God in Gaza

How an American Christian of Jewish ancestry is supporting a Muslim family in Gaza

Marci Evans, for Adventist Review
God in Gaza
Palestinian News Agency/October 10, 2023

It was Sunday, January 14, when my phone rang amid the noise of a crowded store. My husband, Dwayne, and I had stopped to buy supplies for an upcoming bake sale to raise money for a destitute family in Afghanistan. As we headed for the checkout, the call came in from Gaza.

“Hello sister, it’s Munther.” I can still hear his thick accent. He was calling with what little battery life his phone had. There was no electricity available and Munther’s phone rarely has much life in it. Normally about every three to seven days he sends a text or audio message on WhatsApp. Yet this time, it was a FaceTime call. I stepped behind piles of snacks to hear his voice. As always, he thanked me for praying for his family and asked me to please not stop. 

As Munther and I video chatted, I could see the abandoned school classroom where he and his wife and two small children were living. At one corner a small fire made with scrap lumber was burning. He described their living conditions. He said there was no electricity, no bathroom, and no clean water. More than 50 people crowded into this one open-air classroom. Approximately 1,500 people were sheltered in the entire school. The fire burning in the corner brought both warmth and black smoke, making it hard to breathe. And as for their diet, Munther described it without complaining. It was simple, plain rice once a day, on the days they ate, that is. And now in winter, the fear of dying from the cold added deeper distress to the fear of bombs. The contrast between Munther’s desperate living situation and the shoppers around me in the store, with carts piled high, was overwhelming. 

“So,” I heard Munther say, “We don’t know when it’s our turn to die.” My heart ached for him, and all 1,500 people living in the school. Lord, is there anything I can do? We had been sending small amounts of money — US$50 here, $100 there — but this was a new level.

As an American Christian of Jewish ancestry, you may wonder how I began to care for this Palestinian Muslim and his family. I’m certain God’s hand was in this. My son-in-law is Afghan, so his people became mine. My husband and I first joined the Love Bridge Projects to support Afghans in need. There I met Munther, who was doing charitable work among his people in Gaza. The Love Bridge Projects is a partnership of Adventists and Muslims that builds feed mills, goat farms, chicken farms, and wells along with supporting schools in different parts of the world.

In the past, Munther and I spoke on the phone and discovered a common desire to bless others and be faithful to God. His story was heart-wrenching. He had lost his brother in the fight with Israel. How would he take it when he found out my grandmother was a Jew?  When I broke the news, he answered unflinchingly, “Well, we are all in this world to do good and to love people, all people.” 

After October 7, I messaged Munther, the only person in the Middle East I knew. The next day, he texted, “Hello my sister, the situation is very critical here in Gaza.” This was the beginning of my prayer journey for Munther’s family and the people of Gaza. Day and night I prayed: “Lord, please provide water, food, shelter, peace; Lord, may they sense your hand.” Many others who believe in the power of prayer have joined in praying for Munther and his family, the people of Gaza and the Israeli hostages.

On November 29, I received an urgent message. “Hello, my sister, the situation is extremely critical here. They will start fighting again after one hour.” It was around 8 p.m. that cold rainy night, and I pulled off to the shoulder of the road to read his message. They were almost at the end of a cease-fire, and bombing was about to begin again.

My friends and I pulled out our Bibles to claim Scripture promises. I thought we should pray for 30 minutes, but Elaine said, “No, lets pray until the cease-fire ends.” Bombing would resume at 9 p.m. our time so we prayed until 9:20 p.m. Less than 20 minutes later, Munther wrote, “Thank you so much for your prayers, it really works, it was at the last minute that they decided to extend the cease-fire.” We saw God in Gaza that night, holding hostilities back for an extra 24 hours!

On December 16, a one-ton bomb fell on the five-story building adjacent to Munther’s makeshift home. In an instant he picked up his 1-year-old daughter before she was covered in debris. He said he had never felt so close to death before, “Thanks God, we are alive, it was the most critical moments in my life.”

After leaving the store that January day, I cried out to God, our Provider, for blankets, clean water, food, and for peace. I claimed the Scripture, “Call to me and I will answer you” (Jer 33:3, ESV). I decided to test a principle I learned from The Autobiography of George Mueller, who in the 1800s supported an orphanage by asking God rather than people for support.

After praying for many miles during my drive home, I texted my friend Gabby to update her. She had also been praying day and night for Munther and his family. She quickly responded, “Yesterday, a gentleman from Maine called me wanting to donate to support people in Gaza but didn’t know how to do it.” Emotion filled me as I realized this was a direct answer to prayers.

I immediately thought about the Bible promise, “Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear” (Isa 65:24, CEB). Quickly others joined in giving. In two days more than $1,000 had been sent for desperate needs. A week later, a Muslim who is in our charity group went to his mosque to ask for help and those additional funds were also sent. 

Scripture fills me with hope when hope seems unreachable. “It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deut. 31:8, ESV).

Munther and his wife and children have become family to me. We hope to meet, to hear each other’s stories. God is teaching me to trust Him. He is using this precious Palestinian family to pull me closer to Him, to draw me into prayer, the place where God teaches me how to really love.

Marci Evans, for Adventist Review