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The passage from childhood to adult life is strewn with jagged obstacles. Dobson compares it to a wide, calm river that suddenly turns into narrow, deadly rapids. This phase of life that we call “the teenage years” is challenging in any 21st century culture–with its waves of sewage instantly available on every smartphone – but especially now for youth trying to live as disciples of Yeshua. And it’s even more challenging in Israel. Why?
A kid who believes in Yeshua in Israel is simply out of place. You see, the concept of pluralism in matters of faith and religion is not so prevalent here. While it’s true that there are many dimensions to the way Israeli Jews interpret and practice Jewish life, believing in Yeshua ( Jesus) is not yet considered a viable option. So, to identify one’s self as a Messianic Jew in high school or junior high creates an unwanted barrier that has social consequences at an age when acceptance is so vital.
With that background, you can appreciate the surprise reported by Sarah, one of our young counselors, at the conclusion of our recent Hanukkah National Youth Conference, attended by more than 80 teens:
“Muriel was struggling. She was labeled an “outsider” by her schoolmates and thought she was the only believer in her school. However, just a few hours after we prayed and asked God to send her another believer, she met a new friend at Katzir and it turns out that they attend the very same school!”
Here are a few more testimonies from youth whose lives were touched during the KATZIR (Harvest) youth conference this Hanukkah:
Esther (18): “The very first night the Lord really touched me. I couldn’t push more praise out of me. I was exploding inside with the love of God.”
Eli (counselor): “This was my first time at Katzir. The first evening during the praise time, I began to feel the Lord’s presence SO strongly. It was one of the deepest experiences ever for me in Israel. I thank God for the opportunity to be a part of Katzir.”
Elior (17): “I didn’t know anyone. I felt out of place. But you received me and I found new friends. It was just such a blessing.”
This is what we beseech God to do during these camps. We are so grateful for the intercession and financial support that make these events possible. Reaching young Israelis at this age will change our nation.
Some years ago, God gave us a vision to create an after-school program that would bring together children from our diverse community in a fun and creative atmosphere. Since we started in 2012, over 100 children from 10 different congregations all over the Western Galilee have participated. In any given year around 40 children attend, both Jewish and Arab.
One of the main reasons we wanted to set up a program like this was to provide children from believing families with a midweek “oasis” – a safe place of fellowship and unity. They all attend different schools and are isolated in their day to day routine from other believers. (In Israel it is rare for there to be more than one or two believers in an entire school.) The congregational fellowship on the weekend is simply not enough.
In addition, our hearts have been broken to see division in the body of Messiah. We want to be an agent for unity. Children are a great place to start because they don’t have prejudices towards each other’s “worship style,” theology or ethnicity.
During the first year we developed the paradigm with children from our own congregation. Then we started to invite kids from other local congregations. When the new children started attending they recognized fellow students among the other kids and realized that they were not the only believers in their school!
A Light to the Community
Over time, several children from unbelieving homes have begun to join us (after their parents hear a clear explanation regarding our beliefs so there aren’t any misunderstandings). They are attracted to the light and the love with no strings attached, and the culture of mutual respect.
Jewish and Arab Children
Together In the majority of Israeli towns, Jewish and Arab children study and live in separate neighborhoods and schools. This means that in their day to day life, they rarely meet or interact. As we bring Jewish and Arab children together with a common denominator of faith, we are seeing stereotypes broken before our eyes. In the weekly meetings they discover common ground and even become friends. This is probably what amazes us the most – to see children coming together in fellowship from backgrounds so completely different. Over time they develop a true regard for each other.
Through the various activities we also seek to instill Biblical values such as courtesy, love, looking out for the good of others, how to defer and how to forgive. Opportunities often arise to practice these qualities and to pray through conflicts among them.
We retain the services of professional teachers who provide each child with weekly lessons in 2 out of 6 “electives” of each child’s choosing: choir, classical guitar, robotics, art and table tennis. The children are encouraged to learn these new skills for the purpose of serving and blessing others via the knowledge they have gained. We have already been able to give them the opportunity to serve the elderly and Holocaust survivors in several different settings, including secular day centers for the elderly.
It is our desire to create an environment in which the kids can try out new things. Some had no idea that they had a gift in a certain area and as they participate it suddenly becomes obvious. Many of the families come from challenging economic backgrounds and would not be able to afford weekly music or art lessons for their gifted children. Participation in the program is granted to the children free of charge (this includes dinner and transportation).
In the future, we hope to purchase more instruments and equipment and to broaden the variety of activities to include new areas such as dance, drama and additional musical instruction. At this point we are already using our space and budget to its full extent. So we are also praying regarding expanding our facilities.
All of this has been accomplished through God’s grace. In ourselves we don’t have the strength and resources, but He is at work through us. We enthusiastically look forward to seeing how He will continue to lead us.
In conclusion, we also want to say a great big thank you to those who have been supporting this project financially and prayerfully! – the Harvest of Asher team
“I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected” (Habakkuk 2:1).
There are people who are prophetically oriented. There are people who constantly hear the Lord speaking to them. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. A lot of what we are doing at Return to Zion Congregation is spontaneous, in a sort of “Russian” way. But I am no longer ashamed of this, since the “Russian-Jewish method” sometimes bears good fruit. This way of working often involves less in-depth deliberations, but is also more quickly implemented. The Lord God is using us, with our different “flavors,” to achieve His goals. We see this today, how the different talents of our co-workers, brothers and sisters in the congregation and in our ministry, are used for good purposes.
Some years ago, as a result of Supernatural Providence, we were able to purchase our own building in Haifa. The facility—an awesome gift from the Lord—is in an excellent location and has been a true instrument to serve people. Our “neighbor” in the building is also involved in humanitrian aid—an organization that helps the handicapped. However, one corner in the building, about 1400 square feet, remained empty. When potential tenants started to inspect the space, I was concerned. Unfortunately, more than once we have seen a corner space being rented for various “unclean” activities, and we didn’t want to have such a place nearby. Through it all the Lord has been so gracious. After some consideration, we decided to approach the owner about renting that space ourselves. He happily agreed and the space is now ours to use.
Since we already had some experience with our guest house, we decided somewhat automatically to create additional guest quarters in the new section. We developed a plan and estimated budget costs, but something was hindering us. Three times we tried to begin renovations but were not able to do so. That’s when the “miracles” began.
I would never personally have thought of creating a dedicated prayer room. Therefore, when the phrase “prophetic studio” appeared in my mind, I knew that it must be from the Lord. When we gathered as a team and prayed over this change, we realized that the Lord is directing us in a new way. Instead of an area we are familiar with, He is guiding us to new ground, to a place we had never before considered.
So now we are building a “Prayer Tower,” a room in which people can pray and seek the will of God. The more we move forward with the remodeling project, the more clearly I can see that there are already sufficient guest houses in Eretz Israel. A place where believers both local and international, might come and seek the Lord, is much more needed–a strategic place to seek His direction. A sense of true anticipation is growing inside of us to see this completed.
Very soon the prayer room will be open for everyone who wants to come and pray. It will be a place for locals and foreigners to worship the Lord and praise HIS name. We are looking forward to hearing from the Lord and are excited to see how He will meet us in this new facility. We want to experience Him on a new level, and “…come to visions and revelations of the Lord” (II Corinthians 12:1).
To those who would like to come and pray with us, to those who would like to spend a few days or just a few hours here, to those who “know how to do it,” and for to those who are in the process of learning, we say “Welcome!”
For more information and reservations, please write us at email@example.com.
The Olive Tree Ranch just finished the 5th session of the discipleship work-study mentoring project. The session lasted from October 2016 through January 2017. The vision of the indigenous Hebrew program is to form “DNA” habits, for a lifetime based on daily meditating on God’s Word as a foundation for our workday. The agricultural work takes place in two Galilean farming villages and includes the olive harvest season as well as the season in which goat kids are born. We even had the bonus of a few days of artistic expression – carving olive tree statuettes out of olive wood.
The response from the participants was very positive. Shmuel remarked about how he experienced healing benefit from the balance of spiritual discipline with hard work. Noam said the habit of time in the Word has become so natural that it has been easy to continue on his weekends back at home in the city.
If you want to help fund the next session, please feel free to donate to Olive Tree Ranch through Tikkun. The project is under the oversight of the Tents of Mercy Network.