ccm Cross 0186
Monday September 24, 2018
Shepherds Field Evangelical Church
Bethlehem, Holy Land
ccm Cross 0186
GPS/DMS 31°42’16.01″N 35°13’26.79″E
Additional Photos After Testimony
4732 cdd Atheism Exposed
Cyber Daily Devotion
Volume 19 Number 241
Scripture: Colossians 2:8
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” NKJV
Hello, my name is Bassam Bannoura, and I am from the city of Beit Sahour, which is known also as the Shepherds Field. I am the Pastor of the Shepherd’s Field Evangelical Church in Beit Sahour – the Holy Land.
Please find here my Cross testimony of how I was inspired at thirteen years old to become an atheist, and after 11 years, and through the love of one man, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
I grew up in the Shepherds Field area near Bethlehem. These fields are the very place where the Angels appeared to the shepherds announcing the Birth of the Messiah. The place where my Great/Great/Great/Great Shepherd grandfathers were the very first missionaries. They announced the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ to the world!
I was born the second of five children. My dad used to work in the tourist business, and our mom was a House Mother at the Holy Land Mission in Bethlehem.
Growing up we were Christians only by association. Dad and mom made sure we were in church every Christmas and every Easter. There were six Christian schools in Bethlehem then, but we all went to the public school. It was here where I learned that I had special study skill as I excelled at everything educational. Every year I was awarded the smartest student award for my class and received a plaque telling everyone.
When I was 13 years old, I had a neighbor who saw my talents and challenged me to read beyond what everyone else was reading. He handed me a Book called “The Essential Works of Lenin.” He asked me to read it. I did and finished reading all 372 pages completely in 2 weeks. I asked him questions, I quoted from the book and together we explored the ideology it contained. Then my neighbor handed me another book. This one was by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. At the age of 13 and one half I was discussing and quoting the foundations of atheism. It was written in the books I read that there will be no poor people in the society so why wouldn’t I follow along!
I became a devout atheist. I read many more books, and I fully understood the ideology of atheism, and began teaching others about a society with no poor people. I joined the youth political movement and did everything I could to support their cause. I graduated high school and entered the University as a fervent atheist.
In 1974, Iraqi President Sandam Hussain had been harboring the Ayatollah Khomeini. For political expediency, Sandam deported Khomeini to France. Once in France Ayatollah Khomeini used his newly found freedom to speak openly about his Islamic Republic Revolution. The Revolution became a reality in 1979.
Khomeini and his Islamic Revolution ideas spread quickly throughout the Middle East by smuggled tapes. The area was becoming radicalized. Here in the Holy Land our political ambitions conflicted with the Khomeini Revolution. I alone stood and said, “We atheists must read the Muslim book of the Quran, so we can build a defense against it. My comrades all agreed I should do it!
I was on an assignment to understand what the Khomeini Revolution stood for and learned quickly that the backbone was the Quran. As I read the book it became clear to me that the god who they were talking about was not a god I could follow. He was angry, evil and vengeful.
My time at the university was one of excelling in my studies. There I met Hiyam, and she became the love of my life and we were married. We have four children and now have added two grandchildren.
After graduation I desired to work in teaching. I knew being an atheist was not popular, so I kept it to myself. Jobs for starting teachers were few and far between so I went many months without income. Then there was an opening at the Christian school in Bethlehem. I thought, “I’m the perfect person for the job.” I was a closet Atheist applying for a job to teach in a Christian School. I was interviewed and accepted as a math teacher. When I signed my contract, it was explicit that as a teacher I would attend every chapel meeting and take turns with the other staff leading devotions.
Two weeks on the job teaching and it was my turn to preach to the kids. By then I had built a solid relationship with the President of the School and he gently loved me into the Kingdom. Every day I saw his love for me, others and the children. That type of man was what I needed to be. When it was my turn to lead devotions in chapel, I used the scripture on love in First Corinthians, Chapter 13. It was the love he showed me, and I shared it with everyone.
When I was finished teaching and preaching in chapel, the Principal of the school told me that I had a special gift from God. He encouraged me to further my teaching and preaching. He said I should enroll in theology classes at Bethlehem Bible College (BBC). I did. As an Atheist, I entered the BBC not knowing where it would lead. I hid my Atheist identity, and became a teacher in the morning, and a student of the Bible at the BBC in the afternoons.
Three months later my heart could not be controlled any more. My brother Isam who had been away studying in Russia, came to visit me. I was excited to hear how the government there had eradicated the poor of which we have so many around us. He was very informative. He said that there were many more poor people in Russia than we had here.
That night I opened my Bible and it fell open to John 12:8 “The poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” This pierced my heart. How could Jesus have known 2,000 years ago that the poor will be with us always. I wasted years of my life following an Atheist dream that could not be fulfilled. There was misery and poor everywhere. What Jesus was saying was that we should look to Him. He alone has the answers.
Then I remembered studying that in 95 AD the Spartacus uprising in the Roman Empire was about the poor. Sixty million people lived in the Roman Empire at the time and twenty million were slaves and very poor. When the uprising was over the poor were still with us as they are today.
How did Jesus know 2,000 years ago? How was He all knowing that he could look into the future? It was 1982 when I was brought to my knees. Then I understood that the Atheism Ideology would always fail. I turned to Psalm 51 (Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness… ) and repented for my transgressions line by line as I read. Line by line I asked for forgiveness as I read the Psalm.
I joined a Church near the Shepherds Field and here I met people from all over the world who were believers in Jesus Christ. I met a man who made a way for me and Hiyam and our new baby to attend additional Bible training in Indiana, in the USA. We were on our way if I agreed to return to the Holy Land to minister when my education was complete.
We left for the USA immediately beginning classes. Sunday morning, we went to a local church in Elkhart, Indiana. It was a large gathering of believers and our first worship experience in the USA. There was a receptionist available to direct us to the proper Sunday school class.
When we attended the directed Sunday School class, we were introduced as visitors and greeted kindly. We stood, and everyone listened as we said we were believers from the Holy Land going to school locally. After Sunday School, an elderly lady approached us with enthusiasm shaking our hands. She said, “Welcome to Indiana and the USA. What a joy to have a Jewish believer with us.” I politely explained that we were Palestinian Christians. Her composure changed. Fear gripped her, and she walked away. Some welcome to America! It was then I knew the Lord wanted us in this church to communicate the love of Christ just as the School President had done for me.
Over time this elderly lady and the entire Sunday School class and the church learned that we are a minority group of Christian believers in the Holy Land. I was asked on many occasions to explain our Christian Heritage and roots. One and one-half months later the elderly lady apologized for her initial reaction and we all became fast friends. Eventually I became the teacher of that Sunday School class. Then I was ordained by the church and became a part-time Pastor on staff as I continued with my studies. Our first daughter was born while we were living in Indiana.
Our time in the USA was ending and the church gave us a wonderful send off. They gave me a plaque which reads: “We have never met a Pastor/Teacher like you.” They sent us back to the Holy Land as their missionaries and their prayer and financial support continues even today.
Being a foreigner in the USA was such a wonderful experience. One of our children was born there which gave us an opportunity through the proper immigration laws to eventually become citizens. We met with all the appropriate officials and some years later returned to Tennessee in the USA for our final year of residency. While there I received a call from a Baptist church in Washington DC. They asked us to join their Pastoral staff while in the USA. We moved from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Silver Springs, Maryland where we pastored the church and studied about America completing our residency requirement in becoming citizens.
When our time in America was complete, we passed the 100-question residency test. After becoming American citizens, we returned as missionaries to the Holy Land. Two of our four children now live in America.
The Lord has been good to us, and through the years I have been able to write many articles, pamphlets and books as a Palestinian Christian.
Today we minister through our church bringing the love of Christ full circle. All because one man took the time to love me into the Kingdom. His Christian love taught me that as believers in Jesus Christ we are all part of the Kingdom of God. Together wherever we are we make up the Church of Christ on earth.
My favorite verse in the Bible is Romans 5:8 “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The Cross means to me that God is love, and that His love is all inclusive. Jesus died for me as well as for everybody else. He wanted to give us eternal life when we repented from our sins and believed that He died on the Cross to save and redeem us.
I believe this Cross planted will tell all who pass by that they are loved by God, and that they are welcome to join us in worshiping our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Father thank you for the Cross and how you chose people to use for Your Glory. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!
Today’s Author: Pastor Bill