As violence erupted in Israel after a sudden attack by Hamas, two church groups from Alabama find themselves trying to leave the conflict zone. The situation is tense and they are in need of urgent assistance to safely exit the area.
The leaders of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Daphne and Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Vestavia Hills are requesting prayers for their members who are still in Israel during the ongoing conflict.
On Friday, a pastor and a group of church members from Daphne were on a tour in Tel Aviv when they heard the air raid sirens. The Rev. Thack Dyson, who leads St. Paul’s Episcopal, shared in a Facebook live video that the group was just starting their tour when the sirens went off. To ensure their safety, the Israeli tour company Immanuel Tours moved them north to the Sea of Galilee, which is further away from Gaza.
At the beginning of the live prayer service on Facebook, the speaker warmly greeted the audience with a pleasant “Good morning and welcome to morning prayer this Sunday morning in beautiful Galilee.” Despite the challenging circumstances of being in the midst of a war, he acknowledged that it was not what they had originally planned, but they were making the best of the situation.
According to a video posted on the church’s Facebook page, the group departed from Alabama and arrived in Israel on Friday morning. The tour, led by Dyson, was scheduled to conclude on Oct. 18. It is worth mentioning that Dyson has been organizing tours for this group since 2010, as per the tour group’s Facebook post.
Since Hamas first launched rockets and sent gunmen to attack army bases and towns in southern Israel early Saturday morning local time, more than 1,000 Israelis and Palestinians have lost their lives. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, declared war in response to the attacks. In retaliation, Israel has launched air strikes on the Gaza strip, targeting Hamas’ sites, as well as houses and mosques. This latest conflict between Israel and Palestine is rooted in longstanding disputes over land ownership rights.
According to a recent Facebook post, the tour company has reassured its clients that all their current groups are safe. The company is closely working with the Israeli authorities to keep a close eye on the situation and has promised to keep everyone informed as they move forward.
At the moment, there is no clear indication of the number of St. Paul’s church members currently residing in Israel. We have reached out to the church’s representatives for further information, but as of now, we have not received a response.
A group of eleven individuals from Shades Mountain Baptist Church embarked on a mission trip to Israel and are still present in the country at present.
In the Sunday morning service, Senior Pastor George Wright requested the congregation to pray for peace in Jerusalem and for the well-being of the church members.
According to Wright, the individuals are currently present in the midst of everything that has been happening in that area. However, he assured that they are safe, secure, and in a good location. The only thing that they are hoping and praying for is that they can come back home to their loved ones quickly and without any harm.
According to him, their current priority is to leave Israel and secure flights back to the United States as soon as possible.
The location and duration of their presence in Israel remain unknown. The church representatives have not responded to requests for comment on this matter.
In a prayer service shared on the St. Paul’s Episcopal Facebook page on Saturday night around 11 p.m. Central Standard Time, Dyson reassured everyone that the group was safe. He expressed his gratitude for the prayers and outreach they received during this time.
According to the statement given by the person, they mentioned that they are located at a safe distance from Gaza and out of the reach of any missiles that may be launched. They further added that they intend to wait until it is safe to travel back to the United States and are currently unable to do so due to limited flight availability.
According to Dyson, there have been some flight bookings, but unfortunately, there have also been cancellations. He expressed his hope that all travelers will be able to return home by Thursday.
As the members of the room followed along, he recited various prayers from a prayer book with unwavering devotion.
Dyson expressed his unwavering trust in the Lord’s providence and care. He believes that they are in God’s good hands, and he hopes that the people of Israel will also feel the same sense of God’s grace and providence. His heartfelt prayer is for peace to reign soon in that land.