Members of Gaza Baptist Church are more than certain that their library outreach will be a boon to the community. In fact, they are booking on it.
The public library, which re-opened in its new building Nov. 12, has been a ministry staple for the evangelical church in Palestinethe only such congregation in the regionsince its 1968 founding. Like the 50-year-old church, the book depository is the only Christian public library in the vicinity.
"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," Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors, said in a news release. His ministry has helped to sponsor the church for years.
Patrons can borrow Christian as well as non-Christian books from the large collection on the first two floors of the building. The collection has grown from its original 200 volumes.
At its grand opening, about 250 people attended, 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 as their permits were only valid if officials considered it safe enough to cross the checkpoint.
During the opening ceremony, several speakers pointed out that the church is in an awkward situation in Gaza, experiencing daily pressure and uncertainty. 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."
Gaza Baptist Church leaders said they offer the outreach to share about the future hope there is in Christ. One of the reasons for this public library is that it provides an opportunity to prove the church's involvement in the society and its openness toward others.
"It's a beautiful building that was built with the investment of the Palestinian Bible Society and others that have invested into a place where the Christian community can have a witness in a hostile environment," Dr. Carl Moeller, president and chief executive officer of Open Doors, said.
"It's the only evangelical church in a population of 1.5 million Palestinians located in the Gaza Strip," said Moeller, who attended the dedication ceremony.
In spite of the violent situation in Gaza, the church is 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 Islamic parties entrenched themselves in and near the building.
The six-story building, partially subsidized by Open Doors, houses more than a library. The third floor will be a community health care facility for women and will contain a mammography machine.
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.