Why do a short-term mission trip?
This is a question that we receive from time-to-time, so this seems like a good moment to address it! First, to help missionaries. There are many things that teens can do to help churches and local ministries. Second, to share the Good News of the Gospel! Often, residents of a foreign country are curious to speak to visitors. This opens up many opportunities to share the Good News! Third, to encourage local believers! Every church we visited in Israel was greatly encouraged and refreshed by the presence of our team. One pastor told me (Jeff), “If I had known your team was going to be so good, I would have had you here sooner!” Our little team had the privilege of encouraging the members of four separate churches. As in all of our JET mission trips, our goal in Israel was to build-up and assist in the work that is being conducted by those who have a permanent call to the country and because missionary activity is greatly frowned upon in Israel, all things “missionary” have to be done creatively and discreetly. There can be no open, loud, ‘here-we-are’ style evangelism.
Christians not Welcome!
If a foreign Christian would like to visit Israel’s biblical sites, no problem! However, if you are a Christian living in Israel or a foreign Christian wanting to share the Good News about Jesus the Messiah with the people of Israel, you are not welcome! Therefore, the Israeli church exists in the shadows. For example, nearly every evangelical church in Israel has their services in a warehouse located in an industrial park. (The picture above is our group on our way to a church in an industrial park!) The idea being that industrial parks are vacant on the Sabbath (the day that believers meet) and therefore they run much less of a risk of being harassed for meeting together. Furthermore, evangelism in Israel is greatly frowned upon. In one city where our group spent 1½ hours sharing the Gospel with people on the street the mayor’s office was inundated with calls from locals complaining about missionary activity. (Someone in the mayor’s office tipped us off.)
A Church Apart
After two separate month-long ministry trips to Israel with a number of interactions with full-time missionaries and local believers, a number of things have started to come into focus. First, the church in Israel walks a very fine line of trying to establish its own identity that is not too heavily influenced by western Christianity, nor by Judaizing tendencies ever-present when a Jewish majority is the norm. Second, courage is necessary for our brothers and sisters who face real persecution daily and are constantly told that they’re not “real Jews” if they accept Jesus as the Messiah. Third, like any country with a low percentage of Christians, missionary vision for people outside the borders is still far from the norm within the church. Please pray for this!
(In the picture above Jeff and the leaders of the church are praying in a Jewish manner for the children of the congregation.)
Stick to the plan
In Israel it is fairly common to find publicity under your windshield wipers. Even local businesses place publicity magnets on your car. In that same vein, one of the ministries with which we partnered has printed thousands of mini-magnets (the size of a business card) with the address of an evangelistic website to stick on cars (or wherever we can find something made of metal!) Our group did this with gusto! Anytime we arrived in a parking lot our group fanned out and put a magnet on every car. It is also common in Israel to find bumper stickers for all kinds of events posted on poles, on signs and at bus stops. Whenever our group saw stickers present at a public place, we added our bumper stickers to the already present collection! We placed magnets on about 4000 cars and put out a bunch of stickers! Please pray that God would use these simple means to bring people to the peace that can only be found in Jesus the Messiah!
The Printed Word
The same ministry has also printed thousands of pamphlets & booklets and copies of the New Testament in over 20 languages. Our group had many opportunities to share this literature with people of many languages. We also had the joy of helping the person responsible for the literature re-organize his warehouse including building much needed new shelving!
Trashing the Gospel
There is an organization in Israel led by a messianic believer that picks-up trash as a way to prepare the Land for the return of the Messiah. This organization is very well received by the local authorities and has made great in-roads into the community. On our last trip (in 2017) we assisted this ministry. In fact, every single time we went out to pick-up trash we were able to share the Gospel with many people. Our plan was to get involved with this ministry once again, however… more about that later!
Out on the street
Sharing the Gospel on the street in Israel is especially challenging because you never know with what belief system you’re going to come into contact: religious Jews, secular Jews, Muslims, members of tiny religious sects, or foreign tourists from around the world. This means you need to be EXTRA prepared! We trained our group in multiple approaches to sharing based upon to whom they were speaking and we encouraged them to use Google translate because this enabled them to have a clear conversation with anyone even if they don’t speak the same language! So, each week our group was out on the street quietly striking up conversations with all these various people sharing the Good News about forgiveness and peace in Jesus! We had all kinds of responses from positive conversations that resulted in many people (Jews/Muslims/Foreigners) accepting literature or a New Testament in their language or angry people yelling and screaming. One gentleman was so angry upon being given a pamphlet that in his tantrum even his kippah flew off his head!Welcome to the Synagogue
As you may know, the synagogue is the equivalent to a Jewish local church. In one city where we were out on the street, Ben (our male leader) & I greeted an older religiously dressed couple who greeted us back very warmly. As we walked we struck up a friendly conversation as they asked us where we were from (Montreal), what we were doing in Israel (I said I was here leading a group of students serving different organizations around the country.) He asked me what organizations? (I named them) and we continued to walk and talk and he explained to me that he is the head deacon at the local synagogue just up the way. And then suddenly he stopped and looked at me and he said, “Are you messianic?” I said, “yes”. At this point he started talking to his wife in Hebrew, but after a moment I went right back to what we were talking about before his question as if he hadn’t asked the question. After a long pause (during which I was thinking, ‘this conversation is probably over’) he said, “C’mon, I’m taking you to the synagogue.” I said, “let’s go!” As we were walking, his wife was complaining to us about all the trash in-front of the synagogue and I told her, “Well, one of the organizations we are working with is authorized by the city to pick up trash, so we can come and pick this up for you.” After we arrived at the synagogue he gave me a quick tour and told me “Hey, I’ve got to do stuff because it is Saturday night and people are arriving.” So, I went outside and joined the conversation that Ben was having with his wife. She was listing all the reasons that she didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah. (As Ben said, it sounded more like she was trying to convince herself than us!) She explained that she had been forced to read the New Testament as part of her online counseling degree. Inquisitive, I asked her from what school she received her degree, she said, “Jerry Falwell’s school. Liberty University.” I said, “Oh, all my kids attended there!” So, as I explained to her the biblical arguments for Jesus as the Jewish Messiah another man came out of the synagogue. When I saw him I greeted him, but he responded loudly, “I DON’T TALK TO MISSIONAIRIES!” She responded to him, “I’m not afraid to talk to them.” With the growing crowd of religious Jews circling, I felt like it was time to go. But I told her, “We’ll be back to pick up that trash.” She had mentioned that she and her husband were at the synagogue every morning from 7:30-8:30 to do clean-up, etc. So, the following Tuesday we showed up @ 7:30 with our entire team armed with work gloves and plastic bags. Both he and his wife were in shock! We immediately got to work! As we carried away trash Tonda had a fantastic conversation with his wife and made many excellent points about Jesus being the Messiah and every time I walked past him he made some comment like, ‘I’ve been asking the city to clean this up for three years’ or ‘Thank you so much’ or ‘I love you guys.’ When we finished (an 1½ later) I asked him if the kids could see inside the synagogue. He responded affirmatively and while inside he requested that we take a picture with him and he told me that he loved me and kissed me on the neck! (Something, I’m told, that is VERY unusual for a religious Jew towards a believer in Jesus.) Please pray for this couple and our continuing contact with them. Also, praise the Lord for the good testimony we were able to create for the local organization that continues its ministry in that city!
Christians helping Jewish refugees
Another ministry in which we participated was providing food and clothing to Jewish refugees from around the world and especially from the Ukraine. Each morning some of our team members oversaw the free clothing distribution center and worked at a farm harvesting vegetables used for refugee meals. Many Jews were astonished to see messianic believers serving the Jewish people in this way.Lone Soldier Guest House
As you may know, all young adults are required to serve in the Israeli armed forces for a few years and also to remain in the reserves until age 45 (unless they have 6 or more children.) There are many young soldiers who have no family members in Israel, so when they are conscripted, they normally give up their lease on an apartment. This means that when they have leave, they literally have nowhere to go. One Messianic ministry is creating individual apartment housing where lone soldiers can stay and then be invited to share meals with local believing families, etc. Our group helped prepare the rooms they will use. Please pray that God would use this in a great way to bring these soldiers to new life in Messiah Jesus!
The ancient town of Mary Magdalene has been the site of many important archaeological finds over the last 15 years. This summer a new archaeological dig was sanctioned by a major Jewish University. Since it is not local, the school contacted our friend, a known messianic Jew, who leads the trash pick-up, and asked him to find volunteers to assist with the dig. He, in turn, asked us to give him one day per week! In keeping with our principle to build-up local ministries, we heartily agreed! So, each Monday our team arrived at 5am and dug until 12:30pm. (Our group found two coins from the 7th century!) The archaeologists from around the world overseeing the dig were greatly impressed by our team – not just their work – but the character of our kids. One of them, from Rome, told me, “I am thankful for your group. Yes, your work, but especially your friendship.” Please pray as I maintain contact with him. In fact, our team had many, many opportunities to share the Gospel with people as we worked on the site! Thank you so much for your prayers for our trip! Please continue to pray for the seeds planted!