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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 6, 2004

Methodist liaison in Jerusalem to speak

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Religion & Ethics Writer

 •  Mission Festival

9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 27

Wahiawa United Methodist Church, 1445 California Ave., Wahiawa



Once every year or so, the women's group for the local United Methodist district puts on a forum about issues of the day.

With the Rev. Sandra Olewine, the denomination's liaison to Jerusalem, stopping in Hawai'i on a speaking tour this month, the group pitched the idea of a daylong event, with Olewine as keynote speaker

Church member Norma Kehrberg said the event relates to the United Methodist mission — which is to do good works. The local district includes 35 churches on O'ahu, Maui, the Big Island, Kaua'i, Guam and Saipan.

A "church cannot be a church without a mission," Kehrberg said.

Participants also will discuss creating interfaith communities, hear a Cu-ban-born speaker talk about what's happening in that country, and listen to performances by youth choirs.

But Olewine, who has been working from the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, intends to keep her spotlight on Israel, where she has accompanied hundreds of pilgrims, students, pastors, church leaders and others in an effort to bring greater awareness of the realities of that broken land.

"Millions of Christians come to Israel-Palestine, and they 'run where Jesus walked,'" Olewine said. "They rush from holy site to holy site. Then they leave, as if there's no people in that land.

"Many Christians leave the Holy Land and never know the Christians who live there. Many happen to be Palestinian, who live with and under the reality of occupation. What does that mean to Christian churches?"

Olewine, said that in the mid-1990s, denominations were asked to get engaged in the dialogue. Many, such as the United Methodists, responded by establishing positions like hers.

"The heart of what I do is to get people off the tour bus," she said.

Visiting Christians are invited to come to worship services, then visit and break bread together after, to tour refugee camps and human-rights centers — even to build a house, plant a garden, or help out with a school.

"It's transforming," she said. "Even if we have just a couple days out of someone's itinerary, they say the best days were the days spent with the people. It makes everything come alive with them."