Dear Eastern North Dakota Synod, 

In January, through an invitation and funding from the Service and Justice home area of ELCA Churchwide, I was able to participate in a very powerful and impactful visit to the Holy Land and to our siblings in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). This trip was a delegation of ELCA bishops elected since 2019 as well as several churchwide staff. We are asked to come and learn more about the work of global mission in the ELCA, to bear witness to the situation of our Palestinian siblings, and to be formed and shaped further for our shared work in the church, particularly through knowing more deeply the ELCA strategy and work for engagement in Palestine and Israel. 

In this delegation visit, we visited, at the invitation of Bishop Azar of the ELCJHL, congregations and ministries of the ELCJHL. We visited church-sponsored schools and a church-sponsored environmental center. We had meals with Palestinian Lutherans of the ELCJHL. We attended worship and I was able to participate in worship leadership at one service. We also attended the ordination of the first woman ordained in the Holy Land, Rev. Sally Azar. Many from around the world joined together to bear witness and support this historic moment. 

In addition to the ELCJHL-related visits, we visited Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem. This hospital is a program of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). It provides specialized healthcare not otherwise available to Palestinians, including cancer treatment and dialysis. ELCA monies are part of supporting this important healthcare ministry. We were also able to learn about Lutheran World Federation in Jordan supporting refugee camps as well as broader humanitarian work in the Middle East. 

We also were given opportunities to bring our voices and support to the ministry of the ELCJHL as well as peace in the Holy Land. We met with the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority (Mr. Mohammad Shtayyeh), the Chief of the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs (Mr. George Noll), and the religious and cultural advisor to the king of Jordan (Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad). For each of these visits, we thoughtfully considered what questions to ask and priorities to stress. We selected spokespeople from our group. Each visit was a unique opportunity to speak support and highlight matters of importance. 

All of this would be enough. And yet we were also able to visit some holy sites of the Holy Land. It is hard to pick a favorite. But I will say that the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, built upon the site where Jesus is believed to have been born, was very moving. I also greatly appreciated being on a boat on the Sea of Galilee (no wind storms like in the Bible!). I found the experience of visiting holy sites as well as witnessing key places of the Bible to be moving and edifying. The entire trip was one that reinvigorated my faith. 

This experience as well as my previous convictions that through new experiences and meeting new people we can be shaped for life and faith is leading me to commit to an offering of an upcoming synod trip to the Holy Land. Information is attached. In reading the itinerary, you will see that it is a mixture of Ancient Stones (holy sites) and Living Stones (people living today in the Holy Land). I believe this is an important faith opportunity. I hope that you will consider joining this trip. You can find more information on how to sign up with the attached flyer or at this link. Please consider this your invitation and share the word! 

In Christ, 

Bishop Tessa 


Registration Information & Itinerary