The last time we were in Israel, we got to meet Eric, the outreach and evangelism director serving at Dugit's coffeehouse, HaOgen (The Anchor). Here is his story...
How did the Lord lead you here to serve at Dugit Outreach Ministries?
Well, funny story. I actually found Dugit before making Aliyah [immigrating]. So, when I came to Israel, I went to Tel Aviv and went looking for them. I loved their mission of being “fishers of men.”
But after arriving in Tel Aviv, I spent about half an hour trying to find the place, and discovered I hated Tel Aviv—and wanted to get out of there!
A year and a half later, I got a new job and found myself looking for an apartment in Kfar Saba (twenty minutes northeast of Tel Aviv). I had been in touch with a guy through a mutual friend back in Georgia, who offered me a room in his house even though we had never actually met in person. I agreed and so he sent his sister-in-law to pick me up and help me move.
A few weeks later I was talking to my friend in Georgia, and shared with him that I was living with his friend. He told me that this friend is the leader of a congregation and that he is married to the daughter of Avi and Chaya Mizrachi from Dugit in Tel Aviv.
Long story short, I met Avi shortly after, began dating his youngest daughter (who is now my wife), and joined the ministry.
What do you like best about serving at Dugit?
My greatest joy is working with the people. I get to be a fisher of men. I get to meet people from all walks of life, and to witness God’s redeeming power.
How did you come to know the Lord?
Growing up in a Jewish family in Georgia, my brothers and I were seen as “different” and we had to deal with a lot of antisemitism. Even though we tried to blend in the best we could, I was always proud of being Jewish and as a child dreamed of going to Israel at age 18 to serve in the IDF.
But instead of the IDF, I chose competitive bodybuilding. This path led me into some dark times but looking back I can now say that God was already coming after me. He would place Godly men in my path at the gym who always encouraged me, were always full of joy, and always talked about Jesus. Since they were older, I wanted to be respectful and let them say what they wanted.
Fast forward five years and I found myself on a surgery bed needing a hip operation. It turned out to be a birth defect that was exacerbated due to my heavy weightlifting and my heavier than average body weight. After the surgery, the first thing the surgeon told me was that I had the hip of a 90-year-old woman. If I continued doing what I was doing, I would need two hip replacements by the time I was 40.
Suddenly I found myself in an identity crisis. For the past five years, my identity had been my appearance. I was known by my muscles and my success in competitions and in the gym. All my life I excelled in various sports—always earning first place or being the best at whatever it was I was doing. Now I was aware of my limits, recognized that my strength was not like it was, and realised I had to reevaluate the direction of my life.
Then one of these men from the gym came to mind. I had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to reach out to him. It had been about 6 years since I last saw him in the gym and wasn’t sure if he even remembered me, but something led me to send him a message anyway. He responded and asked to meet with me that evening.
As we sat together, he began to share with me the goodness of God in his own life and the way God filled the role of a loving father—something he didn’t have through his childhood or youth years.
And then there came this moment for me, as I sat across the table from this grown man with tears in his eyes, and I became jealous of what he was telling me. How can he speak of my God this way as if he knows more about him than I do? Isn’t God for the Jews, and Jesus for the Christians?
He looked at me sitting there, pondering these things, and told me that I could have it too. I asked him, “How?” He began to share who Jesus is, what He did for us, and told me that if I repent and believe in Him, I could also enter into this relationship with Him. And so that night I decided to follow Yeshua.
Eric along with other Dugit staff reach out to Israelis with the hope and peace of Yeshua (Jesus) through a coffee shop ministry in the centre of Tel Aviv.
If you would like to support this ministry DONATE HERE and note your gift is for "Outreach".