Palestinian Bible college faces unique challenges in COVID-19

By May 11, 2020

Palestine (MNN) — Colleges and universities around the world are asking critical questions in light of COVID-19 lockdowns. What does education look like each month during different phases of the pandemic? What should they do about the fall semester?

Palestine is still on lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which initially flared in Bethlehem after being imported by international visitors. Bethlehem Bible College in Palestine has some unique advantages and disadvantages. Some of the institution’s own students and even a staff member were infected, meaning they had to take a serious approach to the coronavirus early on.

Rev. Dr. Jack Sara, president of Bethlehem Bible College says, “All public institutions and private institutions were asked to close their doors, and that included Bethlem Bible College. Since the fifth of March, we had to stop all our campus activities and send…everybody home.”

(Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Bible College)

However, when the college transitioned to online courses for the semester, they were in somewhat familiar territory.

“Bethlehem Bible College is one of the only institutions that could provide theological education for Arabic-speaking people globally and locally,” Sara says. “So our students before have been used to taking some online classes or blended classes.”

Staff and faculty who are able to work remotely took laptops and other resources home to continue supporting Bethlehem Bible College students. Some of the students have struggled with access to good quality technology for their courses but otherwise, the online classroom transition was rather smooth.

Looking ahead, Sara says, “Our hope now is to be able to finish the semester for our students… I hope that we will be able to conduct graduation either in June or July.”

The biggest challenge now for the college is a financial one. The city of Bethlehem depends heavily on tourism, and this local tourist industry also benefits Bethlehem Bible College year-round.

Bethlehem Bible College (Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Bible College)

“I would say over 30 percent of our income…is generated locally through the groups that visit us or buy at our gift shop or stay at our guesthouse…. So that puts us in a fragile area where we need to look for the funding to make up for this loss. It does help provide for us to support our staff and leaders and school and the running costs of everything we do.”

However, Sara says, “We’re trusting the Lord…. Our hope is always that the life and the power of the resurrection will continue to give us the strength and hope to continue on forward with our ministry in Palestine and beyond.”

In this time of global crisis, everyone is struggling in different ways. But something everyone in the Body of Christ can do to encourage Bethlehem Bible College is pray.

“We’re coveting the prayers of the believers, particularly for God’s wisdom for us to see how we can handle the next phase after the [coronavirus]. We need prayer that the Lord will provide our finances. As of today, we lack over $250,000 that we’re trusting the Lord for,” Sara says.

(Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Bible College)

“Pray for the teachers so that they would be able to finish the semester successfully together with the students, and pray for protection over our staff from COVID-19. The staff [member] I mentioned to you that was infected, he is healed. Just pray that no one else would be infected.”

Please also pray for believers in Palestine to remain hopeful in Christ and be a light for Jesus to their communities. Sara says, “Every once in a while, I see people losing hope [and] leaving the country. This is something that we really don’t want to happen. Just imagine Bethlehem without Christians.”

Finally, if you are able to support Bethlehem Bible College financially and feel led by the Holy Spirit, you can click here to give!

“We really want Christians to stand with us, stand with the Christians in Palestine, and trust the Lord that He will continue to raise His Church in the middle of these difficulties. We trust that the Lord will continue to use Bethlehem Bible College as a beacon of hope in the midst of that hopelessness.”



Header photo courtesy of Bethlehem Bible College.

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