By Tiffany LaMotte, Director of Youth Ministry
Day five began with a visit to Christ Anglican School in Nazareth. This school is part of the Diocese of Jerusalem, the same diocese at St. George’s, the church we attended on Sunday morning.
When we arrived at the school our group was greeted by some of the students and teachers as we walked in, they were excited to see all of us and share their school with us. After a brief introduction and breakfast, our youth went with students their own age to learn more about the school and get to know the students. Our high school students joined in with their physical education classes, the boys were able to play volleyball while our middle school youth played some games with the Israeli students. While the youth were with the students, the adults took a tour of school and learned about all the different classes offered at the school. We heard from students who are majoring in Media, Physics and Biology. Following our tour, we enjoyed a delicious lunch together with some of the students and faculty. Being able to spend time at the school and learn from each other has been a highlight of this trip for sure. Below are some of our youth’s reactions to our morning at Christ Anglican School:
"I loved visiting the students and teachers at Christ Anglican School. They were outspoken, expressing their love for their community, culture, and academics. I learned about their specified high school major paths and their thoughts on US culture. We are definitely more similar than different which was delightful to discover." -Cate G.
"Having been told seemingly dramatic legends of the generosity and genuine intrigue by our visitors, I strongly expected disappointment. However, not only was I satisfied, but my preconceptions were exceeded. The average student was friendly, open, and kind—though many didn’t understand a word I said. Those that were fluent in English were even more so. The experiences they shared were not far off base from our own: We shared favorite celebrities, career aspirations, and social habits, to name a few. The experience was frameshift-changing, as well as a much-needed reminder of our globally shared humanity." -John W.
"Before our trip to Nazareth, I had a preconceived notion of what schooling systems overseas would behave like. Entering Christ Anglican school, all of these barriers were broken. The students here were more similar to me and my peers than I could have ever expected. During our tours and discussions we covered topics such as pop-culture, our day to day lives and even politics." – Thomas R.
"Media only tells you one side of a story. While living in America, most of the stories you learn are from a certain perspective about certain topics. Coming to the Christ Anglican Church gave me an opportunity to hear stories about people’s everyday lives from their perspectives. It showed me that even though we live in different countries and lead different lifestyles, we are very similar." – Layna G.
"I had no idea what I was walking into when we went to the school, but the experience ended up being amazing. All the students seemed genuinely glad to host us and talk with us. Some of them had tests the next period, but they still showed up to talk with us. The students created a really welcoming environment, and their wanting to be there made me love being there. Really, all of them are exactly the same as us in everything from spending a little bit too much time on their phones to being stressed about school." – Thomas G.
After lunch we journeyed through the neighborhood, some on the bus and some walking, down to the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. This church is built over Mary’s Well where the Orthodox tradition believes Gabrielle visited Mary to tell her about her pregnancy. The pictures of this church do not do it justice, the ornate details and painting throughout the church are breathtaking. The well is still functioning today. From there we headed to the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation which is built over Mary’s home which is where the Roman Catholic Church believes Gabrielle visited Mary. This church is also the largest Christian Church in Israel, and it will take your breath away when you walk inside. Both around the outside of the church as well as inside, there are many different depictions of Mary donated by different countries around the world. Each depiction is unique and speaks to the culture of each country. You can also walk down to the cave where Mary is believed to have lived when she found out she was pregnant with Jesus.
To be honest, being in Nazareth was a bit overwhelming for me. To be in the place where Mary found out she would have Jesus was incredible. No matter which place we believe the annunciation actually happened, we know that Jesus and his family lived in this town and walked some of the same streets we were able to walk. The Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation was my personal favorite of the day. As I walked around the church and saw all the depictions of Mother Mary, it was great to see all the differences between each of the mosaics. Many you could tell immediately which country it was from and others you had to look for the sign to know for sure.
I think the best part of this experience is watching our youth learn and discover more about their own faith as they walk these streets. The best part of my job as a youth minister is getting to watch young people experience their faith in new and exciting ways. This trip is absolutely no exception. As we walked around Nazareth this afternoon, we had lots of great conversations about why one church had picked the “right” place for the annunciation. Some silly reasons and some more insightful. The youth on this trip are helping to remind me of the wonder of my faith, of the excitement and joy that can come from learning and experiencing something so powerful. I am looking forward to more experiences together and continuing to learn from each of these young people and their incredible questions each day.