Updates from the Pastors

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

Updates from the Pastors

May, 2021

Our Precious Brothers and Sisters in Yeshua,

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

He will call on me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.

With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Ps 91:14-16 NIV

If more than a year of pandemic that has severely disrupted our lives and left our nations reeling was not enough, here in Israel we are face-to-face with the reality of war yet again within our borders.

This report is primarily a call to you, all our prayer partners, to intercede for the nation and for our peoples. In addition, however, we will update you on the radical reforms we are leading the Beit Asaph community through – our successes and our challenges…

These past few days have seen a rapid escalation of deadly conflict, initially centered on our nation’s capital, Jerusalem, but has now spread as a result of rocket barrages from Gaza upon Jerusalem and our southern cities. Civil unrest is accelerating at an alarming rate in many of Israel’s Arab towns and cities. The IDF is retaliating with deadly force against targets in the Gaza strip and our police force is doing everything possible to quell the rioting. Your news broadcasts will be providing you with disturbing coverage. The reasons behind the present ‘nightmare’ are complex and highly subjective. Of course this wouldn’t be Israel without everybody having an opinion! Our task however, is to focus prayer into the situation.

I have just been interrupted in writing as sirens have started up. We are heading for the bomb shelter!

As I continue this morning it all seems a little surreal with the sounds of hammers and drills from a nearby building site and military aircraft patrolling overhead. Ben Gurion airport was closed last night so no civilian air traffic for the present. We are on a ‘war footing.’ Our son-in-law, Beni, remarked as we came out of the bomb shelter, that ironically the Corona year, 2020, was the quietest year (from a security perspective) in Israel’s modern history!

As Messianic and Christian community leaders, we have mobilized the local Body in prayer. Over the next 48 hours Beit Asaph Life-groups will be gathering physically or by Zoom and praying the following prayer: “We pray for ALL our peoples – for their physical and emotional safety, for the rapid restoration of peace and for consolation for all victims of the conflict, regardless of politics or national loyalties. We pray for our young men and women serving in Israel’s Defense Forces that they will do so in safety and with integrity.”

We are so very grateful for you all and for your willingness to stand with together with us in this call to prayer and intercession.

Beit Asaph Update: We apologize yet again for the long gap between reports (last one in January.) Maala and I and our pastoral colleagues, Lev and Ora, have been working non-stop leading the Beit Asaph community through radical reform.

Here are the steps we have taken: By the end of March we successfully ended the contract on the Beit Asaph facility and stripped it of all contents. We placed 30 cubes of essentials into storage with 24/7 access. We blessed four local congregations with a variety of furniture and even dismantled our stage for one of them. While shedding a few tears as we stepped away from our beautiful congregational facility of 21 years, we signed contract on a small center situated 5 minute’s-drive from Netanya. This center now provides us with a central administrative office, a dedicated prayer room plus a 20 sq meter seminar room for training and group meetings. We love it as it’s situated in a quiet rural setting just a 20 minute walk from our home. This facility is already being well-used and we are making good progress with our neighbors.

Our beloved Ethiopian Messianic friends have opened their hearts and facility to our Beit Asaph youth group for their weekly gatherings.

In parallel to these shifts and changes we now have 12 Life-groups established and operating successfully. Some of these are based on previously established ‘home groups’ but most are new. They are based on location of our members around the central Sharon Valley, and upon language preference. Still not all members are attending a Life-group yet and our hope is to establish another three in the very near future.

The Life-groups learn to operate by common agreement under the supervision of the pastors. They choose when to meet and in what homes. They manage the rotation of responsibilities for their meetings that are based on the four elements of Acts 2:42; “the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer.” The goal is that everybody has an opportunity to develop skills of facilitation in all of these areas, whether hosting or preparing the bible discussion. As pastoral couples we help with the first weeks of getting the groups stabilized and training in skills where there is a lack of confidence. Part of the process is encouraging the groups to focus on the systematic study of Scripture and most are somewhere in the Gospel of Matthew, being reminded of who Yeshua is, what he is, and how his kingdom operates.

As pastors it is wonderful to be so mobile and in contact with the community at a far deeper and personal level. We are finding that we have more time for discipleship and prayer while more and more members are actively engaged in community life and outreach. A recent development is a monthly “Worship in the Garden” at the home of two families who live in community. This provides a perfect opportunity to gather up to 50 people from several Life-groups to fellowship and worship and pray for one another and unite around the Lord’s Table. We hope this will reproduce itself in other locations in our area.

Two big challenges that we’d value your prayers for: a) to help members through their resistance to the changes. A significant number are deeply grieving the loss of their weekly Shabbat services “with the preaching and collective worship and all the things we have held precious and necessary for congregational life. Our intention nevertheless is to hold celebration services every few weeks, once the Corona restrictions lift sufficiently to make them possible again. However, we will not return to the model we once held to.

b) We also need prayer for the re-establishment of our ministry to children. The previous regimen of weekly Shabbat services provided the perfect opportunity to hold 40 minute classes and bible activities. During 2020 children especially suffered from real-time interaction. Now we have a responsibility to get this up-and-running and in fact make major improvements. Ora right now is working on the model and the logistics required to make it work. She would so value your prayers!

Please note: The Corona pandemic was NOT the reason we are making these changes. But it certainly got us thinking! Got us praying! Got us moving! We look forward to sharing some great testimonies with you in the next couple of months…

You are loved and appreciated,

Evan and Lev

Updates from the Pastors

January 2021

“Sacrifice thank offerings to God,

Fulfill your vows to the Most High,

And call on me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you will honor me.

Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me

And to the blameless I will show my salvation.”

Psalm 50:14, 15, 23

Precious Brothers and Sisters in Yeshua the Messiah, These verses from Psalm 50 are among many that teach us about two key emphasizes for us, Yeshua’s followers, these same two points. Those of you receiving this in NZ or Australia may find it increasingly difficult to identify with those of our recipients in Scandinavia, Europe, the UK or the USA, or even with us here in Israel. Maala and I thank God daily for your relative safety “Down Under” with summer conditions and firm governance that keep the Covid-19 pandemic under control. This gives us enormous peace of mind.

Corona Update:

Here in the Northern Hemisphere the situation is dire. We are presently in the grip of winter with all its “bugs” and in many of our nations, less-than-satisfactory governance has greatly added to our distress. In Israel we are in the midst of our 3rd lockdown, which will be extended every two weeks while the daily statistics remain high. Currently new daily case statistics exceed 10,000 and January’s death toll is expected to exceed 1000. Increasingly, we know more and more people testing positive and this week three of our families are in quarantine with the virus having been brought in by their children from kindergarten and primary school. We realize that for many of you the vaccination issue is extremely controversial and the Body and society is divided (also here in Israel.) To date over 2 million Israeli citizens, including Maala and I, have received their first inoculation; this is followed by a second, three weeks later. Tests indicate a 95% effectiveness two weeks after this second booster shot. Approximately 150-170,000 people are being vaccinated daily as more virulent strains of the virus emerge. Please pray for the health of our nation. Because international tourism is one of our primary industries, the Israeli economy is severely stretched. It is heart-breaking to see so many businesses closed. Our political scene adds to the national distress as we face a fourth round of elections in the coming months. With the PM facing criminal charges if he loses and many new parties emerging, outcomes are impossible to predict. Please pray for strong, resolute and righteous leadership.

Beit Asaph Update:

As we reported in our October newsletter, our first task upon our return home was to do a full evaluation of the congregation. This required phone calls to every home and daily elders meetings. As indicated, most of the community were keeping the faith and actively finding creative ways to fellowship. One of the greater concerns was the spiritual well-being of our large numbers of small children and youth. To our joy we discovered that parents of young ones were taking responsibility for their children, praying and having bible lessons with them and arranging field trips with other families. What a relief and answer to prayer. But in reality, since early March last year, Shabbat services have been limited to four gatherings in July with only 50 people each time following the protocols of wearing face masks, temperature checks at the door and seating 2 meters apart. This hiatus was short-lived, and we had to resort to virtual meetings with YouTube worship and messages and Zoom prayer meetings. Over time, however, interest in using social platforms for larger groups has waned, and we have had to rely more on our home-groups to provide physical fellowship and social interaction. Smaller groups seem to work good, and we thank God for the internet; we cannot imagine the situation should this privilege be taken from us? What does the near future hold? Evan and Lev’s interaction with other pastors around the nation, in both Jewish and Arab communities, shows a general trend of finding creative ways of keeping connected with their flocks. Some are live-streaming services and conducting prayer meetings and bible studies via Zoom.

In Beit Asaph we have decided to be pro-active. Our ‘reading of the signs’ indicate no end in sight and in fact our sense is that the situation will worsen here over the coming months. The pandemic and all its political and economic implications may not be the only challenges ahead. As a result, we have begun a process to lead the congregation through a major paradigm shift, meaning shifting the emphasis from collective Shabbat services (impossible anyway under current conditions) as the primary life of the congregation, to a system of “Life-groups.” We would like to close the contract on our large facility and seek something much smaller and closer to the city center. This would serve as a multi-purpose community center – for prayer meetings and training seminars and an outreach hub.

Once collective gatherings are permitted, life-groups can meet together for intermittent celebration services. Our yearly calendar certainly allows for many such occasions, whether on special Shabbat or around the Feasts. But most important at this juncture is the development of the Life-groups and much effort has gone into their design and function. They will remain small (maximum of 10 members) and weekly meetings will contain the basic elements of worship, prayer, study of the Scriptures, and the Lord’s Table. As well as providing ‘life support’ for its members, a fundamental goal of each group is to reach out and grow and then create new groups. Pastoral work for Evan, Lev and other senior lay-workers will be focused on training and discipleship of facilitators and of course they will be far more mobile. Social media apps will support communication within the life-groups and more broadly as a congregational network. Fortunately, the circumstances of this past year has raised our skill-sets and the networks are well-established! Despite the current lockdown the groundwork is well underway. Zoom to pray and discuss the strategies for the Life-groups. Time is of an essence as we prepare to help people back into a fellowship framework .

Our main track – to find and establish a suitable community center is also being undertaken. Our plea to you all is to partner with us in prayer – so that we would be like the “Sons of Issachar who could wisely read the signs of the times and then know what to do!” Exciting times!

I believe we have provided you with considerable material for prayer. For those of you in NZ and Australia receiving this appeal please find time during your summer holidays to remember your brothers and sisters living in distress. And those of you living out your faith in the nations of the Northern Hemisphere and sharing in the distress of the raging pandemic, our hearts go out to you. Your brothers and sisters here in Israel pray for you and your communities. Be well, stay safe and above all, keep the faith!

Evan and Lev (for the Beit Asaph team)

Prayer update November 2020

\ 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 termBeit 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.

Prayer update July 2020

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

 

Update from Lev

Shalom dear Friends of Beit Asaph community,
We thank you for supporting us at this special time. We also want to encourage you, knowing that you need support and wisdom from the Lord these days as well.
Here I would like to update you about our situation.  

 As you know our government responded in a timely manner to the danger of the spreading of the COVID-19 virus among the population. Since March 15, a state of emergency (quarantine) has been sated in the country. Borders, education system, economic and religious activities closed and restrictions on travel, trade, and social gatherings increased daily. Because of the closure of the labor market, many in the country lost their jobs and ended up on unemployment benefits. Many elderly people, being at risk for life, were forced to stay in their homes for several weeks. 

 As all public sector also all gatherings of messianic communities in the country (include ours) were canceled and our general services were not held from March 15.  

 However we are NOT powerless! We have been called for such a time as this to be “salt and light” as Yeshua has taught us.   

 The Beit Asaph community continued to function in new conditions. Using technological capabilities, people communicated via social media coupled with finding creative ways of conducting virtual prayer meetings. Sermons, prayers, worship and simply words of encouragement were regularly recorded, translated from Hebrew to English and Russian languages ​​and laid out for members of the community. 

 For many, as for me, there was a unique opportunity to take special care of elderly parents, of families of new immigrants, single mothers or simply lonely elderly people. During this time, we were able to help many families’ especially single parents. In general, I want to say that none of those in need was left without attention and support.  

  Back to normal life: 

 Today, the country is on the way of back to normal life with the gradual opening of the economy and religious activities. 

 Like others today we make first steps in the month of June gradually return to our worship services as well.  

 The first three services have already taken place after quarantine, with a constant increase in those present. Together we celebrated the Shavuot (Pentecost) holiday, and on the last Shabbat we held our first traditional readings from the Torah scroll. 

   Please continue to pray for the restoration of our common worship ministries, ministry with teens, ministry with children, and ministry of home groups. Please pray for the return of the Country and our messianic community as well to healthy living conditions without fear, panic and stress. 

Testimony: 

 Especially in difficult times, we feel that God is faithful and cares for his children. Two joyful events have occurred in our community during the difficult two last months. The first event is the birth on Easter days of a new baby girl named NoyaThis simple event common in normal times was a great joy from God for the community in these difficult times. 

  The second is the wedding of a young couple, which took place despite all the difficulties.  

 

With respect and gratitude in the Lord 

Pastor Lev Guler on behalf of the Beit Asaph community. 

 

A word of encouragement from Evan and Maala Thomas, Lev and Ora Guler

Monday March 23, 2020

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Ps 94:19

“Cast ALL your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:7

These are the kinds of messages being constantly circulated amongst the local Believers within Israel to encourage and remind one another of God’s love and kingship during this time of crisis. This is so important to keep our spirits up as fear tries to find a foothold among our community of faith.

Nevertheless, these messages of hope and encouragement must also be given freely, wherever possible to members of the general public – our neighbors, those that serve us in gas stations, supermarkets and pharmacies. We have been called for such a time as this to be “salt and light” as Yeshua has taught us. The Apostle also instructed us through his second letter to the Corinthians that we are to be, “ambassadors of reconciliation…” that is, we have a vital role to play in the face of this pandemic. “Loving our neighbor” in times like these means being open and free to re-introduce them to a God that loves them.

Little did Maala and I know when we boarded the plane in mid-January for New Zealand that the world would so rapidly enter into such a challenging time. We blissfully thought how wonderful to be able to take some holidays after another big year of ministry coupled with our home building project. Then I (Evan) could settle back into writing with weekends set aside to serve local congregations and be an encouragement to their ministers. Initially all could not have been better – beautiful warm summer weather, walks in the forest, and plenty of fish to share with friends and family members.

Then the dark cloud of Covid-19 began to rapidly cover the globe and governments began to take action as evidence of this deadly virus hit nations like China, Italy and Iran and spread. Borders closed and restrictions on travel, trade, and social gatherings increased daily. Suddenly, the pleasant time out ‘Down Under’ no longer looked so pleasant – particularly when it was announced that our flights back to Israel were all cancelled. We instantly recalled that season 30 years ago when our daughter Sara was born in NZ and Scud missiles were plowing into Tel Aviv and our congregants were huddled in bomb shelters. The sense of being ‘cut off’ from loved ones in times of danger and distress is difficult to describe.

However we are NOT powerless! Daily communication via social media coupled with finding creative ways of conducting virtual prayer meetings helps enormously. God has given us sound minds and we choose not to be given over to fear. Our Lord is mighty to save! As we follow news broadcasts daily we see the patterns of conduct in the public sector and governmental regulations to try and curb the outbreak tightening. What was happening in Israel 10 days ago and shortly thereafter in Europe, is now beginning to take place in Australia and NZ.

This current crisis requires great courage and wisdom on the part of world leaders. They need our prayers as never before. Politics must be set aside and genuine care for citizenry must be paramount, whatever the cost. The same applies to the Body of Messiah. The shepherds must rally the flock. There is no room for ‘grandstanding’ nor passivity. We have good gifts, given by a loving Father – let’s use them for God’s glory and for the benefit of His kingdom.

Remember too that the rain falls both on the righteous and the wicked. So too, will this pandemic effect the lives of all of us, and for some time to come. Remember Paul’s words to the Philippians, “in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”

We give thanks for Israel and its leaders who have shown tremendous initiative and bravery and acted quickly and judiciously to protect our population of 9 million. In this they have modelled good leadership for others to follow. They have been on the forefront of medical breakthrough to develop an effective vaccine against the virus. May the Lord use this time to bring Israelis and Palestinians to battle the threat together out of mutual interest and set aside animosity, as such times gift us an opportunity to.

Our prayers and concern are with all of you. In Te Reo, the Maori language of Aotearoa, New Zealand, we say “Kia Kaha” Be steadfast, Stand Strong! To Yeshua be the glory, Amen!

Blessings,

Evan and Maala

A few words from Lev and Ora Guler

 In his word of encouragement, my dear colleague, Pastor Evan, described the situation in the whole world as a result of the tragedy of the COVID19.

 We, I and Ora fully join his words of encouragement. For my part, being directly in Israel in the city of Netanya and taking care of the Beit Asaf community at this difficult time, I want to add a few words about what is happening here. Our government has taken a number of very important steps and decisions and imposed restrictions on closing borders, jobs and the ability to gather in groups of more than 10 people.

 Currently, the government runs companies to export Israelis from other countries and quarantine them. So recently, groups of Israelis were exported from Peru, Italy, Spain, and others.

 Also, as a local community, we have seriously taken government orders and, as obedient citizens, we are moving to another form of existence as a community. With God’s help and just in time, we managed to purchase and distribute 40 boxes with masks for forty families of the community the day before the restrictions were introduced.

This is me (Lev) and my youngest son.

Due to home isolation, our community changed the way of communication via the network. We try to record the Sermons and laid out for all members of the community.

 We see that despite the situation, the level of care of community members for each other and for their elderly neighbors have significantly increased praise God.  

  There is constant prayer and support for all members of the community. We believe that this tragedy is changing the face of the Beit Asaph community for the better.

  We encourage you in your situation in your country in prayer and wish you to strengthen, communicate and restore.

Blessings,

Lev and Ora

 

Prayer letter December 2019

December 2019

 Our Dear Brothers and Sisters in Messiah,

 As we draw near to the festive season of Hanukkah and Christmas we wish to send you our love and blessings for the coming year, 2020, and most of all our deep gratitude for “hanging in there” with us throughout 2019.

It has been a wonderful year, full of good fruit and bold steps forward! We have seen such answers to prayer and have grown in faithfulness as a community. Specifically, it has been such a joy to see our younger generation flourish.

Our youth (14-18 year-olds) stand out as a model for our whole congregation. This year they have been the primary group requesting baptism and they love outreach and mission. They also love to serve in various capacities and several have regular roles in Shabbat services. In August, six of our older youth (pre-military service) took part in the Yad b’Yad 1.0 (Hand-in-Hand) Reconciliation Initiative.

When our new school year began in October, the new intake of younger teens joined our youth program. It’s usually a ‘nightmare’ for them figuring out how to fit in. This year it was seamless. Why? Because the older ones who had each had a personal encounter with Yeshua in the Yad b’Yad 1.0 program in Auschwitz simply opened their arms to the young ones, as their mentors. Thank you for your prayers for Natan and his team of youth leaders. They do a great job of primary pastoral care for our youth and prepare them spiritually for the ‘rough and tumble’ of military service when they hit 18!

Our group of young adults, “HaMilchiah” (the Saltshaker) are growing from strength-to-strength. Three couples have found each other within the group and married, and babies are beginning to emerge J. A fine home group is also well underway and over half of them are serving as preachers, service leaders, worship leaders and team members, Shabbat school and youth teachers. Evan and Lev mentor these young people one-on-one with spectacular results.

Many of our young adults’ lives were radically changed as a result of taking part in the Yad b’Yad 2.0 mission’s program in late August and for them the outreach simply continued when they got back home. Some examples of the outcomes include: regular prayer walks and open worship at Israel’s leading university campuses and monthly worship and street outreaches throughout Israel’s cities. It is a dream come true for us to see our Messianic young adults worshipping and witnessing alongside their Arab Christian peers in places like Nazareth (see photos) Haifa and Tel Aviv.

You will recall us asking for prayer in the middle of the year as we were about to renegotiate the leasing contract on Beit Asaph’s facility. This was successful and we were able to sign in late June. The new contract will take effect from January 2020. As we completed the High Holydays in early October we began to mobilize a large portion of the congregation towards giving our facility a complete “face lift.” After 20 years the place was looking decidedly tired and run down. It is amazing what a bit of tender love and care does. Men and women of all ages and backgrounds have been painting, cleaning, repairing and removing large amounts of accumulated ‘junk’. It’s been Passover cleaning “on turbo” and the results are outstanding!

Beyond the physical effect was the joy of working together for the common good of the community and the overall sense of accomplishment it produced. Wow!

Some Prayer Briefs:

Next week we will be participating in the, “Welcoming the King of Glory” conference in Nazareth. Israel Messianics and Arab Christians will be hosting significant numbers of delegates from indigenous peoples of the Pacific Rim (e.g. maritime nations of the South Pacific). Please pray for an outpouring of God’s Spirit in intercession and outreach – welcoming Yeshua back to his hometown!

Prayer for Miriam – Beit Asaph’s missionary to Uganda. She returns to Israel in the coming week from intensive training at Frontier Ministry with YWAM and then flies to Uganda to begin her first year in the Eastern Mountains region. Good news: All the money she will need for 2020 (including coverage of her Israeli National Insurance) has been provided.

Prayer for building the teams – Yad b’Yad 1.0 & 2.0 youth and young adults programs for next summer 2020. Careful recruitment is required to find the balance as both discipleship programs are very demanding.

Reminder: Yb’Y 1.0 focuses on 16-18 year-old Messianic youth and their German Christian peers in an intercessory act of reconciliation. They will be hosted in the Nuremberg area of Germany and will travel to Auschwitz together.

Yb’Y 2.0 is a discipleship program that focuses on street mission. The team is made up of a balanced group of Israeli Arab and Jewish believers, Palestinian believers and German Christians. The outreach will take place in the Old City of Nuremberg – a place with enormous history from former Nazi times but also a city where huge numbers of people from all over the world come each summer. Both initiatives are sponsored and co-led by Philippus-Dienst of Germany.

Prayer for Evan and Maala leaving Israel in mid-January for a week of ministry in Switzerland together with Palestinian and Swiss colleagues. From Zurich they will travel to NZ to spend time with family followed by a number of ministry responsibilities and some focused time on writing! Thank you in advance for prayer for Beit Asaph during their three months away – for Lev and Ora and for the fine team of young adults that help carry a wide variety of the responsibilities.

Last but not least, please pray for our politically beleaguered nation. We have no suggestions regarding leadership as the entire country is very disappointed in our politicians and the political system. However, we pray that this would be the season when God would remove the scales off our people’s eyes that we might see the One who is true leader over Israel – Yeshua himself!

We send you our blessings for a season of joy, light, good fellowship around your tables and for a spirit of unity to prevail in your church communities.

Evan and Lev (for Beit Asaph)

Prayer letter September 2019

September, 2019

Our Dear Brothers and Sisters in Messiah,

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (Yeshua’s prayer from John 17:20, 21)

 

What a summer it has been. Our temperatures have remained consistently in the 30’s Celsius, which has added stress to the tensions we feel politically and in areas of national security. The threat of war from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah across our northern border is constant as are missiles from Gaza into Israel. According to today’s news Israel is preparing for a wide-scale campaign in Gaza. These are terrible times and we thank you in advance for ‘standing in the gap’ for our nation.

Continue reading “Prayer letter September 2019”