Why Are We Here?
February 29, 2020 Update:
As we approached our time here in Israel many friends spoke to us encouragingly, some gave us Bible verses they believed related to what we were going to do. As I was leaving the last Westside Family Fellowship Elders meeting before our flight, Bob Alspaugh took me aside and told me he believed we were going forth as ambassadors. Yes, ambassadors. Representatives of the leadership of one nation to the leadership of another. Since we arrived here we’ve heard “ambassadors” many times in a variety of contexts. Of course, as Christians, we do represent a nation or people in the midst of and on behalf of another nation. We speak and act on behalf of the leader of our nation(Jesus) to a world that does not believe in him. Once the Apostle Paul referred to himself as “an ambassador in chains”. No one who has submitted themselves to Jesus Christ is any different. We are all ambassadors. All the time. Every day. May we all act according to his will and purpose as the King of our “country”.
We began our week on Sunday (that’s the first day of the week here) with the first of our appointments to distribute funds and grocery cards on behalf of the Beit Shalom Tiberias ministry. As someone once said … this is where it really takes off!
First, we met L. (I am using initials to protect privacy), a Tiberias Social Services worker and mother of four (with a fifth on the way) at her office. She organizes and manages five clubs that aim to keep children from poor homes off the streets as well as giving them educational benefits their parents cannot afford. For instance, Beit Shalom provides her with funds that help two of those clubs hire an art teacher and buy art supplies. I think there is much more to these after school clubs and she has invited us to join her at one of those clubs to see the work in action.
Next, we met with S., a Social Services manager. This is where the day got interesting. While S. could speak and understand English none of her employees could. She assigned these other workers to take us to the homes of needy persons on their Social Services rolls where we would deliver Grocery Store gift cards. I was the chauffeur who had to translate what the Social Worker, A., in the back seat of the van was telling me in Hebrew … go “straight(yashar)”, “left(shmalh)”, “right(yamin)” and “stop(itsa?)”! We taught them some English and I hope I learned some Hebrew along the way! When I made a mistake like turning right too soon, or not stopping where A. wanted me to we would just laugh and try again. Great fun! When we arrived at a location, Frieda and the worker would go in to visit the person receiving the grocery store gift card. Sometimes it took no time at all, other stops were much longer as the grateful recipient would serve them tea and snacks. We weren’t able to complete the distribution of these grocery gift cards on Sunday. So we went out again two days later and drove all over the city of Tiberias with three other Social Workers(Z., R. and E.) handing out nine more grocery gift cards. We also met with a former Druze (Google it) man and his wife to bless them with much-needed money.
In between the ministry of blessing the poor and needy, we explored different places close to Tiberias. One place we love to go to is the “Swiss Forest Trail” which has a stunning view of the city and the sea of Galilee(Lake Tiberias or Kinnereth, it has many names). Complete with free-roaming cows and horses. I have no idea if the cows and horses belong to someone or if they are a wild herd that takes advantage of the green grass for food. It was interesting being ignored by these cows and horses as you walked through the middle of them on the paved pathways.
Friday afternoon we attended a home fellowship meeting of English speaking fellow believers not far from our apartment. On Saturday we went to the Morning Star Messianic Fellowship in Tiberias. At Morning Star we listen to a translation of the sermon from either Hebrew or Russian to English via earphones.
Back to the big question at the start … why are we here? The number one reason is that after pushing on the door to come here and finding it firmly locked we gave up trying. When we did that, suddenly God opened the door for us and ”pushed” us through it. Secondly, we are here to get a better understanding of the people than one of our standard, “fast and furious” Holy Land tours can give. That helps us to know how to pray and how to help them. Finally, we are here because someone has to make the grocery and financial disbursements to the needy which Beit Shalom Ministry has made commitments to. To me, this is an extension of the recent volunteer work we’ve been doing with the Salvation Army Food Bank in Prince George and the general call on Christians to take care of the sick, needy, orphans and widows wherever we find them.