\ From Evan Thomas \
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Messiah,
“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the Land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:3-6
What joy to be writing to you from my desk at our Beit Asaph worship facility in Netanya, Israel. There were many days during the past 9 months when we wondered WHEN we would be able to travel home from NZ and be reunited with Sara and Beni and our beloved community…
Brief overview: Lockdowns and restrictions on meeting forced all of us into conducting our services, prayer meetings, seminars and board meetings ‘virtually.’ In this way, being in Netanya or in Whakatane made little difference. Grateful for the internet, we were able to adjust and carry on. Our NZ evenings became our work time dedicated to connecting with congregants and colleagues during what was daytime in Israel. This freed up our NZ days to enjoy the beauty of New Zealand.
Bring away for nine months made our time far more than a visit. The relationships we have enjoyed over many years deepened, especially with immediate family members and close friends. But this gift of time also gave us the opportunity to form new relationships and sharing our lives and the values of the Kingdom became a rich experience.
Our arrival home was also such a blessing. Coming from NZ, which is a ‘Green country’ because of its success in managing the Corona virus, it was not necessary for us to go into quarantine for the usual 2 weeks. In addition, the second national lockdown was lifted the day we left New Zealand so it was straight home and into the loving arms of Beni and Sara with the fridge and cupboards well stocked in our little apartment that we had left in January, just newly renovated.
The picture in Israel: There is so much for us all to pray about! Nationally, the situation is bleak. Poor management of the Corona virus during the summer resulted in record numbers of daily cases, overwhelmed hospitals and medical services and a high number of deaths directly attributed to the virus. The impact on the national economy has been frightful AND there is no end in sight. The numbers of local businesses closed is so disheartening and while the recent lockdown greatly reduced the daily cases of Corona it of course added to the economic crisis. Public demonstrations against the PM continue all over the country. The government here is in desperate need of your prayers!
Public cooperation in managing the crisis is ‘patchy’ at best. Covid-19 is still broadly within the community and numbers of local pastors and their families have been struck with the virus. This is an important matter for prayer as Arab churches and Messianic congregations need their leaders so much right now. This is particularly relevant as we are entering the season of the former rains, which announce winter is about to begin and viruses of all kinds become particularly virulent.
Focus and Priorities: In the short term, Beit Asaph like all other worship communities around the country is in ‘emergency mode’. Our congregants are tired and frightened and under stress due to the added pressure of economic hardships. At this point, there is no indication when services (other than virtual) can resume – even with limited numbers and people are desperate for fellowship.
We are grateful that some of our home-based groups are functioning and our youth have been meeting weekly since the lifting of the recent lockdown. We are delighted to be able to report that although we cannot have any form of “Shabbat school” for our children (up to the age of 12 years), parents have ‘stepped up’ and are providing spiritual input for their children at home. These same parents have provided the ‘backbone’ of the Shabbat school and in the past years and as such are skilled teachers. They are also taken much initiative to link up with other families (family: family) and using Shabbats to provide fellowship for their kids in nature.
At least 30% of the congregation is needed to join to home group form of spiritual fellowship. Home groups and smaller specific prayer meetings will really help change this picture. Lev and Ora and Evan and Maala are taking this on as a project to change this picture. Please pray for this.
Our worship facilities remain largely idle apart from very small-scale activities. This is having a significant impact on income from tithes and offerings despite having systems like PayPal in place. A precious testimony from my colleague, Lev: a number of the brothers and sisters from our community had spoken together and invited him to pop around to their homes. They had been collecting their tithes but because they were used to giving them during Shabbat services, they had no way of giving. They were so full of joy at being able to be faithful when he called round on his way to the bank. Beautiful!
In the long term we must carefully consider our options and be creative in ways to encourage fellowship among the saints and outreach to the broader society. These are the big goals while at a specific level develop programs for our kids. We must find ways to utilize our expensive facilities while reminding our community of its financial responsibilities. These are not easy tasks in this present ‘climate.’ Each day as we perceive and understand the situation around us, the burden gets heavier. We need your prayers personally, congregationally and nationally perhaps more than ever!
We are so grateful for you all. We are also totally aware that you all have your own huge challenges to overcome. If you can spare us just a moment or two and uplift us in prayer, we would be so appreciative. We’d love to hear from you too. Please note the Gmail address at the beginning of this report.
In His service together,
Evan and Maala (for Beit Asaph)
To donate please check out our website as listed above. There you can find details for your convenience. We’d so appreciate your help as the need is great as we approach the end of the calendar year.