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Christmas Greetings 2009

Alex & Brenda Awad

From Bethlehem, we echo the angels’ greetings to the shepherds on the first Christmas, a greeting of peace and favor for you and all your loved ones!
Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Our 2009 Christmas letter, family pictures and review follows:

Dear friends and family around the world,

From Bethlehem, the birthplace of our Savior, we send you special Christmas greetings. We pray that this Christmas will bring you optimism that will continue throughout the New Year. This year Bethlehem’s streets are beautifully decorated with Christmas lights and there is a spirit of joy, enthusiasm and expectation within the Christian community. We are thankful that the situation is much more peaceful than in recent years.

Yes, the Wall still surrounds Bethlehem and other cities; however, despite the many challenges we face in this land, we draw courage and inspiration from our faith in Christ (Champion of truth and justice), from the support of you our friends and from the many peace with justice advocates among both Israelis and Palestinians who toil endlessly to educate others and shed light on the realities here.

As we draw to the close of 2009, we reflect on a few of the year’s happenings:

• Christmas 2008 and New Year 2009 was spent in Thailand celebrating the first birthday of our first grandchild, Skylor Lucas with his parents, Christy and Dave, and with our youngest son, Randy. We were in the town of Pai, which is a lovely mountain town with natural beauty and lovely people. While there we worshipped at an open-air Hill Tribe Church and without translation knew we were with brothers and sisters in Christ.

• December and January were months of great sorrow due to the Israeli offensive in Gaza which injured and killed so many Gazans, among them a great number of children. The Shepherd Society drew up a relief plan and with the cooperation of Christian partners around the world delivered relief and aid that is still ongoing. The devastation on Gaza was so great that the damage will take years to overcome.

• In May, Alex was invited by Rev. John Angle to share in Kensington (UK) at the Annual Gathering of the St George’s College Jerusalem Trust on the subject: “Life in Palestine Today – Christians surviving and thriving in chaos”. During the same week he spoke to several other groups who are friends of Bethlehem Bible College and also appeared in a debate on “Revelation TV”.

• Our record mission-interpretation journey in the USA took place from mid June through September. During our 3 and ½ months travels, we had opportunities to share in 22 states in approximately 100 churches. We spoke to many people whether in church worship services, Sunday School classes, evening pot luck dinners, women’s groups, men’s groups, or peace with justice groups; we also participated in radio and newspaper interviews and occasional meetings with members and staff of state and national House and Senate representatives. All this was possible due to a lot of organizing and hard work by many people, among them conference missions’ coordinators, pastors, local church mission’s chairpersons and wonderful host families. A fringe benefit of our itineration was the opportunity to visit family and friends along the way and see a lot of beautiful places, among them Glacier National Park and Niagara Falls.

In every meeting, our message was simple but clear; we called on people to actively seek peace. We sought to present a balanced approach and understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict and we endeavored to highlight the challenges facing the Church in the Holy Land.

• In November, Alex traveled to Colorado by invitation of friends, Dick and Bonnie Lautenbach, and spoke in two Presbyterian congregations. While there he connected via Skye with Rev. John Wagner who represents a United Methodist Peace with Justice Group in Ohio and participated in a panel discussion about Divestment that took place at Dayton Theological Seminary.

Special visitors in November were our daughter, Christy and grandson, Skylor, who visited us in Jerusalem on their way to Texas to join husband and dad, David Waltz-- they are now living near Weatherford, TX. Dave will be working with his father in real estate. Our sons, Randy and Basem, are still in Thailand. Basem is teaching English at Thammasat University and Randy is making plans to study film and photography at Chiang Mai University.

• December brings always a flurry of activities sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College and the Shepherd Society, among them a community Christmas banquet and food basket distributions to the poor. The municipality of Bethlehem hosts parades and choirs and there is a festive spirit all around. Families celebrate together and extend greetings to friends and neighbors.

Future events that we welcome you to participate in are as follows:

1. A Theology of the Land Conference sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College from March 13-17, 2010 with Tony Campolo as a featured speaker. We welcome you to join us and bring others. For updated information and list of speakers, see our college website: www.bethbc.org. Please click on Christ and the Checkpoint.

2. A Covenant Church pilgrimage and fact-finding-tour of the Holy Land with Educational Opportunities, especially designed for members of our covenant churches. Dr. Willis Britt, Dr. Jim Ridgeway and Rev. Fred Gardner will be planning and leading this trip. The dates are from January 26-February 5, 2011. We will send an update on this after Christmas.

During 2010, we pray and covet your prayers that Immanuel, the Almighty God, who came to dwell with us as a babe in Bethlehem, will cause his grace and peace to cover the face of this Land and bring forth peace and reconciliation among its peoples. We pray that His peace will continue to flow all over the globe. With Jeremiah, we say, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everlasting spring.”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Alex & Brenda