By CHRIS SCHUTZ
Longtime United Methodist missionaries Alex and Brenda Awad, who have been serving in Israel and Palestine, are anticipating the end of their mission in May (2016) and are wondering what’s next.
"We don’t know what God will open up," said Rev. Alex, who is affiliated with Bethlehem Bible College as a professor, dean of students, and board member.
Brenda works about 30 hours a week at the college, assisting with administrative needs and developing proposals for the college’s worldwide support base. She also substitutes as an English teacher and performs several functions at the small international church in East Jerusalem where her husband is pastor.
The couple recently visited the United Methodist Ministry Center in Oklahoma City to discuss their mission work.
The Awads have been affiliated with the General Board of Global Ministries for 26 years, Alex said.
They are thankful for the support received from Oklahomans, Brenda said. "We have been embraced by many of the churches here in the Oklahoma Conference," she said.
Over the years, their ministry has included time in the state, serving as mission interpreters for the Schools of Christian Mission (now Mission u), presenting to local churches, and speaking at United Methodist-affiliated Oklahoma City University on Mideast conflict and peacemaking.
Brenda and Alex are the parents of three grown children: Christy and Basem, who live with their families in Thailand, and Randy, who lives in Thailand and India.
Since opening 36 years ago, Bethlehem Bible College has been producing pastors to serve in the Holy Land, Alex said. It also offers a medical clinic and language classes.
Palestinians "have a great desire to learn English," he said.
He encourages Oklahomans to visit the college and see the work being performed there. People can tour the college, stay in the guest house, join the international study program, and volunteer.
In March 2016, people can participate in the college’s fourth "Christ at the Checkpoint" program. Among Oklahomans who have taken part is Darrell Cates of the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation. Theme is "The Gospel in the Face of Religious Extremism," according to the program’s Web page.
Mission work can be challenging, Alex said. He has learned that "regardless of how difficult the mission field, God is in every situation, and in his own time he will bring groups to the ministry."
He said he is grateful for the opportunity to be with people who are suffering and hurting. "Being able to understand them. Be a blessing to them."
It is important to remember "God is calling us to be faithful rather than be successful," he said.
Alex said he experienced a "special God moment" during graduation at the college this year.
"When we saw 50 people graduating, released to go out for ministry, I realized that the vision God gave us 36 years ago when we started the Bible college was being fulfilled," he said.
"I saw the vision alive."
The graduation reinforced his feeling that "the church in the Holy Land is very resilient and very powerful."
The Awads have written a Dec. 24 Advent devotion for a blog produced by Kristen Brown, an Oklahoman who has been serving as GBGM Methodist Liaison in Palestine and Israel since 2011. The blog link is: https://methodistliaisonjerusalem.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/advent-devotions-for-year-c-2015/
Missionary support codes are: Alex, 10825Z; and Brenda, 10826Z.
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