Shalom in His peace.
We are excited and energized by new ministry opportunities in 2020! Allow me to quickly share some thoughts on three trends in Jewish ministry that profoundly impact our work and that we believe will lead us forward in new and dynamic ways!
Three Significant Trends
An increase in congregations and believers in Israel
When I first went to Israel as a believer in Messiah in 1976, there were fewer than 500 Messianic Jews living in the land and just a handful of congregations, especially Hebrew-speaking ones. There were some Jewish believers who survived the Holocaust and a few who had moved from North Africa to Israel, but most of the believers were not native Israelis. They had come to Israel as believers from other parts of the globe. Some came to be part of the great Israel experiment and others came to serve the Lord in the Holy Land. Now, 70 years later, there are more than 150 congregations and upwards of 25,000 Messianic Jews, most of whom came to the Lord in Israel.
In fact, I believe we are in the midst of a second-generation outpouring of the Spirit that has transformed the national Israeli Messianic body within the Holy Land. This movement of the Spirit has also transformed our ministry in Israel. We continue to reach younger generations of Israelis along with hundreds of elderly Holocaust survivors whom we have served for more than twenty years.
This second generation of Jewish believers were born in Israel, speak Hebrew as their first language, were raised in Israeli schools, and served in the Israeli army. They are young, bold, Israeli through and through, and willing to give their all for Jesus the Messiah!
This is the reason we continue our Living Waters mentoring seminar each year and why we have a newly rented center in the greater Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. Each month, we organize outreach Sabbath dinners, concerts, café nights, Bible studies, reading groups for mothers and children, and so much more.
New ministry opportunities among traveling Israelis
We are also reaching post-army Israelis by meeting these wonderful young adults in places like the Upper West Side of New York City or on the South Island of New Zealand. We are also meeting them in India, Australia, Germany, South America, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China. Additionally, we are about to open up a permanent mission station in Brazil to reach these young Israelis. We are sharing the gospel with them as they hike, over a BBQ, during hummus nights, through late night chats, or while enjoying a lovely meal of traditional Chinese cuisine!
We engaged with 3,000 Israeli travelers this year, and we will be meeting more in 2020! Let me share a couple of stories:
“The Lord gave us such a wonderful surprise last weekend: an opportunity to host Idan.* Within 30 minutes of his arrival, Idan asked, ‘Why do you host Israelis?’ We love this question because it is such a catalyst to a deeper spiritual conversation with our guests. For the next two and a half days, our conversations about Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, were frequent! We quickly realized we were not the first to share with him. The reason our conversations were possible is because Idan was processing questions from the conversations he previously had with other Christian hosts. On the morning he left, Michael shared his testimony as well as the words of his very first prayer as a believer. We were able to give him a Hebrew New Testament as well as a copy of Isaiah 53 Explained. Please pray for Idan as he continues to stay with other believing hosts in New Zealand!”
—Teresa and Michael, New Zealand
“Today I got an unexpected phone call from our Israeli friend, Tom, who wanted to congratulate us on our baby girl. Carissa and I met Tom on Christmas Day 2015 at the Shelter on the Lake where we were serving and sharing the gospel with backpackers from Israel and around the world. Those three weeks we spent in Bariloche, Argentina, were transformational. I got to teach my very first Bible lesson for seeking Israelis…on Christmas Day! We saw that hiking, rock climbing, and camping are strategic opportunities for sharing the gospel. We gained experience applying what we learned in Bible school. We stayed up until 2:00 or 3:00 AM many nights with Israelis talking about spiritual things.”
—BJ and Carissa, Backpacking Ministry
An increasing openness toward Jesus and the gospel among Jewish young people
We are surprised by the great numbers of young Jewish people from all over the world who are responding to our social media and Facebook ads, as well as engaging with our new campus ministries. A Barna survey revealed that Jewish millennials (aged 23–38) are more open than their parents to the possibility that Jesus is both Messiah and God in the flesh. We also discovered that the majority of the more than 10,000 Jewish people we met online through our digital outreach campaigns are younger. These efforts include our Isaiah 53 Explained Facebook campaign in the United States and in Israel, as well as our I Found Shalom video testimonies broadcast on YouTube and other social media platforms.
I am also very excited about our new residential outreach ministry at New York University called The House of Living Waters. NYU has the largest concentration of Jewish students in the United States. We chose four young men to live in an apartment across the street from the campus, and they are actively engaged in sharing the gospel with dozens of Jewish students. They also collaborate with and train Christian students to share the good news with their Jewish friends.
Some of the conversations these godly young men are having are just wonderful:
“We met Isaac,* a young freshman photography major in nearby Washington Square Park. He was drawn to the Hebrew literature on our table. We showed him prophecies related to Israel and then had him read Isaiah 53. He was not sure who it was about, but, on reflection, he said it seemed like it could be Jesus. We asked him what he thought that would mean, and he said that if his family understood this connection they would not be happy. We gave him a copy of Isaiah 53 Explained and received his email address. Hopefully we will be able to meet with him in a few weeks and hear his thoughts about the book!”
“We met Eitan,* a young performer in Washington Square Park who sang us a song. We talked a little bit about I Found Shalom and what shalom is, and he expressed interest in receiving a book and making time for coffee. We had coffee the other day and began building a rapport with him. He is not particularly interested in spiritual things, but he said that recently he has gained more respect for the Jewish traditions of his youth. We gave him a copy of Isaiah 53 Explained and asked him if he would like to come to a Sabbath dinner, and he said that he would really enjoy that! We are going to invite him for the Sabbath in the next couple of weeks, and hopefully he will come!”
All of these opportunities and the openheartedness of a new generation give me incredible hope for the future of our ministry. Such new horizons build my faith in the Word of God where Paul tells us that the day is coming when “all Israel will be saved…” (Romans 11:25–29). However, we know what we need to do until that great day. By God’s grace, we must preach the gospel and be faithful to the unchanging message of God’s grace through Jesus the Messiah.
With love and gratitude for His faithfulness and yours,