Feature

Love Among the Ruins

A light shines in hostile territory

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“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). These were some of Jesus’ last words to His disciples before He ascended into heaven.

The areas that were called Judea and Samaria in the apostles’ day are now the Israeli-occupied territory known as the West Bank. Through the efforts of local believers, a humanitarian outreach has impacted hundreds of lives there with practical demonstrations of God’s love. Alliance workers and national church members in the region withstand an onslaught of physical, emotional and financial problems to provide daily necessities for people caught up in ongoing confl ict in Israel.

“The work we are doing in the West Bank is breaking down misconceptions about Christians and has opened people to the gospel,” says Judy,* who coordinates the program from her home. “What we are doing is so different. People ask, ‘What do you believe? Why would you share with us?’”

CUT OFF

The organization was established to provide aid to destitute families after the political uprising in 2000. “[It] resulted in an economic crisis for West Bank residents,” Judy says. “Jerusalem’s labor force was mainly Palestinians in factories or construction work. But when roads into the city were closed to Palestinians, they lost their jobs. There was massive emigration. It became a desperate situation.”

With the help of partner missions agencies, workers distributed $15,000 in food monthly to approximately 300 families. Beneficiaries were amazed that Christians would want to help them.

The recipients of the Alliance workers’ compassionate care learned about Jesus’ love for them and the hope of eternal life. “Many people came to the Lord during that time,” Judy says. “A church was birthed from the ministry three years ago. This is unique. It is one of only a few organized churches in the Middle East that began with believers from Muslim backgrounds.”

LIMITED RESOURCES

Today, approximately 80 families receive food and medicine from the agency each month. Just $2,000 is distributed proportionately among the families. Lack of funding, resources and workers has curtailed the organization’s outreach. The number of full-time, salaried workers was reduced from six to three, and many times workers didn’t receive their full pay.

“Unemployment on the West Bank is nearly 50 percent,” says Judy. “Most people are barely surviving; some receive help from relatives who live abroad, but even that is minimal. Many grow and sell fruits and vegetables as well as oil from harvested olives.”

Political unrest and infighting among the parties have been beneficial for the church and the organization’s workers. “There are at least 10 parties,” Judy says. “As long as their government is at odds, it keeps leaders occupied rather than hunting down the people who are reaching out to Muslims.”

UNDER ATTACK

As workers trust God to provide for those who depend on the organization, they also endure much hostility. Several acts of aggression have been carried out against the workers and people who invite them to their homes. A few years ago, two workers were kidnapped and threatened for 24 hours before being released.

Another worker was driving away from the home of a family he had been discipling. As he was praising the Lord with the music turned up loud, he noticed little points of light hitting in different areas of the car, almost to the beat of the music. The worker suddenly realized he was being shot at. He rushed to the nearest army patrol and jumped out of the car, which was riddled with bullet holes from machine gun fire. Authorities and the worker marveled that he had not been hit.

“One family watched from inside their home as everything in their yard—trees, bushes and other items—were torched by unknown assailants attempting to dissuade them from speaking with our workers,” says Judy.

During this time, four team members underwent surgical procedures and four church members became seriously ill. Vehicles have been stolen, houses robbed, and relatives killed. The enemy seeks to destroy what God has established, but He continues to sustain His workers in the harvest field. “God has done a work in our lives that runs deep,” Judy says. “He is strengthening our feet on the Rock that does not shake.”

PART OF THE WHOLE

Several successful conferences took place during 2007 that deeply impacted the believers, reminding them of the signifi- cance of being part of a larger Body of Christ. “During one conference people were literally brought to their knees to face God in a new way,” says one participant. New team members have matured and been given new responsibilities in the field, and two members have sought training in other venues that would support the ministry.

“We need to provide spiritual as well physical food,” says Judy. “There is more need for discipleship than we have workers. We have been strategizing how seven of us can disciple 150 believers we’ve been unable to follow up with. It’s a big job, but it’s exciting. Pray that God will raise people from within the West Bank to disciple others.

“We will continue to introduce hurting people to Jesus’ love and compassion as we extend the helping hand of mercy,” Judy says. “Food and medicine are basic needs that too many people live without. We bring them hope that not only satisfies the hungry stomach but also the hungry soul.”

*Name changed

If you would like to support the Great Commission Fund, which helps to provide for this ministry, go to www.cmalliance.org/give/gmissions.jsp, or call toll free (U.S. only): (866) 443-8262. West Bank Relief is an approved special of The Alliance.

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