Author: Emily Robinson, 31 March 2023
Bible Society’s Supporter Experience Officer, Emily Robinson, travelled to the Bible Lands to see how you are helping lead people to Jesus in the places he lived.
‘These are the Bible Lands, but few know the Bible,’ Bishop Rafic Nahra told me when I visited Nazareth in northern Israel. ‘The Bible Lands’ is what we sometimes call Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It’s a sadly divided part of the world with evidence of conflict everywhere and yet it has the most astounding spiritual history as the birthplace of Scripture.
Less than two per cent of the population identify as Christian, and many of these do not engage with the Bible. Nashat Filmon, who leads Bible mission among the Palestinians, said to me, ‘There is a lot of tradition, but not much heart.’
Bishop Rafic works with Bible Society leaders to make God’s word known in the Bible Lands, transcending deep divisions. (Before being appointed bishop, Rafic served the Hebrew Catholic community in Israel.) Among those who do know the Bible, there’s an astonishing determination to share it and to release its power to heal.
‘The gospel has no borders or boundaries,’ Nashat said. Even with everything the Palestinians face, he’s fired up to declare the good news. ‘That’s why we reach all – because we believe the Bible is the bridge to all.’
I saw engagement with Scripture changing lives in the Bible Lands. Your support is empowering courageous outreach efforts, particularly among women.
While in Nazareth I attended meetings of the Magdalena Project, which is run by the Arab-Israeli Bible Society that Dina Katancho leads. Arab women in Israel belong to an ethno-political minority living in a strict, patriarchal community. They suffer high rates of domestic abuse and even honour killings.
At the Magdalena Project I met Lois, who shared a powerful testimony. She’d been struggling to pay her children’s school fees and in despair cried out to God. ‘Then a friend knocked on my door and gave me some money. I was so grateful,’ she said. ‘I knew that Jesus had helped me.’
Through the Magdalena Project’s Bible classes, women learn how to live the life of faith, not only in church but also at home and in the wider community. They learn about key issues such as reconciliation, God’s character, healthy families and women’s rights.
During a class about comforting anxious hearts, Lois shared the verse that brings her most comfort: ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come’ (2 Corinthians 5.17, ESV). She said, ‘I am a new creation since I came to know the Jesus of the Bible.’
Sitting there in the class, I felt a strong sense of sisterhood and a real joy in God’s word. I thought, ‘Wow! Their faith is beautiful. We can learn so much from these women!’
In Ramallah in the West Bank, the Palestinian Bible Society has helped a group of almost 100 women set up a weekly Bible study called Living Stones. Reading Scripture together enables the women to talk through the difficulties they face.
It was at a Living Stones session that I met Sarah, who is widowed and has also lost her brother and sister. When she shared her experience, the group wept with her. I was reminded of the verse, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep’ (Romans 12.15, ESV). The women are powerfully living out Bible truths that we sometimes just pass over.
Sarah described the difference her relationship with Jesus is making in her life: ‘I feel Jesus walking with me through the land,’ she said. ‘When I read the Bible I feel love inside.’
Your support makes these amazing ministries a reality. Mission leaders like Dina and Nashat are championing engagement with God’s word in the Bible Lands. Will you put the Bible in the hands of a woman like Sarah and give her the opportunity to meet Jesus?