Our Precious Brothers and Sisters in Yeshua,
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelations 21:1-3
It is not usual for us for us to choose biblical texts that are directed towards ‘end times’ but perhaps not surprising, given the circumstances we have all been living in during the past 16 months. Up until six months ago I used to laugh when our daughter would say, “Abba we need to prepare for the Apocalypse.” We no longer laugh as we face yet another new wave of the Corona pandemic, suffer war and threats from our enemies, experience civil unrest and racial tensions internally. Of course we keep an eye on international affairs as well. Travel in and out of Israel remains highly restricted and we hear frightening news from friends in many parts of Europe suffering extraordinary flooding. May God help us all!
Our big concern on the health front that warrants your prayers is the arrival of the ‘delta variant’ of Covid-19 that is highly contagious, makes people very sick and is seemingly undeterred by the Pfizer vaccine so many of us have had in Israel. Already the vaccine’s efficacy rate here has dropped from 94% only a few months ago, to 64%. Those of us in the upper age-bracket are once again having to be extra careful.
On a personal front, Maala and I have just completed a broad range of medical tests and are comforted by very positive results. We are careful to keep a healthy lifestyle to counter our stressful vocation and high level of people-contact. Nevertheless we would cover your prayers for us and for our pastoral colleagues, Lev and Ora. We all need a summer break and a change of scenery. Right now though, our new government is closely monitoring the alarming rise in national Covid-19 statistics. This week will once again see limits placed on gatherings. Are we headed towards another “lockdown” or are we simply going to have to learn to live with this virus in the community? Those sorts of decisions of course have enormous political ramifications, dangers to health notwithstanding.
We have a new government! Most of the country is very grateful to see a change of leadership and a ‘unity government’ of broad diversity. Despite initial concerns about its ability to function (you know the saying, “three Israelis in the same room – five opinions and just as many political parties!”) Although it is still ‘early days’ they are off to a good start. Diplomatic bridges have already been repaired with some key partners and on the home front civil tensions are slowly easing and some important social reforms are ‘on the table.’ As followers of Yeshua, we don’t have to agree with the policies of our governments but we do have a responsibility to pray for our leaders! Please pray for PM Naftali Bennet and his Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and their cabinet of ministers,
ranging politically from the center right to the far left and with the strongest contingent of highly capable women that Israel has ever seen. It is most unusual for us to place so much emphasis on politics in our prayer report. But the past two years of poor leadership in Israel literally placed our nation at risk. It is not surprising that we are overjoyed at seeing political stability restored, given the current circumstances we live under.
Beit Asaph Update: We are thrilled toreport that we conducted our first full service after 16 months! It was a glorious celebration with 150 adults and a full quota of kids in attendance. Asher and his worship team had practiced hard during the course of the week. It was great seeing our daughter, Sara, and Lev’s son, David and his wife Polina, on the team.
I (Evan) worked all week on a message based on the Book of Nehemiah, drawing many parallels from the text to the current situation in both Israel and in the national Body of Messiah (see photo).
Israel College of the Bible (ICB) kindly opened their facility to Beit Asaph and this week we will be sitting with their leadership to negotiate the terms for a regular arrangement. Our hope is to conduct a celebration service at the College once a month. Please pray for favor in our negotiations.
Meanwhile our youth enjoy their weekly meetings at the local Ethiopian congregational facility and our Children’s Bible Club is now well established at the facility of a Russian-speaking congregation in Caesarea. We sense that God is well-pleased at this cooperation between local ministries. Our training/ prayer center and administration office at Beit Itzak are serving us well and several of the new Life-groups are conducting weekly meetings there.
We are delighted to report that we now have 15 Life-groups established, the newest being a group made up of serving soldiers and those who have been recently released from the I.D.F. Please pray for Michael, Asher and Hodiyya as they help the group establish roles and responsibilities. Like most of the Life-groups they have adopted the method of systematic study through Books of the Bible, beginning with the Gospel of Matthew. This is a great place to begin to help the members rediscover who Yeshua is and how His kingdom functions. As we regularly visit the groups, it’s interesting to hear how each one draws relevance from the text, depending on the relative ages and cultural backgrounds. These pastoral visits help us assess where the needs are for further training – in group facilitation or how to prepare and facilitate an effective Bible discussion.
Both Lev and Evan find this kind of pastoral work far more rewarding and personal than the inordinate time previously spent each week preparing for the weekly Shabbat services. The reforms require us all to be far more flexible and mobile but succeeding to train our congregants and develop ministry skills and confidence among many, makes it all worth it. Please keep us in your prayers…
Missions: a brief word about Miriam (Uganda) and Elyakim (Japan):
Miriam has recovered from a bout of Corona virus that she contracted while travelling to Kampala to renew her visa. She is now out with the team she has helped train doing mission outreach among the refugee camps that surround the base on the Sudanese border.
Elyakim assists the local congregation in worship during services and during the week functions as a kindergarten teacher for local children. He is gifted in languages (six to-date) and has plans to learn Korean. At every opportunity he is out on the streets of Osaka sharing the Gospel with all who will listen!
David (my assistant) is currently putting finishing touches to the team of Yad b’Yad 1.0 – the youth mission to Nuremburg in early August. This initiative needs your prayers. It has been a nightmare trying to recruit as you can well imagine. Hence the team is smaller than usual and will limit its activities to Germany rather than the usual travel to Poland and Auschwitz. There will be much to be done around Nuremburg, however, and they will visit the concentration camp museum of Buchenwald. Hopefully flight restrictions won’t cause cancellations…
With the cancellation for the second year running of the Yad b’Yad 2.0 mission initiative for young adults we have decided to bring the Israeli team together for a weekend retreat in Newe Shalom in the Judean foothills. This will provide continuity and give us the chance to pray for one another and an initiative next year, 2022.
Thank you all for persevering in prayer for us in Israel and in particular for the Beit Asaph community. We are so grateful for your interest and continued support. This is never taken for granted. We pray too for you that you remain healthy and strong in your faith.
In His service together,
Evan and Lev