Sandra Hanna’s first major trip following retirement could have been to Hawaii, or any number of “exotic” locales, for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. The former school teacher, mother-of-five and member of the Presbyterian Church of the Master in Omaha, Neb., instead chose to travel to Israel and Palestine and be a witness for peace efforts in one of the most troubled regions in the world.
It was a trip that changed her life, and inspired her, at the age of 70, to get the word out about the plight of the Palestinian people, and to fight daily for their social justice.
Mosaic of Peace (MOP) conference organizer Carl Horton has often spoke of the “come and see—go and tell” nature of the trip to the Middle East. Nowhere is that better exemplified than through Hanna, who has unofficially carved out a new career speaking to as many groups as will listen to her and enlighten their members on justice issues in Israel and Palestine.
“I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to speak to many organizations since my return from Israel/Palestine in 2014,” says Hanna. “The venues range from the Kiwanis Club of Omaha and the Nebraskans for Peace/Palestine Rights Task Force to our Presbyterian Women Presbytery Fall gathering, a Presbyterian church in Michigan and my home congregation at the Presbyterian Church of the Master in Omaha, just to name a few.”
Hanna is an unabashed advocate for the Palestinian people after participating in MOP 2014.
“Seeing was believing—soldiers, checkpoints, the wall with its pleas for justice, glistening illegal settlements on the hills, driving through the Silwan Valley and settlers going after our Palestinian bus driver, Israeli-only highways—all made a huge impression,” Hanna says. “I loved visiting the spiritual sites and riding in a boat on the Sea of Galilee and standing on its shore—that was a big reason I made the trip. But I came home with a pit in my stomach similar to what I felt during America’s Civil Rights battles in the 1960s.”
Every third week, Hanna’s home church has a peace message instead of a mission witness. Since returning from the trip Hanna has written and/or delivered several of the three minute messages. Nearly all are based on her personal experience in Israel/Palestine, an experience that obviously made an impression on the Nebraskan.
“I can tell you that the Mosaic of Peace trip changed my life,” affirms Hanna. “It was inspiring to walk where Jesus walked in the Holy Land and to get a chance to hear voices for peace. This trip started me on the road to participating in peacemaking and being part of the world’s answer to one of its most crucial questions. You can expect to be changed by what you see.”
Registration is now open for Mosaic of Peace 2016. For more information, including a proposed schedule and application, please visit www.presbyterianmission.org/mosaicofpeace. Applications will be accepted until October 15, 2015.