In 2004, Hertford Baptist Church was twinned with Local Baptist Church – Nazareth. This was arranged through Baptist Twinning in Israel to strengthen relationships through visits, information and prayer. Arab evangelical Christians are very much a minority in the Holy Land; so by our support they know they are not forgotten.
Initially, close ties with Local Baptist Church – Nazareth were set up through David Ronco, former senior pastor at HBC and the chair of Baptist Twinning in Israel. Since then, David has organised regular trips to the Holy Land for the HBC Fellowship, as well of those from other churches, to visit and worship with both Local Baptist Church – Nazareth and other churches in Israel. Through these visits, we have also become acquainted with Nazareth Evangelical Seminary (recently merged with Galilee Bible College) and Cana Baptist Church.
The trips to the Holy Land have not only broadened participants understanding of the situation for Christians in Israel, they have offered opportunities to visit biblical sites and, importantly, allowed strong relationships to be formed and grow.
Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary (NETS) has recently merged with Galilee Bible College. NETS attracts and develops existing local pastors and church workers who require theological training. It offers a variety of courses so students can become effective ministers, evangelists and teachers of God’s Word. Former pastor at Local Baptist Church -Nazareth, Azar Ajaj is currently Acting President and is studying for a PhD. Azar is married to Ibtisam and they have three sons.
In addition, there are strong links with Cana Baptist Church; a relationship developed through trips to Cana and return visits to HBC. Hani Bilan, the pastor at Cana Baptist Church, is good friends with Azar; he is married to Shifa and they have two boys and a girl.
Hani and the church have a strong vision and mission for the predominately Muslim community in which they live. Despite the current difficulties arising from living as a Christian in Cana, the church is moving forward, especially through the work of the women members and improvement of relationships with other local churches.