Following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel and the Israeli siege of Gaza, many Gather readers contacted Women of the ELCA churchwide staff to ask about the safety of Gather Bible study author the Rev. Dr. Meghan Johnston Aelabouni and her family. Many of the inquiries came after the ELCA’s difficult decision to evacuate the ELCA Young Adult in Global Mission (YAGM) volunteers serving in the West Bank and country coordinators ELCA pastors Adam and Jordan Miller-Stubbendick, with their young children.

Johnston Aelabouni reported: “We are safe in Jerusalem and continue our work [accompanying the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and other partners], which is now more important than ever.” Johnston Aelabouni serves as ELCA Theologian in Residence for the Middle East and North Africa desk. She and her spouse, the Rev. Gabi Aelabouni, Area Desk Director for the Middle East and North Africa, have three children.

“Participants in Women of the ELCA grow fond of authors they read, and so it’s no surprise that many have contacted the churchwide offices to ask about the wellbeing of the author of the current Bible study published in Gather, the Rev. Dr. Meghan Johnston Aelabouni, and her family,” said Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director, Women of the ELCA.

“Even before the recent violence between Hamas and Israel, many participants have been praying for the Aelabouni family,” Post Bushkofsky said. “Now those prayers have expanded—both in number and breadth—prayers of peace and wellbeing for all who live in the Middle East, prayers of peace and justice throughout the world. In the words of our Purpose Statement, participants are actively promoting healing and wholeness in the church, the society and the world.”

Incredibly thankful

“We remain incredibly thankful for the outpourings of prayer and love for our family and for all the people of the Holy Land,” Meghan and Gabi shared in an Oct. 21 special update. “We have felt the power of your prayer; it has sustained us. We truly do feel safe where we are; and we also feel deeply called to be where we are … to offer whatever help we can as we accompany our local partners on behalf of the ELCA.”

Johnston Aelabouni also serves as co-pastor, alongside ELCJHL pastor the Rev. Sally Azar, at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, an international congregation in Jerusalem. Azar is the first female Palestinian pastor to be ordained in the Holy Land.

During their congregation’s October 15 worship service, Azar and Johnston Aelabouni led the singing of an Advent hymn, “Come Now, O Prince of Peace,” that spoke to the current realities.

“These are such heavy, terrible days in Jerusalem,” Johnston Aelabouni said in her sermon that day. “Such unthinkable violence against children, parents, grandparents, young people. So many lives ended—and every one of them a human being with a name, a story, a place in this world. They are Jewish, Muslim, Christian; Palestinian and Israeli. Dancers in the desert, families huddling together, moving from house to house only to find that no place is safe. And now in Gaza, there is a war—a war not against Hamas only, but a war against 2.3 million people who have nowhere else to go and whose water, food, electricity and medicine are running out. Half of them are children.”

Yet death and violence will not have the last word, Johnston Aelabouni said. “The last word belongs to the God who will swallow up death forever. To that hope may we cling, even as we mourn, and pray, and wait. May it come soon, O God. May it come now.”

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