Beneath the blue skies of Palestine, in the cheerful, vibrant town of Bethlehem, there lives a rising generation. It’s a generation of new graduates, celebrating with many, the joys of completing their long periods of study. Among them are around 50 students graduating from Bethlehem Bible College (BBC) who finished their educational journey on 13 June.
Acting as MC of their graduation, I looked on their happy faces and anticipating eyes, and could well imagine the dreams, ambitions and hopes for a better future that lie behind them. During their individual journeys at BBC, as a lecturer I watched them struggle, grow and achieve more than they had thought possible. I was assured that God was working in each of their lives and hearts and He can do abundantly more than we can think or imagine.
What will lie ahead? Of course, the future is unknown to anyone but God. But with the very high rate of unemployment in Palestine, one wonders what these graduates will do now. Many graduates in the West Bank work far outside their professional fields and sometimes any position at all is tempting!
This year, BBC had three different graduating classes: graduates in Biblical Studies, Mass Media and Tour Guiding. All these graduates from the three different departments can have a great influence and impact on our Palestinian Society and beyond. God can always use the very little we offer to him.
The recent graduation scene took me back to my own graduation from BBC back in 2009. I knew then what I wanted to do and God was gracious enough to give me the desire of my heart: I was fortunate to be able to pursue my studies abroad and obtain my MA degree in theology. However, financial, social or political restrictions, mean that not every graduate is so fortunate. Life can be frustrating given the current state of affairs. One has to constantly keep one’s eyes focused on Christ and the hope that comes from Him; exercising faith to believe that God will take care of us, guide and lead us in our endeavours, and that He holds the future in His hands.
Three streams in the desert
The students of the Biblical Studies Programme at BBC train to become Bible school teachers, ministers, church leaders and organisation employees. Needless to say, this is a journey of faith. Often you are looked down upon because your degree is in theology: it is somehow not considered on the same level as other degrees. But when God calls, one has to answer and follow, and He can open every door that seems closed.
Every day the little town of Bethlehem is still hustling and bustling with tourists. The college’s Tour Guide graduates are able to bring their new skills and personal Christian commitment to their job. Our tourists and foreign visitors do not only need to hear about the stones and places: they need to hear and meet the “living stones” more than anything else. As for the Mass Media graduates, whether they go on to work in local or foreign Arab TV, radio, press or online media, their programme trains them to become voices of truth, justice and peace in society whilst speaking for the voiceless, advocating the marginalised and the poor.
And of course, whilst studying a degree can be physically and mentally challenging, God calls us not to be content with achieving doctrinal accuracy but to put our faith into action. This should be interwoven into our everyday lives.
At the beginning of the graduation ceremony, I quoted these verses from Ecclesiastes 1:
1 Ship your grain across the sea;
after many days you may receive a return.
2 Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.
3 If clouds are full of water,
they pour rain on the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where it falls, there it will lie.
4 Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
5 As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.
6 Sow your seed in the morning,
and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that,
or whether both will do equally well.
God calls each of us – in whatever small or large way open to us – to sow the seeds in the morning and evening. Let us pray that the future of Palestine will be better because the faithful work of these graduates. God has given each of us skills, talents, and when we use them in the Kingdom, we grow and mature and become better servants in the field; the harvest continues to be plentiful, but the workers only a few.