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IMB transfers Nazareth school to local believers

NAZARETH, Israel (BP) — The International Mission Board has transferred the title of Nazareth Baptist School’s facilities in Israel to the institution’s nonprofit.

Nazareth Baptist School, though started by then-Foreign Mission Board (now IMB) personnel, has been financially and administratively independent from IMB for nearly 30 years. NBS has established its own nonprofit separate from the IMB, with the transfer of the deed bringing the school into full local ownership.

The transfer ceremony took place at the Nazareth school on Dec. 20. Botrus Mansour, NBS general director, described it as a “sweet gathering” of IMB personnel, NBS staff and representatives from the Association of Baptist Churches in Israel.

Among the speakers were Mansour, IMB Vice President of Global Engagement John Brady and current NBS board chairman Najed Azzam. They each emphasized their gratefulness for the school’s long relationship with IMB as well as their eager expectation for the school’s future.

Even with its ties to IMB, the school has always been a largely local endeavor. The church in Nazareth played a large part in establishing the school that has always had dedicated Arab believers on its staff. Over the course of six decades, administration and funding gradually moved more fully under local ownership. The transfer of the land title was the final step.

The beginnings of Nazareth Baptist School reach back nearly 90 years. Southern Baptists had been charged with overseeing Baptist work in the British Mandate of Palestine, and the Foreign Mission Board sent workers to various locations throughout the area, including Nazareth. In the 1930s they helped local believers establish Nazareth Baptist School. World War II brought the school’s operations to a halt as FMB personnel evacuated the area.

Once the war ended, FMB personnel slowly returned. However, civil war soon broke out between Arabs and Jews living in the British Mandate of Palestine. Thousands of Palestinians fled their homes and sought refuge in other cities, including Nazareth. FMB workers and local Baptists in Nazareth established the George W. Truett Home to care for many of the orphans who came to the city. At the same time, they reopened NBS to provide Christian education for the children in the home and for refugee families in the area.

Since then, Nazareth Baptist School has continued to excel as a witness to the Gospel in the educational arena. The national Ministry of Education considers NBS one of the top schools in Israel.

Now at its new milestone, what began as a partnership between national and foreign believers is now “a locally owned and operated lighthouse of the Gospel in a difficult region of the world,” said Dale Thorne, a former FMB representative in Israel who served as the school’s general director from 1967-83.

Thorne anticipates the transfer will enable Nazareth Baptist School to continue to engage in top quality education as well as effective spiritual ministry. NBS hopes to establish more partnerships with churches and Christian schools worldwide to supply financial support, leadership training and ministry opportunities.