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Spreading hope and love amid the darkness

Top image | Mohammed Ibrahim | Unsplash


Baptist organisations in Palestine and Israel are continuing to support people amid the ‘heart-wrenching reality’ of the war in Gaza.


One such organisation is Christian Mission to Gaza, whose founder and president is Hanna Massad, the former pastor of Gaza Baptist Church.


In regular newsletters to supporters, Hanna details how CMG is actively involved in providing essential aid to those affected by the conflict. This includes winter clothes, groceries, meals for people sheltering in churches and beyond (many Christians are sheltered at St. Porphyrios Greek Orthodox Church and the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church), as well as financial support to help families meet basic needs. Alongside this he offers insights into the traumatic circumstances in Gaza. On 13 February he wrote:


'Could you imagine yourself without electricity, limited water, limited food, limited medicine, no safe place, and feeling constantly unsafe and unable to provide or protect your family? This is the grim reality for many in Gaza right now. Resources are scarce, prices are soaring, and providing for families has become a daunting challenge. The situation is dire, with some resorting to using animal fodder to make bread, and even that is running out in some places.'

In a newsletter titled ‘Spreading hope and love amid the darkness’ on 16 January, he

included an account of a church leader at the forefront of the crisis:

'To describe the situation in Gaza, the word catastrophe falls short because life here has almost ceased to exist. There is a severe shortage of food, water, and electricity.'
'Fear, worry, and anxiety hang heavy in the air.'
'It's nearly impossible to imagine the extent of destruction—homes, streets, and even human and animal remains buried under the rubble. The environment is far from healthy, and people are desperate, searching for something to eat, even if it's expired.'
'Prices have skyrocketed, making even basic necessities unaffordable. Inside the churches, the situation is equally challenging.'
'Privacy is scarce, and the food supply is limited, often consisting of canned goods. The cold seeps in, and illnesses spread quickly among children due to the harsh conditions. There's a constant struggle to find warmth and heat water for bathing children. Words alone cannot capture the gravity of this situation.'
'These powerful words underscore the urgent need for our continued support and prayers as we strive to bring relief and hope to those enduring these unimaginable hardships,' Hanna wrote.
'Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering.'

A group of anonymous donors have offered to match all donations to Christian Mission to Gaza up to $110,000. - click here for more.


The scale of the bombing has taken its toll on buildings – including Gaza Baptist Church, which Hanna reported has sustained ‘significant damage’. People had sheltered in the church earlier in the conflict, but no one was believed to be there when the damage happened.


'The soldiers utilised the church, causing extensive harm to both its interior and exterior,' Hanna wrote in his newsletter. 'A fire set inside the church worsened the damage.'

He told Baptist Press his organisation would attempt to repair the damage after the war. However, he wasn’t sure how many church members would remain in Gaza – many have visas to enable them to travel. Read the story here


 

The dire conditions were also reported by a Christian NGO working in Gaza, which the European Baptist is supporting. The NGO has collated messages from Gazans, describing a 'brutal war' , where 'everything is getting worse.'

'We need food,' one message states. ‘Hunger cuts our intestines. We issue a loud distress call to you.’ Another read: 'I was displaced to Rafah - the situation is very difficult. Suddenly tanks were next to the house.’



 

RCO Ministries, formerly Ramallah Christian Outreach, is also providing regular updates.

Its latest newsletter requested prayer both for a complete cease-fire and a way for restoration and rescue efforts to be made; and ‘for the wisdom and righteousness of God to rule over the hearts and minds of ALL those who are in position to take decisions that affect thousands of lives.’ The letter spoke of 'agents of peace that have been rising up amid the darkness of this war, like stars in the darkest skies,' and even a few reports of ‘miraculous divine intervention amid the myriad of bad news— reports such as Christ Himself appearing in person or dreams even to Muslim brothers and sisters in Gaza.’


More prayer requests from RCO can be found here


RCO runs the Home of New Life, a ministry to vulnerable children from the West Bank and Gaza, and supports Ramallah Local Church, a Baptist church led by Munir Kakish. Munir is president of the Council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land, a European Baptist Federation partner which represents 13 churches in the Palestinian Territories, including Gaza Baptist Church.


RCO has been able to continue to conduct its services as usual, Munir added, including hosting the children at the Home of New Life for their program of providing a meal and after-school tutoring, as well as hosting ‘all sorts of different programs for the children, youth, and adult Bible studies that are so vital as we seek to draw near to the Lord and process all what is going on around us in this Land.’


 

Elsewhere Bader Mansour, Development Officer of the Association of Baptist Churches in Israel (ABC), said Christians ‘are even more determined in our commitment to serve the Lord in this land’.

'We've faced considerable challenges, devastation, and an overwhelming sense of despair and hopelessness,' he wrote in a recent newsletter. 'Yet, in the midst of these trials, we get strength through our faith in our Lord who holds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3), and through the encouragement of our friends, as the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother (and sister)(Philemon 1:7B).


‘Our aim is to be salt and light, offering hope in the midst of darkness.'


In December ABC hosted a gathering for 200 young people, titled Broken Love. The gathering was initially postponed due to the war. It ‘brought people together at a difficult time, putting their struggles at God’s feet, joining in worship and prayer, as well as receiving something meaningful which they can take for their own lives,’ said the newsletter.


 

Meanwhile, the Revd Dr Munther Isaac issued an uncompromising call to the UK church,

stating it is called ‘to be the church, and to act in costly solidarity towards an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire. This is a moral obligation. This is not the time for neutrality or soft diplomacy.'


Dr Isaac, pastor of Christmas Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, was speaking at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church on Sunday 18 February.


The vigil was attended by nearly 600 people, with a further 600+ watching online.


Lynn Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, joined Christian Aid and 20 other Christian leaders in December in calling for an immediate ceasefire and the release of hostages, alongside other movements towards peace and accountability in the devastating conflict in the Holy Land.



First published in Baptist Times, 21/02/2024, and used with permission.


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