Yet another year is passed and as usual we are thankful to our God for His goodness. There is a book entitled God is not Great. Sadly, Mr Hitchens, the author of this book, recently passed into eternity, and his book remains on earth to shame him before the living God now he must know to be the greatest of all. Is it not great that we have a Savior, and that have all been called to proclaim Him to all men!
We have had some unique ministerial opportunities presented to us in recent days. The war in the Darfur region of Sudan has a created a crisis situation for the victims of the genocide there as well as for the state of Israel. The African refugees have endured much in their exodus from their countries to Israel with some even journeying large parts of the way north by foot through the deserts of the eastern Sahara and the Sinai deserts in their march to Zion, ”the land flowing with milk and honey”.
Many Africans, especially Sudanese, have been killed in their trekking north through Egypt, where their darker skin is tragically viewed as grounds for unspeakable torture and persecution. The Egyptian border soldiers are ordered to ”execute with extreme prejudice” any one of these peoples seeking asylum in Israel, and, according to one estimate, approximately two thousand were killed last year alone.
One IDF (Israeli Defense Force) border soldier reports that these refugees are almost nightly running the death run between the bullets of the Egyptians soldiers, scrambling over the barbed wire into the safe zone of Israel. Those unfortunate Sudanese who fail to cross through Egypt into Israel have their organs harvested and sold by their Egyptian Muslim brothers, with their bodies literally left in the sands to rot and be consumed by scavenging beasts and birds without a burial. Other poor souls, after having their eyes gouged out, are dumped in the desert and are left to wander helplessly unto they die of starvation or dehydration.
The misery of these Sudanese does not simply disappear when they arrive in Israel, as the Israeli government is unable to sustain such a large influx of refugees without jobs or prospects. These men typically arrive with just enough money to gain access into Israel. Tel-Aviv is filled with Sudanese that are jobless, homeless, hungry, and cold this winter season. They are forced to sleep outside in places such as public parks, exposed to the rain and cold and without anyone to care for them properly or welcome them. Sleeping on cardboard, huddled in groups to generate warmth, these souls are forced during the daytime to scavenge food any way possible to ensure their survival.
To God be the glory, we have been able to come to the aid of these African civil war refugees who are fleeing for refuge to the Promised Land of Israel in search of solace and a new life. As recent news we have received from the media suggests that many of these refugees will soon be forcibly deported from Israel, we understand we only have a short window of opportunity to offer the Gospel to them. The atrocities being committed are being carried out by Muslims victimizing darker Muslims, and so the love of Christ and the beauty of the Gospel shine brightly in the eyes of these men who have felt firsthand the darkness of Islam. We have teamed up with a Christian aid and development organization based in Egypt, among other ministry partners, to distribute Testaments, Bibles, and Gospel literature in their native languages. We have been privileged to distribute foodstuff, over 700 blankets, as well as clothes to these homeless sojourners.
On Saturday, December 10th, we hosted a meal for roughly 200 of these Sudanese refugees, accompanied by a Christian film and a Gospel invitation message. Some have already turned their backs on their native Islam to embrace the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ due to the free distribution of the New Testament in their own language during our biweekly evangelistic outreach there in Tel-Aviv. However, there is still a great need for more blankets and food for these poor men, who are forced to sleep outside in the cold of winter and are hungry. We also are trying to rent a shelter for them and pay the initial rent so they can continue to pay a small sum every month.
Also living in the park are refugees from Eritrea; they are from an orthodox background and we have printed several thousand New Testaments in the Tigrinya language and hope to purchase full Bibles in the near future. There are also many nationalities of illegal workers and caregivers and we have distributed tens of thousands of Bibles, DVDs, and CDs over the past year.
We continue our work amongst Russian speakers. This past Passover we worked with various congregations in a special outreach campaign, working in Jerusalem and central Israel, and placing thousands of leaflets in letterboxes, which we also hope to do again next year. We also attended the annual New Age Festival, which attracts tens of thousands of young Israelis with every New Age philosophy paraded and welcomed. Last year, we were expelled violently but this year we managed to hand out much literature and distribute on the beaches. It is sad to see all foreign philosophy and wisdom celebrated with such zeal, and the story of the Israels most famous Son seen as foreign and hostile. Our earnest hope is that in reading the New Testament for the first time, many will see His true place in the history of Israel and thus be urged to investigate more into the Son’s real identity. We pray that the Lord will open their eyes.
We continue to distribute literature twice a week at the Hebrew University with many Hebrew and Arabic speakers taking the New Testament. We are engaging in many good conversations; as people get familiar with us they stop by and talk. We hope to expand this ministry and spend time following up the people we meet.
We continue with our evangelistic tours to the Old City, with many Russians attending our two to three tours every week with a clear presentation of the Gospel. At the end of the tours, free literature and Bibles are offered to those who are interested in learning more. The contrast between tradition and what is actually written in the New Testament is striking at times and a great aid to illustrate the truths of the Gospel.
L. is doing the tour guide course, and she will be finished in two years. We hope to use her skills to further the ministry of the Gospel in Israel.
The Womens’ house is going well. We have had many women during the year with many coming and going, and at the moment we have two women and hope that another one will join us in a week or two. Our main goal is to help women stand on their feet so that they can become independent. Some of the women this year have been very difficult, and some we had to ask to leave, but we do believe that every one that comes our way comes in His Providence, and whatever we can do, in encouragement, support, love, and responsibility, we do knowing that we cannot solve all their problems but that we can give them a safe haven in the storm in which to navigate through.
There are many women who fall into difficult situations that, while not desperate, can bring them into far more troubled and dangerous waters. Having a place to stay where they can feel safe while they sort out these problems can often save them from a far more dangerous situation.
We had a number of groups during the year that helped us with Evangelism, and it was a mutual encouragement. If you know of people or churches that are interested, you can join us for as long as you have time.
If anyone would like to volunteer for a month, or a few months, we can send you further details and also an application form.
Jordan and Beyond
We also do occasional trips to Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Kurdistan to encourage the saints and to spread the Gospel of His grace, also hoping to go next year to Ethiopia. We plan to travel every three months, so please pray for these trips and that the Lord will send the right people to join us.
Our congregation is small, but alive and vital. In Jerusalem, you see many people who come and go: students who stay for a while but move to other cities for work, families who move around, and visitors who stay for a while bringing their zest and energy and spiritual encouragement with them only to leave later on. It has its challenges. We have our share of the sick and needy amongst us, and of those who are strong and more able. Antony also continues to help support the congregation in Kiryat-Gat, visiting monthly. It is a small congregation of dedicated saints who persevere in a lonely outpost, albeit doing well.
We are thankful for yet another year to serve and be useful in whatever the Lord brings our way. It is truly a privilege! Thank you all for sharing with us this privilege in prayer, encouragement, and support.
May He encourage and strengthen you in your walk in this brand New Year! May you know the blessings of our God! Thanks for praying for us, and thank you for your support!