Day 21: Stuck in the Shabbatavator!

by Alexandra Rutkowski

He’s 62 years old. He’s been shot 4 times. His church has been bombed 14 times. But he’s steadfast to his faith and to his calling. The man is a modern-day Paul. For safety reasons, I’m leaving out names. But this is what one of two or three Christian Arab pastors are going through in Bethlehem. Extreme persecution. Fifty years ago, Bethlehem was 85% Christian, now it’s less than 15%- and what’s left of them are moving out for their own safety. There is no tolerance for Christians. None at all. We met with a pastor of a Baptist Church in Bethlehem, and this is his story. He’s is targeted, persecuted, being shot at… and still he won’t give up. His church has grown to 200 with 5 new ministries started. They have a youth group of 40-50, a Sunday School of 140-150, and have had VBS where 105/180 children accepted Christ. Their strongest and most powerful ministry is their deliverance ministry. But it hasn’t come without a cost. They’re being bombed! In his words, his entire life has been violence, bloodshed, shootings, bombings, turmoil, stress, and death.

Two of their young girls were recently shot and killed for their new faith.

The pastor’s brother, right after he accepted Christ in Galilee was martyred for his faith. He was beaten to death and hit with metal rods on his head until his last breathe. Before his death, three days after his conversion, he suddenly wanted to start a church in Jerusalem. After he was killed, his nephew (the pastor’s son) never forgot his uncle’s words and now is pastoring a church in Jerusalem.

And they face persecution and hatred on a daily basis.

He’s been told countless times to take a rest and pastor in the States or somewhere safe. He’s got a passport, he can do it, but he won’t. He said, “This is where I am called to. If I live, I will live among my people. If I die, I will die among my people.”

We need to look at these people as just that. People. Not numbers. Not statistics. People. Souls.

On a side note, something that the pastor said really haunted me. One of his Muslim friends told him “If it wasn’t for a Christian, I would’ve been one.” Many of that man’s friends agreed and added their voice to that. Something to think about. Please pray for this church. They desperately need it.

We stepped back in time and visited the Church of the Nativity. And the supposed spot where Christ was born in the manger… and the place where the angels visited the shepherds. Surreal

Going through Bethlehem was very… different. It’s in the West Bank so we had to go through some pretty intense security checks. But this is what the Palestinians go through every day. I can’t even imagine. It’s so sad that the problem and the threat is so intense that this needs to be put in place. After the church, we stopped in a store where everything was handmade by local Christian artists. And expensive. Oh well, it was for a very good cause indeed. We saw some restaurants with some familiar names, such as: SUBWAYs and Stars & Bucks (which looked exactly like its twin). Outside on the streets, we were mobbed by Palestinians trying to sells us their merchandise. They literally crowded us and followed us down the streets, desperately trying to get us to give in. I had one guy trying to shove a flute into my left ear, another with a stuffed camel in my face, and yet another with some scarves and bags to my right. At least we had the true Palestinian shopping experience.

On our way out through security, we had to wait in a long line and one by one, when called, go through a revolving metal-pole door (the kind you’d see at a metro or subway) to get through security. You’d have to push it hard though when called and when it was activated. When they called me to go, I pushed hard… and I guess they forgot to activate it cause I just rammed into it and flew back.  Yeah, they forgot to turn it on. I saw Michael a few steps later just smiling at me. “You didn’t see that, did you?” I asked. “No,” he chuckled, “but they did.” I looked over and saw the guards laughing hysterically- there was a two-way mirror right alongside the gate. Of course that would happen!

During dinner, the power went out a few times in the hotel, but we didn’t think much of it. We heard that someone in the hotel was stuck in the elevator a little bit later. Didn’t think that much of it either. Unless we found out that it was DENISE, my roommate! She was stuck in the Shabbatavator! The fire department and police were made aware of it and some workers were trying desperately to get her out. Meanwhile, we were praying downstairs for her. She was in there for more than half an hour, but she came out totally calm. “How?” we asked. “Though the lights were out,” she explained, “there was a small light- just enough to read my Bible. So I was good.” She set up her space there and spent time with the Lord, where she received a crazy revelation. In the Shabbatavator! I’ll have to see if I can post a video of her explaining it. It was insane. Fortunately, the Lord got her out safely and we all smothered her in hugs when she got out.

It was an intense, overwhelming day in a lot of aspects. God is definitely doing a work in each of our lives and revealing a lot of things to us. He’s placed such a burden on my heart for the people of Israel. It’s overwhelming and indescribable. This is so much more than a trip. And it’s so much more than I had ever imagined. We still have one full day left. And I fully expect God to do something miraculous.

PS. I absolutely adore Hebrew worship songs.

Shalom! -Alexandra

PS. Ania and Tomek- I know you’re reading this. Thank you for that and for your love. I can’t wait to see you both again. Kocham was. Aroosta!

PSS. Since “work” isn’t allowed on the Sabbath, several Orthodox Jews have been getting excited and shouting “Gentile!!” when they see me with my Mac and they have me check stuff on the internet for them. I’ve been called a Gentile about 50 times in the past week. I knew I had a purpose!