In Israel, nearly 500 students are enrolled at two schools affiliated with the Assemblies of God located in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Ross Byars, the schools' founder and superintendent, and his wife, Margaret, a teacher, have been working in the Middle East for about 11 years, since 1982.
"Most of all, we're grateful for the spiritual impact of the schools," Ross Byars says. "Many of the children coming to us for their education are from families who have never heard a clear presentation of the gospel."
The Jerusalem school is located in the northern part of the city, in an Arab community, consisting of three houses converted into classrooms. The school has trained students for 15 years. Now it has a current enrollment of 350 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
In Bethlehem, 120 students in kindergarten through 10th grade attend the 5-year-old school housed in a two-story rented facility with a paved parking lot, playground and spacious classrooms.
The stated mission of both schools is to develop and integrate the intellectual, physical, social and spiritual lives of students so they can fulfill God's will.
"There are schools nearby with better facilities than we will ever have," says Doug Clark, an area director for the Middle East. "These kids come to us because the love of Christ shines through the lives of their teachers. They know we care."
According to Assemblies of God The teaching staffs consist of U.S. teachers on one- or two-year assignments and locally hired personnel. Classes are taught in English, with teachers using the A Beka curriculum. Children study math, science, social studies, Bible, Arabic and English. Classes are held Monday through Thursday and a half day on Saturday. Both schools have gained respect for high academic standards, caring teachers, low teacher-student ratios and loving discipline.
Student tuition and missions giving by individuals and churches in the United States support both schools. Many parents who rely on a thriving tourism industry are having difficulty meeting educational expenses, causing schools to rely more heavily upon missions donors.