Small Things with Great Love
By David Hindman
“Remember prisoners as if you were in prison with them, and people who are mistreated as if you were in their place.” (Hebrews 13:3)
“I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me… I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” (Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 25:36b, 40)
In 2006 and 2009, when I was the United Methodist campus minister at the Wesley Foundation at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, I was privileged to spend time with Daoud Nassar and his family at Tent of Nations outside Bethlehem in the occupied Palestinian territories. We planted trees and heard stories of their faithful and resilient efforts to embody Christ’s ministry in the place where Christ was born. Their 100-acre farm has been in the family’s possession for more than a century but is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements; from those settlements and other Israelis, they have experienced constant harassment. Although they have documents proving their ownership of the land, Daoud and his family have been embroiled in legal wrangling with Israeli officials for more than 30 years. Despite these hurdles, occasional acts of vandalism and intimidation, and frustrations, this Christian family continues to live by the motto, “We refuse to be enemies.”
Some years after my experiences, David Benedict, a fellow retired clergy and member of Williamsburg United Methodist Church, also visited and worked at Tent of Nations; currently, he serves on the Advisory Board for Tent of Nations North America (FOTONNA). Thanks to organizations like CMEP (Williamsburg UMC is a Partner Congregation), FOTONNA, and other allies, we were distressed to learn that earlier this year, a group of 15 masked men came onto the Tent of Nations property and severely beat Daoud and his older brother, leading them both to be hospitalized. We felt disheartened by this news, coming as it did after yet another delay in the legal process of finalizing registration of their ownership and last summer’s destruction of more than 1000 trees by Israelis. David and I wondered if some of the destroyed trees had been planted during our visits. What could we do to communicate our care and concern and bear witness that the Nassars were neither forgotten nor abandoned? With the above scriptures in mind, we invited members of Williamsburg UMC to send messages of care, concern, encouragement, and hope. On two Sundays during Lent, we provided cards with messages of hope at a table in a high traffic area of our facilities. We encouraged members to sign their names and offer positive and faithful messages to the Nassars. We could not travel to the farm physically, but we could be with them spiritually in this simple but essential way. This action sparked many conversations as nearly 100 members of the congregation offered their prayers and affirmations. True, the Nassars are not literally prisoners in jail; but we imagine they may feel stuck every time their way forward is barred. They are being mistreated in unnecessary and unjust ways while they do so much to be faithful in their commitment to peace with justice for all; our efforts seem small. We hope and pray that “while we cannot all do great things, we can all do small things with great love” (St. Teresa of Calcutta).
A prayer in the words of Graham Kendrick:
Until your justice, Burns brightly again
Until the nations, Learn of your ways
Seek your salvation, And bring you their praise.
God of the poor, Friend of the weak
Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts, Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love, From a spark to a flame.”
David Hindman is a retired United Methodist clergyperson living in Williamsburg, VA. To learn more about Williamsburg UMC, visit their website.
Any views or opinions contained herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).