Nazareth Village

Part of the Nazareth Trust
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New Potter’s Workshop moulded into our famous biblical tour

Pottery was so common in the biblical period and pot shards are fundamental in dating archaeological sites from all periods of human habitation. Since the Bible speaks of the potter and clay and applies the image to spiritual lessons, we thought that a Potter’s Workshop would be an ideal addition to the tour at Nazareth Village.

At the beginning of this year we commissioned an archaeological team to do research for us and explored together where would be best to build the facilities associated with a potter. During the summer, our least busy time of year, we began building. The work was mostly done before the heavy rains of winter started.

Alongside the workshop, complete with potter’s wheel and drying shelves, we built Settling Pools where the clay mixture is made; and also a large and a small kiln or oven for ‘firing’ the clay, after which it can be used or sold.

The Bible is rich with significant passages relating to the potter and clay. The word for potter is related to the verb “to form” – such as when God “formed” man in Genesis. One may even say that God shaped man “from the dust of the earth” with his hands as a potter forms clay. Isaiah applies this metaphor to the whole people of God: “But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

When Paul speaks of God’s choice of the elect he applies this same metaphor to illustrate it: “Does not the potter have power over the clay; from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (Romans 9:21) Did you know?

We are delighted to be adding the new Potter’s Workshop to our tour. Please pray that it will help bring visitors closer to the life Jesus would have known and to the words of the Bible.

Did you know? Today Nazareth Village has 40 members of staff and about 10 volunteers who help mainly with guiding visitors from around the world in different languages. In 2018 we welcomed nearly 120,000 visitors through our gates. This year, we have seen another increase with over 86,000 visitors in the first 9 months already.

Nazareth Village staff bless refugee children with back-to-school bundles in Jordan

Upon receiving a gift designated for staff enrichment, Maha, our Nazareth Village Director decided, “that since God chose to bless our staff with this gift, we ought to think about how we as a team can bless others.” She reports how plans unfolded. 

Our staff decided that the money should be used to help fund a weekend trip to Amman, Jordan. But rather than simply focusing on having fun sightseeing and team-building, we also wanted to use our time to help the children of Christian refugees from Iraq living in Jordan. 

Most refugees from Iraq are Christians escaping murderous persecution, but there are also refugees from war-torn Syria in Jordan. Unable to find work legally, these refugees struggle to provide for their families while their children do not have the right to state education in Jordan. 

One local church has been responding to this need by running a school for refugee children. We had already been supporting their families by selling artistic goods that they produce in our Nazareth Village Gift Shop. However, this was a wonderful opportunity to do more. The church leaders explained the biggest need for these children was basic school supplies for the upcoming year and food for their families. 

So, we started planning fun activities for our visit to the children and fundraising for school supplies. In the end, the office supplier who we approached for “back-to-school” materials made a generous donation of 60 backpacks, drinking bottles and pencil cases. One staff member personally bought sets of coloured pencils to add to the gifts. It was amazing to see how God gave us more resources with which to bless the refugees, enabling us to better serve them. 

When the time came, 29 of us (staff and spouses) set off for Jordan and on the way to Amman stopped to run a 2-hour mini-camp for the refugee children. We showed them our Nazareth Village children’s video, which explains life in the First Century and the story of Jesus. Our staff then guided them through the rest of the activities in smaller groups, including fun outdoor games and teaching a worship song in Arabic, English and French, as well as face-painting and dressing up in first-century replica costume. The children also took photos with one of our ‘villagers’ and we made sure the organisers had copies for them. There were many hugs for our staff from the children and much laughter. 

At the end, we gave each child a new school backpack, drinking bottle and a filled pencil case. With the $3,000 our staff had raised, we were able to give a food hamper with supplies for two weeks to each child’s family. What a wonderful opportunity this was for us as staff in a Christian organisation to put our faith into action and see the provision of God, who supplied above and beyond what we originally hoped to bring. This combined holiday, staff-development and ministry trip was a first for the Nazareth Village staff and we are praying for more opportunities like this to show the love of Christ in action. 

Each day at the Nazareth Village brings new reasons to give thanks as we grow in our ministry. The number and variety of our guests amazes us, as people from all the world’s nations stream in. As our already-mature institution continues to break records for visitor numbers, we look forward to expansion, in both our village and through a new Discovery Center that will strengthen our ministry. Our thriving community is deepening its witness in Nazareth, becoming a site where local Arab Christians, Messianic Jews, and believers from all over the world collaborate to tell about the life and teachings of Jesus, and thousands of local guests see our new vision. As our tent widens, we see God at work among us, and give thanks.


A Foundation in God’s Kingdom

For almost a century, the ground that is now the Nazareth Village was an empty field owned by the Edinburgh Medical Mission Society.  Then, in 1994, a local Arab Christian doctor shared his dream with an American missionary to have a place where people from all over the world could see the “living stones” of Jesus’ life and teaching. These two gentlemen approached the EMMS, and they generously granted the land for use to develop this vision. However, no one could have anticipated what would be discovered on it. During excavations on the land, archeologists found watch towers, water channels, terraces, and a wine press (in which they found Early Roman Period pottery shards, making it nearly certain this press was in use around Jesus’ lifetime). Along with an influx of volunteer and donor support, the blessing of our discoveries made us certain of our mission – to help guide visitors to follow Jesus.


A Thriving Witness

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28). Every day, we can attest to the Great Commission’s fruitfulness.  We constantly see the results of Christian witness, with disciples from every nation pouring in and coming to see, taste, reflect, and learn. Our guides lead tours in twelve languages. In 2015, 60,000 visitors saw our lovingly-crafted village and learned about life in Jesus’ time. By 2018 we have nearly doubled to over 100,000 guests! Our many enthusiastic repeat visitors and the warm testimonials that we hear after the tour and see online suggest that our word-of-mouth growth will continue, and we cannot wait to see what coming years bring.


A Bright Future

To meet the challenges of growth, we are expanding both our village and our welcome facilities. The village is growing, with research and construction of a potter’s workshop coming along well. However, our most exciting change is yet to come – this year we hope to break ground on a new Discovery Center. The center will allow us to accommodate and educate even more visitors with entirely new museums, lecture space, and media capacity, as well as expanded access to our tour grounds. This will be the first building that we own and will enable new levels of engagement with our guests. {To learn more about this and ways that you can help, find out more here.


A Broad Tent

At the heart of our ministry is the committed, passionate, service-minded work of followers of Jesus from many traditions. Local Arab Christians from various churches, Messianic Jews, long-term residents from the U.S. and Europe, and numerous short-term volunteers run the village together every day. Our collaboration is a testimony to God’s love at work in the world, and visitors notice what God is doing, through us, together. Because we can draw on and minister to such a variety of Christians, we are able to witness the Spirit’s activity in exciting ways. One exciting movement in recent years has been the development of our special Christmas and Easter program, which see thousands of local people from Nazareth and the surrounding area streaming into the village, many unfamiliar with stories of Jesus’ life. We are delighted to teach scripture in this context.

Ultimately, it is this growth – knowledge of scripture, and through it, our risen Lord – that is most important. We exist to help people encounter God, and seek him where he is found – in Jesus of Nazareth. Every single day, we are thrilled to see our visitors grow in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of scripture. This is why we are here — we hope you will join us!