“The Lord Did All of This!”
“The Lord Did All of This!”
Dr. Bishara Awad shares a tale of God’s faithfulness
Dr. Bishara Awad is the founder of Bethlehem Bible College and currently serves as its President Emeritus. He was well-named for his life’s work—his name means “gospel” in Arabic. Born in Jerusalem in 1939, his childhood was shaped by the Arab-Israeli war, the establishment of the state of Israel, and most of all the death of his father by a sniper in 1949. His mother, Huda, never sought investigation as to whether the sniper was Israeli or Arab, and her consistent message to all of her children was forgiveness. Huda’s seven children went on to do great things for the Lord amongst the Palestinian people. This is one of their stories, as told by the man who prefers to be addressed simply as “Bishara.”
BBC’s humble beginnings
As the principle of Hope Christian School in Beit Jala in 1979, Bishara had recently returned to Palestine from the USA and was grieved see so many graduating students leaving their homeland to pursue higher theological education elsewhere, never to return.
“The Lord gave me the vision for a starting a college in Bethlehem that would meet the needs of these students. I shared the vision in a meeting of various Christian leaders, and everyone agreed that we needed an interdenominational higher education Bible School. A pastor from Jerusalem gave me $20 towards the college. It was our first offering! Immediately, we formed a board with leaders from different backgrounds, including Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Evangelical. There was agreement between everyone.”
And so Bethlehem Bible College was born. Without a building to call home, evening classes began in Hope School and continued there for the first two years. Bishara remembers those days fondly:
“We began the school with 6 students. I looked for local teachers who were qualified for higher-level theological education, but there were none. All the qualified teachers were living overseas! And so, missionaries were the first teachers. They were miraculously provided by the Lord. One of the first teachers we connected with was a man named David Teeter from Tacoma, Washington. He had come here with a similar idea. His vision was to start a Bible School in Palestine, but when he saw that we doing the same thing, he teamed up with us instead.”
During this time, Bishara received a surprising phone call from a man he’d never met before. David Younts had come to Bethlehem from Liverpool, Texas looking for a man named Bishara Awad. “In a dream, God told him to come to Bethlehem and help me start a bible school! He knew nothing about me—only my name!” He came with his family and stayed for a year in Bethlehem. His ministry helped to lay a strong spiritual foundation in the college, even as David Teeter’s ministry helped to lay a strong academic foundation. God brought the two men at just the right time!
Without a building, the small school forged ahead, and God continued to provide all its needs through various organizations and ministries. Inspired by its first humble offering, BBC formed a group for donors who pledged to give $20 a month. It was called “the 240 Club,” based on the idea that a year’s worth of donations would add up to $240. This club provided a regular foundation of support upon which the college could build. After several years, BBC was able to move into its own rented building in downtown Bethlehem. Soon it was clear that the rented building could no longer contain the ministry. It was time for BBC to look for a long term solution—a building of its own.
The Hebron Road miracle
In 1990, Dr. Bishara found out about the 3 buildings on Hebron road that were for sale. They had previously housed the Helen Keller School for the Blind. He made an inquiry, but was told that he could not afford the buildings. “This is where God intervened! We began to fast and pray and claim the buildings for the Lord. On September 1, 1990, (my birthday) they gave me the keys and told me that we could use the buildings free of charge until we came up with the money! My good friend, John Angle, who still does so much for BBC, was with me at that special moment.”
Six years later, the College was facing another challenge. Payments had been made towards the new campus, but it was still not paid off. The school owed a half million dollars and there was no answer in sight. The British society that was in charge of the buildings gave BBC one month to raise the rest of the money—“But then the Lord intervened!”
Bishara loves to recount the story: “I was in England with Brother Andrew (from Open Doors) and he took me to visit a friend of his; a businessman. He said, ‘You are training young people to be leaders and pastors of the churches?’ When I replied that we were, he bent down and wrote a check for half a million dollars! I tell you, I am not a fundraiser. The Lord did all of this!”
A New Phase of Growth
In BBC’s main office, a giant mural on the wall commemorates the 240 Club members. Names of individuals and ministries from nations around the earth are recorded on the individual leaves of a massive tree. As the tree has grown, so has BBC. Today, the campus holds several new buildings, a media department that reaches the entire Arabic-speaking world with Christ-centered television programming, a local ministry to the poor and needy, women’s ministry, a newly launched master’s program in Peace Studies, and sister campuses in Gaza and Nazareth. The college is in the midst of launching a groundbreaking e-learning program which will soon be available across the Arabic-speaking world.
“Some of our graduates are in key positions in local churches. They are leaders, pastors and Sunday school teachers. They are making great impact in the Christian community. When we started in 1979, the evangelical community was scattered here and there, hardly known. Since then, the college has trained and encouraged many young people. Now there are evangelical churches all over the place.”
In 2013, Bishara stepped down as President of BBC. “The Lord provided Rev. Jack Sara to continue the leadership of this ministry. Jack himself is a graduate of BBC and with him as the president I know for sure now that the college will continue. Jack is a great leader; a man of God and loved by all the churches. I know that he will take BBC to higher levels, which is already happening.”
240+ for a New Generation
As the college has grown through the years, so have its needs. In 1979, $20 a month looked a lot different than it does in 2016. As BBC continues to blaze a new path in the Palestinian Christian community and wider Arabic-speaking world, the College is re-launching the club, which will now simply be known as 240+—and yes, we are now taking new members!
Jesus said that the largest tree in the kingdom grows from the smallest seed (Matthew 13:31-32). We can’t help but look at our “tree” and stand in awe at what God has done from such a humble beginning. The Christian population of Palestine and the Middle East continues to face great challenges. The need for gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ in this region has only grown. Whatever may happen here, BBC is committed to impacting this region with news that is actually good.
Bishara laughs as he remembers that original offering, and all that God has done since that time: “We never used the original $20! But from beginning to end, the Lord has shown His faithfulness towards BBC. Truly, the Lord did all this—and we give Him all the glory.”
If you would like to be part of the 240+ Club please follow this link: 240-plus