18 September 2014

The Lord of the Harvest

Campsite bomb shelter
Just as several youth were responding to an altar call, an air raid siren suddenly cut into the intimate moment. With only 15 seconds to get to safety, the youth raced to the camp's bomb shelter. Before they were all safely inside, a loud explosion was heard that shook the ground. 

Praise God, no one was injured, but far from home, many of the kids were afraid and upset. The youth leaders reminded them that 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.' (Psalm 46:1). Crammed together in the bomb shelter, the fear began to lift as the youth started to pray and ended up having a powerful time of worship. "We really see how in all this, God has turned a situation of fear and despair into one of encouragement, peace and unity." said one of the counselors.

This all took place during 'Katzir,' a 10 day summer camp for Israeli Messianic youth that was held in the north of Israel. Katzir is the Hebrew word for Harvest. Many of the youth counsellors have grown up attending the Katzir camps and are now discipling the younger attendees. With an emphasis on personal spiritual growth and developing good and supportive friendships, Katzir is preparing the next generation of believers in Israel.

11 September 2014

"The Middle East is not too difficult for our God!"

It is not the easiest thing, even under normal circumstances, to put on a conference for Israeli Jewish and Arab young people together with Arab Christians from Jordan and the Palestinian Territories.  But with a backdrop of kidnappings, murders, riots and a developing war with Gaza - racial tensions were at boiling point.

Undeterred, the organisers of  ELAV, an annual youth and young adult conference held in Israel, trusted the Lord to move in powerful ways and break-through despite the obstacles.  "These young people came carrying a lot of hurt because of all the recent violence here in Israel," said Rick Ridings, the Director of ELAV. "Many of them thought they had dealt with these feelings, but because of the kidnappings and killings they are in pain, on both sides."

Around 900 young people descended on the city of Haifa, to attend ELAV, which means 'Unto Him' in Hebrew.  About 500 Israeli Jewish believers, 300 Arab Christians from Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan and 100 from other nations. Despite their diverse backgrounds, they had one important thing in common: they were passionate about God and expectant to meet with him during the 3 day conference.

Rick Ridings (centre) with a Jewish and Arab Pastor praying
before sharing the Lord's Supper together. 
Instead of opening the event with the usual exuberant time of worship, Rick and his team, felt it was important to begin by sharing the Lord's Supper together. Addressing the gathered young believers, Rick declared, "You, through the Lord, are the answer to the difficulties we are having right now. It is us, the Body of Christ that God uses...God looks for someone who will stand in the gap, the hole in the wall. To build up the wall of protection again. I felt the Lord speak to my heart through a verse in Isaiah 28:6 "God will be...a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate." You are the ones God has called together to turn back the battle at the gate. More than ever before there needs to be the grace for Jewish, Arab, Palestinians and internationals to come together with one heart...We believe first of all, the Lord wants us to take the Lord's supper together and through that to declare into the heavenlies that Jesus is the answer. That we proclaim together that it is his blood, his cross, that has broken down the middle wall of hatred. (Ephesians 2:14) As we take the Lord's supper together we are not just proclaiming it to each other, we are proclaiming it into the heavenlies that Jesus has already won this battle...he has paid the price to heal every wound in our hearts. If you felt a lot of difficult emotions coming up this week, He will bring healing right now as we take his covenant meal together...it is not about us. It is all about him..."

A Jewish Pastor blessed the bread and an Arab Pastor blessed the wine. Together they declared Yeshua/Jesus' victory: The power to break down barriers that divide and to transform fear and hatred into unconditional love. They prayed healing and peace not only for those at the conference, but also that they would bring healing to all around them, and be a channel of Yeshua's life to push back the power of death in the land. "As hundreds of young people came for communion," shared Rick Ridings, "we proclaimed that we would not allow the tensions of the past weeks to pull us apart, but instead demonstrate that:

04 September 2014

Sandwiches in the Park

Your People My People have worked in partnership with Dugit Messianic Outreach Centre in Tel Aviv for many years.  As we have shared before, Dugit has had to temporarily close the Coffee Outreach Centre and put their belongings in storage. This unfortunate action was due to the unwillingness of their landlord to continue their lease because he did not approve of their “activities” - in plain language, he did not approve of his premises being used to share the Gospel!  Closing the doors on the Outreach Centre could have been understood as a hopeless situation, but for the staff, they saw it as an opportunity from God to strengthen and increase their street outreaches.

During the recent conflicts, the staff have looked for creative ways to continue their passion of sharing the love of Yeshua to the citizens of Tel Aviv.  Here is a recent report of how they’ve been getting on:

“Dan, our outreach director, took initiative and began to give food to those who are homeless, spending their daily lives on the streets in the south of Tel Aviv. With the help of some faithful volunteers, fifty sandwiches were lovingly made and prepared for distribution. Afterwards, Dan took these sandwiches out to people who were drunk, high on drugs, or sleeping on the curb side. The sandwiches were well received along with the message that God is love, and Yeshua is the Saviour of Israel! Here is what Dan had to say:

03 September 2014

The Good Samaritan: Arab Style

A group of Jewish and Arab believers in Jesus gathered together on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem recently, to worship, fellowship and encourage each other in their faith - "so in Messiah we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."  (Romans 12:5)

One of the Arab pastors shared about his church's decision "to be the Good Samaritan." They had decided as a congregation to find practical, tangible ways to love the ones that society said they should not love. They started by searching the internet for online arguments that were full of hatred, in places like Facebook and other social networking sites. Wherever they found hatred, they started to "sow seeds of peace". As they commented with loving words on the angry social media arguments, they noticed that the conversations often became more kind and less aggressive.

"So then we decided to take it up a level! We need to live up here," explained the Pastor, raising his hands to heaven, "not down here on earth." The church members decided to collect gifts and toys and visit Jewish families living in Sderot, a city in the south of Israel near the border with Gaza that has been under constant rocket fire. “There are Arabs who love you and want to bless you because of Jesus,” they explained to the families they visited. “Who are these Arabs, and where are they?” asked a single mother, who had not realised who her visitors were. “I’m an Arab!" the Pastor told her. She was amazed. This simple gesture of one community visiting another community with love rather than hatred, so inspired this woman that later, she visited a local Congregation, curious to know about this Jesus who made Arabs love the Jewish people.

Two days later, Arab and Jewish Congregations gathered