After ministering to middle eastern refugees in Athens for 5 weeks, it was time to transition into the second part of our missions trip which was in Israel. We had 3 weeks in the “Holy Land” which was basically an orientation to Israeli culture. Being a missionary you always want to be aware of the culture you’re ministering to in order to communicate lovingly & clearly the intention of your words & actions. In Israel there were many things we had to learn in order for us to express our faith & genuine care due to Israel’s history, especially with gentile Christians.
In Israel we did not refer to ourselves as “Christians” because the word “Christian” has a VERY negative connotation in Israel. Many Jews believe the Holocaust was a Christian movement because engraved on the belts of Nazi soldiers were the words “God with Us” . It is even talked about in their Holocaust museum. Jews also feel blamed by Christians for crucifying Jesus, as well as being criticized and attacked for rejecting Him since the early church. Because of this and the Crusades, the ‘cross’ symbol is also very offensive to Jews . In their minds Christians do not mean them well and do not love them which is an unacceptable reputation that we as gentile Christians need to address and change through brotherly love, kindness & gentleness.
Christians are not very welcome in Israel but tolerated because they bring in lots of $$$ for tourism. HOWEVER, missionaries are NOT welcome- they are considered worse than TERRORISTS because a terrorist wants to kill the body, but missionaries want to kill the soul. We heard this often in order that we would be cautious. There have been cases of missionaries being attacked & persecuted. Even airport security does their best to not let missionaries in. At the airport we were taken aside and questioned & because they found Bibles, which lead to a very intense luggage search and I was even questioned about my name! By God’s grace they decided to let us go.
In Israel we called ourselves “Followers of Yeshua”. In Hebrew “Yeshua” is Jesus and also means ‘salvation’. By saying you’re a follower of Yeshua means that you believe Jesus was the true Messiah and our salvation. The word “Church” also has a negative connotation so we’d say “Congregation” instead.
Israel is only a few decades old since the mass migration of Jews (mainly from Europe) in 1946 after the horror & trauma of WWII. All citizens of Israel are either direct or indirect victims of PTSD. Having PTSD myself, I understand the constant anxiety, frustration, fear, and loneliness which I saw in so many Israeli eyes. I expected Israel to have a Middle Eastern/ Asian temperament but Israeli’s are very close to “Russian” culture- very direct, expressive, intense, passionate, and in the moment. It’s common for a country/people group that has been oppressed to have this “in the moment” attitude because under oppression you don’t know if you will have tomorrow. If you’re angry you shake your fist, and if you feel like dancing you dance. If you want to bring healing to a nation, you need to know it’s wounds & triggers.
As a team we prayed a lot over Jerusalem because we believe in the power of prayer & intercession. Doug and I often carried our guitar & violin so we could also worship God around the city. We prayed a few mornings in the International House of Prayer with an incredible view of Jerusalem. We also walked up on the ramparts and read aloud God’s word and prayed over the city. We hosted a prayer/worship night for local missionaries and another day we lead worship on top of the Mt.Olives which looks overs Jerusalem. A few tourists ended up joining in, and a few others just stayed a while to listen as we thanked Jesus for His mercy & faithfulness over Israel.
In 3 weeks we were blessed to partner with many missionaries and help in a variety of ministries! Here are a few in which we were involved.
- Holocaust Ministry
- We had the great honor to meet with some Holocaust survivors, listened to their stories, played worship songs for them and then our team prayed over them.
- Pro-Life Ministry
- We volunteered for 2 days at a Pro-Life ministry that gave counsel to women seeking an abortion. This ministry would also offer to supply baby furniture as well as a year’s worth of food & clothing for the baby if they went through with the pregnancy. The instinct of a mother is to keep her child, but it’s fear that makes her want to abort. This ministry tries to comfort the mothers and provide these necessities so they don’t have to be afraid. Most of the women they talk to want the baby but are pressured by their partner, parents, or too overwhelmed by their kids. The counselors & the practical help gives them courage. About 90% of women who go to the ministry end up keeping their child. While we were there we helped organize the donated baby clothes (SOOO Cute, it made ME want to have a baby and I wasn’t even prego!), put together food bags, organize/count diapers, and of course pray over the women and the staff ministering to them.
- Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Ministry
- Spent two nights making candy gift bags for a ministry dedicated to share God’s love to IDF soldiers. All high school graduates are required to go into the IDF and serve at least 3 years. These years are like college for Americans- a stage of life you discover yourself as an independent adult and may go a little crazy. This ministry uses sweets & treats as a way of visiting large groups of IDF soldiers and telling them that Jesus loves them- which is most likely the first time they’ve ever been told.
- Street Evangelism
- Praying as a team for people and then going out on the streets and engaging in conversation. As soon as people heard we were “Followers of Yeshua” they were eager to share their thoughts. No one we met believed in Jesus, and their thoughts ranged from “I don’t really care” to “I HATE Jesus!”. Regardless, we had some great conversations and some not so great conversations *see ministry stories* but what’s most important is to be humble, kind, patient, & loving.
- Refugee Ministry
- Playing with refugee children from Ethiopia & Sudan for a week. They were some of the most hyper kids I’d ever encountered in my life!
- House of Victory
- Went to Tel Aviv to partner with a ministry that reaches out to drug addicts, prostitutes & homeless people. Every day they invite people in and serve them a sandwich, soup, the best carrot cake & refreshments (tea & coffee). That day we served 100 people in 3 hours (which was a slow day, I can’t imagine their busy days!). We had a few great conversations during this time and got to pray & encourage a few who were already Christians.
- Manual Labor
- Lots and lots of manual labor (wood cutting, cooking, weeding, moving rocks, washing sheets, mopping/ sweeping, dish washing-etc.) We also did inventory & organized a ministry’s bomb shelter because the reality is that Israel is surrounded by enemies and each home is required to have a bomb shelter in case an attack.
- During street evangelism I tried giving a homeless man cup a noodles and got yelled at. This was so sad because earlier we prayed got a vision of a homeless man pressed up against a hotel vent. We drove around- and there he was, in front of a hotel pressed up against the vent. We drove to a gas station to get dinner (best I could find was cup noodles) but he didn’t want any. I still pray for him every now and then, because God loves him. He must have a lot of pain built up inside to get so angry at a stranger who wants to help. He also yelled at a few people (hotel guests) who stopped to give him money.
- While ministering to the Holocaust survivors after we played worship songs I also played a song I wrote (about Gack/grief/joy) which we all cried to. I got to share a little how God has been my strength & joy throughout grief and that I pray that they would have the same peace & healing. They loved it and it was such a powerful moment for us.
- I got to tell the story of Queen Esther to a lady who made me a crepe.
- Doug & I were asked by our waiter (who saw our violin & guitar) to play a song- so we played the worship song “No Longer Slaves” in a Kosher sushi-pizza restaurant for everyone! haha.
Fun Things because we’re in ISRAEL :D
- We had communion at the Garden Tomb were Jesus was possibly buried and risen from the grave. It was so humbling to thank Jesus for His sacrificial love and amazing grace.
- We walked around the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was betrayed.
- Had a Shabbat meal! *Shabbat, Shalom!*
- Rode Camels which are SO tall and scary! I had to force myself to get on one. Fun fact: I’m more afraid of animals than humans because I can’t communicate with them. :P
- Went to the Dead Sea and floated like I never floated before. We only spent an hour there, but if it were up to me I’d float away forever.
- Read Matthew 5 on the Mt. Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee which is actually a fresh water lake.
- I got baptized in the Jordan River with one of my teammates, Harrison.
- We celebrated Doug‘s 32nd Birthday.
In conclusion, we love Israel and we’re so thankful to God and to you to have had the great honor of going & learning how to minister and pray for this nation that has gone through so much. We do hope to go back for missions in the future. Please keep Israel & it’s missionaries in your prayers.
If you’re interested in supporting the pro-life ministry by sponsoring a baby for a year or sending finances to either the IDF sweets ministry or Ethiopian/Sudanese refugee center please e-mail me and I will put you in contact with the right people. If you’d like to go on a missions trip to Israel and would like to visit some of these ministries I’d also be happy to connect you.