Love one another, lessons from Palestaine

‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you give love for one another.’

Jesus seems very intent on getting his message across, a message summed up in a single word, LOVE.

That’s the beginning and end of the Christian life…. LOVE.

All you really need to know about the Christian life – and the God who calls us.

LOVE.

And this is one of the key messages that is taught in Hope Secondary School that we in Llanbedr will be supporting throughout giving on the collection plate. So I thought this morning I should tell you a little more about them.

Hope School is one of the most inspiring places I’ve probably ever been to. They are based just outside of Bethlehem in a town called Beit Jala, and they are very close to the Wall and the Israeli border. This means the school and their pupils have seen a lot of action from the Israeli soldiers. The school is constantly under threat and the current acting head told us of how soldiers came last year and knocked some of the school buildings down, without any warning, because they wanted the land they were on.

Some days the staff will arrive to discover there is no electricity, or no water. But yet they continue to teach the children.

Despite all this, the school see themselves as more than just an educational institute, they call themselves a Christian witness in the land of Christ’s birth. And it is plain to see how much they mean this.

As you arrive at the school you can’t miss them, as there is a huge cross on the roof of the main building. And as you walk in there are bible quotes painted on the walls and posters up with Christian messages. They have a chapel and every morning the pupils start with worship.

The school only has around 150 pupils, and half of them are Christian, the other half are Muslim.

As I explained to those of you in the PCC, Hope School is a school for second chances. They offer a second chance for those who have been expelled from other schools. They accept both male and female students, and they have also adapted their building to accept those with disabilities. The majority of the children experience hardship at home due to limited employment and illness, some live in single parent homes usually as a result of death, desertion or divorce and in most cases the mother provides for a large family, seeking work which rarely brings in enough to provide. Some of the students are orphans.

The school has a small residential section which allows 30 children to live in the school.

Education, although compulsory by law, is not something every child in Palestine has access to. Education is something that needs to be paid for, and many children and their families cannot afford the school fees.

Hope School are very proud that they have never turned away a student because their family couldn’t pay. Many fees are paid for by people like us, individuals, churches and other orginisations. From the money people raise they are also able to buy clothes, equipment, and health care.

When I spoke to some of the members of staff about the pupils and the situation it was clear to see how saddened they were, that children were placed in these situations. And the dedication to the children is clear. You can clearly see the love the staff has for their children and their work and their dedication. I spoke last week about calling and vocation, and their calling is clear and this shines through the children who all have hopes and dreams for their future. I spoke to one lad, who told me of his dream to go to university and study computers. He takes his exams this June and he hopes to find a sponsor to help him.

To see a child has a year’s education costs only £250. For a child to live in the school and have their fees covered costs only £580.

‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you give love for one another.’

Let us take a lesson from Hope School this morning, to love, even when loving is hard. To love, when all around us seems to work for the opposite. To love, even those who seem loveless. To love, all regardless of race, creed, gender or anything else you can think of. To love, with a love that never gives up, because it is through love God works, and through love, great change can happen. Amen

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sallyjjones

Minor Canon Youth Chaplain at St Albans Cathedral. Dog owner, historian, technology geek, pilgrim.

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