It's a beautiful, bright, winter morning, the sort of clear day that is rare in Israel. As I look north, I see the Jezreel Valley, verdant and growing. I can see clearly across the valley to Nazareth, Afula and the Galilee hills beyond them. Directly behind me is a more somber view: tall, grim concrete walls, razor wire and steel gates. I am standing in front of an Israeli prison, preparing to go with the House of Light team into this house of detention.
The House of Light is the ministry of Anis and Nawal Barhoum, Arab Christians who live in the Galilee and reach out to prisoners throughout Israel. For over seven years Anis and Nawal have been traveling to twenty two prisons, from Tiberius in Galilee to Beer Sheva in the Negev. Prison rules require they only contact prisoners who identify themselves as Christians, but within these guidelines they minister not just to Arab men but to prisoners from every background, from Russian immigrants to African migrant workers who have overstayed their visas.
When Anis started ministering in the prisons he would find himself sitting in a room on his own. But with patient faithfulness, Anis now has more opportunities than he can meet. He and his team have earned a reputation for integrity and compassion with inmates, guards and prison authorities.
After the mandatory security checks, we are let in through reception to a small room within the cell block area. Slowly, a small group of mostly Russian and Arab men shuffle into the meeting room. Nawal, who speaks Arabic, Hebrew and English, has memorized a few Russian worship songs and is leading us with the Russian version of "This is the Day that the Lord has made," Anis is handing out Bibles and Christian literature.
|Anis and Nawal|
This is not a happy place and these men are far from the most attractive audience, but Anis and Nawal and their volunteer team serve them with loving tenderness and respect. Anis and his teammate, Pastor Emad, give a couple of short words of encouragement from the Bible, taking turns interpreting for each other from Arabic into Hebrew and then it is time to pray. We huddle together arm in arm and begin to pray; one young man breaks down in tears and Anis gently ushers him into the hall to sort out some of his painful circumstances.
Nawal used to bake Arabic specialties for the prisoners but according to new regulations only merchandise sold at the prison canteen can be given out to the men. Each one gets a bag loaded with goodies and Anis promises he will be back. Then we are off in the van to the next prison down the road.
|Pastor Emad with Anis and Nawal|
Anis encourages the men to accept this gift of God's love and timidly each man raises his hand to receive the eternal life Yeshua has promised them. We pray together and again the team passes out the goody bags. One young man tells Anis that he is from Netanya and Anis asks him if he attended a congregation there. The young man protests that he did not know there was a congregation of believers in Netanya and Anis assures him there is. The young man's mother still lives in the city and he gives her phone number to Anis to contact her. Anis assures him he will do so and will put her in touch with the Messianic pastor there.
Nawal and Anis loading up with
literature for the inmates
House of Light reaches even further out, beyond prisoners and their families. They seek to build up families in a variety of ministry endeavors. Nawal teaches a discipleship course for single mothers and every morning offers counseling to women in need. In the afternoons the Barhoum's run youth and children's programs.
Every six weeks they run a special youth program, "King's Kids" that brings together Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian young people. Together they assemble drama, music and dance programs to express their faith and unity in Messiah. I could sense Anis' passion as he shared with me about his heart to build bridges between the Messianic and Arab Christian believers. "It is not an easy thing to do, but slowly we are building trust between us. We believe we have unity in the Lord and He will help us."
|Emad, Mary, Ruth, Anis and Nawal|
When we were with the inmates, one of the songs we sang was the direct Hebrew translation of John 3:16, "Kee coh ahav Elohim et haOlam ... For God so loved the world ..." As we repeated these familiar lines I was struck by the power of these words. Here in a dark place we were declaring the light; here at the edge of the future great judgment we were remembering that "God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3:17
Anis, Newal and the House of Light team are shining in many dark places with the light of the Gospel and the love of God, healing broken hearts, proclaiming liberty to captives and opening the prison to those who are bound.
For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.houseoflight.net
|Let us know what you think - why not comment to this article. The authors of these articles are often involved in intense ministry and are thus unable to respond to most comments. As is normal with print and online magazines, Tikkun reserves the right to publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.|
Also in this issue of the newsletter:
|Dan Juster: The Tragic Death Of Benazir Bhutto|
|Moshe Morrison: Ygal|
|David Shishkoff: Close Encounters Of An Israeli Kind|
|From Kibbutz To The Kehilah: Tal's Testimony|