Are you wondering what or who the Christian HolyLand Foundation is? Below are some common questions we get when telling the CHLF story of making disciples in the Holy Land.
Who is CHLF and what are you doing in Israel?
The Christian HolyLand Foundation provides full-time support for a Team of local ministers in Israel. The reason for this ministry is found in Matthew 28:16-20, and Acts 1:6-8. For more information about our background, please see the About CHLF section of this web site.
What is the nationality of the Galilee Team?
They are all Arabs by birth, heritage, and ethnicity. And because they were born in Israel, they are Israeli nationals. Because they serve the Christ, they are citizens of the Kingdom of God.
Are they also Palestinians?
Because of decisions made by their families many years ago, most recognize their Palestinian heritage while not self-identifying themselves as Palestinians. However, many of their relatives who remain in Palestinian territories do. In 1948, the new Israeli government gave many Arabs living in the Palestine territories the option of becoming Israeli citizens. Those choosing to remain Palestinian were generally relocated to the areas now known as The West Bank, the Gaza Strip, or surrounding countries sympathetic with the Palestinian situation.
As you may imagine, there continues to be tension within the Arab community between those who continue to fight for a Palestinian homeland, and those who are living in diverse communities as Israeli citizens.
When did they become Christians?
They all come from generations of “Christians.” Some were born into evangelical traditions and have been in relationship with the Christ most of their lives, and some were transformed into “Believers” through spiritual awakenings when they were young adults.
Additionally, there are good reasons to accept that these people and the Believers they lead may be descendents from the Day of Pentecost.That would make these people 'remnants' of the first converts to Christianity.
Aren’t all Christians “Believers?”
No, at least not in the Middle East. The term Christian is used in that culture more to indicate tradition and even political status. They use the term "Believers" to indicate those who have accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, including Messianic Jews and Muslim Background Believers who have turned to Christ and are living in relationship with and for Him.
What is their greatest challenge in doing Ministry in Israel?
In terms of persecution and personal difficulties, they seem to have many troubles from traditional Christians that do not understand their ministry. These often include Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Latin, and other denominational leaders (must of whom bear little resemblance to western Believers that are associated with those same churches). Although the Team has made progress in demonstrating that they just want to teach Jesus, and relations have improved in some areas, these groups tend to create more difficulties for them than do Jewish or Muslim communities.
In addition, the stereotypes created by the actions of some political and agenda-driven Evangelical Christians--particularly in the US--provide 'ammunition' for some of these traditional leaders to make accusations against the Team that are not true. That discourages many people who would otherwise be interested in learning more about the Bible and the teachings of the Christ. The result is all too often an unnecessary territorial battle with accusations of member-stealing and other actions hurtful to the Kingdom.
How do American Christians cause problems for Believers in Israel?
Here is a simple example, and possibly the one faced most often. It is well-known in the Arab community that there are Evangelical leaders in the US who:
- Promote Zionism (a political movement which excludes Arab Believers);
- Embrace without question actions of the Israeli government (which sometimes includes persecution of Arab Believers); and/or
- Send money to help Orthodox and/or secular Jews relocate in Arab homelands, while these same people frequently engage in spitting, throwing rocks, and other violent or debasing acts aimed at the Arab people.
Our concern with these things is not political. The difficultly caused by such actions of Christians from the US--or from other parts of the world--is against the witness within Holy Land. When The Team has an opportunity to speak with strangers, friends, or neighbors about Jesus, too often the response is, "Why would we want to be part of something that is repeatedly hurting our families and our freedoms."
And they are often accused of being affiliated with so-and-so's American ministry, which almost always has a promotional agenda involving politics or eschatology.
We do not necessarily take exception to the political or end-time views of some of these people, but the way these well-intentioned Christians too often demonstrate their beliefs with these hurtful actions and words makes the mission to reach all people for Christ very difficult in Israel.
CHLF is neither against nor for the government of Israel. We pray for and honor these secular leaders, as the Bible teaches us to do, and as we do for the government of the United States.
How do Arab Believers view American Christians?
We do not presume to speak for all Arab Believers on such a difficult issue. However, it is clear that many Arabs are confused in their perceptions of Americans—and particularly American Christians—who support without question the secular nation of Israel and those policies that persecute and subjugate Believing Christians of Arab descent.
What is your position on prophesy and end-times teachings?
We are well aware of the various views regarding Christ’s return. We choose not to advocate one position over another because we have witnessed too many times when an over-emphasis on such things causes division and seems to blind Christians to the task at hand as well as to the plight of Arab Believers living in Israel. Additionally, when one's views of such theories result in the persecution of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ--whether in the Holy Land or anywhere--it causes many questions about the true desires behind such actions and positions.
In short, it is our belief that Christ is coming to gather his Children and we need to be about the work of reaching hearts for Him. But where there is more emphasis on the timing of His return than on the work He prepared for us to do, something is out of balance.
What is the current nature of your ministry?
While members of the Team are individually involved in five 'located' churches in the Galilee region, their ministry through CHLF reaches into more than two dozen towns and villages where they have started many home churches and small groups. Much of their time is spent providing leadership to those groups, including counseling, follow-up with new Believers, ministering to the sick, and more. Within our Team are particular gifts of Discipleship, Teaching, Administration, Hospitality, Evangelism, and seemingly whatever else is needed for whatever the Lord lays in their path. God has been active and faithful in placing the right people with the right gifts in the right situations.
What is the vision of your ministry?
We have hopes and dreams of continuing the planting of more churches, evangelizing more communities, and providing leadership and training for Believers throughout Israel. The Team is also involved in reconciliation ministries between denominations, as well as between Arabs and Jews. We need facilities and more ministry resources but are trusting God’s timing and provision for those things, and continually seeking His will so that this work will always be the result of His desires working through us.
Isn't "HolyLand" supposed to be two words?
Yes, it is. The Christian HolyLand Foundation simply eliminated the space between the two words, and maintained the capital 'L' as a way to differentiate between this organization and others that may sound similar.
Are you a tax-deductible organization in the US?
Yes. The Christian HolyLand Foundation, Inc. (CHLF) operates in the United States as a 501(c)3Charitable Organization [#58-1761917] as determined by the Internal Revenue Service. Documentation is available on request.
CHLF Operates in Israel as a legally recognized Amuta (nonprofit organization) officially known as The Christians Holy Land Association,
C.H.L.A. Reg. #58-046-845-2
How many employees do you have in the United States / Israel?
Before November of 2007, CHLF had no paid staff. From time to time we had contracted with professionals to do certain tasks, such as newsletters, mailings, display preparation, travel arrangements, etc. Because of the greatly expanded scope of the ministry (going from one full-time minister in Israel to six, for example) we re-evaluated the need for professional management in the US in order to provide the support for the Israeli Team that they need to carry out their mission.
John W Samples began working with CHLF as a consultant in 2004, helping to identify pastors in Israel with whom to work and to formalize those working relationships, as well as meeting all the requirements of the State of Israel and international banking. He was hired as the first Executive Director in 2007, and became President & CEO in 2014. Prior to joining CHLF, John was president of Lighthouse Mission Ministries in Indianapolis and was an advocate in merging that homeless shelter with Wheeler Mission Ministries in 2006.
John was a broadcast journalist for eight years, including holding anchoring, directing, and producing roles for radio and television stations in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. He served as Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut's press secretary before moving into the rural electric industry with Wabash Power Association in Indianapolis, and spent most of the 1990s as president and CEO of Jay County REMC in Portland, Indiana.
John accepted the call to full-time ministry in 2000 and served on staff of Southeast Christian Church before returning to Indianapolis in 2002. As a non-profit consultant he has served in interim CEO positions for youth services organizations Outreach, Inc. and Westminster Neighborhood Ministries, and has worked as a lobbyist in both Washington, D.C. and the Indiana legislature.
John is the author of two books, including The Father, The Son, and The Brother's Ghost, as well as dozens of articles in trade and faith magazines. He lives in Noblesville, Indiana with Bobbi, his high school sweetheart and wife since 1974, and they have two grown children.
In 2016, Majd Shufani was brought on board working full-time for CHLF as a Communications Manager.