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Joyful Christmas Greetings 2012

Alex & Brenda Awad

“Because the heart of our God is full of loving-kindness for us, a light from heaven will shine on us. It will give light to those who live in darkness and are under the shadow of death. It will lead our feet in the way of peace.”
Luke 1: 76-79 (New Life Version)

Dear Friends and family,

From Bethlehem, the birthplace of our Lord and Savior, we send you our Christmas Greetings!

This last summer and fall, we travelled to the US journeying in 20 states to visit and share with friends and churches who partner with us and Bethlehem Bible College ministries. Along the way we visited family members and joined in their celebrations, in particular the 50th wedding anniversary of Elizabeth & Ibrahim Siryani (Alex’s sister & brother-in-law). This nomadic style of life that started o_ with medical checks in Atlanta was quite challenging, but the unexpected blessings and super hospitality that we encountered along the way made it all worthwhile. It was a joy to share in churches and other venues the message that is closest to our hearts--the story and plight of indigenous Palestinians and the Church community in the Holy Land. We know God loves the Palestinian people as much as he loves the Jews, the Americans, the Asians, the Europeans and all other ethnic and religious groups. Our story to the nations is that, “God so loved the world . . . that He gave his only son . . . “

During our travels, we especially cherished the times we had to renew fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ who have stood in solidarity with us over the past years--some 20 years or more. We don’t have enough pages to tell about all the friends and loved ones we met on the way, but as you receive this letter, please know we have a face and a name, and often a picture, to remind us of you. Our hope is that we were as much a blessing to you, our friends, congregations and host families, as you were a blessing to us.

Before traveling to the U.S., we spent a few days with our children and grandson Skylor in Pai, Thailand. We first stopped in Bangkok to see Basem and Pim and then made our way to the town of Pai in northern Thailand to be with Randy, Christy, Dave and Skylor. Pai is an oasis of natural beauty which is surrounded by mountains and has a river flowing through; in this town one can enjoy hot springs, rivers, waterfalls, nature hikes, and elephant rides. Skylor, soon to be 5, goes to a Montessori School in Pai which he likes very much. He speaks both English and Thai. He is very artistic and still enjoys building with legos. He is also a nature lover and enjoys catching all kinds of insects.

The East Jerusalem Baptist Church ministry continues to be a blessing to a cross section of the expatriate and Palestinian Christian communities. In our last Christmas letter we mentioned trying to obtain a visa for an assistant pastor. We were unsuccessful in this endeavor, a fact that reflects the challenges and difficulties that Christians here continually face. However, God has continued to be faithful to us and has brought other capable ministers and Christian leaders to help out. Please continue to pray with us for wisdom in identifying and welcoming a co-pastor for the church.

Our ministries at the Bible College, the Shepherd Society and the Church in Jerusalem are going well. You can find updates for the Bible College and Shepherd Society on the following websites: www.bethbc.org and www.shepherd-society.org.

Politically, 2012 has been a year of sharp contrasts in our region. Some Arab States such as Libya and Tunisia survived 12 months of a tenuous, popular uprising-- the Arab Spring--and are now adjusting to life without their dictators. The Arab Spring in Egypt continues to be unstable as those who seek true democracy are daily challenged by the strong Islamic parties who are committed to steer the country towards Sharia Laws. In Syria, Bahrain, and Kuwait the Arab Spring continues to divide citizens and drag them to street fights or to an all out war. Here in Palestine, in the last 12 months, we journeyed from disappointment with the political stalemate to agonizing over another Israeli bombardment of Gaza and then just two weeks later hope and excitement soared as we saw one country after the other welcome Palestine as a ‘non-member observer state’ at the United Nations. "The 193-member U.N. body voted 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions, to recognize Palestine as a “non-member observer state,” a status that falls well short of independence but provides Palestinians with limited privileges as a state, including the right to join the International Criminal Court and other international treaty bodies." (The Washington Post, November 29, 2012)

The continuing turmoil in the Arab world shows that Jesus Christ and his message of peace is as needed today as it was in Palestine when Jesus was born. We continue to pray for peace and reconciliation for the good of all the people who live in Israel, Palestine and the Middle East. We look to Luke’s Gospel where we see God’s intentional plan at work expressing his loving kindness towards humanity with a promise of light, hope, deliverance, and peace. As Christians we should never relinquish hope for peace on earth. In spite of all the negative news, we continue to believe that God will surprise us when he brings peace to this land.

We pray that as you reflect on 2012, you recognize the signs of God’s kingdom being established in the hearts, lives and ministries of kingdom followers all over the world.

May we add our voices to the angelic choirs over Bethlehem in proclaiming “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Alex & Brenda Awad

Address Information:
Bethlehem Bible College; PO Box 17166; Jerusalem 91190; Israel
Emails: abawad@p-ol.com, alexeawad@yahoo.com
Websites: www.alexawad.org and ejbc.wordpress.com
Telephone: 972.2.676.6479

Thank you so much for your faithful mission support! For further contributions to United Methodist Advance #’s for ministries we serve, please designate your gift to one of the following Advances: Alex Awad (10825Z), Brenda Awad (10826Z), Shepherd Society (3020439), Bethlehem Bible College (12107A) and East Jerusalem Baptist Church (14907N).

For more information about establishing a covenant relationship with us, please see: (http://www.umcmission.org/Give-to-Mission/The-Advance). Alternately, gifts can be sent to: Advance GCFA, PO Box 9068, New York, NY. 10087-9068 with the Advance number clearly designated on your check.