Baptist twinning in Israel
In the summer of 2016, Walsworth Road Baptist Church, Hitchin entered into a twinning relationship with Tur'an Baptist Church in north Israel, writes Andrew Henton Pusey. The first face to face encounter revealed several unexpected connections
Tur’an, it is claimed, was visited by Jesus during his lifetime – it’s just that the Gospel writers forgot to mention it! (the town is on the natural route between Nazareth and Lake Galilee, and Cana is its nearest neighbour.
The whole twinning idea followed a Holy Land visit by two couples in the church which made a huge impression on them. Within six months the church, which has previously enjoyed various world mission links, agreed to twin with Tur’an.
However, it was not until summer 2017 that we had our first face-to-face encounter, as our pastor Andrew visited the Holy Land for the first time.
But if there had been any hesitation about the rightness of the decision to twin, it was blown away by some remarkable discoveries about the way that God’s hand has been at work over many years.
It was not just the warm welcome and generous hospitality that was experienced, as finally there were people from both churches physically present in the same place (we have shared Skype conversations as well as various other greetings during the year, and we have treasured the opportunities to pray for one another).
At the church service in Tur’an where Andrew was invited to preach, and where gifts were exchanged, an interpreter was identified (the usual language of the worship, as in the town, is Arabic). It became apparent that this man, Saleem, a previous pastor of the church, had also been the interpreter at Tur’an Baptist back in the 1990s for another UK preacher: Andrew’s father, also a Baptist minister.
Indeed, as the service last May continued to unfold, it also emerged that Andrew’s mother, (who was very involved for many years with the European Baptist Women’s Union) had visited and shared much time with Saleem’s mother.
The sense of astonishment as these unlikely “God-incidences” were pieced together during the worship was amazing!
We don’t know what this twinning relationship, just over a year old, might mean for us or for Tur’an, but already we here have been so enriched and encouraged by what we have shared. It is hoped that further visits can be arranged: it is our prayer that Ziad, the pastor in Tur’an, will be able to come to Hitchin some day – or perhaps we can share a joint project or two.
But as we seek to discern the way forward in this second year as twinned churches, we are already rejoicing at the marvellous and unmistakeable way that God has been at his work in this relationship for two decades!
Andrew travelled on one of Baptist minister David Ronco’s recommended tours. David's next Introductory Tour to Israel takes place in April 2019. Visit www.baptisttwinningisrael.org.uk for more.
This article originally appeared in Central News, which is compiled by the Central Baptist Association. It is republished with permission.