July 25, 2020
To Our Precious Brother and Sisters in Yeshua,
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement: In this world we are like Yeshua.” I John 4:16, 17
We chose these verses as a most appropriate greeting to you all. In this incredibly challenging season when nothing seems certain, it is important that we remind one another of the certainty of God’s love. Our lives have been disrupted by the Covid pandemic and there does not appear an end in sight. For times like these, the Apostle’s call to persevere needs to be a part of our daily conversation and prayer.
It is now six months since Maala and I flew from Ben Gurion – first to Switzerland for service together with our Palestinian friends, Nihad and Salwa. As we parted none of us could have anticipated what was about to unfold. Our plans included a much-needed holiday, and continued with my writing, interspersed with visits and ministry to supportive churches. We were to be home by mid-April and back into a full schedule of weddings, both home and abroad, mission trips to Ethiopia and Germany, and of course our daily lives as local Israeli pastors. And yet here we are still in NZ living with the uncertainty of when we can return home…
We sincerely apologize for not communicating with you sooner. For the past two months we have been on standby, thinking we would fly out with just a few days prior notice. There was even talk among Israeli Embassy officials of a rescue flight as had happened in several other countries, for stranded Israelis. We kept thinking our next communication to you would be from Israel. Our travel agents, both here and at home, keep reminding us ‘to sit tight’ and our daughter, Sara, reassures us daily not to risk the complex and uncertain flights that might get us home or leave us stranded somewhere with cancellations en-route.
Our colleagues Lev and Ora, together with a broad team of young adults, have done a stellar job in our absence caring for the Beit Asaph community in Netanya and its surrounding settlements. Israel’s ‘lockdown period’ paralleled our own here in NZ but there with restrictions on gatherings more severe and prolonged. So priorities changed to caring for the needy and elderly, who are fearful and confused, and our young families who are faced with unemployment and mounting debts. Visits, wherever possible, to pray and encourage and deliver groceries became far more important than the enormous energy and resources required to maintain services.
Our young people helped us upskill with computerized means of communication like “Zoom” and “Google Meet.” These and many other forms of social media enable us conduct a wide range of tasks from elders’ meetings and prayer forums to on-line services. Maala and I even managed to conduct a wedding by Zoom and live streaming for one of our young couples. That was an interesting exercise coordinating time zones between NZ (us officiating), Israel (location of the couple) and Holland (the bride’s family.)
As “lockdown” unlocked, Israel attempted to reboot its severely damaged economy, while maintaining border restrictions and grounding its national airline. It looked promising for a while. Then like in many parts of the world, a second wave of the Carona virus has hit and this time even more severely. Today, Israel’s economy is in tatters with tens of thousands of businesses closed permanently and over 20% of the workforce unemployed. Our political leaders have not provided the strong and stable leadership required to cope with such conditions and have been found wanting. Recent comments from colleagues paint a picture of national sadness, anger and confusion. This past weekend tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated in the streets of Tel Aviv, fed up with regulations that have crushed the will of the people to persevere.
And so we implore you to join us in prayer for our beloved but beleaguered nation. Maala and I mistakenly thought back in March that Israeli society would cope very well, given our track record in times of national crisis. However, an unseen enemy proved to be very different to visible enemies that could be dealt with through military means. Biblical history provides many examples of God allowing wars, plagues and tragedy, all part of the broken human condition, to bring us to our knees so we might look up to Him.
But there have also been multiple times when as a people we have shaken our fists in anger and turned our backs on God.
So again we ask you to pray with us for Israel’s restoration – firstly, to turn back to Eloheinu and to seek His face in an attitude of humility and seeking forgiveness. We love the well-known verses found in II Chronicles 6: 22–42, that speak deeply and clearly into our nation’s present situation. The context of these verses is King Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple he has built for God. These verses also contain an exhortation specifically for God-fearers from among the nations in your responsibility towards Israel in times of crisis.
Please also pray for the Body of Messiah in the Land – both Jewish and Arab and also the multitudes of Gentiles affiliated with our communities. Many are ‘stuck,’ confused and suffering. As despair sets in, many are losing faith in their leaders. Most are hurting through the lack of social interaction we loosely call fellowship. And in some sectors of the Body, such as among West Bank Christians, the financial strain is extreme. With massive unemployment and little or no social welfare systems in place, thousands of families are struggling to feed their families let alone cover rents, etc. Maala and I are so grateful to our beloved “Philippus” supporters in Germany who have responded to our appeal for our Palestinian neighbors, with tens of thousands of Euros. These monies will literally put food on the table for so many.
The West Bank and many Israeli cities are under lockdown as the virus spreads again. The impact on widespread mental health, let alone the economy is devastating. Please, please pray!!
This unique season has shown us how essential it is to dig into God’s Word and maintain a consistent devotional life. In so doing we rediscover the importance of our role as prayerful intercessors for our families, our respective communities and our nations. Despite a largely successful battle to suppress the pandemic nationally, we have been privy to some of the political and social issues that we find deeply troubling. This stirs us to pray each day.
In September, NZ will hold general elections. The present government is in a very strong position, largely because of its handling of the pandemic. It is a very liberal government and this is reflected in its recent law-making. Full-term abortions are now legal and with the September elections two referendums will take place. One is to further liberalize the use of recreational marijuana and the second to legalize a person’s choice to end their own life. The latter is of course a ‘red flag’ for Jewish people as legalizing euthanasia in Nazi Germany provided the perfect justification for the “final solution.”
Missions: We are continually in touch with Miriam who chose to remain in Uganda despite the pandemic. She is happy and proving to be very fruitful, especially amongst the myriads of children. We also have one of our young men from Beit Asaph, Elyakim, based with a local congregation just outside Kyoto, Japan. He too is working with small children and supporting the community with his skills as a worship leader and evangelist. Please keep these gifted young people in your prayers!
So lots to do and be, dear friends in this very special time. Let’s make the day count while it is still day. We’d love to hear from you and gain from your insights and personal experiences during the course of the year to date. We are so grateful for your continual support both for us and Beit Asaph. Please let us know how we can best serve you also.
All our love and sincere appreciation,
Evan and Maala