The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Breathing space

Welcome to the most hopeful place in Bethlehem

It’s Friday night and the most hopeful place in Bethlehem bristles with energy. A dozen melodies meet and mingle midair, charging the atmosphere with creative tension. Each tune competes for attention before fading, and another assumes its place.

Fifty children gather behind closet doors or in opposite corners of classrooms practicing violins, pianos and other instruments, tuning up for the weekly recital they give to each other and their parents and friends. They hasten past visitors in the halls, obviously on a mission they take very seriously.

Welcome to the International Center of Bethlehem. In 1994 it began in one room, with one employee and a big idea in the mind of Mitri Raheb, pastor of Christmas Lutheran, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

But his ideas were never big enough. Possibilities constantly exceeded his imagination. “Every time we thought our mission wastoo bold, God said, ‘It’s just too small,’ ” Raheb says, holding his thumb and forefinger close together. “It’s humbling.”

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February issue


Embracing diversity