One of the ways to bless Israel is to share the love of Jesus Christ with her Arab and Palestinian neighbors and enemies so that they might truly discover God’s mercy and forgiveness and have their hearts transformed from enmity to love.
Jesus — a Jewish carpenter living in Israel — taught His followers in Matthew 19 and Matthew 5 to “love your neighbors” and “love your enemies.” This summer, therefore, The Joshua Fund sought to obey the teachings of Jesus by helping finance the “Back To Jerusalem” conference and outreach, a project organized and run by Arab followers of Jesus Christ in Israel and the West Bank. TJF also sent a team of staff and volunteers to participate in the project.
The goal of the conference and outreach: to pray with and encourage Arab followers of Jesus Christ to be strong and courageous in their faith and live in unity with one another and with the believers in Israel, to train and equip Arab believers to distribute Bibles and Christian literature with Arab Muslims as well nominal Christians, and to help Arab believers share their faith in Christ with their neighbors. The local Arab evangelical leaders were very encouraged by the project’s success, as were we.
More than 300 evangelical Christians from the U.S., South Africa, and the Arab world attended the initial three-day conference in July. Josh McDowell was the main speaker, teaching from the Word of God and sharing his testimony of how he discovered the joy of having a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
On the second day of the conference, project participants – foreign believers as well as local believers from dozens of Arab congregations – went into the streets of east Jerusalem with distinctive green bags filled with packets of Christian materials. Each packet contained between five and seven pieces of Christian material, including Arab-language copies of the New Testament, the JESUS film on DVD or the Magdalena film on DVD in Arabic, and small books and pamphlets explaining the good news of God’s love for all people. In one day, the group distributed some 2,500 packets to Muslims and nominal Arab Christians that they encountered.
For many of the local believers, it was the first time for them to distribute Bibles and Christian literature and to talk openly about their faith in Christ with other Arabs.
After the three-day teaching conference was completed, each attendee then participated in a week-long outreach in Arab towns and villages, including Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem (on the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank) and in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth (in northern Israel, not far from the Sea of Galilee). During this time, they distributed more than 25,000 packets of materials. Since each packet contained between 5 and 7 items, at least 125,000 pieces of Christian literature and DVDs were distributed. Local organizers conservatively note that if the contents of each packet are read and viewed by at least two people in a household, then some 50,000 Arab Muslims and nominal Christians could have been reached with the gospel during the course of the 10 day conference and outreach.
Participants also used their time to invite Israeli and Palestinian Arabs to gospel film showings. In the end more than 1,000 people attended the premiers of the Magdalena film, a recently-released motion picture based on Scripture about Jesus’ pure and unconditional love and mercy for women in the Mideast, such as Mary Magdalene. The film, which had been dubbed into the Palestinian dialect, was shown in locally-rented theaters and halls on July 13th in Jerusalem, Haifa, Nazareth and Beit Jala (next to Bethlehem).
Project participants also visited the homes of Israeli and Palestinian Arabs to answer their questions about the life of Jesus. A number of Muslims prayed to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord.
- A veiled Muslim woman, for example, prayed with one of our team members to receive Christ as her Savior.
- After showing of Magdalena in one Arab town, about 20 Arabs indicated that they have prayed to receive Christ.
- Another Muslim woman told the wife of a local Arab pastor that she and her 13 and 7 year old daughters watched the Magdalena film and were deeply touched when Jesus cast the demons out of Mary. The mother explained her daughter-in-law has demons and the family is terrified. The pastor’s wife explained how they could all find true freedom and courage by receiving Christ into their hearts and being adopted into God’s family. As the Scriptures teach us in John 1:12, “to as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His Name.”
- Please thank the Lord that Arab Christians in the Holy Land are increasing eager to learn how to love their neighbors and their enemies, according to the teachings of Jesus.
- Please thank the Lord that believers in the West were willing and able to go to the “Back To Jerusalem” to pray with, support and encourage their brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Please pray for those Arabs who prayed this summer to receive Christ as their Savior. Pray that they grow in their faith, are hungry to read the Bible daily, spend time praying to the Lord every day, and get involved in an excellent Bible-teaching local congregation and small group Bible study.
- Please also pray that those Arabs that are followers of Christ – and those who have just begun their spiritual journey with Jesus – continue to develop loving and compassionate hearts towards the Jewish people of Israel.
- Please pray that the believers in Israel continue to develop loving and compassionate hearts towards their Arab brothers and sisters.