In 1992 Israelis and Palestinians secretly met in room 16 of a luxury hotel called The American Colony in Jerusalem. It was there that they built the foundation of what would become the Oslo Peace Accords. An attempt to make peace between the two cultures. Who cares right. They could have met at the Hilton or any other hotel. What does the hotel have to do with anything?
Here’s a true story. There was a family who lived in Chicago. A successful lawyer for a father, a loving mother, and four little girls. They loved the Lord. They even helped build a church there in Chicago. And they served in that church. Then tragedy came in the form of fire. It was 1871 and much of Chicago burned. So did their finances. But they moved forward in life. They even planned to go to Europe. But again, there was misfortune with their business. So this father stayed home while his family boarded the SS Ville du Havre and set sail. Some time later a telegram came for this father. It was from his wife. It read, “Saved alone, what shall I do.” This husband did what I think any husband would do. He boarded a ship and went to his wife. Upon returning to Chicago, they subsequently had more children; a son and two daughters. But sadness would not leave them alone. When he was just four years old, their little boy died of scarlet fever. Then, the church they helped build left them too. Their misfortune was considered divine punishment for some unknown crime. No doubt hurt, they joined with other families and moved to Jerusalem in 1881 and began serving whoever would be served. They taught in Muslim, Jewish, and Christian schools. They fed the poor, whatever their background. And they gained the respect of people from many backgrounds as well. Eventually they bought a palace and began work from their too. Eventually that palace became a hotel. That hotel bore the name of it’s founding group, The American Colony Hotel.
There is a place where all people are welcome. It’s a place of love. Ultimately it is the arms of Jesus. When we choose to simply love… Let me rephrase that; when we try, struggle, persevere, fail, and then sometimes succeed at loving like Christ, it is amazing who can notice. It is humbling at who can be welcomed. And it is miraculous at what can happen. It wasn’t an accident that peace talks began at this hotel called The American Colony. It was natural. This hotel, this building, this mission had a foundation of welcoming all who would come. That’s not to say evil is welcome, rather that people are welcome.
Today that hotel is still operated by the same family who fed the poor from it so many years ago. And the original home this family bought upon arriving in Jerusalem is still in use by this same family too. It’s called The Spafford Children’s Center, a place where the neediest of children from East Jerusalem and the West Bank can be cared for, no matter what religion, sect, or nationality they may be. It was founded almost 100 years ago by one of those little girls born in Chicago to Horatio and Anna Spafford.
It’s hard to serve people you disagree with sometimes. It’s hard to love people who’ve hurt you all the time. But Jesus came to die at the hands of people He also came to serve and to save. That’s what real love is about. And sometimes when the struggle to love is too much. When our hearts have been broken and we can’t see how to love anymore. When for whatever reason we can’t find reason in life and all there is, is surrender, maybe we can look to the words of Horatio Spafford. Words he wrote while sailing to grieve with his wife after losing four little girls to the ocean. Words he wrote down while cruising over the very spot they drown.
It Is Well With My Soul Original Lyrics
(When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know, It is well, it is well, with my soul.)
Refrain: It is well, (it is well), With my soul, (with my soul) It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: If Jordan above me shall roll, No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life, Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, The sky, not the grave, is our goal; Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, A song in the night, oh my soul!
I wonder if these words also drove the mission of the Spaffords and the American Colony in Jerusalem while they served so many in need on so many different sides of so many different fights. May we also learn to serve unconditionally. May we learn to love as unconditionally as we can. And may we be willing to at least try to live like Christ. May we in hard times be willing to serve, love, and say, “It is well with my soul.”
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)
God Bless You, Jake