Nazareth Baptist School reaches young people of all faiths with gospel

A new school term officially kicked off in September, but the mission of teaching children and sharing the gospel of Christ goes on year-round at the Nazareth Baptist School (NBS).

The only Baptist K-12 school in Israel and the only evangelical school recognized by the country’s education ministry, NBS offers students a great education, said Roger Mardis, president of Friends of Nazareth (FON), a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that helps support the school. But students get much, much more.

“We get to share the gospel with them every day and see many of them come to know the Lord,” Mardis said. “[The school] is an amazing evangelistic opportunity we Baptists have in the hometown of Christ.”

Students from all religious backgrounds are among the more than 3,000 alumni of the school, which began in 1935 as an initiative of what is now the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In 1991 the school became a private evangelical Christian school under indigenous leadership.

“Families want their children to get into the school because of the education,” Mardis said.

But whether Muslim, atheist or Christian, all students at the school attend required chapel and Bible study classes. In addition, students and community youth have the opportunity to participate in afterschool clubs, camps, Vacation Bible School (VBS) and other activities that expose them to the gospel on a consistent basis.

‘Trust the Lord’

“‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God,’ so we give gospel opportunities and trust the Lord to do the work,” Mardis said.

This summer NBS held VBS for three consecutive weeks. On the first day 260 students registered. Week-long summer camps held at the Baptist Village near Tel Aviv also draw some 500–600 students. Both are terrific programs that rely on volunteers, many from the United States, Mardis said.

“Interns and teams from all over the United States and the world partner with us and local believers,” he said. “It’s an incredible opportunity. There are limitations in some places in Israel as to what you can share and evangelize. At Baptist Village, there are no limitations. Eternity is altered because of these camps and VBS opportunities.”

Mardis, a former Alabama Baptist pastor, saw firsthand the great work being done through NBS two years ago when he served on a missions team from Agape Baptist Church, Scottsboro, in Tennessee River Baptist Association. He joined the FON board and began to talk to others in Alabama about the school and summer programs.

He also learned more about the operations of the ministry. Then on Jan. 4, 2018, the board elected him president of FON, a new position that focuses on establishing more and deeper relationships with ministry partners in the United States.

Mardis said he wants to bring “awareness and dollars” to help NBS expand its facilities and its reach. There are many opportunities and many needs, he said, especially for renovations at the school. Recent flooding made some renovations essential. But the school also needs more classroom space. The main school was built to accommodate 250–300 students, and the school has far outpaced that capacity.

Ultimate goal

Mardis said the ultimate goal is to purchase additional property and build more classroom space. The school is licensed for up to 1,800 students, but space makes that number impossible — for now. That’s why Mardis wants to speak to churches, missions conferences and organizations in Alabama and across the United States who might be interested in learning more about the NBS mission and helping the school financially.

“To be able to grow and reach more people with the gospel, we need more campus space,” Mardis said. “We’ve been in discussion with locals for several years to purchase property and we’ve got a spot that would be ideal. But to even begin discussions we need $2 million. We’re not there yet but churches and individuals can help.”

In the meantime, the mission of NBS continues and money won’t slow it down, Mardis said.

“There are incredible people in Nazareth, godly people who love the Lord and have a heart for Christ,” he said. “Sharing the gospel — that’s who we are and that’s what we are about.”

For more information about Friends of Nazareth and the needs at the Nazareth Baptist School, go to www.friendsofnazareth.org. To contact Roger Mardis to speak at your church or missions event, email him at roger@friendsofnazareth.org or call 256-599-6344.