“I felt the presence of God in my soul from the first song and first sermon,” wrote Hussam, a 23-year-old student from Cana in Galilee after attending this year’s youth conference. “I could not help crying: It was a prayer of repentance and longing to the Lord.”
Each year, Baptist churches in Israel organize a conference for youth and young adults from all over the country, held – appropriately – at the start of the New Year is a time for young people to come together and revitalize their faith and renew their hope in the Lord.
Hussam’s story is like many of his Christian peers’. He writes, “I became a believer at a young age, but when I began my studies at Tel-Aviv University, I stopped attending church or any Christian programs.” At any age, it is lonely to be a Christian in the Holy Land. For youth like Hussam, as they leave home for the first time and begin their studies, being Christian and Arab and living in Israel soon leads to an identity crisis. Also like Hussam, many leave the church.
Thanks to dedicated and generous partners, young adults have opportunities like the New Year conference to gather and encourage one another. Many of the Baptist churches in Israel are very small, and even for those who do continue to attend church, they find there aren’t many in the congregation who are their age and in the midst of the same struggles they find themselves in.
This year’s conference was attended by 180 people from around the country. The title was “Take up your Role” and featured Andrew Abu Ghazaleh, pastor of the Local Baptist Church in Nazareth as the main speaker and, in the spirit of the conference theme, he gave a series of sermons on entering into and committing to God’s plan. Additionally, the conference included discussion groups led by pastors where young people shared their fears and challenges and found relief in the sharing and hope in hearing from one another and mentors. The conference also included beautiful Christian fellowship in an atmosphere that is much needed with our small Christian community.
At the end of the last session, many young people rededicated their lives to the Lord, including Hussam. He writes, “I made a decision to follow the Lord closely now and I am reading my Bible daily and am attending church services. Glory to God!”
Nurturing the faith of young people is critical to the life and work of the church. Unfortunately, this long-standing conference was on hold for a number of years due to lack of funding, and we are delighted and thankful to be back at it, knowing just how vital it is in the faith lives of our young people.
Will you join ABC in committing to nurture the faith of young Christians in the Holy Land? In the coming year, we have slated a number of one-day conferences to offer fellowship and teaching to help sustain the work the Lord began this New Year. As Luna Matar, ABC’s youth ministries coordinator affirmed at this year’s conference, “God is preparing a strong generation that God will use to shape the future of the Holy Land by their prayers and their contribution to the community.”
Youth conferences and events are sponsored by our partners. If you would like to sponsor this work, you can do so through www.baptist.org.il/supportus