by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser, NC
This morning the 6th graders boarded a school bus to travel to Asheville, about a 45-minute drive from camp. Our first stop was at Trinity Episcopal Church where our whole group was generously welcomed and ushered to a group of seats in the front.
Lilly, American Christian camper, and Maria, Jerusalem Christian camper read passages for the service in English and Arabic respectively. The priest and the congregation extended a warm welcome to our whole group and thanked us for being there and working together towards peace.
For many of the non-Christian campers (especially from Jerusalem) it was their first time in a Christian church in America. As the service progressed I saw many eyes roaming over the large space, surveying the high ceilings, the stone archways and the stained glass windows. All four American Christian girls are Episcopal so they were able to help the others throughout the service.
After the service we gathered in the church dining hall to meet with their congregation and have lunch. Three of the Jewish campers were fasting for Tisha B’av a Jewish day of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. The day includes a 25-hour fast and abstaining from celebratory activities such as listening to music and other forms of work.
Because they were keeping Tisha B’av, they were unable to eat the delicious meal provided by the church and were instead sitting at the tables with the other kids looking longingly on at their plates of food.
Samar, the Jerusalem Christian Faith Adviser, asked the kids if they would like to take some of the food back to camp to break their fast in the evening. Their eyes lit up. Samar spoke with the church staff and in moments the Episcopal Church provided enough bags for the kids to take whatever foods they could possibly desire with them.
They began shoving whatever food they could into their ziplocks: pita bread, chips, cake, salad, boiled eggs and fresh fruits and veggies. They happily packed the bags into Yair’s, Jerusalem Jewish Faith Adviser, backpack for later.
With tips from Adli, Jerusalem Muslim Faith Adviser, about fasting, the support of Yair and Samar and their bags of food, the kids were well-equipped to make it to the end of their fast. They were so lucky to have such thoughtful, strong, supportive advisers by their sides. Samar even fasted in solidarity with the 3 campers.
Outside on the lawn the group had a chance to ask questions of the Christians within our group about the service.
One of the questions that was asked was about the symbol of the cross.
Aida replied, “We use this symbol because Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross to erase our sins and it’s important for us to remember that.”
Another question came from American Muslim Faith Adviser, Kareem, about the representation of Jesus in Christian churches in the US versus Jerusalem.
Haya offered that the depictions are almost the same. Nazeeh added that “they are a little different because nobody knows what Jesus looked like so people just depict him like they imagine him to look.”
Together we got to learn more from one another about what we had just been a part of before heading to Lauren’s, American Jewish Faith Adviser, synagogue in Asheville.
Inside the building most of the campers were treated to a concert with local musician friends that Lauren is connected with. The performance was a combination of American pop music, North Carolinean fiddle music and group sing-along songs. A few of the songs we sang together as a group were even translated into all three languages.