These days the world’s eyes are set on Israel and Palestine. On 7 October 2023 the Hamas started shelling at numerous sites in the neighbouring Israel. Hundreds of civilians were killed and over 200 hostages kidnaped. Christians all over the world conduct vigils of prayer for a return of peace to the region.
The West Bank and Gaza Strip are adjacent to the State of Israel and are inhabited by the Palestinian people (according to the UN population is 4,5 million). The governing power is the Palestinian Authority. The major religion is Islam and the official language is Arabic.
There are several Baptist congregations in the Palestinian Territories. One of them is on the Gaza Strip where the Israeli Army strikes back and levels everything to the ground in search of Hamas. The European Baptist Federation has been involved in supporting several church planters in the West Bank. They are continuing their mission even amidst the current crisis, virtually at the accompaniment of the cannons and frightening noise of jet fighters.
The Council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land (Council) was formed in 1994. It has 22 members including the churches and para- church organizations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The organization is represented by Dr. Munir Kakish, president and pastor of the Ramallah Local Church.
The major goals of the Council are: to address the Palestinian people from the Evangelical perspective, to build bridges between the Evangelicals and the rest of the society, and to represent the Evangelicals before the government. Important activities include regular meetings of 2 the ministers, conferences and leadership training to enhance the service of churches. Important task is to approach the Israeli officials about travel permits (to cross the Security Wall) and contacts with the Palestinian authorities for legal recognition of churches.
The Council cooperates with the Synod of Churches in Israel which is composed of five Evangelical church groups including the Association of Baptist Churches in Israel. Also, the Council is part of the Alliance of the Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land and Jordan, Pastor Kakish being its president.
Church planting in West Bank
The Council together with EBF are currently involved in facilitating two church plants in the West Bank.
The church planter John works in Beith Jalah (near Bethlehem). He is a graduate of the Bethlehem Bible College. Important part of his ministry is outreach in Bethlehem at the time of Christmas. Although this year all Christmas celebrations have been canceled because of the war in Gaza. Only prayer and teaching about the meaning of Christmas is allowed.
There are regular services on Fridays in Beith Jalah and John also visits the people in their homes or in hospitals. John has a vision that the present group will grow by way of an outreach and will need a bigger space for future meetings. Currently they meet at the house of his parents.
John wrote in his last report: “Occasionally we do a praise service in the church. We also continue an online program named Living Stones. In May we organized a church trip to Tiberius with the goal to educate the people about Biblical places and explain in depth some stories from the Bible. This opened the horizon for the people to ask more about the details of the Bible.”
One other church planter, Baseel also studied at the Bible College in Bethlehem where he earned a BA degree in Biblical Studies. Baseel feels called by God to minister to the people of Zababdeh. Zababdeh is a village with six thousand inhabitants located in the northern portion of the West Bank. Baseel and his wife Ghaida rented a hall and 3 started gathering children and youth for Christian events, as well as organized summer camps. The response was very encouraging.
After consulting and praying about the matter, the Lord moved the Immanuel Church in Bethlehem to stand behind this new ministry. Baseel and Ghaida shared the vision and the church realised that there is a new generation of people that are open to the gospel. They jointly decided to take an opportunity.
In June 2022 the Immanuel Church rented a facility where Baseel and Ghaida host their activities with the intention to plant a church in the village. The weekly program includes:
Children’s meeting called Heroes Club.
Teenage youth meeting, with a Bible study attended by up to 35 persons at a time.
Women’s meetings with Bible studies and teaching on how to be a woman of God.
The summer of 2022 saw a camp for 90 children for two weeks and a youth camp where 17 teenagers dedicated their lives to the Lord!
The goal is to start a Bible study soon for the adults as there is interest.
Baseel shared in his recent ministry report: “The need is not to open an organisation to do projects. The people of Zababdeh need a regular church that can preach the Gospel and glorify Jesus as their Savior. I see that God has opened an opportunity for the Gospel to be delivered to the inhabitants of this village. We do not know when this door will be closed, so we need to use this occasion effectively.”
Pray for peace in the Holy Land.
Pray for those who lost their loved ones in the war.
Pray that out of this war there will be a permanent solution for the Israelis and Palestinians will live in peace with each other.
EBF Mission Coordinator
Planting new churches together! For the glory of God!