May 1, 2024

Jesus in the Rubble

An update from the Holy Land

by an Alliance worker serving in the Middle East

On October 7, 2023, as chaos ensued and bombs fell around the Holy Land, Alliance international workers waited in bomb shelters amid fear and uncertainty with the rest of the country. International workers (IWs) who are sent out from the familiarity of their home countries know they will face challenges, but some situations are far beyond what can be prepared for. The Middle East is a hard place to serve—tensions run high, and trust is built slowly. The conflict following October 7 has taken the situation to a new level, requiring tenacious dependence on the Father. Living by faith overseas, especially in the face of crisis, is a messy undertaking.

Those of us in the region during the days and weeks following the violence have been in a season of deep lament and seeking God. At the time, it seemed everything changed in a moment. We may have been caught off guard by the turmoil around us, but God was not. Though our circumstances intensified, not everything changed. Deep fear, anger, and longing have long gripped the people we serve. The need for healing and peace has only intensified. Even in this very hard place, U.S. Alliance IWs and Alliance World Fellowship (AWF) partners together have sought to respond as God’s Kingdom people. As a fi eld, we minister to people of many religious, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. Our hope is to see all of these communities reconciled to Jesus and one another. That is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit alive in us, going before us to open doors and hearts.

Embracing People

In the months following October 7, opportunities have been abundant to provide relief to the hurting people around us. Through partnership with CAMA and generous gifts from you, our Alliance family, the Holy Land Mercy Fund has opened doors to show the love of Jesus to the traumatized people of I____ and P______.

People like 13-year-old David whose mom has cancer and whose dad is suffering from clinical depression. David’s family was displaced from a community near the G___ border and forced to live in a hotel near the D___ Sea. Removed from work and home, their family didn’t have winter clothes or enough food. An aXcess worker describes David’s response when she arrived with a trunk full of clothes and food for his family—when he saw the bags of clothes, he asked with hope, “Are there shoes for me?” He had been wearing a pair of pink women’s flip flops, and it was almost time for the celebration of his bar mitzvah. His eyes filled with tears when he realized he would have a new pair of shoes for that special day. In a place of despair, God had met this precious family’s very real needs. It was a hard, holy moment, one the worker was very aware she was sent to. Because of the Holy Land Mercy Fund, she was able to bless and pray over this family in the name of Yeshua (Jesus) during a time of vulnerability and loss. The financial gift was the doorway to the real gift—being seen. David’s family needed hugs, the prayer in Jesus’ name, the dignity the Alliance worker could offer.

Embracing Mercy

In I____, meals, diapers, formula, school supplies, clothes, and books have been provided by you through the Holy Land Mercy Fund to families who have suffered tragic loss. Many are living in hotels after having to leave destroyed homes or unstable borders. The field has been able to include a letter explaining the love of Jesus with many of the deliveries and has had the opportunity to pray in Jesus’ name. Some J____ people who rarely interact with Christians have seen the love of Jesus expressed tangibly to them, and their perspective about Christians is changing.

Support has been provided to local schools that are serving displaced children, and weary teachers have been shown appreciation. Our team hosted a Christmas movie night at our Ministry Center. People from the surrounding neighborhood attended, including displaced I_____ families from the north, A____ teens, an I____ soldier, and families from our local schools. The gospel was shared, and the time was full of the love and hope of Christmas.

In the West Bank of the Old City, P_____ _ families are hurting. Because of fear and closed borders, many have lost jobs and are struggling to provide for their families. Violence in these areas has escalated, and the need is great. Through the Holy Land Mercy Fund, hundreds of food vouchers and meals for needy families, the majority of whom are Christians, have been provided. In this very hard season, the pastors of A___ Alliance churches are working diligently to support their congregations. It’s a privilege to come alongside of them.

Through the Holy Land Mercy Fund, several scholarships to students at Bethlehem University have been given in the name of The Alliance. Due to the financial challenges facing many families in P__ ____, enrollment has been down. We are thankful to offer support in the name of Jesus to help students improve their prospects for the future. We have also been able to partner with a local reconciliation ministry that hosts Christmas and Easter programs in A___ public schools. Each child receives a gift and hears the good news that Jesus loves them.

Embracing Lament

In this land there are all kinds of agendas embraced by the diverse groups around us. As people who long to see God’s Kingdom come, we take our agenda from Matthew 5. We endeavor to live aware of our deep need for God, embracing lament as a path to healing, walking humbly in front of God and our neighbors, dissatisfied by injustice and longing to see things put right, quick to embrace mercy because we’re familiar with our own need for it, tenaciously holding out peace as the best tool for thriving communities, and serving undeterred by other’s opinions as we choose to follow God’s path. As Rich Villodas says in his book, The Deeply Formed Life, “The desert fathers, mothers, and later monastics remind us that the ways of following Jesus requires steadfast refusal to get caught up in the pace, power, and priorities of the world around us. We are called to have our lives shaped by a different kind of power, pace, and priorities, offered to us by God.”

Suffering and fear have opened doors for conversations pointing to the love of Jesus—doors that aren’t always open. One such door is in partnership with a local J____ NGO focused on families who have experienced violence. As the Alliance team has served by providing baby supplies, food vouchers, and clothes, the volunteer coordinator for this organization has noted something different and special about Christians. She is being exposed to and moved by the good news of the Father’s generous heart through His people. You are part of this.

Following Jesus’ Path

Our field, made up of aXcess, marketplace ministries, and Envision workers and AWF partners, has regularly met to discuss the distribution of funds to those in need. I’ve been touched by the attitude and posture of my teammates. In a landscape of division and suspicion, even among Christians, it is easy to take sides. In these meetings, praise God, that has not happened. Prayers of humble dependence on Jesus, deep love for people, and hope for restoration have tied our hearts together before God’s throne. We deeply desire to see the suffering all the people in the land have experienced be turned into doorways of hope through the love of Jesus. It is an honor to be sent by you, our brothers and sisters, with gifts of grace into hard places. We bear Jesus, and we also bear you, as we go. Each gift and prayer you send is a powerful tool in the work of building God’s Kingdom here one person, family, and community at a time. As I reflect on this season as an IW in a hard place, sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the suffering around me. When I pray for my neighbors, an image of Jesus comes to my mind. I can see His bare feet picking their way through the rubble of destroyed buildings and lives. His hands are stretched out as He moves gently, intentionally through the mess. His fingertips brush twisted metal and piles of stone. He stops to touch a wounded child, comfort a grieving mother. His people follow behind Him—in His footsteps. We can’t always physically go everywhere He goes, but we can pray, bear witness, and emulate Him where we are. It comforts me that Jesus is present. He will not abandon His world. Quite the opposite. He is sending out an army of His people to wage peace and bear light.

The sun never sets on the Alliance family, spread out across the globe. Wherever we find ourselves, we can be certain that we are each sent. Just as the Father sent Jesus to proclaim the upside-down Kingdom of love, so He’s sending us.

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