First Baptist Church of Rahway, 177 Elm Ave., Rahway, New Jersey 07065 is a multi-cultural congregation that has a Blended English Service on Sunday Mornings, a Latino Service at 12:00, and a Service in Telugu at 3:30PM. For more information, call (732) 388-8626. Or click here to send an email. If you wish to help the Mission and Ministry of First Baptist financially click the Donate Button.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Blessings and Tragedy



Lots of bad things going on lately. The reactors in Japan are still leaking radiation. Many victims of the earthquake and tsunami have not been found, their families homeless. Libya is such a mess I don’t like reading about it. Our soldiers spread around the world in various wars and we at home keep wondering when it will all end.

So I pulled out this essay I wrote in 2006. It still seems very relevant today. The main character of my story continues to lead the Boy Scout troop. Slowly, doctors have repaired much of the damage from the car accident. He looks better, and is more functional. He has many more surgeries to go, but he is still very positive.


When I first met our Scout Leader, I couldn’t look directly at him. He had been burned from head to toe in a car accident. His face was mauled and his left arm was not functional. It took me several months to get over the willies whenever I saw him. Every once in a while he has an operation to correct something. He needs a lot of correcting. He has a bump on his forehead that he covers with a hat. He must have hit his head on the steering wheel. He took his hat off the other day… all I can say is I hope the doctor’s can help him.

I’m telling you this to show you how much suffering our Scout Leader has been through. And how much more suffering he has yet to face. But he is amazing. He comes to Boy Scout meetings, which is where I met him, and volunteers to help the boys with their badges. He was just up at Boy Scout summer camp chaperoning last week. He never complains and he is never down. If I were in his shoes I would be paralyzed with depression. But he is living his life. The tragedy that occurred hasn’t stopped him from doing the important things. And one of those things is helping the boys at his old scout troop. He is amazing.

And do you know why I say he is amazing? Because this 20 year old man is surely blessed. He is blessed because he is living a blessed life in the midst of tragedy. Now many people will disagree with that statement because most of us understand blessings as; health, wealth, and a long life. But there are many people who have all of those and don’t live a blessed life. I remember reading a quote from J. Paul Getty that said how miserable his life was. He had reasonably good health, lived a long time, and was fabulously wealthy, but he said he was never happy. And when I read about his family troubles, I could see why. His bio is not a life of blessing.

Job says this in the midst of terrible suffering: I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God (Job 19:25-29). Even in the face of disaster, Job knows that God is with him. The trials of life prod us to look into the light which is already shining within our hearts. I believe our Scout Leader has found the blessing within, because he is a blessing to those around him. Others have not looked and so do not find this blessing despite health, wealth, and long life.

I pray for our Scout Leader regularly. I pray he will be healed. It will take a miracle. But I think a miracle has already happened, it’s just not so obvious. It’s the miracle of finding the blessings of God and sharing what you have found with others.

God bless you,

Pastor Bill Whitehead

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pray for Victims of Schizophrenia

Snow Drop

My sister in law has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Please pray for her and others who suffer from this terrible illness.

(From the Mayo Clinic)

Schizophrenia is a group of severe brain disorders in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking and behavior. The ability of people with schizophrenia to function normally and to care for themselves tends to deteriorate over time.

Contrary to some popular belief, schizophrenia isn't split personality or multiple personality. The word "schizophrenia" does mean "split mind," but it refers to a disruption of the usual balance of emotions and thinking.

Schizophrenia is a chronic condition, requiring lifelong treatment.
To read more…

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Understanding God and Science


I like The BioLogos Foundation; an organization that tries to bring together science and faith. I like them because I’m an amateur astronomer and I see it as studying how God made the heavens and the earth. To me it’s fun and challenging. However, it is also fraught with conflicts that appear unresolvable. I’m trying to find a way to resolve the conflicts and so are the BioLogos people. If this subject interests you below is an excerpt from an explanation of what they believe and how they are trying to understand how God created everything.

The development and advance of science have allowed us to discover more about the universe. Such discovery results in an increasing accumulation of scientific truth. For believers, these discoveries must ultimately be compatible with the truth that is revealed in the Bible, and it is the conviction of BioLogos that this compatibility is not only desirable but also possible. The limitation is that our access to all forms of truth, including scientific and religious, is at best partial.

Read more…

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Armagost Family in Japan


John writes: “How deserted lies the city once so full of people…. All her people groan as they search for bread… This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears.”(Lamentation Chapter 1)

I just got back from a trip up to a small part of the earthquake-tsunami area. First impression was that there was less structural damage caused by the earthquake than I expected in this area, but where the tsunami hit it was heartbreaking. It was too painful to take some photos.

Our main task was to make contact with pastors in the area to assure them that we are praying for them, preparing support for them and to assess their needs. Because of the shortage of gasoline, we had to limit our trip to the Sendai area, while the whole area affected by earthquake-tsunami covers more than 300 miles up the coast from Tokyo.

We received a warm greeting from Rev. Yamada when we stopped at the “Holy Light” kindergarten, which is part of the Shiogama Church ministry. Rev. Yamada and his family moved from the parsonage to the kindergarten so that they could keep in contact with the 300 children and families who are part of the school. The kindergarten had some small damage from the earthquake. Water from the tsunami however reached the front steps of the Shiogama Church, leaving a coating of mud on the parking lot, but doing no damage. Even if it had been destroyed, as so many other buildings were, it is still just a building and can be replaced. It is the people we were concerned about.

Here is what we know so far. All of the Japan Baptist Union pastors are safe. While buildings did suffer damage none were lost completely. We also know there are church members still missing, and some are confirmed dead. We still have limited contact with several churches in the more rural areas farther north.

Finally, you know of the concerns over the nuclear power plants. It has become disaster upon disaster with the ripples spreading across Japan. It is both heartbreaking and frightening. However listen to these words of Jeremiah, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam.:22-23)
The Lord is able and willing to work through the church here in Japan, and through you and your church. Your prayers are important! Thank you.

Please know that we Armagosts, while hurting for others, are safe and far from the disaster areas. Your prayers help sustain us. Please keep the Hwang family and Roberta Stephens, our fellow IM missionaries, in your prayers. They are in Yokohama and are feeling some of the ripples from these disasters: shortages of food, rolling black-outs, and lines for gasoline.

The Armagost Family are American Baptist Missionaries in Japan. To learn more, click here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pray for Libyan Refugees


From Samaritan’s Purse International Relief

More than 302,000 people have fled the fighting in Libya in the past month, crossing the Egyptian and Tunisian borders in a desperate attempt to escape the mounting violence in the embattled country. Transit camps are housing thousands, some of them women and children, who are in need of food and other assistance.

With the vote to impose a no-fly zone over northern Libya, an international coalition launched air strikes on Libyan Government forces. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that only 15-20 percent of Libya’s migrant workers have left the country to date, but they expect that to change in light of the recent military activity.

Samaritan’s Purse is working alongside local partners, providing meals and other aid, and bringing desperately needed help to thousands of people.

Our staff in Tunisia reported that the population of the refugee camp there continues to decrease and is now at approximately 5,500 people. We continue to serve more than 3,800 breakfasts daily. To date, we have provided some 53,200 hot breakfasts.

Samaritan’s Purse partners with an organization to provide meals and love in a camp along the Tunisian-Libyan border

In Egypt, the team has distributed over 21,500 parcels containing food and clean water, and 800 kits with hygiene items and baby food. Refugees going across the Egyptian border have reduced dramatically in the past two days and the majority of those crossing into Egypt are not being detained at the transit camp. Our partners continue to monitor the situation and remain ready to respond if necessary.

Rebels are fighting to oust long-time Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi from power, inspired by protesters who toppled authoritarian rulers in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt. The Libyan uprising, however, has already proved much more violent. Since Saturday, the United States, Britain, France, and allied nations have taken military action to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya and to protect civilians from Qaddafi's forces. Witnesses report that intense fighting continues in the country, and Qaddafi has promised a "long-drawn war."

"This remains a fluid situation, and it is possible that we could see increased numbers cross the border," said a Samaritan's Purse partner in Egypt. "Please pray for those who are still seeking refuge from the volatile situation in Libya, that they would make it safely to the border."

In response to the refugee crisis, Samaritan’s Purse quickly mobilized personnel and resources, and dispatched staff to Egypt and Tunisia to serve with our local partners in the relief efforts.

Please pray for the people who are suffering along Libya's borders, especially that they will come to know the Savior through our acts of love. Pray for the safety for our staff and partners, and for God to direct us to people most in need of help.

(Samaritan’s Purse is also helping people in Japan, Haiti and Northern New Jersey. Click here is you want to help.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Japanese Flee Nuclear Cloud

Janet Chismar and Trevor Freeze, Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusade

When Ken Isaacs got on the train from Tokyo to Osaka last week, he couldn’t find a seat. Thousands of people were fleeing the city in fear of possible nuclear fallout. On his return trip, the train was virtually empty.

As the Vice President of Programs and Government Relations for Samaritan’s Purse, Isaacs is working closely with BGEA Associate Director of Asian Affairs Chad Hammond in a joint effort to bring help and hope to hurting people following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Reporting by phone Thursday, Isaacs said that the nuclear cloud was keeping him cut off from his team to the north in Sendai.

CNN reported that close to 200,000 people living within a 12-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – the hardest hit of several nuclear plants affected since the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami – had been evacuated. Authorities banned flights over the area.

According to public health officials in Japan, the nuclear fallout can cause both immediate and long-term health problems, including radiation poisoning and cancer. FOX News reports that low levels of radiation have been detected well beyond Tokyo, which is 140 miles south of the plant, but hazardous levels have been limited to the plant itself.

With emotion choking his throat, Isaacs spoke about the hardships the Japanese people are currently facing. “The nuclear disaster is consuming the nation,” he said. "We are in uncharted waters.”

The 747 cargo jet carrying 93 tons of disaster relief supplies that left Charlotte, N.C. at 1 p.m. (Eastern) arrived at Yokoto Air Force Base at 5:30 p.m. Saturday (local time). The U.S. military unloaded the plane in less than an hour with the items being warehoused overnight before being flown into Sendai on Sunday.

“A couple of hundred churches dot the northern part of Japan,” Isaacs said. “The average congregation is 20 people. The churches themselves don’t have the capacity to do distributions, but they are strategic in terms of Kingdom building. This effort is building their reputation and respect.

“People will never forget that the Christians came.”

Supplies will be given to displaced people living in public shelters, said Isaacs, who has led recovery efforts for approximately 25 years and described the damage as worse than Haiti in some ways.

Nearly 13,000 people are dead or missing and several hundred thousand have been left homeless from Friday's earthquake and tsunami. Cold, snowy weather in parts of the Asian nation further heightened the hardship of a nation facing what its leaders call its biggest disaster since World War II.

Isaacs is calling on the Christian community around the world to continue to pray for the recovery efforts. Here’s some ways you can pray specifically:

• That Japan’s military will be able to assist the team from Samaritan’s Purse and BGEA transport 93 tons of supplies that arrived Saturday from the airlift.

• For wisdom from the Holy Spirit in all decision-making.

• Continued favor with Japan government officials.

• For much-needed fuel (for trucks).

• For protection from radiation.

• For the people of Japan, who are very fearful and anxious.

• That people will come to see God’s love in spite of their suffering and in the midst of their suffering.

"Despite the challenges our team is facing in Japan, we have much to be thankful for,” Isaacs said. “Please join us in praising God for the help of the U.S. military, Japanese government officials, and local Christians. Thank Him that our charter flight arrived safely in Japan. Thank Him that our team has remained safe and healthy."

Prayer for Japan on Facebook

Donate to Samaritan’s Purse Japan Relief Fund

Monday, March 21, 2011

Crash: Disaster Relief in Japan

Tokyo, Japan – March 21, 2011 – As relief efforts to help local communities and churches intensify more than one week after the quake, hope is still strong for survivors and their loved ones as fresh news of rescues and reunions filter through. Okamoto Hiroshi, pastor of Ishinomaki Bible Baptist Church in Sendai, was feared lost when contact was cut following the tsunami. “No one had been able to locate him,” said Tim Cole, a missionary in Japan whose parents planted the Ishinomaki church. “The tsunami decimated the area they were living in.”

After repeated attempts to make contact, Pastor Okamoto was located by a CRASH Japan relief team. “They went and found him,” explained Cole. “Miraculously, his house was one of the only ones in the area not affected.” Acting quickly at the time of the quake, Pastor Okamoto was able to drive around the houses of his congregation and rescue those living in low lying areas. Taking any who needed help to higher ground, Okamoto’s church, which stands on a hill, is now home to both his family and his congregation. A third team left from the CRASH Japan command center in Tokyo today, ready to deliver assistance and support.

CRASH Japan team members were also present to witness survivors being pulled from the wreckage of their home in Sendai. Attracted by the shouts of emergency workers and those trapped in the house, Ken Ito and others saw Sumi Abe, 80, and her grandson Jin being rescued despite days trapped in the freezing wreckage of their family home. “We’re working with local pastors and I personally went round local houses asking what they needed,” said Ito. CRASH Japan’s sustained efforts to reach those most in need continue, with resources still desperately required to help relieve the crisis unfolding in Japan.

To Learn More...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Growing Old Gracefully


Nature and Boy Scout Camp go together. I spent a few days with the trees and the bugs, the beautiful lake and the golden sunsets, songs in the dining hall and skunks under the tent platforms. It was like going back in time to younger days when I could be filthy dirty from head to toe and no one would care. I volunteer when I can as a chaperone with our local scout troop. And I enjoy living under the trees with the boys – relaxing this 40 year old body – getting in touch with nature and experiencing the peace of the natural world.

Nature is beautiful but nature can also be cruel. We have been blessed with these wonderful bodies, given great natural abilities, allowed to develop and hone our skills. Then we slowly age. At one time I could run and jump like Michael Jordan – sort of. Now, I’m closer to Porky Pig. I don’t know why it works this way. If it were my choice I should be able to do the things I used to do when I was younger. I would want everything to stay the same – always. But unfortunately, this is not to be. For me, getting in touch with nature at Boy Scout Camp also meant getting in touch with aging.

My scouts entered an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. It is kind of a cross between football and soccer. I played this game a lot when I was younger, so I volunteered to help the boys. I was their coach – I organized the teams and gave them basic strategy. Then at one point I entered the game, just to see if I could still play.

Now I had just turned 40 and I am in excellent condition. I exercise and I haven’t gained any weight since college. So I figured I could still run with these boys and teach them a thing or two about this sport. So I entered the game and everything was going well. I felt good, I felt strong, and I was looking sharp. I felt as if nothing had changed. I felt young again, and I was stomping on those little pip squeaks. Then, as we were nearing the goal we lost possession and the boys turned and ran in the other direction. Something happened to me that had never happened before. The game passed me by. These young people stopped on a dime, turned, and left me eating dust. It was at that moment that I realized I’ve lost my former speed and quickness. I no longer have the explosive first step that I formerly used to get open and keep up with the action. I now know how Michael Jordan feels – I used to be able to play this game.

These young people may have an advantage over me in the physical arena, but I still have a lot going for me. I have something that only time and experience can give, I have wisdom. I have learned a great many things over the years, things that only come through the difficult process of trial and error. And as the experiences have accumulated I have learned many hard and valuable lessons. I have become a stronger and wiser person as a result of this. There is a wonderful story in the Bible that I believe captures this concept of people growing wiser with age. It is the book of Ruth and it is only four chapters long, and it can be read in one relaxing evening.

In the book of Ruth Naomi uses the wisdom that came with age to fulfill God’s plans for her, Ruth and all of the people of Israel. The wisdom that Naomi uses does not only come from experience, it also comes from God. The Bible frequently points to God as the source of wisdom. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline (Prov 1:7). The book of Proverbs talks about wisdom being a gift from God to those who seek after it. In fact it says that true wisdom comes only from God. And what I mean by true wisdom is that important ability to know which decision is right in God’s eyes. So we could say that Naomi’s wise choices came from God. And that everyone who seeks after righteousness – everyone who wants to do what is right in God’s eyes – will receive the wisdom to do God’s will.

I may be slower but I’m wiser, and my wife tells me I’m more handsome (HA!). I may be older but I have grown spiritually. I may be slowly declining physically but I am also slowly becoming closer to God. I have been given so much by the years, none of which I would ever give back. So let the aches and pains come, let the game pass me and Michael Jordan by. I look forward to growing with God in wisdom and in age. I am ready for everything that God has to give.

(I wrote this ten years ago, and I feel that it has aged well over time.)


Pastor Bill Whitehead

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pray for Japan


CRASH (Christian Relief, Assistance, Support, and Hope) volunteers in Tokyo are mobilizing to provide aid to victims of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck the northeastern coast of Japan on Friday, March 11, 2011 at 2:46 PM.

The earthquake was the largest in Japan’s recorded history, resulting in a series of tsunami that reached heights of up to 23 feet and caused widespread damage. The Tohoku region was hardest hit in the coastal cities of Sendai and Fukushima, where hundreds are confirmed dead, and thousands are still missing.

CRASH Japan, working closely with JEMA (the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Association), has a large network of experienced volunteers who know the culture and language. CRASH Japan’s 24-hour fundraising goal is $100,000. In the last few years, CRASH leaders have coordinated relief efforts in China, Haiti, Indonesia, New Zealand, and other major disaster areas.

Missionary Phillip Foxwell recently returned from CRASH survey work in Takayama, Sendai, where he grew up. Foxwell spoke of the disaster: “All I can say is there is devastation beyond anything I've ever even imagined…Absolutely everything is wiped out—every single building, every single home.”
Foxwell added that “the situation is so much worse than the news is even showing. It’s like being in a warzone, and I can’t wrap my head around it. There are a few years of work to do here.”

CRASH team reconnaissance from Iwaki and Ibaraki confirmed that there is still a great need for water, even though many relief groups have already supplied it. Stores in many areas of Tokyo are completely sold out of bottled water due to panic-buying.

Millard and another person are departing again Tuesday night with a van and $9000 in supplies: fresh fruit, toothbrushes, hand sanitizer, batteries, a butane stove, diapers, baby milk, etc., and another group will follow on Wednesday. “We’re trying to get a truck tomorrow,” Millard said.
If there is enough gas, Millard and his team hope to make trips every few days.

To read more…

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Our Youth Group Made the Local Paper

A visit by a Rahway Police officer was covered by NJ Today.

Read the Story Here...

Christians Mobilize to Help Japan


The strongest recorded earthquake in more than 100 years struck off the coast of Japan on March 11, causing horrific damage to the nation’s northeastern region. The 8.9 magnitude earthquake triggered a massive 23-foot tsunami that washed away homes, cars and ships and triggered dozens of fires. The city of Sendai bore the brunt of the twin disasters. Government officials say the estimated death toll reaches into the tens of thousands.

Another concern looms as two nuclear reactors exploded in Fukushima Daiichi and Daini after cooling pumps were destroyed, sending clouds of white smoke into the air. Officials declared a "nuclear emergency" amid fears of radioactive fallout. Some 200,000 residents are evacuating as a precaution. Authorities are also distributing potassium iodide tablets to help protect against thyroid cancer from radiation exposure, officials said.

Christian organizations based in Japan are using social networking sites coordinate relief efforts. One Christian group led by Jonathan Wilson has activated a team of volunteers using Facebook. Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope (CRASH Japan) is working closely with JEMA (the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Association), to coordinate a large network of experienced volunteers who live in Japan and are familiar with the nation’s culture and language. Leaders are currently setting up a command center in Tokyo with bases in affected areas.

Continue Reading…

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kodiak Baptist Mission

In 1867, when Alaska was purchased from Russia, Reverend Sheldon Jackson visited the new territory and was appalled by the condition of the children. He became Commissioner of Education and urged the creation of denominational schools. In 1886, Ida and Ernest Roscoe, she a missionary and he a teacher, arrived in Kodiak and saw the need for a refuge for children. By July 4, 1893, when they had erected a building on Woody Island and the first orphan was taken in, Kodiak Baptist Mission was born. After two devastating fires, in 1937 the mission was moved to Kodiak Island.


Friday, March 11, 2011

A Christian Praise Song from Egypt

A Christian Hymn from Egypt. This is from a public Christian concert by Ayman Kafrouni and Maher Fayez, but the one singing is Maher Fayez.


praising praising praising to Jesus the greatest god
praising praising praising , his glory fills our life
your kingdom has no limits and satan's ways are blocked , reign of the son will be up on us

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pray for Christians in Egypt


Yesterday I posted a link to a hopeful story about Muslims and Christians working together in Egypt. Today, there is a story in the NY Times about a church burned to the ground and fighting breaking out between Muslims and Christians in Egypt.

Pray for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East who are struggling to survive the craziness that has engulfed the region.

Read More…

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Muslims and Christians Work Together in Egypt


Two weeks after President Mubarak left office, tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in the now-famous Tahrir Square for what they called a "Friday of Cleansing and Protecting the Revolution."

Right in the center of the demonstrations, Muslim Sheikh Reda Ragab and Coptic priest Father Khazman walked hand-in-hand through the square, welcomed by warm applause and cheering from protesters chanting "Muslim and Christian, we are all one."

Sheikh Ragab addressed the massive crowd, saying, "We came here today to show the world that there is no sectarian strife … " And the crowd chanted in response, "The time of strife has passed." 

Read More…

Monday, March 7, 2011

King’s Children Home, Belize


Belize is a popular vacation spot in Central America. I’ve been wanting to go snorkeling there for years. It’s also home to the King’s Children, a home for orphan kids outside of the capital city, Belmopan.

Read more…

Friday, March 4, 2011

Kids for Christ in June


Kids for Christ2011

Faking Illness Online

An amazing article from The Guardian, telling us about the peculiar habit of some people to fake illnesses on Internet Forums. If you are like me and you do ministry online, or are considering the idea, you need to read this article. Fakery has always been a part of the World Wide Web, but Christian Ministers and Missionaries are extremely vulnerable to this behavior.
Read the Story.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pray for the Arab World


DALLAS (BP)--As a battle-weary Royal Air Force navigator flying over the Middle East during World War II, young Finlay Graham looked down and asked God to show him where he might serve in peace after the war.

God answered that prayer. Graham, a tough Scotsman with a deep and abiding love for the Arab people, went on to serve nearly four decades in the region. He became Southern Baptists' first missionary to Lebanon, a gifted Arabic scholar and translator, and founder of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut -- now a center for training Baptist leaders from throughout the Arab world.

Continue Reading

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Uncertain Future for Libyan Christians

BEIRUT (CNS) -- Christians in Libya are afraid that a takeover of the country by Islamic fundamentalists, should leader Moammar Gadhafi fall, would threaten their safety, said a Franciscan priest who has served in the North African nation for seven years.

"Under Gadhafi, we've been protected," the priest told Catholic News Service from Rome Feb. 24, eight days after leaving the country on a pre-planned trip. He asked not to be identified so as not to jeopardize his return to Libya.

The priest said he left Libya the day before a revolt against Gadhafi started in the eastern city of Benghazi. Because plans for the protest had been announced days beforehand, tensions rose between Gadhafi supporters and opposition leaders, he said.

"I didn't expect so much to happen," he said, referring to the rapid escalation of violence that left at least 300 dead and more than 3,000 injured.

The uprising is the most recent and most violent in a tide of protests against autocratic leaders in the region. Gadhafi rose to power following a coup in 1969.

One of 13 Franciscans serving the apostolic vicariates of Tripoli, the Libyan capital, and Benghazi, the priest said it was difficult being away from the parishioners he serves during a time of distress.

"At this time I feel I should be with the people. I could be a support to them. Even though we wouldn't have access to a lot of communication, we could be in touch with one another somehow," he said.

Communication with Libya was nearly impossible as the opposition gained new supporters in western areas Feb. 24. Internet and mobile phones were blocked; telephone lines operated sporadically.

The Franciscans are assigned to St. Francis Church in Tripoli and Immaculate Conception Church in Benghazi.

There are no native Christians in those areas, but about 50,000 to 60,000 Christian migrant workers, mostly from Africa, work in Libya.

After attempts over several days, the priest was able to reach Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, apostolic vicar of Tripoli. The bishop reported that the priests, nuns and most foreigners were "safe and sound," but remain frightened, the priest said. Obtaining food and medical supplies was difficult because shops were closed, he said.

While most foreigners were being evacuated, leaving the country poses a dilemma for migrant workers. Many fled an unstable environment in their homeland and often do not have the necessary identity papers. The priest said the Franciscans were working to help the migrants through their country's embassy and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

In addition, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Feb. 23 that Israel would allow 300 Palestinians living in Libya whose lives are endangered into areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

Describing religious practice at the Franciscan missions in Libya, the priest said, "The Libyan government has given complete freedom to the Christians to practice our Christianity."

The government recognizes five dominations of Christianity: Roman Catholic; Coptic; Greek Orthodox, Anglican and the Union Church, a Protestant church in Africa, he said.

Aside from the two parish churches, Mass can be celebrated in hospitals and at private companies where Catholic work, the priest said. Priests and nuns also are allowed to visit inmates in prison to provide spiritual counseling and emotional support, he said.

Because Friday is a non-working day in honor of Muslim prayers, the churches celebrate five Masses for Africans, Indians, Filipinos, Eritreans and Koreans, the major migrant communities in Libya.

On Sunday, a national workday, the priests bring the Mass to the people at sites ranging from hospitals to oil rigs. Working on a rotating schedule, the priests travel from 15 miles to 745 miles to celebrate Sunday Mass.

While the police and government security know the priests minister only to Christians, the priest said, "We are always observed wherever we go, whatever we do," seemingly as a precaution that they are not converting Muslims.