[Sam Gendi has just returned from a three-week missions trip to Israel. The following is just a piece of her experience.]

Sam Gendi SOE Friday 070315“The idea of elevated humanity was first introduced to us at the Mount of Beatitudes. The idea came from the Matthew 5:41, in which Jesus talked about walking the extra mile. Historically, Romans could only force Jews to carry their things up to one mile. Now, picture a person being forced to do something and afterwards voluntarily saying, ‘No, I’m not going to give your belongings back to you, I’m going to carry them another mile.’ In that moment, the Roman cannot help but to see the Jew as a human being. From that we also learned how important it is to approach a person, ask their name, and continue to talk to them. If someone is mistreating you, instead of lashing out or reacting in hate, you just talk to them and ask them their name, and they cannot help but see you as a human, and you consciously take the time and effort to see them the same way. That’s the idea of elevating humanity.

“Our leader Michael demonstrated this to us when we went to the Temple Mount. The Muslims there forced five girls and I to buy cloth to cover our arms. We all started laughing when we thought about how ridiculous we looked. The man who forced us to buy them approached us and rebuked us for laughing. When Michael stood up in our defense, the first thing he did was shake the man’s hand and ask him his name before sitting and talking with him. That was what got to me – this is how you interact people – you elevate their humanity. You don’t just look at them as your enemy, but you ask their name and you begin to develop a relationship with them, and that’s how things get resolved. That’s one thing that I learned from Michael, and I want to be able to take that with me for the rest of my life. It’s something I don’t want to forget when people are rude or hurtful.

“Another thing that really impacted me was when we went to Sderot, a town right by the Gaza border. Because this town has been bombed so often, every house is required to have a bomb shelter. Every bus stop is a bomb shelter, and even the playgrounds were bomb shelters. I saw a 2-year-old little boy running into a bomb shelter in the playground to play as if it were the most natural thing in the world. That moment I had my camera on me, but the battery was dying. I wanted to run after that child and take a picture of him because I wanted to capture what was happening there. I think that was the moment that I realized I wanted to come back and capture what was happening. I’ve been wondering what I’ve been wanting to do with my media major. I want to do something worthwhile with what I’m studying. The man we spoke to there is actually a photojournalist working with the Sderot Media Center. I’m hoping that’s where I will get to do my media internship next summer. The media currently has a very negative portrayal of Israel, and there’s so much that the world doesn’t know. People need to see the truth, and if I have a way to show it, I’m going to.

“Just being in Israel, Jerusalem in particular, was amazing. It’s crazy to be in a place where everyone worships God. Everything that Christianity has, found its roots in Judaism. Being in that atmosphere, I felt so much closer to God and there was just such an incredible feeling of peace there.”