​Israel Honeymoon Over

August 15 2018

In my last blog, I explained how Israel changed my life … how excited we were when we first arrived in Israel. But the excitement evaporated in just a few days.

Why? Millions of people visit Israel every year, and they return home with their lives forever changed … how could I say that the excitement was gone so soon? Well, those who visit Israel, they return home … but we stayed. Don’t get me wrong, I love living here, but as all cross-cultural workers experience when moving to a new country, we faced challenges. We didn’t know the language, the customs were strange, and so many things were different. We began to feel frustrated. I had thought because I knew English that learning Hebrew would come easily … my mistake. Also, soon after we arrived, we needed to find a house because the hospitality center didn’t give us much time to live there. Our realtor was a Russian woman. Wait, what? I don’t speak Russian, and she didn’t speak any English. Only by God’s grace were we able to find a place that we could afford and was ok to live.

During the first year, we also attended classes called “Ulpan” every morning to learn Hebrew. In the beginning, it was good, but as time went on, I felt uncomfortable not having a job, and the course wasn’t good.

We also had to buy a car. We purchased a 1982 French car that looked like a big white refrigerator driving down in the street. And soon, we realized that open windows weren’t sufficient circulation for the Israel heat.

But we were happy with the new congregation. But even there, the language was a barrier. Yet, when you worship with people of the same faith, you are happy … that is until I met a big guy that sitting beside me. As we started to talk (in English), he asked my name, and I asked his. His name was Harry. Soon, my mind started to find any Jewish guy named Harry. I couldn’t. He then told me that he was German. When I heard that I became paralyzed. Why would God send me to Israel to meet a German? Was this a joke? After all, that happened in WWII? I must admit that I had a hard heart toward Germans at that time.

Long story short, Harry become my best friend. He found me my first real job in Israel. And, praise God, he helped me find a better car!

Shortly thereafter, Harry requested that I visit Germany to share about my life and ministry. I said, “What?!” I didn’t want to go. Regardless, Batel and I soon found ourselves flying to Germany. Our month there was a time not only of sharing but of deep healing for my heart. On many occasions after the services, I had older people approach me, offering their hands and words of apology.

But the deepest healing came a week before our return to Israel. We visited a concentration camp in the north of Germany called Bergen-Belsen. This is where Anne Frank died after being sent there from Auschwitz. It was a very sad time for me and Batel to relive this history.

Then, we drove to Bergen (three miles from the camp) to visit a fellow believer. When we arrived, they served us coffee and shared about their history. “This house,” they said, “has been in our family for more than 120 years.” I paused in thought, thinking about the time of war, 70 years before, realizing that their family had lived in the midst of the war. When I asked about the war, a silence filled the house. We all felt uncomfortable. But I insisted, and the man said that his father had been a Nazi and that I was the first Jewish person (with my wife) to enter his house. Then, we all started to cry, like we cried as children. After recovering my breath, I said, “What your father did is not your fault. He’d never receive me in his house, but you opened your door, and in Jesus, we are the same.” Our tears were tears of healing for us both.

By Moshe, OMS worker in Israel

Tags: israel, outreach ministry, reaching jews, forgiveness, wwii,

​Sycamore Tree Restoration Through Prison Ministry

February 10 2016

Crime has a widespread and long-lasting impact on victims, offenders, and the community. One Mission Society partner ministry Prison Fellowship of Colombia promotes healing for those affected by crime through its restorative justice program, Sycamore Tree.

Based on the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who agreed to repay the people he had cheated, this project brings victims into prisons to meet with offenders. Prisoners come to a full understanding of the effects of their crimes and discuss what it would mean to take responsibility for their actions. Victims and their families are also afforded the opportunity to offer forgiveness.

OMS partner, Lacides Hernandez, president of Prison Fellowship of Colombia, tells of one prisoner who recently completed the program. He had been involved in the murder of seven people, whom he secretly buried. However, after participating in Sycamore Tree, he wanted to help bring closure for the families of the seven victims by helping them recover the bodies of their loved ones. He called the authorities, who came to the prison. As a result of his action, the bodies were recovered for the families. This is very important in a country where many people have simply disappeared over the years.

Sycamore Tree emphasizes relationships, accountability, human rights, healing, and transformation. It gives victims a voice, lowers the rate of repeat offenses, and offers a powerful example of the application of biblical principles to social problems.

Painting by James Tissot, late 1800s. (Brooklyn Museum/Wikimedia Commons)

Tags: prison ministry, restoration, murder, colombia, forgiveness,

​From Masterminding a Murder to Christ’s Forgiveness

February 2 2016

For many decades, Colombian prisons were notorious for their violence and hopelessness. But today, by the grace of God, lives are being transformed through the love of Christ and the ministry of faithful believers in those same prisons. Colombian prisons now have become a place of forgiveness, healing, and restoration for hundreds of inmates.

Miriam is one of these. After masterminding the murder of her husband, Miriam was sentenced to prison. She says that for 20 years, her husband abused her, leaving scars all over her body, which to this day still show the evidence of his abuse. Though she sought to put an end to her troubles through his death, her guilt so consumed her that she turned herself in to the authorities.

When she arrived at the prison, she joined one of the cell block prayer groups. She had heard of God, but for the first time she began to truly understand his love. She later signed up for training in the prison Bible school, which deepened her understanding and love for God.

Now, Miriam is living for the Lord. He has done miraculous things in her life. She has received forgiveness from her children for the murder and no longer lives with the burden of guilt.

But the greatest miracle of all, she says, is that she feels completely loved by Jesus Christ.

Follow these blogs and OMS social media to hear more about how prison ministry in Colombia is changing lives...

Tags: prison ministry, colombia, restoration, forgiveness,