A light in Israel
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Haifa, Israel
Many people outside of Israel may not know that Arabs and Jews live side by side throughout the Near Eastern country and that a small number of those Arabs have been Christian in culture and birth for centuries.

Butros and Remona Grayeb are two of those Arab Christians. They have a heart to reach other Arabs in the Holy Land with Jesus Christ through pastoral ministry and an evangelical school for children.

Slow and steady
Remona grew up in a Christian family, but faith wasn’t personal for her until her sister invited her to a Nazarene youth camp. She met Butros, now her husband, at church. They were the first Arab Nazarenes to be married on the Church of the Nazarene's Eastern Mediterranean Field, and Strategy Coordinator Lindell Browning performed the wedding.

They began their ministry by pastoring a Nazarene church in Jerusalem from 1984 to 1990. When they took the church, there was just one local member and the rest who came on any given Sunday were tourists or visitors.

"We worked hard visiting and outreaching," Butros said. "The church grew. When we moved, we had around 60 members."

In 1990, Browning asked them to move to Haifa, Israel, to pastor the Nazarene church there. Haifa is a city of about 400,000 people, among whom about 50,000 are Arabs. Some are Christians, but most are members of another religion.

The Haifa church is made up of Arab Christians and services are conducted in Arabic. The Grayebs began with just a handful of members. Over the years, the church grew, mostly with young people.

"We used to have 45-50 young people, but the Intifada came and it destroyed a lot from this ministry," she said. "They moved away or they were afraid." (The Intifada was a period of Israeli-Palestinian violence from 2000 to 2005.)

Healing prayer
The Grayebs enjoy praying with sick people in the hospital. Once they prayed for a sick man who was a believer in Jesus Christ. While Butros was at the hospital, another family noticed his prayers and asked if he would come and pray for a man who was in a coma.

The man and his family were members of another religion, but Butros prayed over the man and then left. The next time he came to the hospital, someone recognized him and asked, "Do you want to see the man you prayed for?" The man who had been in a coma wasn’t in bed — he was fully clothed and walking around, healthy. Butros believes this act of God was a witness to the family who did not believe in Jesus Christ.

The church offers a free packet to those who are interested. The packet contains a Bible, a video, and some other literature about the Christian faith. One woman and her daughter contacted them asking for the packet, so the couple visited the women.

"The mother [was] completely Communist," Butros said. "She [started] talking to me about Stalin, Marx. The Lord opened my mouth how to deal with this lady and before I left, she was on her knees with her daughter, accepting the Lord."

Many Arabs who grew up in Christian homes think it’s good enough to be born in a Christian family and aren’t interested in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, he said. Others are attracted to the Jehovah’s Witness sect.

The church also tries to share food and clothes with the many poor people who live in the surrounding area. Sometimes resources fall short, however.

"Sometimes we need some help for this issue," he said. "We are praying and thinking how to give food and gifts for families on Christmas. There are around 30 Christian families [that] need help on Christmas, and this will be like an open door to get to these families."

Back to school
In 1991, the couple opened a Christian preschool at the church as a means for building neighborhood contacts, serving the community, and financially supporting themselves and the church.

While the church has struggled to attract new and young people, the preschool has thrived, currently serving about 40 students from Jewish, Muslim, and Christian families.

Butros leads the school with Remona, and there are three other staff members. He dreams of expanding the school.

"I am praying for that vision, to see a Nazarene school from grade 1 to 12 in Haifa, because Haifa has a lack of private schools, and sometimes people don’t know where to put their children in school," he said. "Through the students you can make a good outreach."

Remona is praying that God would inspire a movement in the Nazarene church in the Holy Land to plant more churches, raise up more pastors, and to send much-needed support.

The couple has four children: Fadi, 17; Raneen, 22; Nardeen, 24; and Rasha, 27. Nardeen leads songs during worship in the church while Raneen plays the keyboard; Fadi plays the violin and operates the sound system. Rasha, who lives in Nazareth, is married to an elder in the church there. Raneen is engaged to a Christian man and they are planning to get married next year.

"Praise the Lord for my family," Butros said.
--Church of the Nazarene Eurasia Region
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