This year has been a busy year – We are thankful to the Lord for all the work among both Jews and Arabs, in Israel, the surrounding countries and beyond. The work is growing and the gospel is being spread. We have had lots of volunteers coming from many different places and backgrounds throughout the whole year and also quite a few groups who came to join us in evangelism for a week to ten days. It hasn’t been a year without problems though and I have been picked up by the police on a few occasions here in Israel for evangelism. However, every time I have been released without charge and the work continues. Next year in February, I still have to go to court about what happened in Akko in 2008.
Work amongst the refugees
The weekly work amongst the refugees in Tel Aviv continues to go well. At the beginning of the year there were many Nepalese there, but the demographic changes quickly in that area and at the moment we are seeing many Sudanese Muslims coming to speak to us. Many of them are homeless and without warm clothing and we are currently trying to find a way to assist in their physical needs as well as speaking to them about their spiritual needs. We distributed food and blankets for the homeless in Tel Aviv during the Christmas holiday season. There are also many refugees from Eritrea and several hundred each week are entering into Israel. We have printed many thousands of New Testaments and there is a need to print more. We also need Bibles in Tagalog and also Hindi and other Indian languages. We also have a need for Arabic NTs; we have given out many thousands this year. We give them out at the University, to the Sudanese Arabic speaking refugees and we often drive to the Samaritans on Mt Gerazim and hand out NTs and DVDs on the way. Very few refuse and most are happy to receive the NT (Injil). Ramadan is a great time also to evangelise Muslims as we offer a free gift for Ramadan
We have started to go down to Eilat in the South and work with a local church in the city, once every two months and we have had wonderful opportunities in giving out lots of literature to the Sudanese and Eritrean refugees. We drove around in the area, and spotting the Africans, offered them books from the van. The last time we were there for two days and ended up going out on six missions. In Eilat we met some Muslim missionaries and were able to present the gospel to them.
Bombemella Festival (New Age festival)
In April we attended the yearly Bombamella festival and Rachel, a full time volunteer here at VITW, shares her experience below.
An account by full time worker Rachel
Allow me to relate an experience that I (and our team) had at a New Age festival where we went to do evangelism in the spring of 2010. There were about twenty thousand young people camping out at the beach. It was a festival where engaging in immoral activities was expected. Drugs, alcohol, sex, you name it… We soon found out a huge anti-missionary campaign was expecting us and they were prepared for opposing all of the various teams from the local churches that were present. They were a group of Orthodox Jews who literally stalked our every step and move, trying to silence us by warning those we spoke to about the lies that we were spreading, and taking the books off of our “victims” to burn. It was a bit oppressive to say the least – one of the most challenging three days I’ve ever had in Israel. I think we felt more keenly than ever before the hatred towards us for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. One of the afternoons I turned to the girl who had been assigned to follow me for most of that day, and requested that we communicate a little. I asked her what it was that we were doing that bothered her so much more than the unrighteous acts of her own people who were all around us. Almost in tears, she explained that it was from her love and a need to defend the Jewish people in guarding them from being converted to Christianity through the “lies” of the gospel. This is a quote from her; “Something about the message of love and grace that is in your New Testament gets into the souls of people and changes them.” Wow! The confession of the power of the Gospel from her own lips! I spent about half an hour with her and was able to clarify some things about the gospel. It is sad that she had been brainwashed by many. Despite the opposition, we had many other opportunities to share with people. In some cases it even helped us as they drew curiosity from others about what we actually believed. Overall I believe it was worthwhile time spent where seeds were sown. We pray that they would be watered and God would give the increase.
Evangelism during the festivals
During the 7-days Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth in Hebrew), there are many festive events happening in the country. We went to a theatre festival, Acre Festival, which took place in the alleys of the Old City of Acre annually. There were many people there to watch the street performances. We paired off to go to the streets to give out Arabic New Testament and Hebrew literature. It was a fruitful 2-day work, working alongside with a Baptist church in Acre who owns the only Christian bookstore in one of the alleys. I saw the man who has wanted to bring me to court last year for doing street evangelism in this same festival. He was not as violent as last year as there were policemen who intervened. On another occasion, we went to the March in Jerusalem organised by Christian Zionists (who don’t believe Jewish people need the Gospel) to give Hebrew literature and were again disturbed by Orthodox Jews. They attacked me and I ended up being taken to the police station, finger printed and photographed as a criminal. Just before my arrest, several thousands of Christians from all over the world were marching and declaring their love for the Jewish people and how that God was with them. I told one of its participants if you love the Jews, you should give them the gospel as God is not with them because they are still unbelievers. He is gracious to them but they need to accept the Lord as their Messiah.
The women’s ministry house is going well. We have had several referrals from a several organisations as well as the pro life Christian centre. At the moment we have a lady called Tanya and her two children Max and Denise living in the house. Tanya is from the Ukraine and married to a Russian Jew. Unfortunately her husband is in prison for assaulting her so she came to us for emergency accommodation in the summer. She now has a job and is seeking to move out in the next few months. We also have a French Jewish lady called Sophia in the house who came to us after moving from Galilee. She is suffering from depression at the moment and showing real interest in the Bible and has been attending our church. Recently we had an American young lady who was homeless; within a week, she found an apartment and a job. In January we will have an Israeli woman who will, after having given birth, stay with us for three months who is not a believer. Please pray for the ladies who come to stay with us – that we can be a blessing to them not just in meeting their physical needs but in sharing the Gospel. Our goal is to help the women get on their feet and be independent in a short time.
The International Church Plant
At the beginning of November we started a new church plant with the hope of being able to invite the students we met and talk to on a regular basis at the weekly Hebrew University outreaches.
We have been going to the University to do evangelism twice weekly for over a year now and have students attending a church whilst here is Israel. The Church is called Jerusalem International Fellowship. It is our hope that Jews and Arabs and people from different nations will worship the Lord together without any walls or barriers. We also want to encourage those who attend to be involved in helping us to evangelise.
The service is conducted in English and more contemporary than the Russian service in terms of worship style and service layout. On the first service we had over 20 people attending. The meetings are continuing to go well, we are preaching through the book of Galatians which you can hear from messages online on youtube if you go to simonant22.
Please continue to pray for the church plant as it grows and becomes established. Pray especially for the student outreach here in Jerusalem as many of the students we meet are open to spiritual things.
The Russian Congregation
There is a need for the congregation to mature and learn to overlook minor transgressions committed against each other. Despite some people moving out of the congregation, I have been thankful for the faithful ones who continue to come to learn of God and grow. Pray that they will continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18). The Russian free walking tours continue, twice on Friday and once on Saturday. Liza, who is one of the three guides, has recently been accepted to a licensed tour guide course. Pray for those who come on the tours, the literature we give out and also a booklet in Russian we published recently about Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. We offer the book free to those on the tour and deliver it to homes, which gives us an opportunity to visit people in their homes. Pray also for Liza that God will continue to guide her in her endeavour.
A New Ministry
We set up a ministry wing, Bibles4all.net (www.Bibles4all.net), to distribute free Bibles and literature to the poor and spiritually needy in Israel and its neighbouring countries. We are currently planning trips overseas in January 6-13, the last week of January we will be in Egypt for the book fair and evangelism and March 2011 in Turkey to work with a sister church. Our goal is to get the Bibles directly into the hands of those who need them and encourage locals to get involved in evangelism. Many people go on mission trips. We also want believers in the trips with us to experience the joy of being involved in evangelism rather than sightseeing which is true of too many mission trips. May be your church or a group of friends want to join us in Israel or one other the neighbouring countries for evangelism for a week or ten days.