September 17 – 19, 2021
In our last news update and appeal for support for ReBridges’ second Carthage Partners Summit in Tunisia, we posed the question: WHY CARTHAGE? Well, we return with a resounding answer! People were baptized, encouraged, and edified. They came for prayer, praise and worship, fellowship, bible study and much needed rest and recuperation. In total, fifty local pastors with their wives and children attended the Summit held at a hotel and conference center on the shores of the Mediterranean!
But Tunisia is complicated. Despite being praised as one of the most progressive and open societies in the Arab world, the Tunisian government walks a fine line between allowing Islamic expression to flourish while allowing, with restrictions, Tunisians new-found interest in the Gospel.
Equally challenging, because there are so few Christians within the 99-percent Muslim majority, outside of the dozens of scattered home churches in the region, they virtually have no opportunity to gather with other Christians for worship, fellowship, and teaching of the Word. All of which they found at the unifying Partners Summit!
However, we experienced a heavy police presence on the grounds of the hotel. When they heard loud and joyous worship led by renowned Arabic worship artist Ziad Shihadeh of Canada, we were told we could not meet as an entire group nor worship aloud. So, we met in smaller groups and praised and worshiped God silently. One of the pastors was taken in for questioning but was later released.
Shaken but not discouraged, Summit participants were inspired by speaker Dr. Andrew Brunson with a most timely message. He shared his testimony of being imprisoned for two years in Turkey because of his Christian faith. He talked about a number of important lessons and spiritual insights he gained in prison. He said that part of maturing as an authentic believer is to let go of the urgent need to have answers for why we go through great pain. “There’s an intimacy with Jesus that only comes with testing. Hardship produces a deeper friendship,” he said. In prison, “I wanted to be like a sunflower tracking the Son from dawn until dark.” He said “The pursuit of God shapes the heart. We are commanded to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength which includes times of extreme testing.” He challenged listeners to be “wave starters”— starting in Tunis. He exhorted the audience to be intentional about loving God, especially through periods of ‘unfelt grace.’
In special ministry to the women attending the Summit, three of ReBridge’s team members, Raeda Haddad, trauma counselor Norine Nicholson, and therapist Robyn Nicholson led discussions and offered counseling.
Despite many obstacles, God is building His church in Tunisia and elsewhere in the Arab world. ReBridge connects followers of Jesus with local, proven ministries in the Middle East and around the world: for the advancement of the Gospel, for the relief of those in need, and for the discipleship of those who get involved.
Already, we are planning for our next Carthage Partners Summit, and a more permanent footprint in the name of Jesus with his blessing! More news about that later. Many thanks to all who made Carthage Partners Summit 2021 a tremendous success!