March 28, 2012
Beit Al Liqa’ (House of Meetings)
Christian Retreat Center
The Holy Land
ccm Cross #0030
Additional photos following Testimony
2984 My Jesus – From Bethlehem
Cyber Daily Devotion
Volume 13 Number 073
Today’s Author: Pastor Bill
Scripture: Micah 5:2
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” NKJV
My Name is Johnny Shahwan the Director of Beit Al Liqa (House of Meetings) Christian Retreat Center in Bethlehem. This is my testimony to what the Lord Jesus Christ has done and is doing in my life.
I was the sixth of ten children to my mom and dad. We grew up as Christians. We attended church and were active as a family in the things of the church. My first job was as a jewelry salesman. My older brother chose to be a Greek Orthodox Priest who was assigned to Canada at the Toronto Greek Orthodox Church.
My part as a Christian in Bethlehem was as a liaison for German exchange students. The German Christians would come to Bethlehem for a few weeks and they would need places to stay and people to meet. German was my second foreign language after English and I enjoyed meeting all the people. Several times I journeyed to Germany and learned much of the German Christians.
My older brother had moved to Toronto Canada and had asked me for many years to visit him and his family. Finally I decided in 1986 to give Toronto a look see. It was a nice city but what happened to me in Toronto changed my life forever.
I was walking down the street and was handed a tract about Jesus. These people were actually talking about Jesus who was born in my home town of Bethlehem. I asked a few questions and heard about salvation, redemption and being born again. As we were talking they invited me to a church service that evening. I had to hear more.
That night I gave my life to Christ. I went home and told my brother what happened and asked him for a Bible so I could read about Jesus from Bethlehem — my home town. The next morning I paid one Canadian dollar to ride on the Toronto Subway system and sat in complete oblivion to the stops and people coming and going. Over the next few hours I was in a different world, in a different place and I could not read enough — or fast enough — as I rode the subway all day for that dollar. I needed to know more.
For the next few weeks every time the Toronto Church of the Living God was meeting I was there asking questions and seeking the Lord Jesus Christ — the one who was born in my home town of Bethlehem. I had been changed by the man from Galilee. It was a new me. Jesus had turned my life around.
It was time to leave Toronto and on my way back to Bethlehem I stopped in Germany to see many people I had met over the years. One special lady I had met is Marinette Zemke. Marinette said on many occasions, “When you are in Germany stay with us.” I did.
I told her all about my Toronto “Born Again” experience and she was so delighted. I asked her where I could learn more. She suggested I check into some schools in Germany. The first one I contacted was a seminary and decided to enroll. They asked for 3,000 Marks and when I said I do not have it they turned me away. I was disappointed but I learned if Jesus was in it — HE would make a way. That evening I went back to Marinette’s home and we began to talk. I told her of the seminary and what they said. Her comment stunned me:
Here is what she said, “This morning as I was praying for you the Lord impressed on me if you were ready to enter a seminary — and if money was a problem — I should provide for you.” Marinette paid for my education and provided a place for me to stay for my entire education, in obedience to what Jesus had put in her heart.
My time in Germany was electric as Jesus and the Bible became real beyond measure. I was learning so much so fast. Each Sunday I would visit a new church to see how they worshipped and what the message was about. Then I would study what the preacher was talking about. Such incredible stories in the Bible came to life.
One such Sunday I visited a small congregation of a friend and there across the church sat a beautiful young German lady. The Lord spoke to my heart, “That’s the girl you are going to marry.” I met her after the service and her name is Marlene. While still in seminary we married in 1987. The Lord gave us four children — one each year!
I graduated with a four year seminary degree and asked if we could go back to Bethlehem and tell the people all Jesus had done for me. The rules of man were such that this was not possible. We were to go to another land. Marlene and I prayed the Lord’s will for us.
We were in a church service and a missionary to foreign lands was speaking and had an altar call — I went forward to receive all Jesus had for me — a few minutes later Marlene stood next to me as the Lord had dealt in her heart to go with me wherever the Lord leads.
The next week another miracle happened. The seminary over turned their rule and we were permitted to return to Bethlehem.
By this time my older brother was back in Bethlehem. For a short period of time we had to all live together until the Lord provided a place for us. There we were — my brother, his wife and kids — us with our four children — all living with mom and dad! It was a wild time.
I told everyone we met what happened to me and the love of Jesus poured out of me. We were not received well at first and it was very difficult. All this Jesus talk was over whelming to people.
What we were doing was in our own strength — we stopped and sought the Lord for advice. His answer changed everything.
We opened a coffee house for people to come in, sit, talk and ask questions. At first there were a few and then people started to come. As we talked about Jesus from Bethlehem —their town — they began to listen. The coffee house became an active spot learning for about Jesus.
Then the first really big Jesus incident happened for us.
Seven young trouble makers came into our coffee house. These were the neighborhood bad guys. They were bent on destruction of our facility. They told us we were a cult and it was time we were shut down.
That night we had an Egyptian evangelist who was speaking at the coffee house. He confronted each of the seven and before the evening was over all received my Jesus as his personal savior.
When they left and returned over the next few weeks people talked about the change in their lives. They said it was Jesus from Bethlehem that changed them. More people came to the coffee house to learn about Jesus from Bethlehem — their home town!
Then we went through a period of war in and around Bethlehem. It was a dark time with very little food and water. We were asked to stay in our houses and not come out. Over a period of forty days of confinement it was difficult. I could not sit at home and be a by stander. I contacted some Messianic Jewish friends and asked for food and water and other supplies. They answered — the Love of Jesus was stronger than the military battle raging all around us.
I sought and found special favor receiving credentials to drive on the roads. I was the only civilian vehicle allowed to pass. My Messianic Christian friends brought food and water to the gate and I would load my car and distribute throughout Bethlehem.
We would give food and water to whomever was in need. Many would ask, “Johnny, why do you help us — we have been very critical of you and your Jesus.” My answer was loud and clear, “My Jesus would have me do it!”
The 186 day war period passed but it took a long time for the economic engine in the community to get going. We were just beginning to build our new building at the time and we were the only construction project in Bethlehem. We had jobs for 260 people. We gave jobs to Muslims and showed them the love of Jesus. Many came to Jesus with their families — the Jesus from Bethlehem — their home town.
Recently we opened a Christian Retreat Center where we teach about Jesus — and a Christian Day Care and Nursery — where everyone daily is exposed to the love of Jesus. Our vision is to share Jesus with everyone we come in contact with and serve the people as Jesus would do. We teach in a practical way the love of Jesus.
During the week we have many youth and young adult events. Plus women’s Bible studies and meetings. Our dining room is open to everyone for catered occasions, holidays and special events.
We have an indoor playground facility called “The Peace Ark”. Here children play together in a safe environment that is wonderful for mothers. Mom’s visit and have tea and sweets as the children play — much like McDonalds offers in the USA.
In the future we hope to have a guest house with more than 45 rooms and a conference center where all we do will be self supporting.
My favorite Bible verse is Joshua 24:15b “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Pastor Bill, the cross we just planted is such a joy for us to have. It tells all that there is Victory in a risen savior for Bethlehem — our home town. The cross is the power from which salvation is for all.
Prayer:Father thank you for Beit Al Liqa’ (House of Meetings) as a Lighthouse of Christianity reaching out to those who desperately need a touch from the Jesus. The same Jesus Johnny so abundantly preaches and is appropriately from his home town of Bethlehem. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!
A New Experience!
This is our very first metal cross
Here we are welding on an extension to reach the proper height
Welding the cross beam to the main beam
Close up of the Cross beam intersection weld
Grinding down high spots
Painting a primer over the metal to protect from rusting
Covering the metal with polished wood slats
All sides are covered
Completed cross with work crew.
The wood reflected as fine polished furniture
Cross is raised by crane into position
“Fire in the hole”
Strapping holds Cross in place
while preparing the hole
Removing the strapping
Cross set and standing tall
Cross standing over Bethlehem Valley
Plaque “Giving God the Glory”
The Birth Place Of
The Lord Jesus Christ
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