How did Bethlehem Bible College Begin? – An Interview with Dr. Bishara Awad

How did Bethlehem Bible College Begin? – An Interview with Dr. Bishara Awad

Bethlehem Bible College is entering a new exciting phase in its ministry.  We are extremely thankful to the legacy of Dr. Bishara Awad and the hard work he has put into BBC since its founding.

At a recent strategic planning staff meeting, Rev. Jack Sara interviewed Dr. Bishara about the history and founding of BBC.

Rev. Jack Sara: When BBC was founded, you were teaching High Sschool and then took another path. How was it when you took another route in your career?

Dr. Bishara Awad: When I was teaching at Hope School, I noticed that many graduates studied abroad and did not come back to Palestine. I thought there was a lack of Christian leaders in the land. I desired to start a Bible College. I collaborated with local pastors, who approved the idea. One gave me $20 to start the Bible College. I was not the one to start BBC. It was the Lord.

Rev. Jack: What was the vision at that time?

Dr. Bishara: Our belief in Jesus Christ as God was the basis of our teaching and vision of the college. He was our guide and we felt his presence at each step. We used to do Christian gatherings in a big tent. I knew we needed to bring more Christian leaders to the community. We began with 6-9 students in evening classes. Missionaries came to teach for 2 year stints; Partners volunteered. Christ For All Nations gave money to help rent a facility in Beit Sahour. A man named Victor Youts called me from Jerusalem and said, “The Lord gave me your name while I was in TX and told me I was to help you with the Bible College.” We didn’t even know each other, but he was here to work for one year. Then David Teeter came to Bethlehem to establish a Bible College. He found that one was started here already and chose to support BBC. He actually helped with the master plan and acted as academic dean for nine years. The Lord led people with the right skills to the College.

Rev. Jack: Who helped you to establish the BC?

Dr. Bishara: At the beginning, we made use of missionaries from overseas, because there weren’t many local people educated in theology. Then we heard of Salim Munayer who was studying at Fuller Theological Seminary. He was one of the first local Arabs to join the staff. At this time all of our teachers are Arab and we thank God for this.

Rev. Jack: Are there things that we should have avoided?

Dr. Bishara: Yes, there were many obstacles. There were two things that affected us: Non-violence was one. That means, to me, to respect both Muslim and Christians and value each human. It also means to educate people and educate regarding the Kairos document. We haven’t done this as much as we could. Two years ago, we began the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference (CATCP) and we are making a stand. God respects humans and we need to respect all humans and make a stand. Jesus came for the broken hearted and used love, not violence.

Second, we believe in Jesus Christ. We always trust the Lord Jesus. We trust him for everything. Jesus said: “Don’t worry about anything.”

There have been so many hard situations, but for 33 years he has always provided a way through crisis, finances, etc. You can see what the Lord does when you trust him. My brother Rev. Alex and his wife Brenda came to help. Many other individuals and organizations came to help.

The Bible says that all of these things will be added to you. BBC has been acknowledged by the Minister of Higher Education and the Palestinian Authority. The Lord also blessed us with MEATE accreditation. Now, BBC is well-known worldwide. The Lord provides.

“If God is with us, who is against us?”

That does not mean we don’t have to work. We have to prepare curriculum, classes, travel. There were many obstacles. It hasn’t been easy. Some of the challenges were also very sad. During the intifada BBC was closed. We contacted Tantur to hold classes there temporarily (before the borders and the wall). There was much chaos. We were accused by Jehovah Witnesses and Zionists. My name was written on the wall as a spy for the government. Students petitioned to stop the Bible College until Bishara was proven innocent. The Lord worked that situation out and cleared our names.

BBC is now in safe hands. I thank God for Rev. Jack and his leadership. I am not worrying about the College. God is in control. Be strong and believe these things.

Rev. Jack: Is there a specific question anyone has to ask Dr. Bishara?

Rev. Alex: What were the denominations on the First board?

Dr. Bishara: Orthodox, Latin Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and more. Our purpose is to minister to all churches.

Rev. Nihad: How did you manage to deal with all these different denominations?

Dr. Bishara: I believe that we should be equal across all denominations. We will all be equal in heaven. The different organizations believed in the mission of the Bible College and our message was to serve all churches. We teach theology, not a specific denomination.

Hind: What do you think about the situation now? Are we getting along with all the denominations?

Dr. Bishara: It is a challenge. We are purposeful in maintaining relationships with each denomination, but I think we can do more.

Rami: You mentioned the Lord put a burden on you to train leaders. How did you feel that?

Dr. Bishara: I was in a Christian school and teaching theology. We were trying to find a teacher in theology. We could not find anyone with training and education in Biblical studies. We could find a chemistry teacher to teach theology. I had a great pastor friend from Beit Jala and asked him how he became a pastor. He responded that he only finished 6th grade but was asked to become a pastor, so he did.

Dani: What is the main secret of your success?

Dr. Bishara: Do not worry about anything. There was no special formula for our success. Be humble before God and obey him. Don’t do anything in your own strength.

~Thanks to Pat DenBoer who recorded this interview.