Geography is important – it helps one understand the context of where he is, what his surroundings are like and who he may encounter. In Israel the geography is an important part of the story that God is telling. Where the story happens gives insights into the characters and the plot. In ancient Israel we find that the Hebrews were a mountain people, preferring the relative safety that this region provided from the attack of the enemy. On the other hand, we find the Philistines resided on the coastal plains along the route that would eventually be known as the Via Maris. This was the main trade route between Egypt, Europe and Asia, in some ways the center of the world of it’s time. In between the Judah Mountains and the Costal Plains was a region known as the Shephelah. This was the place where God’s people could come down from their isolation and have the opportunity to be salt and light to the world that was streaming by on the main highway of the day. To be in the world but not of the world.
In my work with Christian college students, I often find myself living up in the mountains. It is so easy to get caught up in the training of young leaders , that I forget to come down into the Shephelah and engage the world. Sure, I jump on the Via Marris of today, social media sites, and engage the world in that way. But that is not quite the same as leaving the comfort and security of my mountain and meeting people on their ground.
This week, I am headed out to my Shephelah. We are taking our students out of their comfort zone or the Christian bubble and putting them right in the middle of one of the biggest sources of conflict in our society today. We are headed to the University of New Mexico campus to engage those passing by in dialogue about the issue of life. There will be graphic displays and protestors, pro-life and pro-choice students, and a lot of hurting people who need to hear the Good News of grace and peace. Our desire is to engage these students where they are, to be the salt and light that God calls us to be , and to share the truth about His love.
As we take our students to this Shephelah, I ask that you join us in praying that we are effective ambassadors for Christ and that as we interact with the campus community they will see and experience the grace and love he is offering to them.