January 3, 2009
The group has landed
What happened to Saturday? A small group of ELCA bishops, spouses and churchwide organization staffers boarded a jet in Chicago in the dark evening hours of Friday only to deplane some 12 hours later in the gathering black of Saturday night in Amman, Jordan.
The group was to link up later with a few other bishops as well as Presiding Bishops Mark S. Hanson of the ELCA and Susan C. Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada for a two-plus day visit to Jordan before hooking up with a majority of the bishops from both nations in Jerusalem.
The trip is part of a long planned journey to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank as part of the 2005 ELCA "Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine." Its goal is to build relationships with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land , foster awareness of the issues there and increase advocacy for a just peace in the region.
The group that flew direct from Chicago was greeted at the entrance of Hotel Jerusalem in downtown Amman by ELCJHL Bishop Munib A. Younan, his wife, daughter and a welcomed cold glass of sweet and unusually thick orange juice.
Fighting at the Gaza Strip along the Mediterranean Sea cast an air of uncertainty over the visit. Bishops decided earlier this week to proceed, as the trip had been delayed in the past. With reports of Israeli ground troops entering the Gaza Strip late Saturday, it is unknown what other security measures may be put in place that could change the agenda of the visit later in the week to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Ramallah, the largest city on the West Bank.
But first, sleep. Because at 6 a.m. Sunday, suffering from jet lag or not, the bishops and others get on the bus for a quick visit to the spectacular Roman ruins of Petra before worship and a reception in Amman later in the day.