JERUSALEM – When Annabelle Twal moved with her family from Switzerland to Jerusalem in 2014, she did not even dream that God would make use of her fluency in German to help start a new work.
After they arrived, Annabelle and her husband, Shahade, took leadership of the Jerusalem Church of the Nazarene, a diverse, English-speaking group made up of ex-pats from around the world, as well as some local Christians fluent in English.
Two of the Twals’ three daughters attend a German school, where the students learn German as a second language. Most speak Arabic as their first language. But none of the other parents speak German, so they are unable to help their children at home with their schoolwork. As some of the parents realized Annabelle is fluent in German, they began to ask if she would tutor their children.
There are 28 children in her daughter’s class, so Annabelle did not have enough time to spend with each of them individually.
Then, a few of the parents, who are nominal Christians – only attending a worship service only once or twice a year – asked Shahade, who was born in Jordan, if he would organize a Bible study in Arabic. They were not receiving faith teaching or discipleship in their traditional Christian communities or churches, but are hungry to know and understand the Bible and God.
It made sense to combine the requests into one weekly gathering.
In October 2018, the Twals launched a weekly German class for the children in one area of the church, while in another space the parents meet to study the Bible, pray and sing simple Arabic worship songs. The meetings last two hours.
About 10 to 14 girls from the 1st through 3rd grades participate in the German classes, which are designed to support what the students have learned in school that week, or to prepare for upcoming exams.
Another woman from Switzerland, who lives in Jerusalem and who is fluent in Arabic, assists Annabelle. They divide the class into two groups so they can give the girls more individual attention. The activities emphasize speaking German, because in school the focus is mainly reading and writing
Each week, the activities include prayer, games, worksheets, simple worship songs, and a Bible lesson in German.
The other volunteer translates the Bible lesson into Arabic from German, so the spiritual teachings are not lost on any girls who are struggling to keep up with the German vocabulary and sentence structure.
The Twals quickly realized that the 12 adults who attend – although traditionally Christian – had never learned even the basics of Christian faith or biblical knowledge.
“On our first Bible study, Shahade saw that this was their first time in an evangelical church,” Annabelle said. “So we started learning songs with them, teaching them how to pray, teaching them about the Bible — how to open it and look for the different books in it. We had to start with the very basic things with them.
“Some of them have never heard or read the story of creation. So Shahade started with that, and then moved on to the first sin. After that, he shared with them why did we need Christ to come. He also started to explain to them who we are as Nazarenes.
“They have really good questions,” Annabelle added. “No one really teaches them how to live your faith.”
At first, only women attended the Bible study, but now most of the men attend, as well.
“Our goal is to share the good news with both the parents and the children, so that they might come to know Christ as their lord and savior; to disciple them so that they might grow in their faith; show them the love of Christ by serving their needs and the needs of their children,” said Annabelle. “Building a relationship with them.”
This article was previously published in the May 2019 edition of Where Worlds Meet.