“I will not replace our school with any other. Here I feel closer to God. We pray, we are told Bible stories. The teachers always smile at us. We are happier than at home.” This was the answer from one little boy when asked what was special about his school, St Aphrem’s, which is supported by Barnabas Fund.
Life is hard for many of the children in Bethlehem, especially in the cold winter months. Some live in homes with no heating or hot water, or in basements without daylight. But at St Aphrem’s they find both physical warmth and loving care from the teachers in a unique Christian setting. One mother explained, “You can feel the joy in the morning prayers; especially these days where we cannot go to church, the school is taking care of the spiritual side as well.”
The school provides vital practical, educational and spiritual support, irreplaceable to the 600 Christian children who attend and their parents. St Aphrem’s charges very low fees to needy Christian families or, in some cases, nothing at all so that even the poorest Christian children can receive a good education.
“You can feel the joy in the morning prayers; especially these days where we cannot go to church the school is taking care of the spiritual side as well.”
Aram able to learn in a Christian setting
Aram, now in grade two, used to be a very troubled little boy. His family is poor and, though they are Christians, live in a Muslim area of Bethlehem where they suffer abuse from their neighbours. Aram’s behaviour became so extreme that he was in danger of being taken into care. But St Aphrem’s accepted him on to the school roll, and brought his mother to school too so she could learn how to help her son more effectively. The school also provided transport for the family to go to church every Sunday. Aram is now quiet, attentive and learning well, while all the family have benefited from being much more amongst fellow Christians.
Practical and spiritual support for devastated Marielle
Marielle’s father was used and deceived by some local Muslims, ending up in huge debt because of the way they exploited him. The result was devastating for the family, and especially for little Marielle who was greatly distressed and had to go and live with her grandmother for a while. But St Aphrem’s cared for the whole family, and now Marielle is back with her mother, who has found work as a cook so she can support her daughter. Marielle is thriving at school and doing very well in her studies.
“The school is our refuge”
Bethlehem, a city very dependent on the tourism industry, was hit hard economically by the coronavirus pandemic. The Christian minority are especially vulnerable as many used to be employed in the tourism industry and suffer discrimination from the majority population.
During this difficult time, the school had to close during lockdown. But the staff and pupils pray continually for the care of the Lord Jesus, and the school is providing help, healing and wholeness. One father told that, “In times of trouble and worry, the school is our refuge.” Thankfully, no children have been affected by Covid and none of the teachers have been seriously ill. “It is the protection of God,” commented one teacher.
Project reference 65-420