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Assignment to Bethlehem connects with Gaza


Palmer Becker (left) with David, a student from Gaza.

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February 13, 2009
Mennonite Church Canada - from reports

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Palmer and Ardys Becker are under special assignment by Mennonite Church Canada to teach and serve at Bethlehem Bible College in Palestine/Israel. Palmer left for a five month term of service on January 10. Ardys will follow on March 15.

Bethlehem is fifty miles from war-torn Gaza. Five of the 70 students at Bethlehem Bible College are from that area of Palestine. Palmer reports, “It was heart-wrenching to watch television with those students or to see them receive cell phone reports from family members or friends saying they are without food, water, and medical supplies.”

John Engel, a representative of the school who visited Gaza Feb. 1-3, said, “The aftermath of the war is even worse than the war itself. Very few relief supplies are getting in.” Students report that if it is available, meat sells for more than $20 per kilo.

“Although the mood is terrible here in Bethlehem,” Becker says, “I feel safe. There is a major difference between the politics of Gaza and the rest of Palestine.”

The school and its service arm, the Shepherd Society, want to move to action as soon as possible and provide free counselling lines for those suffering from trauma. Becker has been asked to assist with the training of the counsellors.

From mid-January until the end of May, Becker will be teaching courses that he previously taught at Hesston College including Leadership, Pastoral Care and Conflict Resolution. His wife Ardys will work in the college library and with the Shepherd Society.

After Palmer retired from teaching at Hesston College in Kansas, the Beckers moved to Ontario to be closer to family.

At the end of their assignment to Bethlehem Bible College, they will co-lead a tour with TourMagination from May 24 to June 3, offering Biblical reflections at the traditional sites of Jesus’ ministry.