*The following profile feature was written within the context of COMM-220 News Writing in the Fall of 2018.
By Eugine Arrey
As one visits Bethel on a Sunday morning, the luminous white walls inside the building quickly attract the eyes releasing bliss and comfort to the heart. The heavenly and lively melodies flowing from the vocal chords of the singers produce overwhelming joy and satisfaction in the atmosphere. This is one of the most solemn places. As the pastor preaches and encourages the believers with words from the Bible, the smiles and relief on the faces of the people beam like the early morning sun. One thing that cannot go unnoticed is the number of people who wait behind after the service to meet the pastor one on one for counselling, to offer appreciation to the pastor and request prayers from him. I had to sit down with the leader of this powerful establishment to learn more about Bethel Parish.
The beautiful Christian sounds playing from Pastor Abeiya Elijah’s laptop speakers quickly break the tension between us in the room and make the office the perfect arena for such an interview. The humility, passion and sincerity from his words vividly show why the churchgoers choose Bethel Parish. According to Pastor Elijah, Redeem Christian Church of God (RCCG) – Bethel Parish Nicosia is full of youths since Bethel is a place of self-discovery for them: the youths encounter God there and in that way, they find that better side of their lives to lead. “The name Bethel means a place of divine encounter,” Pastor Elijah explains. “A place where destinies are being transformed for His (God’s) glory.” He cites cases where the church has intervened to prevent some youths from committing suicide due to pressure, hardship and confusion experienced in Cyprus. For years, Bethel Parish has not only been a place of worship to these many Africans but also a rescue home for asylum seekers. This is because Bethel also offers high quality non-governmental services to them. Those who attend Bethel Parish say it is more than a place of worship as they find their hope and confidence renewed there.
For the church to attain their goal of empowering and assisting the youth, the pastor explains that the church has put in place different departments such as the Choir to train and direct singers, the Prayer and Intercession Team to teach people how to pray and also pray for those in need. There is also the Technical Department that has been set up to teach youth how to use software programs as well as operate cameras and other equipment for proper audio and video broadcasting. Most importantly, there is a Welfare Committee in charge of offering people financial assistance, job opportunities and food.
Following one Sunday service at the church, some churchgoers shared their experiences with me. Anderson Erina from Cameroon who has been fellowshipping at Bethel since 2016 confirmed that Bethel Parish gave him free shelter for more than four months before he got his own apartment. The job he has today is also thanks to the assistance of the same establishment. Samuel Ezekiel from Nigeria stated that he found the right path to his life when he got to Bethel. “My life would have been a waste and my destiny destroyed if not for Bethel Parish,” he said.
To the many foreign Africans either from the African continent, the United Kingdom or other parts of Europe living in the island of Cyprus, finding a Pentecostal church of worship like those of their home countries in an overwhelming Greek Orthodox state like Cyprus is like digging deep into the ground to find a precious mineral. As the African community of Cyprus swells in number, situating a Pentecostal place of fellowship like that back home can be a great achievement and relief for an African in a largely Orthodox country. Bethel Parish has so far been successful in shaping the lives of young Africans in Cyprus with the gospel of Jesus Christ it preaches, the counsels Pastor Elijah and the other active leaders of the church give and the vital assistance the church offers to make Africans’ stay in Cyprus comfortable. As more Africans from the African continent and elsewhere come to the island, it is of prime necessity for them to be aware of a church and establishment like Bethel Parish that they can treasure as a place of worship and a home away from home.
However, Pastor Elijah makes it clear that Bethel’s services are not limited to Africans only: “God is not a God of a particular people or race, Bethel Parish is for everybody”. It is true that Bethel secures accommodations and financial assistance as well as nourishment for many stranded African immigrants on the island but a few Cypriots also attend the church. Bethel is for all. “In 2019, Bethel’s main agenda is to make sure that the nationals of Cyprus experience the impact of Bethel”, the pastor explains. The church experiences some challenges like the lack of acceptance by most of the Cypriot population and the lack of support from the government to help the establishment reach its goals. With the Republic of Cyprus as a strong Greek Orthodox state, all must see the extent to which Bethel’s target to reach more Cypriots too will be attained.