First Christian Public Library Opens in Gaza
The Gaza Baptist Church has opened a new building in November to be used as the only Christian public library in Gaza and to enable the Christian community to witness in the hostile environment in the region.
Partially subsidised by Open Doors, the new library is focused to offer Christians, as well as non-Christians, abundant books to educate and develop their understanding of the Gospel.
About 250 people attended the opening, including some 30 international guests involved with the Christian community in Gaza. Several international guests were kept waiting until the last moment to be granted permission to enter Gaza as their permits were only valid if officials considered it safe enough for them to cross the checkpoint, explains Open Doors.
For many years Open Doors' founder, Brother Andrew, has been closely involved in the ministry of this small church, which is the only evangelical church in a population of 1.5 million Palestinians located in the Gaza Strip.
During the opening, he encouraged and motivated the church: "It's great to take care of the Body, great to take care of their minds by giving them good books, but it is even better to take care of their souls and spread the Gospel of Jesus...to show them Jesus."
The Baptist Church has existed in Gaza for over 50 years. An elder recalled the opening of the first library in 1968, starting with 200 books. The new library has books covering two floors of the building.
During the opening ceremony, several speakers pointed out that the church is in an awkward situation in Gaza, experiencing daily pressure and uncertainty, reports Open Doors. But with God's grace, members of the congregation can find strength and hope to continue reaching out to their fellow Palestinians.
Brother Andrew quoted Martin Luther King, saying, "If you do not deal with contemporary issues, you are not preaching the Gospel at all."
In spite of the violent situation in Gaza, the church testifies that it remains focused on reaching out to fellow Palestinians. Last May when the building construction was still in process, the guard of the property was shot in crossfire. Almost every floor of the building was damaged by gunfire when warring Muslim parties entrenched themselves in and near to the building.
The third floor of the building will be a community health care facility for women and will contain a mammography machine to assist with breast cancer research. The machine is only the third of its kind available to the 1.5 million people in Gaza for this kind of research.
The fourth floor will be used for outreach, and several activities are being developed by the Baptist ministry. The fifth floor is designed as a guesthouse, so that the Baptist Church can host workers from other cities or abroad. The sixth floor will be used as the church's worship hall, until the opportunity comes to build a church building.