Holy Land carvings on sale at Sidmouth Church

Sidmouth curate comes to aid of Christians in Bethlehem

A VISIT to the Holy Land by Sidmouth curate, the Reverend Angie Gammon, has led to Sidmouth Parish Church helping a couple from Bethlehem.

The church will sell Nativity scenes and other items carved from olive wood by local craftsmen, as part of its mission to support fellow Christians in Bethehem.

During her recent visit there, Angie met with Claire Anastas and her husband, Johnny, who ran a flourishing gift shop in central Bethlehem, including the popular religious wooden carvings.

When, in 2002, the Israeli government began erecting its security fence to prevent Palestinian terrorists from entering their country, it sliced into Bethlehem, cutting off access to the main road to and from Jerusalem.

The 30-foot high wall snakes around the Anastas’ home on three sides, isolating it from much of Bethlehem.

Their retail shops were forced to close once the area became a dead end with no tourists.

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Johnny ran an auto-repair shop, but business dwindled and local woodcarvers lost an important outlet for their work.

Angie said: “It was heartbreaking to see this family trying to survive in the shadow of the wall only feet from their front door.

“They had pulled together to build the shop and home and their future looked bright.

“Then within a short time all their dreams were shattered.”

Now some of their hand-made olive wood items are being sold through the parish church leading up to Christmas.

Examples of the work, including crib scene figurines and tree decorations, can be viewed after the 10am Sunday services and ordered for delivery before Christmas.

The carvings will also be available during late night shopping on Friday, December 3.

Claire Anastas told the Herald: “We will be blessed from God when we could have Angie Gammon’s visit and interest in our situation.”

She said they prayed for a change in their situation and produced a Nativity with a removable wall so “even if they closed in front of our life and destroy us, we opened a small door were Jesus Christ was born.

We believe in God’s help. He will bring us people to be in our life to help in our strugglings.”