Walls Tumble in Jericho

Julia Oliver cradles “Hannah”, an infant who was abandoned at the front gate of one of India's HIV/AIDS orphanages
Women at the Jesus House of Prayer learn about health care, nutrition and microenterprise so they can express themselves and support their families. Photo by Richard Nash.

The city of Jericho is nestled snugly between Jordan to the east and a mountain range to the west. Since it was first settled more than 10,000 years ago, it has seen empires rise and fall, populations shift and rulers grapple for power. The last 70 years have been no exception.

Since the end of World War II, control of Jericho has oscillated between Jordan, Israel and Palestine. The power struggle has taken its toll on the city's 20,000 residents – jobs disappeared and social problems, such as alcoholism, divorce and drug abuse, escalated.

Few opportunities for employment exist for men. As a result, women are expected to fill in the gap. But earning extra income is no easy task; many women are illiterate and subjected to domestic abuse. Trapped in a cycle of poverty and violence, they remain helpless to respond to their economic and social situation.

The Palestinian Bible Society, which oversees Bible engagement in this area, partnered with American Bible Society to address this problem. Their answer is Jesus House of Prayer, a center that offers the healing power of God's Word, along with practical information to help women take control of their lives. At JHOP, the walls of helplessness tumble for women. They learn about health care, nutrition and microenterprise—information that can help them nurture and support their families. In the process, they begin to understand the character of God who provides for their needs, offers comfort and sparks hope.

A Holistic Approach

At JHOP, staff members embrace all areas of the women's lives. The center frequently hosts health professionals who speak on health issues, such as high blood pressure, flu prevention and the dangers of smoking. Through microenterprise training, which includes creating feasible business plans and teaching women how to obtain small grants to launch those businesses, participants begin a path toward financial independence.

When they achieve success through microenterprise projects, they gain self-confidence and a sense of dignity, JHOP leaders explain. For instance, one graduate of JHOP's microenterprise course received a small loan to resell clothing from Jordan in Jericho. Her example of successful entrepreneurship inspired other women to start their own businesses.

Recently, the center began offering programs for children of the women who come to JHOP. Staff members help the children with homework, teach them songs in English and make crafts. The children—many of whom have been physically or sexually abused—interact with positive adult role models and experience the healing power of God.

Promises Fulfilled

Nashat Filmon, director of the Palestinian Bible Society, often compares JHOP's ministry to the story of Zacchaeus, another Jericho resident. When Zacchaeus wanted to know more about Jesus, he climbed a tree, Nashat explains. The same curiosity about Jesus drives women in Jericho to walk through the white lattice doors of the JHOP center. Their curiosity, like Zaccheus', is not in vain.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told the crowds, “Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matt. 7.7, GNT) As the staff at JHOP work to meet spiritual, emotional and physical needs in Jericho, women receive joy, find hope and see new doors open in their lives. More than 2,000 years later, Jesus still fulfills his promise.

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