As Covid-19 subsides, it feels like the aftermath of a flood. Great relief and yet a sense lingers that nothing will be ‘the same' again. A simple walk around our offices here in Jerusalem is enough to show countless for rent and for sales signs in prime retail locations. Businesses, organizations, and even ministries have been forced to shut down and cease their operations. The losses have been great but there have also been some blessings. We are grateful that through this period we have experienced God’s grace, through which we learned a great deal about ourselves. It remains a difficult challenge for CMJ to recover from the loss of business over the last two years, but we have been given opportunities in this time. The greatest is being discovered by thousands of Israelis. For the years immediately before Covid, the number of tourists in Israel skyrocketed. While it didn’t stop locals from visiting our compounds, it often discouraged them. Now, every day we hear the phrase, from local Israelis and Arabs: “What a wonderful place, we never knew you were here.” This fresh dynamic confronts us with an opportunity and a challenge. Last year (in 2020) we began restoring our guesthouses. We began with the oldest building, Alexander Hall, at our compound in Jerusalem. Partners around the world sent gifts. Thanks to them we completed new baths, water, electrical, structural, and basic decorating of the hall. As a bonus, a new, energy-efficient hot water system will save thousands. Now, Israeli tours come, and we have a growing number of local guests staying a night or a weekend.
We are grateful. And our new Israeli guests often mention how well they slept or how much they enjoyed their rooms. However, we would like to finish the project with some of its finishing touches. The foyer and rooms will serve to showcase CMJs heritage with historical, seminal photographs and artifacts from the House of Industry, hospital, and other historic ministries. It will also be included in the heritage tours of the Christ Church compound and as a testament of CMJ's love, commitment, faith, and, most important, of God’s provision and blessings.
We know that many who share our work and vision made sacrificial decisions to support us this past two years. There may be others who would like to join them. Therefore, I am writing to any of you who would like to help us finish the job. Three needs remain, perhaps the Lord will prompt you to respond to one of them:
1. Five rooms were left unsponsored. Each room required $14,500 to complete. We finished them but had to borrow the necessary funds. We will, over time, pay off it the but it would be a blessing to pay it now. 2. The final step of our plan is yet to be completed. Israeli visitors come to discover how CMJ and other evangelical Christians cared for the Jewish people, helped defend them against anti-Semitism, and assisted in their return to the Land. They come to our Heritage Center Museum to discover this story. The halls and lobby of Alexander Hall date from 1833. Constructed of local stone under their vaulted ceilings, the sense of history is palpable. These spaces can extend our Heritage Centre and its impact upon our visitors. Completing this work includes the restoration and display of historic photographs. Many must be salvaged from 19th-century glass slides and require restoration prior to printing and framing. Each photo costs $500 to prepare for display. Our collection of artifacts (kept mostly in storage for safety) needs custom-built display cases that protect them from deterioration and damage. The cases we need cost $500 to $1500. Explanations must be written and prepared. This investment will more than double the space available to tell our story.
3. Construction in our rooms is finished, but the decoration and fittings are not. Just yesterday I spoke with a restoration architect staying with us. He commented on the wonderful spirit he and his wife spent everywhere on the grounds. “But the rooms’ he said, “fall just short of that same spirit. With just a little more…” he added. We would love to make every guest room a sanctuary that makes their visit to Christ Church spiritually memorable. To add the necessary lighting, purchase new draperies and linens, and replace tired furniture will cost us.
What we have learned is that the buildings we have built, maintained, and promoted as places of gospel light for almost two centuries remain places of blessing.
~ Rev, Dary Fenton. CMJ Israel Director