-grabbing or berating they received.

I wonder how many times they had encountered such aggression? And how it influenced their lives and their world view.

The boys rode their bikes up to the doorway of a tiny store where they were immediately joined by a few other boys about the same age. They stared at me. I tried to ignore them, not looking over, just walking ahead. I couldn’t ignore the flying rocks soon rolling up to my feet though. I looked back. Are they throwing rocks at me? Are you kidding me? Sure enough, they were. And after I glanced back, a few of them lopped some larger rocks, harder and farther. Disbelief.

Throwing rocks to be obnoxious or to get the attention of the conspicuous blonde woman walking through their all-Arab neighborhood was one thing, but actually trying to hit me with the rocks was another. They were trying to hit me with rocks. The rocks were zooming noticeably above ground level, begining to collide with the backs of my legs. I walked faster and then intently looked back at them, “Marhaba,” I said. (“Hello” in Arabic). A few of them waved, but smiled creepy smiles back at me.

Thankfully, the road was bending up out of their rocks’ reach. They stayed in the doorway.

I walked on, frustrated.

The kids in one moment had been recipients of unjust hostility and now, they were delivering it ? to me. It made me want to yell, ?but I love Arabs I want to move to Bethlehem!? Their rock throwing had dog piled the complexity of this conflicted region on my heart until it could barely breathe.

Thankfully, the rest of my ascent was met with pockets of young Arab girls; a waterfall of plaid school uniforms rippling down the hill to their homes. Several groups approached me with fascinated, sparkly eyes and a coterie of the only questions they knew in English: ?what is your name?? ?Where are you from?? ?How are you doing??

Through their laughter and mine, introductions were made.

Eventually, I made it to the hilltop, to Hebrew University, to obtain the book I needed for a paper for my Jewish Thought & Practice class: Wanderings: A History of Israel by Chaim Potok. I found the book.

I opted to take a cab home. I had to baby-sit shortly and an hour walk back might not get me there in time.

Hassan happened to be my cabbie. He?s Arab. I asked him if he knew about the road closure and the protest. He said, ?yes. A 36 year-old Arab, with a wife and two kids, from that neighborhood (A-tur, the same one I had been walking in) was arrested at the post office three days before and he had been killed after capture. Arabs were protesting the injustice of it.?

Of course, I don?t know the full story and Hassan?s English ability didn?t afford more details, but at least I got an idea of what was afoot.

Then Hassan and I talked about Mecca and his pilgrimage there. He showed me his necklace of the 99 most beautiful names of Allah, told me about his kids and the beauty of Saudi Arabia. It was a pleasant ride.

My arms full of wanderings, I bid farewell to Hassan and went inside my apartment. There was a lot on my mind. This place. This conflict. It?s awful. Everyone is culpable. What is my place in all this? How am I to love well, without choosing a side or appearing to do so? How can the decades of hatred between so many Jews and Arabs be calmed?

Where does one get answers to these questions? What is the bottom-line here?

I mean, really: ?Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law??

?Jesus replied. ?Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.? This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:
?Love your neighbor as yourself.? All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
(Matthew 22:36-40)

Ah yes, the simplest and the hardest thing in the world. And the greatest commandment.

Arab teacher harasses Jewish tourists

“I’m not talking to you! I’m talking to her! You Jewish tourists are the dirtiest people on earth!!”

I am the forementioned “her.”

Last week I was meandering around the Old City of Jerusalem, chiefly to continue orienting myself with its labyrinthine streets, steps, alleyways, and the four quarters it consists of (Armenian, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish).

I was walking on the so-called “Via Dolorosa” (a street traditionally marking the route Jesus walked to his fructification site), near the seam of the Christian and Muslim Quarters (both of which are mainly Arab) to my right there was a group of about a dozen American Jewish tourists walking from one synagogue on that road to another. My right beyond them, there was a 30-year old Arab man sitting on a sidewalk outside a restaurant.

I walked by he shouted, “Hey, you are passing the third station of the cross!! This is where Jesus?? I didn?t hear the end of his sentence because my attention was turned to the tourists next to me, the last few of whom had, with surprise, swiveled to look at the speaker.

This is when he said: ?I?m not talking to you! I?m talking to her! You Jewish tourists are the dirtiest people on earth!!?

I was jolted.

The few in the group who heard him, looked at each other in uncomfortable shock, probably asking, ? did he just say what I think he said?? they glanced at me, I grimaced apologetically and we all kept walking.

Yikes. That awful hatred was a swift left uppercut to my heart ? now doubled over in sorrow. I traipsed on; I began to pray: asking the Lord to teach me how to deal with this division, how to be a person of peace and how to live a life of love in a region so unsteady.

Well, several minutes later I turned around to head back the way I came. The man spoke again.

?Hey, you know I wasn?t talking to you earlier. I was talking to that group of tourists!?

?Yeah, I know,? I replied, walking toward the man, ?but that?s still not a good way to talk to people, to anybody.?

He defends himself and I say it makes me really sad. He explains he lives in the city and it?s just bad for everybody. I thought, hey, it?s not so good for tourism either.

He explains more of his frustration and he offers me a chair.

I sit. We talk more. He offers me tea, I drank it.

An hour later, we?re friends ? me and Aiman. I know he?s thirty and does puppet theater in local schools (this explains part of why all the kids in passing by seem to know him, and much of the adults too); He knows I?m a Christian, I live in Jerusalem, but I want to move to Bethlehem and start a hostel. I?ve asked a lot of questions about Arab culture, learned a lot and there is the assurance that I am most welcome to stop by again.

Shukran. Salaam Alaikum. (Thanks, peace be with you.)

Then, onward I went.

For more information about Richardson’s life as a missionary, click here on Graduate Travels Overseas.

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