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Partners offer holy land internship this summer


Mennonite Church Canada/Mennonite Mission Network Joint Release
For immediate release
February 24, 2003
by Dan Dyck


Glenn Witmer, photo by Gordon Janzen


Winnipeg, Man.— Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network are joining hands in offering a unique opportunity to travel, live, and learn in the Middle East.

The Holy Land Summer Internship is aimed both at students seeking practicum academic credit as well as those wanting to enrich congregational and community leadership roles.

Participants will walk alongside Mennonite workers, Muslim and Christian Palestinians, and Israeli Jews, gaining knowledge and personal experience of the region and its people. In addition to serving with Witness workers in Jerusalem, and Nazareth, participants will have opportunities to see first-hand the activities of other Mennonite agencies.

Participants will meet and live with local Palestinians and Israelis during their stay. Organizers say interns will get to know the geography and key history of the holy land, better understand the setting and cultural context of Scriptures, and learn about the local faith traditions of Judaism, Islam, and the ancient Christian churches.

Gordon Janzen, Witness Partnership Facilitator for the Middle East, says the experience will bring the scriptures home in a way no other experience can. “The internship experience will provide an opportunity to walk alongside and learn from Mennonite workers in Israel and Palestine engaged in a variety of Christian service and peacemaking efforts,” said Janzen.

Mennonite Mission Network liaison John Lapp added, “They’ll also engage with local residents in discussions about the current political and social situation with people on all sides of the issues.”

Former international workers Robert and Lois Witmer of Cambridge, Ontario, are volunteer coordinators. They will be responsible for overseeing day-to-day activities and assist with individual assignments and placements.

Glenn Witmer is the on-site Israel liaison and will provide local leadership for the program. He spoke of how similar experiences of people who have already spent time in Israel/Palestine have profoundly changed their lives. “For the first time, they see Jews and Arabs as real people—‘just like us’ is a frequent comment we hear,” he said. “And for the first time too, the real issues behind the conflict are brought to life, in the daily lives of those who live here. For the first time one can understand how sincere and honest people on both sides feel threatened, and struggle for what is ‘right.’”

The program in 2003 will run from May to August, and is open to those 20 years of age or over. Anyone whose life and work will benefit is invited to apply. Participants are responsible for their own living costs [est. $750 CDN per month] while in the Holy Land, a $500 CDN administration fee, and return travel costs. Deadline for applications is April 15.

Robert Witmer invites church leaders to discern potential candidates in their midst. “Your tap on the shoulder and word of encouragement may well be the determining factor in a potential candidate’s decision to participate this unique adventure."

Interested individuals should call Gordon Janzen at 1-866-888-6785 (

Lois and Robert Witmer

Robert and Lois Witmer, members of Preston Mennonite Church, Cambridge Ontario, are both natives of southern Ontario, graduates of Rockway Mennonite School and of Eastern Mennonite College. Robert is also a graduate of Goshen College Biblical Seminary and of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary. They served in both pastoral and administrative roles with the Mennonite Board of Missions in France from 1956 to 1985, then for ten years with the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada as church-planters in northern Quebec. In active retirement since 1995 at Fairview Mennonite Home, they continue to serve in a variety of volunteer projects, including Robert’s half-time position as Giving Project Consultant, from 1997 to 2000, for the congregations of the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada .