A Report from Israel
The First Service in the Grace & Truth Church in Israel
A few weeks after completing all the municipal requirements, we began our worship services in the new building! This was after consulting with both our architect and a lawyer. It has been a long-anticipated event for the congregants. So many times we thought we would be moving in, and yet time after time we were disappointed for various reasons. The HaGefen offices, which we have been using for more than two decades, had become almost impossible to use due to the growth of our congregation. Since we have not yet received final occupancy permission, we have not moved our church offices to the new location. In fact, we postponed this newsletter several times in hopes we could say, ‘Hallelujah, we got it!’ But not yet. So, we are in the ‘already but not yet’ stage. Please pray with us that we will receive the permit soon – by his grace.
I wish to thank Christian Witness to Israel (CWI) and HaGefen Publishing for kindly hosting us for so long in their offices, almost free of charge. It has not always been easy for the HaGefen staff to come into the office on Sunday morning to discover their desk a bit messy and find pens and other office items missing since the office rooms also functioned as children’s Sabbath school. The staff persevered along with us, and we are grateful.
Before we moved into the building for our worship services, we were concerned that it would be too large a space and would look empty. Now that we have moved in, we realize it doesn’t feel empty at all. We thank the Lord that he is adding to our numbers.
Updates on the Conflict
In our last newsletter, we wrote about the aftermath of the Gaza war. For a short while, life was sort of back to normal, at least missiles were not landing on cities. As you might know, during the 50 days of the war some 5,000 missiles were launched over Israel. As I am writing these words, Jerusalem and some Arab villages in the north are in an uproar. Last week five Israelis (one of them a policeman that tried to stop the killings) were murdered in a Synagogue in Jerusalem by two Palestinians. The situation is getting tenser, and some are even talking about the third Intifada (uprising). This is also in light of other terrorist incidents that have been happening in the last few weeks in Jerusalem and other cities that are adjacent to the Palestinian populations. However, Police and government officials are trying to bring calm back to the streets. Also, in the last two weeks in northern Arab villages, there have been some attacks between Muslims and the Druze, which have resulted in property damage and injuries. Some analysts are reasoning that these incidents are religiously fuelled rather than politically, as has been the case in the past. Due to the injuries during the incidents the Red Magen David (Israeli Red Cross!) has asked people to come and donate blood.
While we are aware of the situation in our cities and land, we also know that in other parts of the world, there is also unrest. We recall the attack and killing in Ottawa’s parliament a few weeks ago, the protest in Hong Kong, and another ISIS beheading of an innocent humanitarian worker, Peter Kassig, who was a USA citizen.
First Reformed Conference in Israel
About two years ago we restarted the Fellowship of Reformed Churches in Israel and on October 10-11 at the Grace and Truth new building, we conducted the first conference for Reformed Churches. On May 7th of this year, we held the first conference for pastors and elders of Reformed Churches, also in the new building. There were three speakers from three continents as we wrote in our July newsletter. However, the October conference was for the congregants. The subject was family worship, and our guest speaker was Rev. (Ds. in Dutch) Cornelius Sonnevelt. He spoke at four sessions, including the Saturday morning sermon and Sunday school. The conference began on Friday afternoon at five. Between the two sessions we shared a meal together. Two congregations hired a bus and on Friday we had some 250 people and on Saturday about 300! Many who attended (including some Peruvians), enjoyed the teaching and the fellowship.
For us as a congregation, it was important from the very beginning that the building be used as a facility to serve the wider community. We are planning future conferences for 2015. Our hope is that we will be able to have many more such conferences and other events. Our goal is that the building will be used widely by the body of Messiah in the land for the advancement of his Kingdom.
Joyful Events in the Church Family
Baptisms, Weddings and Births
Last Saturday we had two young men that were baptized. The service and the baptism were conducted in our new building. It was our first baptismal service in the new building as well. We are thankful to the Lord for the new birth that he has granted to them and pray that they will continue to grow in their faith and walk with God. We pray that we will see many more coming to faith in the Messiah and taking active part in the strengthening of the body of Christ in the land.
This year, as you may recall, we had two weddings. The third wedding for this year will take place at the end of the month. Maxim, who grew up in the church with his family, will be marrying Katya from the Ukraine. We are thankful to the Lord for expanding the body of the Messiah in this land.
Also this year, two members of the church family gave birth to two sons. It is always a joy to see new life coming to the church. In September, the Teasdale family (missionaries in Kenya) visited our church. At that time, Pastor Scott McDonald preached on Saturday morning.
Tours as a platform for sharing the Gospel
Some 200,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel. Many live within a very tight financial situation and find it difficult to make ends meet. Often, they have to choose between purchasing food or medicine. Thankfully, a few congregations and organizations are providing them with humanitarian aid. For the past few years, we as a congregation have been helping in this vital ministry. Our church evangelist has developed good relationships with some of the clubs in which they meet on a regular basis. Our relationship with them is based on the gospel, and we have made that clear from the beginning.
It is interesting that in the last year or so we have developed relationships with two other such groups in two other cities. Our evangelist, in co-operation with other organizations, has been taking groups of 50 of the Holocaust survivors on tours of Jerusalem, Nazareth, and the Sea of Galilee area. The tours are organized by a Christian tour guide, who takes them to sites where Jesus walked and ministered, and through the explanation of sites, shares the gospel with them. The tour is heavily subsidized and includes a nice meal. On the way back, our evangelist has a captive audience for about an hour or so! On one of the tours twenty people asked for a New Testament! Please continue to pray for this ministry, that we will be able to bring the gospel to these people in the last chapter of their lives.
Soldiers Serving in ‘Hot Spots’
Two weeks ago one of our young adults started her military service. She is about to complete her basic boot camp. By the end of the year two other young men will be joining the military, which will bring the number of our soldiers serving in active duty to eight. A few of our soldiers serve in ‘hot spots’, near the Gaza strip and Ramallah and we constantly pray along with their parents for God’s protection upon them.
On Doctrine and Practice July 16, 2019
A charge that is made repeatedly against historic Christianity is that its stress on doctrine makes it authoritarian, theoretical, and cold. The Christian religion is a practical affair; putting the faith in terms of truth to be believed alienates or repels many who would otherwise be sympathetic. As John Robinson puts it, ‘the effect of […]
Christianity and Culture July 12, 2019
One of the greatest of the problems that have agitated the Church is the problem of the relation between knowledge and piety, between culture and Christianity. This problem has appeared first of all in the presence of two tendencies in the Church — the scientific or academic tendency, and what may be called the practical […]