The only evangelical church in one of the most fiercely Muslim areas of the world is under severe pressure, according to Christian missionary Brother Andrew.
The founder of OpenDoors said Gaza Baptist Church is a “functioning church” but also a “suffering and restricted church.” He called on Western Christians to show more support for believers in the Holy Land.
More controversially, he suggested that this should include a reaching out to those considered to be terrorists in the West.
Brother Andrew, nicknamed “God’s Smuggler” for his smuggling of Bibles to communist countries in the Cold War, was speaking in a powerfulfilm uploaded to the Open Doors YouTube channel following a recent visit to Gaza.
He said Gaza Baptist Church has suffered the “effects of perpetual war, the murder of prominent members and a devastating drop in attendance.” However, its importance lies in the fact it offers hope in a “hopeless” situation.
“When Christians go into places that seem hopeless to the human mind, the moment he enters there is hope,” Brother Andrew said. “I believe that, we bring hope by being there, as a person with the word. That’s what we have to do.”
Christians in the West should therefore look to the “living stones” of the Holy Land – not just “the dead stones” – and build them up.
Part of the reason the church has been allowed to remain open, said Brother Andrew, is because of his relationship with Hamas, classified by the European Union and the U.S. as a terrorist organization, and the Islamic Jihad Movement, responsible for more than 30 suicide bombings.
The best way to help Israel is to go to their enemy and win them for Christ, he said.
“When we were in Gaza, I said, ‘I want to meet the leader of the Islamic Jihad because they have a very dangerous reputation as being very much hardline.’
“And I knew if there was going to be a church in that area, I would have to reach those who would be in power, and that was the Hamas,” Brother Andrew said. “These are the people you want to reach.”
The film quotes an unnamed pastor, who says as the influence of militants in Gaza has increased, more pressure has in turn been placed on Christians.
One particular low point was the murder of church member and Christian bookstore owner Rami Ayyad in October 2007.
For this reason, the pastor continued, a “good number” of evangelical Christians have left Gaza and tried to find refuge in other places, such as the West Bank.
Nevertheless, the pastor said God is using the small church to be “a blessing.” It is in a strategic place, and while much news focuses on the darkness of the political situation, “we don’t hear much about what God is doing in the Gaza Strip.”
The church has the only Christian public library in the Gaza Strip and helps people with food and medicine. It is also in the process of starting a food clinic.
It will receive a new pastor in February and is being supported by the Shepherd Society in Bethlehem. Although attendance had dropped from 100-plus, it was at least 40, as opposed to the 12 mentioned by Brother Andrew in the film.
If it closed, “there will be something huge missing from the Gaza Strip,” said the pastor.
The film says the gospel is the only hope for real peace in Gaza and asks people to pray for the church in Gaza.
“In a land full of so much conflict and division, Open Doors has been a light force for the believers and secret believers of the Gaza Church.
“Pray for the gospel to spread in Gaza. It is the only hope for real peace. Pray for the church of Gaza.”