Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

June 9, 2014

Planting for peace

Former Tahlequah resident serving as liaison in Jerusalem

TAHLEQUAH — Stories in the Bible can become more real for those visiting ancient cities like Bethlehem. For someone serving in ministry in this part of the world, social and political events are added to that perception.

Former Tahlequah resident Kristen Brown, an ordained elder, is a liaison in Jerusalem with the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

In her third year at this global office in Palestine on the West Bank, she not only works with Methodists and other groups from America but Britain and the World Methodist Council.

In Jerusalem, responsibilities Brown enjoys include coordinating the work of Volunteer In Mission Teams when they’re in Palestine and Israel, such as planting trees, picking olives, painting, light construction, spending time in schools, assisting with elder care centers and with special needs children.

“I also speak to pilgrimage groups and connect with our partners and projects, one of which is Tent of Nations,” said Brown.

Tent of Nations is a 100-acre farmland of the Nassar family, a Christian family surrounded by three illegal Jewish settlements in the Judean hills near Bethlehem.

“Israel wants to build a settlement on their land,” she said. “The Nassar family has a land deed from 1916, and since 1991 they’ve been in court trying to hang on to their land.”

Two years ago, the Tahlequah First United Methodist children raised funds which enabled four water systems to be installed at the Tent of Nations, said Brown, and a tree was planted in their honor.

“I arrived in Tahlequah on May 17 and got word that 1,500 fruit trees were bull-dozed on the Nassar family land outside Bethlehem, a terrible loss. Some of those olive trees live 1,000 years,” she said. “The family is not permitted to build on their land.”

Since the 1960s, the Methodist Church has been in support of this family, Brown said.

“We stand in solidarity through nonviolent acts of resistance. Planting trees is one of those acts.”

The Tent of Nations was intended by the family to be a place people from all over the world could come, Brown said. They offer summer camps to children from Bethlehem area and give them a place to run and be with nature.

“By helping the Tent of Nations, we’re helping other Palestine families on that hillside. They all work together, because if one goes, they all go,” she said. “My hope is when Oklahoma Bishop [Robert} Hayes comes to visit in December with other clergy, we’ll be able to replant more trees sponsored by the United Methodist Conference.”

Another nonviolent act of resistance Brown is involved with is attending the Crimbian Monastery for Friday worship services.

“Israel plans to build a wall separating the monastery from the greater Bethlehem area, which will keep people from going to the monastery and children from attending school,” she said.

For more than three years, people have been meeting every Friday

“As a result, Israel has postponed building the wall,” said Brown. “I feel that shows some kind of result. We continue to pray the wall will not be built there.”

During a recent visit home to Tahlequah to visit with family, she attended the United Methodist annual conference as a voting delegate and got her driver’s license renewed.

“At the conference I saw colleagues and friends, talked about volunteer mission teams and pilgrimages and how we can all work together,” said Brown.

In a region of the world often in the news for terrorism, Brown said she still travels and participates in community events.

“If I live in fear, I don’t need to be there. This morning, in Tulsa, there was a shooting. Do you feel safe here?” she asked, “I choose to live a full life. Another nonviolent act of resistance is the freedom of movement, going places, and doing things.”

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