Pastor’s Family Trapped in Gaza Grieves Relatives Killed at Church

Former pastor of Gaza Baptist Church—stuck in Egypt since start of the war—scrambles to evacuate wife and children as they struggle to survive at St. Porphyrius Orthodox Church.

Trapped in Gaza, Janet Maher has not had a shower for two weeks. She feeds her three children one meal a day, often no more than bread and cheese.

Her cousin perished from damage caused by an Israeli missile, shielding his seven- and five-year-old boys from the collapsing wall at St. Porphyrius Orthodox Church. The two families had been sheltering together, and the younger boy was friends with her son in kindergarten.

But amid the horrors of life under siege, perhaps the worst is this: Janet’s husband is trapped in Egypt.

“I feel like Moses’ mother and sister after they put him in the bulrushes,” said Hanna Maher, former pastor of Gaza Baptist Church. “All I can do is watch from afar.”

Born in Sohag in Upper Egypt, Maher pastored the evangelical congregation from 2012–2020. Single upon arrival, he married Janet, daughter of an Orthodox father and Baptist mother, during his first year of service in Gaza. Though he was called to “the hard places,” ministry was taxing—as was navigating the permissions for complicated entry and exit procedures under Israeli occupation.

Since 2007, Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on the 140-square-mile coastal strip.

Every family vacation to Egypt began with the feeling that he should never return to Gaza. But until 2020, each trip ended with Maher’s renewed sense of commitment to mission. That year, he accepted the pastorate at the Presbyterian church in Beni Suef, 90 miles south of Cairo, and Janet—who had always desired to stay close to her extended family—felt at peace.

Maher did not. Three years later, with Janet’s blessing to renew his calling, he resigned from his position, and last May the family returned …

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