Thursday, November 1, 2012
Ministry in refugee camps in Jericho and Gaza won converts, attracted danger
By Mark Ellis
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (ANS) -- Karen Dunham came to Christ after she barely escaped a brush with organized crime figures determined to kill her. But God used that fiery ordeal to prepare her for another – ministry to Muslims in the Palestinian refugee camps of Jericho and Gaza.
After her dramatic conversion chronicled in a previous story, family members thought she lost her marbles. “My parents wanted to put me in a mental institution because they thought I went crazy,” she recalls. “They didn’t flip out when I worked for the devil --they never said a word.”
At the invitation of Samuel Rees Howells, she made her first trip to Israel with the Bible College of Wales. She described her baptism in the Jordan River in her book, “Pushing the Pillars” (Living Bread International Church):
“As I went under the waters, I felt so thankful to the Lord for His glorious promises.” When she stepped out of the river, her Jewish guide, Aaron, read from Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor…”
“Do you know this is in the Bible twice?” Aaron asked. Then he proceeded to read the same passage quoted by Jesus in Luke 4. Even though her tour guide didn’t know Jesus, Dunham felt his use of the Scripture released a blessing over her.
On her second trip to Israel in 2003, many were not traveling to the Middle East due to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that began in March. The streets of Jerusalem were devoid of tourists and the public mood in the Old City was against America for killing Iraqis.
Dunham and her 15-year-old son Blake gave away gospel tracts in the streets, put prayer requests in the Western Wall, and helped nuns wash dishes at the Ecce Homo Convent where they stayed.
A calling to Jericho
She met an evangelistic Catholic priest, Father George, who amazed her when he said, “Go to Jericho and feed the people and win the whole city for Jesus.” The Holy Spirit gripped her soul when he said those words. Immediately she knew that she and her son must move to Jericho, “the door of the land.”
At the time, there were no Americans in Jericho. “The only woman who would rent me a house was a woman in one of the refugee camps who desperately needed money,” Dunham recalls.
Some of her Jewish friends expressed anger when she said she wanted to move into Jericho to feed hungry Palestinians. “Why would God tell you to feed the enemy?” they asked.
One of her new neighbors in the camp came over and said, “We never dreamed we would be living with an American in a Palestinian refugee camp.”
Shortly after her arrival, an Israeli army officer called. “What are you doing in the refugee camps?”
“We are going to build a church,” Dunham replied.
“What are you going to do for followers?
“God has a plan,” she said.
Dunham found that if she was honest with the Israelis and the Palestinian authorities, they let supplies come in on behalf of her fledgling ministry.
She distributed Arabic Bibles to the Palestinians because “the Bible has the answer for everyone. Without reading the Bible, it is like having a blindfold over your eyes.”
Dunham also began teaching English to the refugee children after school. “We did not have a fence at our home, and at times we would have 30 to 40 people in our yard and inside our house.
When she wasn’t looking, the Palestinians stole anything they could get their hands on. “The one thing that kept my love and compassion for the people was that they were pitiful and very needy. The Lord said to me, ‘No matter what they do to you, keep loving them.’”
After an outreach where she distributed 300 bags of food and gospel tracts, the local mosque began to preach against her. “They shouted over loud speakers that I needed to be executed along with my son because I was trying to steal the souls of the people.”
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