Palestine (MNN) – This year marks 40 years that Bethlehem Bible College has educated believers in Palestine. Dr. Bishara Awad, a man described with a heart aching for young people who desire to serve God, helped found the college in 1979. His largest obstacle—finding qualified Arab teachers.
During this period, local students would travel abroad to earn their theology degrees. But after living and building a life where they studied, most students never returned to invest in their home communities. This cycle gave way to the questions—who will stay and share Christ in this land if the believers are leaving? Who will carry on the Church in Palestine?
A History of Bethlehem Bible College
To get the college functioning, Bethlehem Bible College asked for help from qualified missionaries in the area. The missionaries kindly obliged, asking for nothing in return.
Today, nearly all the staff in Bethlehem are qualified local Arab believers. Jack Sara, President of Bethlehem Bible College, says nearly 200 students study with the college each year.
About 70 percent of the pastors in local Palestinian churches are graduates of the college. Since 1979, Bethlehem Bible College has grown and expanded to Nazareth and Gaza. Learn more about the college’s founding here and here.
“Our biggest accomplishment as the Bible College is that 90% of our graduates are still living and serving in Palestine,” Dr. Awad says in a blogpost on Bethlehem Bible College’s website.
After securing qualified instructors, the next wave of challenges came with the First Intifada eight years after the college’s founding. Lasting from 1987-1993 and then the Second Intifada in 2000-2005, the region’s instability threatened the college’s day-to-day operations and the student’s ability to stay and study. At one point, the college was asked to stop accepting Palestinian students. The college refused to oblige.
During the Second Intifada, college leadership asked its international faculty to leave for the sake of their lives. During this time Bethlehem Bible College nearly shut its doors, yet it persevered. God’s presence, providence, and protection were undeniable. Today, Bethlehem Bible College still functions in the instability and danger of a conflict zone.
Celebrating 40 Years
This year, Bethlehem Bible College is not only celebrating its 40th anniversary but celebrating 40 years of God’s faithfulness, even in trials. The official tagline for this ruby anniversary: the ongoing journey of faithfulness.
“After 40 years, we are sitting in a prime area in Bethlehem with an amazing campus…Somehow the Lord provided out of nothing…to start with, really like the two fishes and five loaves,” Jack Sara says.
Bethlehem Bible College invites YOU to come and celebrate God’s faithfulness with them in the land of Christ’s birth. This fall, the college will hold a large celebration spanning days. The celebration includes a gala dinner, a tour of Bethlehem and the college, lots of great food, worship, and more.
“We’re going to celebrate His faithfulness. We’re going to celebrate His love for the Palestinian people. Bethlehem Bible College is a beacon of light amidst lots of challenges, amidst darkness, hopelessness.
“The Palestinian people are still under occupation and under pressure. To be there, provide the hope, provide a venue where people could be healed, transformed, and become agents of peace, this is God’s faithfulness,” Sara says.
To celebrate with Bethlehem Bible College in person, click here.
Join in Prayer
Will you also help support Bethlehem Bible College through prayer?
“We really need the army of prayer warriors who could pray on behalf of the work that we’re doing. It’s spiritual…when you are engaged in the transformation of individuals that will contribute to the transformation of a nation,” Sara says.
Pray for God’s continued providence and guidance for Bethlehem Bible College. Pray for God’s wisdom for them for the students and graduates. Ask God to use Palestinian believers to revive a love for Christ in this place.
Sign up for prayer e-letters here.
Follow Bethlehem Bible College on its social media platforms for prayer updates, too!
“We just need to be covered in prayer, whether it’s general or specific for the leaders, the teachers, the students, staff, and the needs that are there. Whether it is moral or financial or just encouragement,” Sara says.
Another way to support Bethlehem Bible College is through a financial gift. Tangibly help support the college and invest in students, who are the future Christian leaders in Palestine.
To give to Bethlehem Bible College, click here.
As a final note:
“Sometimes, sadly, the sound of bombs [is] higher than the sound of people…If you are a Christian in the U.S. and North America, your heartbeat should go for the health of the Church here, rather than the politics…The health of the Church is really important because as the Church grows and the Church [is] revived, [it] will impact our people,” Sara says.
Header photo courtesy of Bethlehem Bible College via Facebook.