Faith, history and actions


My name is Monika. I come from Paraguay, and I did a voluntary service in Nazareth Village. Nazareth Village is an open-air museum in Nazareth, Israel. This museum recreates life of the first century and aims to show tourists the Nazareth of Jesus’ time. 

I was with the YAMEN* program for 11 months, 2022-2023. 

When I look back and think about what I was able to experience, I realize that there were many things that shaped me. 

The Bible, and therefore also our faith, is historically proven. This fact first became clear to me in Israel/Palestine. And it helped me give my faith a new appreciation. For me, faith – and especially the person of Jesus – was very abstract. It was difficult for me to understand that Jesus became a man and lived here on earth.  

During my time in Nazareth, I spent a lot of time explaining life of the first century to tourists. I passed on the same information over and over again, and suddenly it was no longer an abstract thought. It would become easier and easier to imagine Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth or walking on the Sea of Galilee. It felt like I was in the events of the Gospels. 

Something I also didn’t understand until then was that the scriptures in the Old Testament refer to Jesus over and over again. I was aware that there are verses like in Isaiah 9 that point to Jesus. But the fact that there were so many promises that Jesus fulfilled was new to me. And I was thrilled to discover these connections. 

It wasn’t the places themselves – the excavations or the locations where Jesus spoke to his disciples – that strengthened my faith. It was the fact that what I read in the Bible is confirmed in so many cases by history. I was impressed by how God used people and nature to reveal God’s existence. 

The museum is a replica of a Jewish village from the first century, and Nazareth is now an Arab city. The majority of the staff are Christian Arabs who represent the people in the original village.  

Although I knew nothing about Arabic culture and didn’t speak a word of Arabic, the team at Nazareth Village welcomed me as part of the group from day one. I have always admired the staff for the time and energy they put into building relationships with the volunteers even though most volunteers only stay for a few months. 

People at the Village taught me to cultivate relationships and not to judge people on their performance.  

Something very typical of the Arabs is to ask about the family. Every Monday they would ask if I had spoken to my mom on the phone and how she was doing. At some point, I found myself calling my mom on the weekend so that I wouldn’t have say again that I hadn’t spoken to her. 

I learned it doesn’t always have to be words that convey the love of Jesus. Sometimes it is actions that speak louder than the words. I have come to love and appreciate the staff at Nazareth Village, and I am grateful for the testimony they leave behind. 

—Monika Warkentin is a member of HMC – Iglesia Hermanos Menonitas Concordia (Mennonite Brethren), Asuncion, Paraguay, part of the Mennonite Brethren conference. Her boyfriend from Paraguay, came to visit her in her year of serves and proposed to her at the Dead Sea, and now she is happily married. 

*The Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network (YAMEN) program is a joint program between Mennonite World Conference and Mennonite Central Committee.  It places emphasis on expanding the fellowship between churches in the Anabaptist tradition and developing young leaders around the globe. Participants spend one year in a cross-cultural assignment starting in August and ending the following July.