This year marks 40 years that Bethlehem Bible College has educated believers in Palestine. Dr. Bishara Awad, a man described with a heart aching for young people who desire to serve God, helped found the college in 1979. His largest obstacle—finding qualified Arab teachers.
During this period, local students would travel abroad to earn their theology degrees. But after living and building a life where they studied, most students never returned to invest in their home communities. This cycle gave way to the questions—who will stay and share Christ in this land if the believers are leaving? Who will carry on the Church in Palestine?
A History of Bethlehem Bible College
To get the college functioning, Bethlehem Bible College asked for help from qualified missionaries in the area. The missionaries kindly obliged, asking for nothing in return.
Today, nearly all the staff in Bethlehem are qualified local Arab believers. Jack Sara, President of Bethlehem Bible College, says nearly 200 students study with the college each year.
About 70 percent of the pastors in local Palestinian churches are graduates of the college. Since 1979, Bethlehem Bible College has grown and expanded to Nazareth and Gaza. Learn more about the college’s founding here and here.
“Our biggest accomplishment as the Bible College is that 90% of our graduates are still living and serving in Palestine,” Dr. Awad says in a blogpost on Bethlehem Bible College’s website.
After securing qualified instructors, the next wave of challenges came with the First Intifada eight years after the college’s founding. Lasting from 1987-1993 and then the Second Intifada in 2000-2005, the region’s instability threatened the college’s day-to-day operations and the student’s ability to stay and study. At one point, the college was asked to stop accepting Palestinian students. The college refused to oblige.
During the Second Intifada, college leadership asked its international faculty to leave for the sake of their lives. During this time Bethlehem Bible College nearly shut its doors, yet it persevered. God’s presence, providence, and protection were undeniable. Today, Bethlehem Bible College still functions in the instability and danger of a conflict zone.
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SOURCE: Mission Network News, Bethann Flynn