FORT ERIE, Ont. (INS)—In the midst of the uncertainty of life in the Middle East, two ministries partnered with Intercede International are ministering to children and youth in Israel and Jordan in powerful, life-changing ways.
Camp Gilead is the largest youth evangelism program in Jordan, run by Manara Outreach Ministries. Perched on two-and-a-half acres atop a mountain, Camp Gilead has been giving young people the best news in the world since 1976. Many Christians now living in Jordan have attended Camp Gilead—as a believer or unbeliever. Eighty percent of the young people who come each year have never heard the Gospel.
In most of the evangelical churches of Jordan today you can meet young people who came to faith in Jesus through that Camp Gilead, explains Isam Ghattas, director of Manara. Many of Jordan’s church leaders received their initial training and experience as counsellors there.
Every summer, Camp Gilead is home to nearly 750 children, aged eight to 18, in five week-long sessions. The camp’s trained counselors share the love of Jesus Christ through sermons, small groups, games and dramas. God’s love is conveyed through sports, music, drama and games. Camps are currently geared towards nominal Christians and over the years many have come to know Christ.
Every summer, hundreds of campers return to their homes and schools, burning with a new understanding of and commitment to Jesus Christ. On average, 40 percent of campers accept Christ, while many others renew their commitments to the Lord, reports Manara. Every year, the camp committee and the leaders aim to provide a safe and comfortable environment for all those who attend. Feeling secure is very important to be able to ask the hard questions and share difficult experiences that otherwise campers wouldn’t share. The more time is spent with them, the more struggles and challenges they reveal.
The young men and women who serve as counselors are the heart of Camp Gilead. But the time comes when they graduate, get jobs and move on. Camp Gilead counts on ministry partners to help train and disciple new counselors to take their places.
One summer at the camp, a boy who was injured was taken to a nearby clinic and the doctor asked about the cause of the injury. The doctor became excited when he heard it was at Camp Gilead. He left the clinic and visited the camp. In tears, the doctor explained that the camp had meant little to him during the week he was there 15 years before. But several years later, while in the army stationed in Iran, loneliness prompted him to remember the good time he had at Camp Gilead. He found a Bible and began to read for himself the truths that he had heard. He began leading a Bible study for 10 other men and all of them received Christ. Upon his return home, the doctor shared his new faith with his family and they also believed.
“Our hope is that our experience and learning will be used to bring blessings to many children and youth and bring more of them into His Kingdom,” declares Isam Ghattas.
Before the campers go back home, they receive Bibles and young campers receive Bible stories to take home and read. One young camper was so affected by the camps that when his mother gave him the option to choose any book to read on their upcoming trip, he chose the Bible and has been reading it frequently.
Throughout the years, Gilead has been and continues to be a safe zone for all campers, where they can come with all their questions, doubts and fears and receive answers and guidance with truth and love. They will be able to discuss ideas they are bombarded with every day through media, and also be challenged to open their minds to discover new truths.
Manara is currently raising funds to establish a youth training centre where youth can meet together throughout the year to worship, study Scripture and learn to live for Jesus.
Leading Youth to the Messiah
Netivah Christian Ministries is an inspired Israel-based indigenous youth ministry that became a partner of Intercede International in 2013. Netivah’s name is the Hebrew word for pathway. Its vision is: “To see young men and women coming to the saving knowledge of Yeshua [Jesus] the Messiah, that they may know His love and become like Him, that they may serve Him.” Netivah’s strategy is to provide various activities for youth such as national conferences, regional youth events at the centre, hiking and camping trips, seminars and teaching events for youth leaders and congregation leaders—as well as relevant conferences for soldiers in Israel’s army.
Youth hikes are a fun and healthy activity that Netivah organizes twice a year. These are usually camping trips of two or three days in the northern part of Galilee or one of the desert areas of Israel. The ministry’s leaders explain, “In today’s day and age, it is hard to get the youth away from the TV, Internet and the race for the next popular trend. We at Netivah believe that hiking and camping are intense times for bonding and developing lasting relationships, learning about the land of the Bible and the history, giving the youth an opportunity to get out and see God’s work in His creation.”
The youth joining the hikes are primarily from believing backgrounds, though Netivah does not assume that they have personally decided to follow Jesus. Youth can invite friends from school to participate and the Gospel is clearly presented. “During these trips we encounter along the way fellow hikers, campers, and have many opportunities to share about Yeshua,” explain Netivah leaders.
This ministry also holds youth conferences through the year. An average of 250 youth come together for two or three days of sound Bible teaching and other activities each time. The purpose is to serve the local congregations (Arab and Jewish) and the youth workers by providing a setting where youth leaders can bring their youth, spend time with them, where the youth can meet and develop relationships with other youth from around the country, and spend time in worship, prayer and study from the Word of God. The conferences are focused on a specific topic such as evangelism, sexual purity, apologetics, or the deity of Jesus. The speakers are generally pastors and leaders from around the country.
The focus audience is youth workers and their teenagers ages 14 to 19, Israeli/Jews, Israeli/Palestinian Arabs from all over the country including youth from ethnic backgrounds such as Ethiopian and Russian.
The conferences are good settings for youth to invite friends to participate and are seeker friendly. The Gospel is clearly presented to encourage and strengthen the faith of the believers and to challenge and exhort nonbelievers. The youth leaders attending the conference are then encouraged to use the materials and topics presented at the conference and expand on those in their congregational settings, encouraging growth within the congregation.
Netivah hosts monthly regional Friday events in which youth workers and youth are invited for a Friday evening of fellowship, food, worship and a Bible study. Messianic/Christian youth are scarce in Israel. Most of the youth Netivah works with are the only believers in their school, and some of them are even the only believing family in the towns they live in. “Our desire is to provide a safe and healthy environment in which youth can have fellowship with other believing youth their ages, spend time in worship, prayer and study from the Word of God,” Netivah leaders explain.
Photo 1: Counsellors and children enjoy time together at Camp Gilead in Jordan.
Photo 2: Youth in Israel enjoy an Arrows meeting run by Netivah Christian Ministries.