My family watches for rivers of peace. We seek them out in a place known for conflict and discord. We are Lutherans living in the Holy Land 

For many, healing waters are elusive when it appears all that surrounds is stony, dry riverbed. For us, watching for these rivers is a way of life—the only way to seize hope. 

We started this practice after I noticed my children, ages 13 and 15, were struggling to love everyone the way Christ loves them. Access to the River Jordan, Jacob’s Well and the Sea of Galilee seemed meaningless to them as they watched their Palestinian Christian peers denied dignity in and around these sites, restricted by a separation wall. My youngest increasingly made blanket, unloving statements about those he identified as the problem.   


For many, healing waters are elusive when it appears all that surrounds is stony, dry riverbed. For us, watching for these rivers is a way of life—the only way to seize hope.


As visitors here, my husband and I know our parenting challenges don’t compare to those Palestinian parents endure. Often their children live with limited resources, movement and space, and are the targets of cruelty. Yet we also struggled to help our children find hope amid instability. 

One day, I invited our children to help me look for peaceful interactions among ethnic groups in our city—what we call “rivers of peace.” We saw them in: 

The middle-aged Muslim man who helped an Orthodox Jewish mom cross a busy road with her four children.  

The nonpracticing Jewish man who ran to the aid of an Ethiopian child who had fallen off his bike in the street.  

The Palestinian Christian who assured us that, while they don’t like the U.S. administration, they would never hate American people.  

These moments sustained us and reminded us that Jesus hasn’t abandoned this place or any other. Rivers of peace run freely, but we must be willing to seek out the river’s edge so God will quench our thirst. 

Maybe you and your little ones have been in our shoes, immersed in conflict and instability, whether personal, political or otherwise. The next time your family finds itself hopeless as it faces the stark realities of our country and world, try this practice.  

Practice

Encourage your children to look critically at the difficult reality of your neighbors and for signs of hope. When they witness acts of kindness and humanity, urge them to observe, celebrate and share them with your family. My family has taken to proclaiming, “River of peace!” when we spot one together. When you introduce this activity, you might take time to sing or read the lyrics to “When Peace like a River” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 785) and to pray as a family.

Adrainne Gray
Gray is an ELCA deacon and missionary who serves as communications coordinator with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

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