Dear friend in the Messiah,
Shalom in the glorious name of Jesus our Messiah! This newsletter will highlight our various short-term outreach ministries around the globe where we give volunteers and staff the opportunity to reach Jewish people.
Just recently, I was in New Zealand where I was able to witness the amazing work there among Israeli backpackers. Thanks to hundreds of Christians here who have opened up their hearts and their homes to traveling Israelis, Jewish ministry in New Zealand has exploded!
This morning I had an unforgettable experience as I walked outside my hotel room very early and came face to face with stars and constellations (in reverse configuration!). All I wanted to do was shout Hallelujah!, but it was too early so I restrained myself. I had what I can only describe as a “King David moment” as all I could think of was the Psalmist’s description of what he saw in the night sky above Israel reflected in Psalm 8.
O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! (Psalm 8:1)
And, dear friend, all you have to do is to take one look at the pristine array of stars filling the night sky rising high above the mountains of the South Island in New Zealand and you would want to do the same!
King David continues to describe what he saw,
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4)
I told one of my travel partners as we passed stunningly beautiful mountains and snow-covered cliffs rising above chilly blue rivers, glacial lakes and fast churning rapids, that I have never felt this small since the day I accepted the Lord Jesus as my Messiah standing among the immense and towering trees of Northern California’s Redwood Forest.
The chairman of our New Zealand Board of Directors, who has a great heart for Israel and the Jewish people, told our little group that the reasons he wanted us to participate in this tour was so that we fully understand why Israeli young people, after completing their two or three years of service in the IDF, choose to travel to New Zealand, which is an expensive trip for every Israeli.
The natural beauty and the testimony of God’s glory in nature is so compelling that even the most secular young Israeli is easily overwhelmed by the very power and untamed beauty of the South Island. And many have had their eyes and hearts opened to the existence of a God who created the heavens and the earth and who is also gracious and merciful and wants us all to experience a personal relationship with Him through Jesus the Messiah.
The ministry in New Zealand has grown quickly over the last few years because there are literally hundreds of Christians living in this country who have opened their hearts and homes to traveling Israelis, inviting them to stay and enjoy the beauty of the island. These wonderful believers are also able tell the travelers about Jesus by showing them His love and concern for them through their generosity and, when asked, to share the Good News of Messiah and pass along Gospel books in Hebrew, including the New Testament.
I asked our chairman, Chris, and his wife Margaret, who are farmers by trade, how they developed this ministry among young Israelis, what it has meant to them personally, and what kind of impact they and others have had on the Israeli backpackers.
Mitch: Tell me how you started your ministry of hospitality among Israeli backpackers and describe for me how you went about serving these young people?
Chris: About eight or nine years ago, we had been to Bible school after farming for decades, and during school we had a home group where we taught the Jewish background to the faith. As a result, we became interested in the Hebrew roots of our faith. We took a trip to Israel and were encouraged to try hosting young Israelis traveling through New Zealand.
We have a nice home with a beautiful view and any visitor who comes up our driveway sees the sign saying “Engedi —Place of Refreshing.” They then see a cross with the words FORGIVEN written on it and as they turn to see the view there are New Zealand and Israeli flags flying. We provide an out-of-the-ordinary experience. The Israelis wonder why we offer our home to them without charge. Our guests come into our home and we hug them instead of shaking their hands to immediately make them feel like family. This breaks down any barriers.
We do not bring up Jesus or religion but wait for them to ask. Their curiosity is so great they cannot help but ask. The rest of their time with us is spent relaxing, picking vegetables from our garden and when possible, we speak to them about the Lord…most importantly, they leave our home knowing that true Christians love them and love the Jewish people.
Mitch: Can you tell me what the young Israelis are like and what types of conversations you have with them?
Chris: The young Israelis are polite and considerate and because we treat them with trust, they return the favor and we have never had a problem with any type of bad behavior. They are very respectful.
We talk to them about the history of Israel from a biblical perspective, and sometimes if they allow me…I speak to them about the “crimson line of redemption” in Scripture from the blood of Abraham’s sacrifices to the cross. They prefer to not talk about politics, but enjoy their break from the stress of living in Israel, preferring to discuss the geography of New Zealand.
Mitch: How has this ministry impacted you and your other Christian friends who have been opening their farms, homes, and lives to the travelers?
Chris: Our whole perspective of the Bible has changed from looking at it from a Western perspective to recognizing the Hebraic culture and roots of our faith. This alone has changed our lives profoundly. We also began a group dedicated to praying for Israel, which has grown from six to thirty people and is still growing. These friends are committed to the Jewish people and Jewish evangelism. This has also led to my serving on the Board of Chosen People Ministries in New Zealand and we both enjoy the fellowship of our Messianic Jewish friends and the ministry God has given us in reaching young Israelis for Him.
I am so grateful for Chris and Margaret and the other believers across the great country of New Zealand who opened their homes to Israeli backpackers. Chosen People Ministries is able to stay connected with many of these young people in Israel as well.
Some of the young Israelis who are already believers have come to New Zealand to volunteer at Zula Lodge— the very comfortable 50-bed youth hostel our staff in New Zealand purchased this past year. We provide free housing for the travelers and extend the same love and grace to the backpackers as people like Chris and Margaret have done for years. We never push the Gospel on anyone, but simply make ourselves available for conversations, practical help and advice, and of course giving them some good ideas on how to get the most out of the beauty of the South Island.
Zula Lodge enables many Israelis to live in a believing environment for a few days without cost. In fact, more than a thousand backpackers stay at the lodge over the course of the summer season. One of the great events during the week is the corporate Sabbath dinner. Sometimes 50-60 Israelis gather together to eat and celebrate the Sabbath. The young Israelis often help cook the meal and help lead the service as well. These evenings last well into the night as conversations about life, travel, and the Gospel happen so naturally between the travelers and staff.
Most importantly, the relationships that are built continue past the visits in New Zealand, back to Israel when the travelers return home. Our Israel staff is following up on the travelers we meet in New Zealand and other spots where we have short-term outreach among Israelis.
As you continue reading in the newsletter you will find out more about some of our other short-term mission opportunities—including Shalom Brooklyn—a two week journey into the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn—with some experiences in Manhattan and other parts of New York City as well. These are also wonderful opportunities where both young and old who love the Lord and the Jewish people can experience the very heartbeat of Jewish life in Brooklyn and speak to Jewish people about the Messiah Jesus.
We also do the same in Israel where we have two trips every summer for younger people to the Holy Land where we reach out with the Good News of Yeshua to Israelis in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and across the country of Israel.
I can promise you one thing—if you participate in a short-term outreach, whether it be in New Zealand, India, South America, Brooklyn, or Israel—your life will be transformed!
On behalf of our global staff, thank you for your faithful financial support, prayers, encouraging notes, and for your loving testimony among the Jewish people right where you live! We never underestimate the value of all you do in your everyday relationships with Jewish friends, family, and neighbors.
Thanks so much for all you do to help us tell our beloved Jewish people about the Messiah.