Change Region:New Zealand

Special Reports

Loving Families for Israel’s Children-at-Risk

 “A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity…” (Psalm 68:5-6)

The Father-heart of God and His emphasis on family is clearly displayed throughout Scripture. It is the Lord Himself who sets people in families. So what a tragedy when anyone, much less a child, winds up “fatherless”.

Although Israeli society places high priority on families and children, there are still approximately 367,000 at-risk youth in Israel today. Over 10,000 children have been removed from their homes by social services, and only one in four are currently in foster care. Although 120 children on average are adopted each year, the standard waiting period for adoption is five years. That is a long waiting period for a developing child to spend outside a secure family structure.

Since every child deserves a permanent home, ICEJ AID is becoming more involved in adoption and foster care programs in Israel. One example is the adoption adventure of Colin and Helen. An ICEJ team recently visited their home to hear their amazing story first-hand.

When Colin and Helen made Aliyah from the United Kingdom to Israel in 2009, they fully intended to start a family. But soon after settling into their new home, the couple was faced with the heart-breaking reality that they could not conceive children on their own. Unwilling to give up on the dream of raising children, they explored adoption.

Adoption in Israel, however, is no easy journey. In addition to the normal bureaucracy, family court hearings, batteries of psychological tests, and home inspections familiar to any adoptive parents, Israel also requires the prospective parents and children to be from the same religious background. Although Colin and Helen are both believers in Yeshua, Israel considers Colin to be Jewish and Helen to be Christian. Although religiously-mixed households are relatively common in Israel, finding a baby with a matching religious heritage is rare.

In faith, however, the family submitted an adoption application which was rejected, not based on religion but due to Colin’s age. Frustrated by this answer, Helen cried out to the Lord and immediately heard Him say: “I am going to give you a child and it is not going to be difficult.”

When Colin & Helen learned of the desperate need for foster parents in Israel, they contacted an Israeli agency and applied to be a foster family. The social worker assigned to them was candid with the couple, explaining that although Colin’s age would not be a problem for the purposes of fostering, it would prevent the fostering arrangement from ever becoming an adoption. But she promised to do her best to find them a young child who needed their care.

Once their application was submitted, Colin and Helen had one small concern: The next three months would be filled with travel outside of Israel. Colin had speaking engagements in several countries and Helen would be traveling with him. The agent assured them the approval process would take at least that long and they could travel without worry. Happy and trusting the Lord would answer their prayers, the couple proceeded with their travel plans.

Imagine their surprise when, the day before departure, the social worker called. A baby boy, born the day before, was in need of an immediate home. Since the child had one Jewish parent and one Christian Arab parent, the agency saw Colin and Helen as an ideal match. Shocked at this development, the couple considered cancelling their travel plans. However, with so many people relying on them, they prayed and told the agency they felt to honour their commitments abroad.

Resting in the Father’s promise
The baby boy who was a perfect match for their family was sitting at the hospital waiting to be loved. Once again, Colin and Helen put their trust in their heavenly Father; His timing was perfect, and He was in control of their future as parents. In that moment, His promise to “give them a child and it will be easy” became their foundation, and peace rolled in like a flood. So they began their three-month speaking tour, resting in the Lord’s assurance that He would provide.

And provide He did. Upon their return to Israel three months later, the couple were astonished to discover that their social worker, convinced this baby was “meant for them”, had placed the baby in a temporary three-month situation and he was now ready to come home with them. In the joyful months that followed, the Lord began to open doors that Colin and Helen had never anticipated. Even before “Joshua” was placed in their home under a foster-care arrangement, the Israeli agency decided to make an exception and allow Colin and Helen to begin the adoption process.

Throughout that process – which involved a battery of interviews, questionnaires and hearings – the unique religious makeup of their family, which seemed to perfectly match Joshua, became a constant topic of discussion. Colin recalled being asked numerous times, by social workers, lawyers and others throughout Israel: “So what exactly do you believe?”

At one point, however, this miraculous story seemed destined for a disappointing end: When it came to adoption, the state of Israel considered Colin and Helen together to be a “Jewish family” and Joshua a Christian, thus religiously incompatible. They had already waived the age restriction but were unwilling to suspend the religious requirement. However, many professionals involved in Colin and Helen’s story and touched by their love for the boy and each other, voiced their support. Once again, Colin and Helen rested on the Lord’s promises, despite the possibility that this baby they had fallen in love with might ultimately be taken away.

After many legal discussions, it was decided that the adoption could go ahead! But the Lord did not stop there: Before Joshua’s adoption could be finalised, the couple were informed that his birth mother was pregnant again, and the social worker who had first placed Joshua in their home wanted them to consider taking the sibling as well. The Lord had already been speaking to both Colin and Helen individually about growing their family even more. By the time the social worker came to their home, armed with her list of “reasons why” they should consider this, their hearts were already prepared, and the “yes” came naturally.

Three become four, and impact many
The story of “Lisa’s” journey to join this little family contained some of the same obstacles they encountered the first time. The state once again had a problem with the seeming incompatibility of religions, but the Lord made a way and the court decided not to separate the siblings. Lisa joined her brother and new parents and both children were officially adopted into Colin and Helen’s family.

Colin and Helen’s adoption saga has had a powerful impact on their local congregation, which is comprised of Jewish and Arab believers. Joshua was the first baby of both Jewish and Arab descent in the fellowship and seemed to tangibly symbolise their “one new man” identity. In addition to fulfilling Colin and Helen’s dreams of becoming parents and placing two unwanted children into a loving home, the Lord is using their story to reconcile and strengthen an entire community.

Call to action
While Joshua and Lisa are now part of a happy family, many more children are still languishing in Israel’s social system, desperately in need of a loving home. Join us in making sure they are placed with suitable families here in Israel! Your gift to ICEJ AID will help expand adoption in Israel and provide much-needed support for foster- and adoptive parents once accepted. (Note: Children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.)

Give to ICEJ AID today.

Equipping Israelis to Fight Fires

Just imagine seeing incendiary balloons and kites soaring through the sky, then watching one drop and set your field on fire, burning your crops within minutes. These are the kinds of daily attacks that Israelis living near the Gaza border have faced this past year.

These arson attacks are not as frequent during the winter months, as it is the rainy season when fields are relatively wet. Yet as soon as the summer heat arrives, the fields get very dry, arson attacks multiply, and the fires spread rapidly. Therefore, there is a great need for better firefighter training in Israel’s south.

With all this in mind, ICEJ-Australia recently funded a Christian firefighting expert to come to Israel to share his expertise and training with his local counterparts. In March, Tim Wainwright, a professional firefighter from Australia with 25 years of experience, visited the Negev and trained firefighters, security officers, community leaders, and youth in fire safety.

Even though this was Tim’s first time in Israel, he skipped touring the Bible sites and diligently poured out his knowledge and expertise to the security personnel and other residents in the farming villages near Gaza. In the youth village of Kfar Silver, for instance, local students learned how to protect themselves and others in case of a run-away brush fire.

All the students who received training from Tim were thankful that he came all the way from Down Under to teach them, not only in the classroom but also via hands-on training with fire safety equipment.

“Our class listened to an exhilarating lecture from an actual firefighter from Australia”, said Kate, a local Israeli girl. “We learned about fire, safety equipment and different methods to extinguish fires. Living near the Gaza Strip, this information might unfortunately become very useful... It was really fun and interesting as well.”

Tim’s visit will surely have a great and lasting impact. One young man at the youth village said he enjoyed learning about firefighting so much that he now has a dream to become a firefighter to help his people! So small seeds were planted in the hearts of these Israelis, even while they are now better prepared for the arson attacks that are likely to come this summer!

Your support can make a difference in the lives of Israelis every day. Send your best gift to ICEJ AID today for our ‘Israel In Crisis’ fund. 

Vietnam & Kazakhstan

Doors opening in Vietnam
By: Mojmir Kallus, ICEJ VP for International Affairs

More than forty years after the end of the bitter conflict which raged on its soil, the nation of Vietnam remains in the minds of an entire generation ever associated with the bloody war fought between the North and the South, but more broadly between the Communist forces and the Free World led by the United States.

The country is now united and despite residues of Communist ideology, it is generally open and allows Christians to live in relative freedom. Relations with Israel, opened in the 1990s, are booming in recent years, especially due to Israeli inventions and technologies which can significantly contribute to improving the life of its citizens. Today, Vietnam is a fast-developing country with over 90 million people, and it is becoming one of the major players in all of Southeast Asia.

In late February, I spent several days in the capital of Hanoi, as a result of previous contacts made with Sister Chung Bach at our regional conference in Singapore and at the ICEJ’s Feast of Tabernacles last year. I found the door to be wide open for cooperation with the growing body of local Christians. A dinner with 15 pastors from all over Vietnam was organised where I was able to share about the history, mission and vision of ICEJ. The next day, I conducted a seminar attended by about 80 people, mostly church leaders, who were shown ICEJ videos and heard about the biblical foundations of our support for Israel.

At the seminar, an umbrella organisation for Christian ministry to Israel in Vietnam was established, and the ICEJ is privileged to be a leading partner. The Chairman of the new organisation is Pham Tuan Nhuong, senior pastor of a Word of Life church in Hanoi, who will represent the ICEJ in Vietnam going forward. We hope to see a group from Vietnam at this year’s Feast of Tabernacles, as our cooperation and exchange continue to flourish.
 

A Good Report from ICEJ-Kazakhstan
By: Serguei Popov

The ICEJ-Kazakhstan branch opened about two years ago, and since then God has carried out a great work among the Christians in this Central Asian nation. Many churches now celebrate Israel’s “Independence Day” every year in May. Monthly prayer services are held in the northern city of Karaganda and the southern city of Almaty. Kazakhstan also is one of the few Muslim countries sending “love offerings" to Jerusalem. Last year, 46 pilgrims from Kazakhstan attended the ICEJ’s Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, and more pilgrims plan to come this year. Please pray with us for God to continue to richly bless the work of ICEJ in Kazakhstan and other Muslim countries in the region and worldwide.

Bolsonaro & USA Tour in Israel

Brazil’s Bolsonaro meets with US Evangelicals

During his March visit to Washington, DC to meet with US President Donald Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also met with a group of prominent Christian leaders, including ICEJ-USA National Director Dr Susan Michael. At the CBN-sponsored event, Bolsonaro shared his vision for Brazil and received prayer and commitments of support from the Evangelical leaders.

Bolsonaro told the Christian gathering that he has experienced two major miracles, one that he is alive after an assassination attempt during his campaign, and second that he won the election. He now seeks to move Brazil in a new direction, away from its prior leftist leanings. His main goals include protecting the unborn, reversing socialism's toll on Brazil, and strengthening his nation’s ties with Israel. He is looking to God for wisdom in the face of great opposition.

Dr Michael introduced the work of the ICEJ to President Bolsonaro and encouraged him to move the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem. He explained that his decision to do so was firm, but he was working out the best way and timing possible, to minimise any economic repercussions.

When Bolsonaro—a Catholic—previously visited Israel, he was re-baptised in the Jordan. While there, he noted how much the small nation has prospered despite its few resources and how it serves as a role model for Brazil, which has much greater resources.

The meeting was closed in prayer by Dr Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, who prayed for Bolsonaro to be anointed by the Holy Spirit, protected, and strengthened for the challenging years ahead.

 

ICEJ-USA leads inspiring tours to Israel

Over recent years, the ICEJ-USA branch has been arranging and leading numerous tours to Israel. After coming on an ICEJ-USA familiarisation tour last year, Pastors Murphy and Twila Matheny of Cedar Lake Church in Biloxi, Mississippi asked our US office to help them plan the first Israel tour for their congregation. In March, the group had a wonderful time of fellowship and faith-building as the Scriptures came to life in the Land of the Bible. Several experiences really stood out, including this incredible moment captured on camera at the Yardenit baptismal site as several members prepared to be baptised in the River Jordan (Photo courtesy of Betty Ladner). Then, during their visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, a member of the group who had never surrendered her life to the Lord was overcome by His presence at the Kotel and asked Jesus into her heart on the very spot. Meanwhile, ICEJ-USA National Director Susan Michael helped organise and lead a recent tour of the Holy Land for the mega-church she attends, the Calvary Chapel of Ft. Lauderdale, led by Pastor Doug Sauder. The 140-person tour was a great success and many lives were touched and changed forever.

Marking One Year of the PrayerWave

“Therefore glorify the Lord in the dawning light…” (Isaiah 24:15a)

It has been one year since the ICEJ launched the PrayerWave last May in Washington, DC. This past year has been a journey of faith for everyone involved and we know the Lord is using it in many ways. It has been a privilege to partner with so many dedicated intercessors during these truly prophetic times.

The PrayerWave is a unique prayer initiative built around the vision of a worldwide network of intercessors who lift up a continual flow of praise and prayer to the Lord for Israel and the nations at dawn. When the sun rises, faithful prayer warriors are on their knees pleading for God to fulfil His purposes for Zion and all who love her.

Over 600 intercessors from 22 time zones have now taken hold of this vision, joining together in this 24/7 global prayer chain to release an unending cry for God to comfort Jerusalem and raise her up to be a praise in the earth.

To truly comfort Israel, we first need a love for the Jewish people and their Promised Land. This is often cultivated in the hearts of believers as they pray for Israel. Many participating in the PrayerWave have testified that as they intercede for Israel, the Lord has given them a deeper love for the nation, accompanied by powerful results in prayer.

An intercessor from Finland recently shared this touching testimony of how the PrayerWave has impacted his life:

When I gave my life to Jesus several years ago, I felt that prayer would be important for me somehow. But there seemed to be a high wall around me making it hard for me to pray; it always seemed like hard work and I thought God did not hear me. Praying was a big problem for me no matter how hard I tried, and I couldn’t find the answer. A year ago, God began to answer my deep desire to draw closer to Him. First, He led me to Scriptures that awoke a deep love within me for Israel. Then, I joined the ICEJ and ordered the ICEJ magazine ‘Word from Jerusalem’. Last June I read your call to join the PrayerWave. Somehow, I knew that this was an answer from God, but I was afraid to make a commitment, because I had been disappointed so many times. By the grace of God, I decided to pray every morning for one week as a test. After that week my life had changed; God gave me this wonderful present - praying without effort! Now I want to pray every morning. It has been a great blessing for me, and I cannot live without praying anymore. Praise the Lord!

The PrayerWave is called to raise up an army of intercessors who will stand in the gap for Israel as it faces many daunting challenges each and every day. If the Lord is stirring your heart to join the PrayerWave, please answer the call and sign up today at www.icejprayerwave.com. When you sign up, you will receive weekly prayer points and inside information so that you can support the work God is doing here in Israel and throughout the world.

Sign up for the PrayerWave today at: www.icejprayerwave.com

From the Frozen land to the Promised land

“I didn’t want to come to Israel at first, but I am very happy to be here. Soon after I arrived I felt at home and that I had been here all my life,” says Polina, an elderly immigrant from the FSU.
Polina and other members of her extended family had never discussed going to Israel, but one day her son’s friend told her son, “I will go there because my mother is Jewish.” Polina’s son replied, “And my mother is Jewish!” This was the beginning of Aliyah for Polina’s family. Even when Israel is not part of a Jewish person’s thinking, God draws them back home.

Years earlier, three-year-old Polina, her baby sister, mother and other family members had fled from Ukraine ahead of the advancing German army and its accompanying ‘Final Solution’. The oncoming winter’s cold and German bombardment were part of that terrifying flight, first by foot and later by train. 

The family eventually found two rooms in Ural, in which the ten family members could live. Polina’s mother found work that took her away from early morning to late at night, and with her father in the Red Army the little girls were looked after by uncles, aunts, and grandparents. Polina remembers the pain of being cold and hungry. Potatoes dug out of the frozen ground kept the family alive. After the war her father returned, but they continued to live in Ural, where Polina started school. Finally, they returned to Ukraine although nothing remained of their former life. They shared a small house with their grandparents in a forest village, and Polina recalls the dirt floor being cleaned before each Sabbath.

Poverty and hardship continued. At 6am Polina would line up to buy bread hoping there would still be loaves, or even part of a loaf left, when it was her turn. The cold and hungry eight-year-old dared not to nibble at the bread on the way home, because it had to feed five people. Poverty meant only a few new dresses as she grew, and shoes were saved to wear only in the winter. But amazingly, Polina said, “In spite of poverty and war, we were very close to each other and that meant my childhood was a good one!”

In 1958, Polina moved to Siberia and after further education became a meteorologist. Hard times continued under the Soviet Government which made all items scarce, including children’s clothing. One time, Polina purchased large woollen socks and unravelled the wool to reknit it into a warm item of clothing for her son.

Although aware of being Jewish, the communist regime in which she grew up meant she learned nothing of Judaism. Here in Israel, though she keeps only a basic observance of traditions, she has learned to turn to Israel's God when things are difficult. And through Homecare’s assistance to family members, Polina has learned about Christian love and care.

Coming Home Alone

The ICEJ recently sponsored two special children’s Aliyah seminars in Ukraine. The Naale Seminars are for young people who are preparing to make Aliyah to Israel without their parents. The seminars prepare them and their parents for the logistical and emotional challenges they will face. The youth will finish high school through the Naale program, and 96% of them will make Aliyah. At least 60% of their parents will make Aliyah later on, but initially the child must be prepared to make the journey home to Israel alone. Many of the youth will be in the same schools in Israel, and they will need to depend on each other for support without their parents. The seminars use several types of group cohesion activities to build a support system within their group.

The picture above shows the children in an exercise to increase trust with one another. The word “Naale” is an acronym in Hebrew for “Youth Coming Before Parents.” The official program started in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1992 in the tumultuous days following the fall of the Soviet Union, when public schools were dysfunctional and Jewish parents requested that Israel receive their kids for better schooling. It was inspired by the Youth Aliyah Movement, which developed during WWII when parents who were concerned about the rise of Nazism sent their children to safety, hopeful they might be able to join them later. The program has continued and serves distressed communities such as the Jewish community in Ukraine. The situation is quite bad there, and many families want a better life for their children in Israel but do not feel the whole family can make the move at the moment. So far, more than 17,000 children have made Aliyah to Israel through the Naale program. The majority of them have come from Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine where the future today is uncertain and parents hope for a better life for their children in Israel. Israel’s future is bright and many opportunities await them there.

Help the ICEJ sponsor five Naale seminars in 2019: www.icejusa.org/support-aliyah

Mentoring in Israeli social businesses

It was a pristine spring day in Israel’s south as ICEJ AID staff hosted German and Swiss Christians who came to see how their giving is impacting those in need and to learn about everyday life in Israel directly from the people.

Our tour included a visit to Pinat HaOchel (“Kitchen Nook”), a popular sandwich shop on a side-street in one of Beersheva’s more disadvantaged areas. Our host was Chai, the young proprietor. He described himself as a former youth-at-risk who had the benefit of learning the trade at Café Ringelblum just up the street. It was exactly what he needed at the time – to be mentored on the job. Café Ringelblum was established as a social business to help youths-at-risk learn responsibility, employment expectations and other life skills.

A ‘social business’ focuses on two bottom lines. One is to make a profit to keep the business viable. The other is to benefit the community in some way.

Chai’s life was changed through the things he learned at the mentoring café, and today he passes forward the good he received by helping other youth. One day, Chai hopes to have a whole chain of restaurants, and perhaps one of the youths he trains today will become a partner tomorrow. One thing he knows for sure, he wants his sandwich stop to make his neighbourhood a better place.

 ICEJ AID is excited to sponsor mentoring programs for social businesses that are just starting out, when our support is needed most. These businesses not only provide employment in the periphery of the country, but they also strengthen and contribute to the communities where they live and work.

If you are in Beersheva, visit Pinat HaOchel and taste one of Chai’s delectable sandwiches for yourself. You will not only enjoy an affordable meal, but also have the satisfaction of knowing that, as a customer, you are helping one former youth-at-risk realise his dream while helping others begin to dream as well.

You also can help Israeli social businesses today thru ICEJ AID! Visit us at: int.icej.org/aid

Sorrow of Death & Sweetness of Community

Can you imagine spending 67 years with your best friend and loved one, and then one day they are gone? This is the sorrowful reality for Naomi, a precious Holocaust Survivor who just lost her husband and closest friend, Avraham.

Death is difficult to face for everyone at the ICEJ’s Home for Holocaust survivors in Haifa: for the residents who are losing their spouses and dearest friends, for the staff who are losing patients that have become like family, and for the actual families of the survivors who are losing beloved parents and grandparents. Since most of the more than 70 Holocaust survivors at the Home are now in their 80s and 90’s, such losses have been unfortunately occurring quite often over recent years due to their advanced age. Yet, they always seem to band together and pull one another through it all.

During the week of sitting shiva for Avraham - a time when family and friends mourn the passing of a loved one according to Jewish tradition - Naomi was visited not only by her own relatives, but also by her friends from the Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors. The cook even made special visits to the family home to provide food for everyone.

ICEJ staff members Yudit Setz and Jannie Tolhoek warmly embraced their friend Naomi at the shiva. Due to the friendship and trust established over the years, Naomi shared from her broken heart that she did not know how she would live without her husband after 67 years of life together. Naomi’s tearful granddaughter also showed us one of her favourite memories, which was a photo of her dancing with grandpa Avraham on her wedding day.

The sweet comfort of community shared among the survivors, staff, and family members at the Haifa Home is tangible, especially in such times of grief.

These losses also are a reminder of the opportunity we have right now to show all the love and comfort we can to those Holocaust survivors still alive and under our care at the Haifa Home!

Please support the ICEJ’s Haifa Home for Holocaust Survivors. Make your donation today at: https://int.icej.org/aid/haifa-home-holocaust-survivors
 

Druze school grateful for new computer room

The Christian Embassy has always sought to reach out to all the different people groups in the Land of Israel – whether Jewish, Arab, Christian, Muslim, Bedouin or Druze. In February, an ICEJ leadership delegation visited a special project in the Upper Galilee which we undertook at the request of a Druze welfare society. Over the past decade, we have partnered with this charity by sponsoring several youth-oriented educational projects, including a school library, a music room, and a high school robotics team that won a nation-wide competition. This time, we dedicated a new computer room with two dozen computer work stations, located in a mixed high school for Christian, Druze and Muslim students.

Upon arrival we were treated with utmost respect, as if we were royal dignitaries. Besides all the students and faculty, the local Druze mayor and regional council head also were waiting at the school to welcome our delegation. There were packed assemblies, speeches and musical performances, plus a bountiful lunch. It was truly impressive! We had a clear sense that this community does not take our gifts for granted. And our investment will bear fruit for years to come, giving these young minority citizens of Israel a better chance to succeed in this hi-tech nation.

 

Share this: