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Voice of an angel

Armed with a communications degree, Concordia University grad heads back to the Holy Land

Angel Saba orders her last latte at the Concordia University, St. Paul, coffee shop before returning to Bethlehem, Palestine. Metro Lutheran photos: Bob Hulteen

Hope can be elusive sometimes. Certainly it can feel that way.

So, it makes sense to wonder where a safe place for holding on to hope might be. Who is the person whose life experience regenerates her or his sense of hope?

The first response to these questions likely wouldn’t be to talk to a woman from Palestine. But perhaps it should be.

Angel Saba, a graduate student at Concordia University, St. Paul, who, upon the recent completion of her degree, returned home to Bethlehem, Palestine, is no stranger to hopeless situations. She grew up in a war zone, a minority in so many ways — a Palestinian, a Christian, a woman. So Saba doesn’t draw her hope from a naive sense of inevitable improvement.

Perhaps because “subtance of things hoped for” is equated in Hebrews with “the evidence of things not seen,” a person who has had to negotiate a path through trials and tribulations may be better suited as a candidate for being truly hope-filled. To have hope despite the immediate evidence speaks to a deeper understanding of from whence hope comes.

The Rev. Mitri Raheb, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, was the first to name Saba’s gift. As founder of the Diyar Lutheran Consortium, which runs the Dar Al-Kalima Model School that Saba attended, Raheb was able to “see the potential in me that I didn’t yet see. He said, ‘You communicate passionately with many different people.’ He taught me that we must promote hope even in a hopeless context.”

Ready to return to Bethlehem

Saba almost didn’t have the opportunity to attend Concordia. She had applied for and received a scholarship through an exchange agreement between her Bethlehem school and five Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod universities.

Even as she prepares to move back to the Holy Land, Angel Saba stops at the Concordia University coffee shop for one last mocha, prepared by her friend Amy Krivanek from Alexandria, Minnesota.

In order to finalize acceptance, however, she needed to be interviewed at an American embassy. Because she had been blacklisted as a Palestinian youth, she had not been allowed to use the border checkpoints for six years. She was concerned that she wouldn’t obtain the right signatures, because “I wanted this opportunity [to study] very badly.” Only through some creative maneuvering did Saba fulfill her dream to study strategic communication in the Twin Cities.

“I really like the diversity at Concordia,” Saba said while waving one hand at some faculty members just out the window and warming her other with her coffee cup. “There are some students who know about the context of the Holy Land,” Saba recounted. “Other students know almost nothing of my homeland.

“But I can be very good at introducing people to the struggle,” she finished, flashing a smile.

Following mentor Raheb’s advice, she intends to heed John 10:10, and to live life abundantly. For her, this does not require hiding from the world’s realities, but engaging them.

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