Community Building from Wenham to Palestine
Jessica Hansmeier, 25
Major: Biblical and Theological Studies
Hometown: Keene, New Hampshire
For Jessica Hansmeier, living, serving and working come wrapped in one package. Hansmeier, an ‘07 biblical and theological studies graduate from Keene, New Hampshire, has served as Gordon’s housing director and as an assistant resident director for the last two years but this month she will move to Palestine to continue her mission of community building.
“I’ve been part of Gordon for seven years now, so it’s difficult to leave this community, these people and this life behind,” she said. But with the inspiration of a semester abroad in Israel, Hansmeier is excited to serve in the Middle East. On August 12, she’ll fly back, this time without a return ticket.
She will be working two jobs in Bethlehem—the first as a health teacher at a Christian school for Palestinian children and the second as a caretaker at a hostel whose mission is to get visitors involved in community outreach. “The purpose of the hostel is two fold,” says Hansmeier. “It gets travelers volunteering and proceeds are used to feed and clothe the poor living on the West Bank.”
As she moves ahead, Hansmeier says she feels confident because of the skills she gained as both a Gordon student and staff member. “Gordon didn’t teach me to think in terms of security,” said Hansmeier. “It taught me to think about my passions, my God-given talents, and how those can best be used to bring about redemption in the world.”
Part of this process for Hansmeier will be in playing a mediator role between Westerners and Middle Easterners. “The hope of my boss at the hostel is that I’ll serve as a liaison between the community groups we’re serving and the Westerners who come to volunteer,” said Hansmeier. “Right now there isn’t anyone at the hostel who speaks fluent English, which makes interactions difficult.”
She knows the steps ahead will be challenging. “The Palestinian story is not an easy one by any means,” she said. “But if I can pour love into the kids I’m teaching and the people I encounter in the hostel, the way Gordon poured into me, maybe these concentric circles can keep moving outward.”