One incredibly effective way that the Lord changes hearts in the strife torn Middle East is through the ministry of Camp Gilead in Jordan. Every summer, hundreds of children from different backgrounds encounter God in Camp Gilead’s two-and-a-half acres, where they are healed from the deadly wounds of sin. They are refreshed and strengthened in a world of trees and open sky, away from TV and traffic, and the endless news of death and destruction. And every summer, many who arrive lost depart saved. This report from Isam and Nihad Ghattas of Manara Ministries invites us all to have a part in this great work.
Dear Believing Friends,
“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” Jeremiah 8:22
If God asked me today the question he asked Jeremiah 2,600 years ago, I would answer, “Yes, Father, there is balm in Gilead. And it is healing the wounds of your people.”God’s children are suffering throughout the Middle East—persecuted, caught in the crossfire of civil wars, and targeted in sectarian violence.
Mt. Gilead lies next to the Jordan River and extends from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, sixty miles long and twenty wide. Though the myrrh trees that produced fragrant resin no longer grow here, the hills are green and fertile and crowned with forests. The region is so beautiful that Gad and Reuben and the eastern half of Manasseh asked Moses to let them make their home here, instead of crossing into the Promised Land.
Children in the Middle East are frustrated and confused, torn between the part of them that identifies with Western ideas, values, clothing, and entertainment and their Arab but when they come to Camp Gilead, they enter a new culture, the culture of the Kingdom of God, a culture of love. They hear new teachings from the Bible, truths that answer the questions their parents, teachers, and religious leaders cannot answer. They get direction for their lives.
Last summer, Adara* opened her heart to her camp counselor. The precious seventh grader talked about the verbal and sexual abuse she had suffered. Her parents are separated and having serious financial troubles.
But Adara said she is not blaming God. “This camp,” she said, “is like a refreshing from the garbage life I’m living. I can’t change that, but from now on I have the power to decide how I live because I know Jesus is beside me, and he will give me the strength. And every day I will look up and sing, ‘unfold my wings like an eagle in the sky.’”
On the last night of seventh and eighth graders camp last year, the personal ministry time after the message continued for three hours. The children would not stop singing and shouting that they love Jesus. After ninth grade camp, the mother of one of the children called to ask which church she should send her son to. The boy had been begging her to take him to church because something wonderful had happened in his heart and he didn’t want to lose it.
At Camp Gilead, children born and raised in cities and refugee camps experience the freedom and beauty of the mountains. A child who has always been taught that he has to earn God’s favor discovers that he has a heavenly Father who loves him unconditionally. Children flourish in the love and affection lavished on them by their counselors. They are helped to see God for the first time in his creation. And they are shown how to reach out to him and let him take them in his arms. Please help us give them these wonderful opportunities.
We are beginning earlier this year so the campers have more time to get involved with the Gilead team. Eighty counselors have already started training that is equipping them to teach everything from how to overcome bad habits and resolve conflicts to the Father heart of God, and developing intimacy with Him.
The total cost for the 2012 camps—including maintenance, equipment, utilities, leadership training, and operational costs—is $51,000. Praise God, we have already received $28,000. But we still need $23,000 before we can open the camp on June 20. We cannot do it alone, but if we all do what we can, the balm will flow once again at Camp Gilead. Gifts of any size are greatly appreciated.
Please pray that God will send us many children who do not know him, who have never even heard the gospel before. Pray for strength for our counselors, all of whom are volunteers and most of whom are serving two or more camps. Every year, as many of you remember, we face great challenges—from both physical and spiritual harm. We cannot overcome these unless you stand beside us in prayer and intercession. May our Lord Jesus Christ remain the center of everything we do.
Peace be with you,
Isam and Nihad