Alex E. & Brenda Awad
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Bethlehem lights brighten this Christmas both along the streets and around the Church of the Nativity.
For many people young or old, Christmas brings out the inner child. It invokes memories of the delights of childhood, a time of joyful, fun-filled days, filled with the comforts of hearth and home. It is a time to reflect on family and friends, love and peace. It is a time of sharing food, gifts, experiences, memories and cherished thoughts of loved ones. It is a time to relish the warmth of relationships at work, church or in social settings.
Christmas and New Year is also a time for us to reflect on the year gone by and count our blessings. Our year consisted of some travel, some work and some play. Not every month was filled with thrills, but there were some special events. Below are some highlights.
In January we were in Beirut, Lebanon attending a conference for leaders of theological colleges and seminaries located throughout the Middle East. It was a beautiful and peaceful time. Arriving early, we traveled to the eastern border, past snow capped mountains and into Damascus. Also, in January, we celebrated an annual pastor’s retreat in Tiberius. This activity is conducted by the Council of Local Evangelical Churches.
In February, Alex flew to Louisville to speak in a Presbyterian Conference. While there he visited Brenda’s nephew and family. In April both of us traveled to the United States. Brenda went to accompany a woman and child from Gaza. The child was being sponsored for special medical treatment in Kansas City, KS. While there she visited Alex’s family in Overland Park and her sisters in Georgia. Alex went later on to speak in churches in Minnesota, being graciously hosted by Ric Koehn and Dwight & Debra Haberman (former volunteers at Hope Secondary School). Afterwards, he was able to spend time with his mother, who is nearing 90 years old. She and he always read the Bible and sing songs of praise together.
During July and August we enjoyed the visits of Basem and Randy. Basem returned from Spain after finishing the course work for a Master’s in Peace Development. Randy came from Chiang Mai, Thailand for his summer break. It was a busy time, but very rewarding to have our children around us. Randy rejoined Christy and David in Chiang Mai in August, but Basem decided to stick around and has since been hired as a public relations office for ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid). Christy and David continue to teach English at the University of Chiang Mai.
September through December has seen us in Bethlehem and Jerusalem working in our respective places of assignment. Bethlehem Bible College has a good, healthy enrollment and the semester has gone according to schedule. The students have been able to study in a relatively calm environment compared to years past. Alex has been teaching courses in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth. Brenda has been keeping up with the management of the English administration office, which requires a multi-level assortment of tasks.
Most days will find us crossing through the Bethlehem checkpoint on our way to and from Jerusalem. Bethlehem is made sadder this Christmas with the nearly complete Wall choking its inhabitants as it crisscrosses Palestinian landscape, separating Palestinians from their agricultural lands and each other. A new border terminal and the closure of the main entrance street are the most recent developments. The terminal has a circuitous drive through for cars whose drivers must pass manned security booths for passport checks; automatic closure bars are lifted once clearance is received. Also in place are several metal strips imbedded in the road surface itself to slow the traffic going in and out. For pedestrians there is a closed pedestrian tunnel route (a maze of cages), complete with turnstiles and electronic gates that must be navigated, plus x-ray scanning of personal belongings. Many of Bethlehem’s residents are oblivious of the change as they have not had permission to leave the city for years. The municipality of Jerusalem has now encompassed the outskirts of Bethlehem into the greater Jerusalem area.
The East Jerusalem International Church is now 11 years old, and we are always thankful to God for bringing new families our way to replace persons who have to leave. Tourism is reviving as well and we have had many groups join us in worship throughout the year. We recently redid the entrance and walkways around the church with nice stone blocks. This renovation was necessary to keep water from seeping into the building’s lower level. We were able to accomplish this through the generous giving of our members and special gifts from abroad. In the future, we plan to redo and extend the parking area. Space is very limited at present. Phase B of the project calls for extending and redoing the parking area. Parking space is very limited at present. The United Methodist Advance Special for this project is: Middle East: Jerusalem Church Renovation, #14907N.
On December 20th, the College hosted an annual Christmas banquet for the Christian community. Around 1000 people attended. Rev. Nizar Shaheen from Canada gave an evangelistic message as part of a program of Christmas songs, plays and skits performed by the Christian community. It was a joyful occasion for one and all.
On Christmas Eve, many people go to Manger Square in Bethlehem to hear local and international choirs sing. Our own BBC Choir will be performing. Also during the day there are parades led by bishops, priests, and heads of churches. These also culminate in Manger Square. Local scouts and school bands make up an array of performers anxious to celebrate the birth of our King. It is a lively atmosphere made up of a pressed crowd of all kinds of people.
We believe you will agree with us that Christmas, whether in Bethlehem, Jerusalem or in your home town, presents an opportunity for us to experience anew the magic and wonder of Jesus’ birthday.
From our family to yours, we send greetings of peace, joy and love.
Alex & Brenda
Po Box 17166; Jerusalem 91190; Israel
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