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Remembering a playground in Gaza: Creating a world where children play

October 14, 2015
Deaf children in Gaza Deaf children in Gaza

(I wrote this 8 years ago. It’s still painfully pertinent today.)

I’ve been to Gaza several times. Even before this current disastrous conflict, Gaza was regarded as the world’s largest open air prison. Even crossing into Gaza through the Israeli VIP Checkpoint was a long, intimidating process. There’s no VIP crossing for Gazans. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, there is no crossing at all.

On one visit, I was exploring with Abuna Manuel who was the Roman Catholic Priest of Gaza a strange request we’d received.  Amidst all the devastation of that place, with life-threatening shortages of food, medicine and clean water—let alone freedom and work—why was he asking for money to build playground equipment? That seemed so frivolous and secondary. His reply is unforgettable.

The children of Gaza have lost their capacity (and even places) to play. 

Play is the pathway to laughter.

Laughter leads to joy, and joy opens up the gateway to hope. 

Without hope, we have no life.

When we feel we have no life, people will do desperate things.

We need to help the children of Gaza to play again.

Needless to say, we made sure that the children of Gaza received the best playground equipment we could provide.

Thousands of children swung and slid, laughter resounded again, until during the last Israeli incursion into Gaza, even this playground was destroyed by Israeli shells.

It’s no wonder that the Prophet Zechariah reminded Israel that a sign of the Kingdom of heaven coming to earth is children playing freely on the streets of the city: “And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets” (8:5). Play and laughter are the language of heaven. We have the privilege and power in the Holy Spirit to help one another learn and speak freely that language.

If the task of producing hope sits on our shoulders, we will feel the constricting band of our own inadequacy and finitude stifling us. But if we recognize that God is the producer of hope and we are but assistants in hope’s birth, we can breathe again. We are not paralyzed. We can become joyous participants in that hope being born into people lives. We can provide the world with great playground equipment, joyous songs of testimony to God’s love, winsome deeds of justice and mercy, courageous lives of compassion, and miraculous signs of supernatural power.

(Beyond Duty: A Passion for Christ, A Heart for Mission (2013: 45). Available on Amazon US, UK, India, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain.)


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