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Rightful Owner

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Editor’s note: Friends of the C&MA in Jerusalem celebrated the completion of 125 years of ministry in the Holy Land during a week of special events, May 15–21, 2016. Established in 1890, this field was one of the first to which The Alliance sent workers.

The story of how God preserved The Alliance’s properties when Israel became a state in 1948 is evidence of His creativity and sovereignty. Keep reading to learn more.

The field team was meeting in Jerusalem when they received the word: Israel had declared statehood. The situation on the ground deteriorated quickly, and all expats were ordered out of the country.

then
The C&MA Ministry Center in Jerusalem in the 1950s and as it looks today (below) Courtesy of the C&MA Archives.

The years of turmoil in the Middle East already had the Alliance workers on the move. Those in Lebanon had moved southward, and Bernice Gibson, who had mothered what she called her “mish-lambs” at the school in Beirut, was relocated to Jerusalem.

With war impending, Alliance personnel evacuated to Cyprus. In the hustle and bustle, Bernice slipped on a banana peel and “elected” to stay. Travel in those days was not easy, and anyone with a back injury might have done the same.

At the turn of the century, A. E. Thompson, an Alliance worker, built the church/mission house at 55 Street of the Prophets in Jerusalem. Its walls are a meter thick, and the basement has dormitory rooms. Although Bernice hadn’t planned to play “dorm mom” again, the building’s location and fort-like characteristics made the Alliance property an ideal bomb shelter for the neighborhood. During that ’48 war, Bernice housed some 70 neighbors.

Later, as Alliance workers returned to Israel, they found a different land. Places that had held strong Arab works such as schools and churches were now Jewish cities. The Martins, who were studying Arabic when they were evacuated to Cyprus, were reassigned to work with the new wave of immigrants and learn their language. But adjusting to the new state of Israel wasn’t as simple as reallocating staff. Not only had the demographics changed, but many of the abandoned Alliance properties had been confiscated as well.

now
Photo by Martha Krienke

One day the Alliance workers met a South African lawyer who was drumming up business with expats. As an immigrant himself, he thought a good way to start business was to work with English speakers who needed his help. He discovered the missionaries weren’t sure what properties were still theirs.

On a later visit, he asked if anyone had stayed during the war. “Well,” our workers replied, “a single lady name Bernice Gibson stayed in our property in Jerusalem.”

“Ah!” the delighted lawyer replied, “but wasn’t that your headquarters?”

The property at 55 Street of the Prophets was registered with the new Israel government as the Alliance Headquarters. Because Bernice slipped on a banana peel and stayed in that property, The Alliance got all of their confiscated properties returned to them.

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