Nazareth Baptist School, which was started by Southern Baptists in 1935, serves about 1,000 students in K–12. It is the only evangelical school in Israel, and the dream is to expand to reach more students.
Photo courtesy of Roger Mardis

Nazareth Baptist School leaders anticipate expansion opportunity

By Hamilton Richardson
TAB Media

Nazareth Baptist School, an 86-year-old institution in the community once home to Jesus Himself, continues its growth, reach and impact despite sometimes difficult circumstances.

The school, started by Southern Baptists in 1935, is recognized for “stellar academics,” noted Roger Mardis, president of Friends of Nazareth, a nonprofit that supports the school through financial and volunteer mobilization.

NBS serves approximately 1,000 students in its K–12 program, though it’s licensed for 1,800. Hundreds are on a waiting list, Mardis said.

As president of FON, Mardis helps get the word out about Nazareth Baptist School in the U.S. He said the school is out of space, and his organization has been working diligently to raise funds for expansion in order to make a larger impact on the community.

‘Rising generations’

“It is the only K–12 evangelical school in Israel,” Mardis said, adding that the reason the school needs to expand is because of what happens there: “We share the gospel every day,” he explained. “Our purpose is to build the rising generations, glorifying Jesus Christ through distinctive Christian education.”

In early 2018, Mardis began his tenure as FON president and has been focused on raising funds for that future expansion.

“I work daily to bring interest and awareness to our school in Nazareth and seek to create partnerships with churches, individuals, schools and other donors,” he said. “I work with our team to raise funds for our ministry needs in Nazareth.”

Mardis, who was a pastor for 36 years prior to joining the nonprofit, also organizes the “ambassador program” FON uses to reach out in the U.S.

Through this networking effort, he explained, “We have created new partners, worked with new schools and begun an ambassador program. We said, what if we involved lay people that can help us network and grow the ministry?”

That was exactly what FON did, and although the program started with a few people who had been touched by visits to Nazareth, the effort quickly grew. Currently there are 15 ambassadors reaching out to churches, pastors and faith-based groups about the school.

With dreams for expansion growing, NBS hit a surprising snag in 2018, though not a manmade one.

Some four years ago, plans for growth were diverted when NBS was put on an “earthquake-prone” list for Israeli schools, hospitals and public buildings.

Mardis explained that a fault line runs through the area, and after a minor quake near the Sea of Galilee, the school had to prioritize earthquake remediation plans over any kind of immediate progress.

“The government began looking at schools and other buildings, and we ended up on that list. It’s an aged building, and it needs constant upkeep. The safety of our kids is priority,” he said.

God has been gracious to the school, and funds needed to complete the remediation were provided, Mardis said.

But the dream of expansion to meet the needs of more children in Nazareth is as strong as ever.

“To date, no additional land has been secured, though the school is always praying, looking and dreaming,” Mardis said. “In God’s timing, He’s going to provide us with the space.”

Friends of Nazareth has continued to be active, even during the tumultuous past year, raising much-needed funds to support NBS. But Mardis also used his time in a very specific way — he published his third book, “Peaks and Pits — How the Land of the Bible Reflects the Life of a Believer” (see below). All proceeds from the sale of the book support FON’s work at Nazareth Baptist School.

For more information about Friends of Nazareth, visit friendsofnazareth.org. To contact Mardis directly, email roger@friendsofnazareth.org or call 256-599-6344.

Mardis’ new book explores ‘peaks and pits’ of life

The COVID-19 lockdowns were difficult, but the quarantine gave Roger Mardis time and opportunity to write another book.

The book — “Peaks and Pits: How the Land of the Bible Reflects the Life of a Believer” — encourages believers in the U.S. but also will help bring much-needed funds to Nazareth Baptist School in Israel. Mardis is president of Friends of Nazareth, a nonprofit that helps support and fund the school. All book proceeds go straight to NBS.

“In Deuteronomy, God told Moses and the Israelites, ‘The land I’m leading you to is one of mountains and valleys,’ ” he said.

In writing the 30-day devotional book, Mardis incorporated a past sermon series called “hills and valleys” and drew on his many experiences visiting Israel.

Mardis currently is involved in local church “Peaks and Pits Days.” He preaches on a peak and a pit, encourages the church and shares about the ministry.