Change Region:New Zealand

Special Reports

Great Hope in the Midst of Great Tragedy

“It was here. It hit in our home!”

Gladys needed few words to describe the most harrowing day of her life. Last November, she and her husband Sergio were at home in Ashkelon, just north of Gaza, when they heard sirens and Hamas rockets being intercepted by Iron Dome batteries. All night long, the alarm kept sounding and sent them scurrying towards the bomb shelter specially built into their home.

From inside the shelter, they heard a rocket hit nearby. After a while, Gladys went to the balcony and saw smoke rising in the distance. For Gladys, her balcony is not only a great lookout point, but one of her favorite places to talk with God. Standing there watching the smoke rise, Gladys heard the Lord say: “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (Psalm 91:7)

Sergio suggested they move their mattresses into the shelter for the night, which they did. They had just closed the door, when muffled explosions of Iron Dome intercepts began again and then everything went silent. But the eerie calm abruptly ended in a loud, violent BOOM!

Hearing debris falling outside, Gladys shouted, “It was here. It hit in our home!” But her husband thought otherwise. Gladys slowly opened the door to investigate. A gray cloud of smoke and sulfur enveloped her, so she slammed the door in shock. Later, Sergio ventured out into the dark, smoke-filled home. Stepping over debris and broken glass, he reached the balcony and yelled for help. Their home had suffered a direct hit!

As Sergio led Gladys safely out of the home, she looked at the devastation and felt her dreams were crushed. Yet when the police arrived, they made an extraordinary discovery: The rocket never exploded! Instead, the massive rocket – over five meters long – had split in two and exited the home unexploded. The security forces were perplexed how this happened. But Gladys knew why! The Lord had kept His promise to protect them.

During the ambulance ride to the hospital, Gladys kept repeating Psalm 91:7. She asked God, “Why did this happen?” And she heard the Lord reply, “I told you that it would not touch you.”

“This situation changed me”, Gladys explained during a solidarity visit from an ICEJ team. “I strongly believe that God is with me and He answers my prayers. This made me stronger as a believer to trust in God, and it strengthened my marriage.”

As Gladys related her experience, her heart overflowed with both sorrow and thankfulness. The destruction of her home was shocking, yet she was utterly grateful for God’s protection. When Gladys later met an old man with scratches all over his face from rocket shrapnel, she appreciated God’s protection even more. A rocket directly hit their home, yet Gladys and Sergio walked away without a scratch!

Despite losing everything, Gladys insists, “I still prefer to live in Israel, even if a rocket hits my home, because this is the land that God wants me to live in.”

Gladys and Sergio are now in temporary housing, but must still pay rent on their gutted home. When the ICEJ heard their story in the Israeli media, we stepped in to provide some much-needed assistance. Gladys was greatly comforted with the love and care from her brothers and sisters in Christ. “I am so thankful you are here”, she said. “It brings healing.”

Your generous support allows the ICEJ to reach out quickly to families like Gladys and Sergio when they most need our help. Please pray for this dear couple, and many other Israeli families who must overcome the trauma of violence and terror every day.

Testimonies

The ICEJ hosted its annual Envision Conference in January, with over 150 pastors and ministry leaders from 25 different nations gathering in Jerusalem for a special time of fellowship, touring the Land, and learning more about God’s heart for Israel. One of those leaders was Vee from Malaysia, and here is his testimony about his first time here in Israel with the ICEJ Envision Conference.

 “This is my first time to Israel, and it has been an eye-opening experience”, said Pastor Vee, originally from Malaysia but now based in Canada. “I wasn’t even planning on coming to Israel, but everything fell into place for me to be able to attend the Envision conference. Just in this week here, God has shown me more of His love for Israel and that the missing piece in our churches is the revelation of Israel.”

Vee overseers seven different churches spread throughout the world in Malaysia, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. “I am inspired to get serious about learning more about Israel, so that I can share it with the churches I am overseeing”, he said.

“In this conference, I have felt a stronger brotherhood in Christ. I have seen the unity of the Arab Christians and the Messianic Jews working together and I am very encouraged.”

“Pray for the church in Malaysia to be more outspoken about the truth of God and to stand up for Israel.”

 

ICEJ Arise Youth Summer Tour

Felicia from Canada shares about her experience on the ICEJ Arise Tour in Israel:

“The Arise tour greatly impacted my life. When I went on the tour, my faith was dormant for a number of years. In Israel, the connections I made, the people I met, and the places we visited slowly reignited my faith. It has been a four-year transformative journey since then. I can wholeheartedly say God has changed the posture of my heart completely since Israel.”

“Before the tour, I only heard negative headlines about Israel in the news. But when you’re there, you truly feel safe and protected. I see Israel as an extraordinary place. It opened my eyes to the biblical truths of the Holy Land, the recent history of Israel, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“If you feel that subtle heart tug calling you to Israel, don’t ignore it. That’s the voice from heaven telling you it’s your time to go home. I was hesitant at first, but God led the way. I think every believer should experience Israel at some point. I can tell you it was truly life changing.”

Many more young lives, just like Felicia, have been greatly impacted in their relationship with God through the ICEJ Arise tour. We encourage you to sign up today or encourage other young people to sign up for this unforgettable trip to Israel this summer, July 11-21, 2019!

Sign up today at: www.arisegeneration.org/summer-tour

Envision Conference 2019

The ICEJ hosted its annual Envision Conference in January, with over 150 pastors and ministry leaders from 25 different nations gathering in Jerusalem for a special time of fellowship, touring the Land, and learning more about God’s heart for Israel.

The main sessions at Envision featured teachings by the ICEJ leadership and select local ministers, who provided a solid biblical perspective on Israel – both the ancient and modern land and people. Given that the New Testament admits there is something of a “mystery” to Israel, the teaching series aimed to equip pastors and ministry leaders to speak and teach confidently on the subject. For some attendees, like Brian from Denmark, this was their first trip to Israel, so they had so much to take in even just driving around Jerusalem. Yet even for those who have been here many times before, like Bible teacher Sally Howard from Atlanta, Georgia, there is always so much more to learn about Israel to take back to her church and community.

On the opening night, ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler gave a powerful message from the story of Baalam and Balak in Exodus, that many today are looking for vantage points from which they can scrutinize and denounce Israel for her faults, but we need to maintain God’s perspective on this uniquely chosen nation.

The next morning, ICEJ VP & senior spokesman David Parsons emphasized the importance of preaching the full counsel of Scripture about Israel from the pulpit. “Your view on Israel says much about your view of God!” Parsons exclaimed.

Connecting with Israel and the local Body
In addition to offering ministry tools and networking opportunities, Envision also challenged attendees to deepen the personal impact of their time in Israel. Noted Bible teacher Peter Tsukahira spoke on the great importance of these ministers receiving fresh revelation from God. “What you need to be praying while you are here in the land is ‘God, open the eyes of my heart. Show me what you are doing here in this land.’”

Magne, who leads a congregation in Germany, shared that this was a motivating factor for him. “I have a firm understanding of the importance of Israel”, he said. “I hope to renew and strengthen my connection and relationship with God’s heart for Israel.”

Panel discussions with local Jewish and Arab pastors, as well as Messianic professionals and business owners, provided a rare inside perspective on life in Israel for the believing community here. In one session, Arab and Jewish ministers shared the stage, discussing the unique opportunities and challenges faced by their congregations in Israel. The unity and cooperation between these shepherds and congregations inspired the audience, as they stand firm for the truth of being one new man in Christ!

Other panels discussed trends in business and Israel’s corporate culture, and ways to get involved. “I think the Lord is calling each of you to a deeper relationship with the community in Israel”, explained Israeli consultant Yoel Shoshani. “Above all, I encourage you to be an ambassador for us to your nation.”

An especially touching session featured three local pastors who shared their personal Aliyah experiences. Pastor Birlie Belay is an Ethiopian Jewish immigrant who has started several Ethiopian Messianic congregations here in Israel. He explained the many struggles that Ethiopian Jews have in moving to Israel, including the extreme culture shock and the discrimination he faces for being African and a Messianic Jew. In the middle of these struggles, Birlie also sees God moving powerfully.

“God is doing new things here in Israel”, Birlie said. “We need your prayers for the leaders and pastors to do God’s will here. Your love makes us more jealous for Yeshua… God sent you to encourage us, stand with us, and pray for us!”

The conference also included several day outings to places of special interest in Israel. The first excursion took the pastors and leaders to Yad Vashem, the revered Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem. Throughout the tour, each story they heard about the Holocaust brought a new level of understanding and impact to the group. A separate field trip took the pastors to the volatile border with Gaza to see up-close how the ICEJ has been helping Jewish villages there cope with years of rocket fire and other terror attacks.

War of the Worlds
ICEJ director emeritus Rev. Malcolm Hedding was also on hand to add to the ministry component, and he stressed the need to recognise and steel ourselves for the intense spiritual battle already raging around us, particularly over Israel’s destiny. The three spheres where we battle most are the conflict over Israel, the conflict over our communities, and the conflict within ourselves, he explained. “God embarked upon this adventure to rescue you, and the war was won on the Cross of Calvary. But we have to work out and live out our salvation”, Malcolm declared.

Meanwhile, ICEJ VP of International Affairs Mojmir Kallus discussed some of the difficult New Testament verses concerning the Jewish people, and the need for patience “until” their hardness of heart is over and the restoration of Israel is complete. “God has a glorious future for the people of Israel”, Mojmir stated.

In another session, ICEJ VP for Jerusalem Operations Barry Denison outlined in Scripture the unique prophetic role reserved for the Gentiles in assisting with the ingathering of Israel in modern times. Drawing from Isaiah 66:18-20, he likened it to an aromatic “grain offering” being brought to the Lord at the Temple.

The Days of Noah

As time marches on, we tend to divide history into distinct periods, each with a beginning and an ending. Today, we live in the Digital Age. But in biblical terms, our present age began in Noah’s lifetime, when God destroyed the ancient world due to its irretrievable rebellion and offered mankind a new, post-Flood beginning. God’s covenant with Noah established the order of the seasons we still enjoy today. But the Bible also warns this current age will one day end amid a massive global upheaval, similar to the Deluge, ushering in the promised Messianic Age. Jesus himself said: “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:37)

How could Jesus make such a prediction? After all, God promised never to destroy the earth again by water. While this is true, there are other means of judgment at His disposal, and we often overlook the fact that God’s covenant with Noah came with a rule for mankind to follow. So, what was this rule?

In many ways, the Flood account parallels the Creation story. For instance, just as Adam could eat from every tree, except for one specific tree (Genesis 2:16-17), Noah was told mankind could now eat of all things, even the animals, but there was an exception. Man was not to eat live flesh with its blood (see Genesis 9:3-6). But this was more than a dietary law; the Lord also specified He will require an account for every life. This passage is the first appearance of this key principle in Scripture, and it also warns against murder. But the rule goes even deeper and is rooted in the concept Imago Dei: Mankind is a special creation of God made in His image. So, we must draw a line between ourselves and the animals and should not act like them. Rather, man must maintain a high view of himself as the closest thing in Creation to God, which means every human life has dignity and deserves respect.

Now when God makes a rule, He does not waste His breath. Every violation has consequences! Here, the implication is that God would no longer be bound by His side of the Noahide covenant and could severely judge the earth again – just not by water.

This helps explain why Jesus warned that His second coming would be like the “Days of Noah”, which he also paired with the “Days of Lot” (Luke 17:26-30). The apostles Peter and Jude also linked the days of Noah and Lot, and both insisted that the fiery judgment which befell Sodom is an “example” of the coming global judgment at the end of the age (2 Peter 2:4-6; Jude 6-7). In fact, Jesus and the Apostles all foresaw the present age ending in a great cataclysm like the Flood, only by fire this time, followed by the new beginning of Christ’s peaceful, righteous reign on earth – what we call the “Millennium”.

They could say this with confidence because there are Flood analogies and allusions throughout the Hebrew prophets connected to the end-of-days judgment. The clearest example is Isaiah 24, which foretells of a time when the earth will be laid waste and its surface distorted (v.1); the inhabitants of the earth will be burned and few men left (v. 6); the windows of heaven above and foundations below will open again… as in the Flood (v. 18); alas, the earth will split apart and be violently shaken (v. 19). All this will be happening because mankind has “broken the everlasting covenant” (v. 5) – a reference to God’s covenant with Noah (see Genesis 9:16). In other words, Isaiah foresaw an ominous day when humanity would be in serious violation of the underlying rule of the Noahide covenant.

In my new book Floodgates, I make the case that humanity has been in breach of this command ever since the mainstream acceptance of Darwinian evolution, which directly refutes the divine origin of mankind. Indeed, Darwinism erases the line between humans and animals and says we came from them, thereby greatly devaluing human life.

From its inception, Darwinism was highly seductive. For starters, it provided an easy means to explain away the old order, when the Church and Crown both claimed to rule by divine right. It also proved very flexible, as radical revolutionaries and political theorists all cited it to support their widely divergent worldviews, from atheistic Communism (with its violent mass purges last century) to laissez fare Capitalism (where only the fittest survive).

Darwinism also gave rise to Scientific Racism, as many white Europeans used the theory to justify their condescending views towards the “lower” races. The worst expression of this phenomena was Aryanism. Indeed, Hitler’s main treatise, Mein Kampf, reads like a biological paper, justifying on Darwinian grounds the elimination of the inferior Jewish race to prevent degeneration of the supreme Aryan race.

The bad fruit produced by Darwinism is endless, and its ungodly influence has thoroughly permeated the modern world. It has fuelled the death mills of abortion; it has led to the growing acceptance of homosexuality and the rise of militant atheism. How can this be? Because mankind has used Darwinism as a scientific pretext to walk away from any moral accountability to God. We have reasoned away His existence and now become the judges of morality in His place. Even among those who still believe in a Creator God, many feel the world is so broken they could have done a better job in making it. But, to assume moral superiority to God is a dangerous place to be!

No doubt, the stronghold of Darwinism lies at the root of the irreversible moral rebellion against God in the earth today. It also has exalted itself against the truth of Christ as both fully God and fully man. For if we truly understood the concept of Imago Dei, we would realise that when the Lord formed Adam from clay in Genesis 2:7, He was actually making the bodily form that God Himself would one day come to dwell in forever.

What an amazing thought – that God wanted to reside in one of these human bodies! It gives mankind such great worth. And if we are in Christ, we have the matchless hope and promise that we will enter the age to come with immortal bodies like His, freed from our current human limitations. For “we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)

ICEJ Participates in GPO's Christian Media Summit

The ICEJ was well represented at the second annual International Christian Media Summit, held in Jerusalem in mid-October and hosted by the Israel Government Press Office. Over 200 Christian reporters, publishers and broadcasters drawn from some 35 nations were addressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Deputy PM Michael Oren, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, former UN Ambassador Dore Gold and a number of other senior Israeli officials and top scholars and analysts. ICEJ Vice President David Parsons again served as the GPO’s primary Christian consultant for the summit and about a dozen ICEJ national directors and local staff participated in the gathering.

The Christian Media Summit proved once again to be rich in content and well-timed as Israel continued to mark the 70th Anniversary of the nation’s rebirth in 1948. PM Netanyahu was particularly relaxed at a briefing to kick off the summit, as he fielded some 20 questions – far more than he does at regular press conferences with the local and foreign press corps. He also invited US Ambassador David Friedman to bring a greeting, and the American Jewish envoy proceeded to quote Jesus in his remarks about the media battle over Israel, saying “the truth will set you free.”
 

New Developments in Eastern Europe

In October I visited Ukraine, which is one of the larger countries of the former Soviet Union with a population of 44 million. Evangelical believers make up about 8% of the population or about 3.5 million people. There is complete freedom of worship in the country which provides a great opportunity to develop our work.

I ministered together with Serguei Popov in four churches in Kiev, and our main purpose was to take our Ukranian branch to another level. Pastor Valeriy Alymov was appointed the new Executive Director, taking over from Grigorij Komendant, a respected father figure in the Ukrainian church and a great champion of Israel. We had a successful meeting with ten senior leaders of the largest evangelical denominations and representing together more than 4500 churches, including the Baptist Union, Pentecostal Union, Charismatic Union and Messianic congregation. They all support the new ICEJ branch which is being formally established.

I found that general awareness of Israel in the church is rather weak but the Lord is stirring the hearts of pastors who want to understand more about God’s plan for Israel. Now that good foundations have been laid, we have a strong and dedicated team on the ground who are ready to run forward. Please pray for continued favor and open doors in Ukraine.

Next, we went to Riga, Latvia, for an ICEJ regional conference with participants from our branches in Finland, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, UK, Ireland, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Romania and Latvia. We presented our DNA statement, and discussed expectations of the branches. Fruitful discussions emerged between representatives of mature and experienced branches and the newcomers who appreciated the opportunity to learn from their experience. We also had a Shabbat dinner together with the Jewish Agency, and they shared about Aliyah to potential olim. ICEJ‘s VP of Operations Barry Denison also had the opportunity to introduce our ministry to the Jewish Agency in Latvia.
 

ICEJ On Christian Campuses

In November, ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman David Parsons visited the USA to spread the word at Christian colleges about the work of the Christian Embassy and discuss his new book Floodgates. At Liberty University, he met with Dr. Ed Hindson, Dean of the Divinity School, and Dr. Randall Price, a popular professor on many Israel-related subjects. Parsons also spoke in the daily chapel service at CBN, as well as the weekly chapel for students at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. He challenged the students with a message about the stronghold of atheistic Darwinism in Western societies today and the key prophetic role it plays in the growing rebellion against God in these last days.  

Farewell to Dr. Susanna Kokkonen

Recently, Dr. Susanna Kokkonen decided to end her time as Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, which operates in partnership with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. She held the position for ten years, and her daily work and impact at Yad Vashem will be greatly missed. Ms. Sari Granitza, a long-time deputy with the International Relations Division at Yad Vashem, will assume her role.

“For the past decade, Dr. Susanna Kokkonen has provided outstanding leadership to one of the most vital and sensitive aspects of our ministry by overseeing the Christian Desk which we helped establish at Yad Vashem”, said ICEJ President Dr. Juergen Buehler. “Dr. Kokkonen put her academic skills as a Holocaust scholar to full use in such initiatives as the annual Christian Leadership Seminars. She also brought a unique spiritual touch to Holocaust remembrance and education, even by creating a place of prayer in her special corner of this revered institution. Most of all, Susanna was a ‘light’ amid the painful, dark memories housed at Yad Vashem. She knew her Bible well and had a distinct way of relating its eternal truths to the universal lessons which Yad Vashem teaches on Antisemitism, racism and genocide.”

Originally from Finland, Dr. Kokkonen received her Ph.D. in Holocaust Studies in 2004 from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where her dissertation focused on Jewish Refugees in Post-War Italy, 1945-1951. She later worked as a pro-Israel Christian lobbyist at the European Parliament in Brussels and as cultural attaché at the Embassy of Finland in Tel Aviv.

In 2008, Dr. Kokkonen was tapped to serve as Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, which was still relatively new. Over the ensuing years, she solidified the work of the Christian Desk as an important facet of the Yad Vashem campus, and expanded its reach to Christian communities on all continents. She hosted scores of Christian dignitaries, addressed hundreds of Christian tours groups, and organised numerous Christian Leadership Seminars that drew participants from over 50 countries. Dr. Kokkonen also successfully launched the CFYV’s Prayer and Study Tour, reliving history in Israel from the times of the Bible until today. In addition, she became known for having a special rapport with Holocaust survivors and turned much-needed attention on the needs of elderly, forgotten Righteous Gentiles in Israel.

Fluent in six languages, Dr. Kokkonen will continue to make appearances for Yad Vashem while also travelling around the world to speak to Christian, Jewish and civic audiences about the Holocaust, genocide, Antisemitism and Israel today, as well as to engage in humanitarian work. To keep up with her activities, please visit: http://susannakokkonen.com/
 

Shalom From Burundi

“We are honouring Israel first, because Israel is God’s firstborn among the nations,” announced the First Lady of Burundi, Her Excellency, Reverend Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza as she introduced our ICEJ delegation from Israel. We were greeted with an enthusiastic “SHALOM", because “shalom” is a common greeting in Burundi.

Representing ICEJ headquarters, Jo Olsen, Jannie Tolhoek and I were incredibly honoured to take part in the first International Women Leaders’ Conference in Burundi organized under the theme, “Women of Destiny, arise, be courageous and act for the matter concerns you.” The conference was attended by 500 Burundian women and 116 delegates from 24 nations, as well as the First Lady of Zambia, Her Excellency, Esther Nyawa Lungu and the First Lady of Central African Republic, Her Excellency, Brigitte Touadera. The First Lady of Burundi is an ordained minister who has a passion to mobilize the women of Burundi to understand their role as leaders, not only in their homes but also in their nation.

As part of the conference, we travelled three hours north to the province of Ngozi to take part in the launch of the First Lady’s “Free to Shine” campaign, which has a mission to eradicate mother to child transmission of HIV. We also visited the “Good Samaritan Orphanage”, which is now caring for 40 orphans. We had the opportunity to pray for the orphans and caretakers, as well as bless them with supplies for the orphanage.

Walking away from this conference, I am inspired by the First Lady’s life and her amazing endeavours. It was also touching to see a genuine love for Israel exuding from the Burundian people. Many conference attendees even came to our Israel delegation to say they pray for Israel and have a dream to one day visit the Holy Land. God moved powerfully during this conference, and we look forward to seeing what the Lord will continue to do through this historic moment in Burundi’s history!

Hearts of Generosity in Bolivia

When Pastor Alberto Magno Sales de Oliveira was baptized in the Holy Spirit, he received a new vision and love for Israel that not only impacted his life, but also brought a spiritual renewal to his family and congregation. One of His dreams was to bring large groups of Bolivians to the Feast of Tabernacles, and he has seen God fulfill this dream year after year.
He shared, “We dreamed that our people would be a part of this move of God. Step by step, God supported us and confirmed our dream. Today, we not only have a group of pilgrims, but the love of Israel in the hearts of Bolivians.”

As pastor of the First Evangelical Baptist Church in Bolivia, Oliveira witnessed his congregation express their love for Israel, not only in words but in action. The people of Bolivia come every Shabbat with generous and voluntary donations that God miraculously multiplies each year. Pastor Oliveira explained to his church, “This will be for exclusive use of the ICEJ in Jerusalem, because ICEJ is our arm and extension of the church. They can do what we cannot throughout the year. We have decided to be a part of the Christian Embassy, not only during the Feast, but also in everything ICEJ does throughout the year.”

Other churches have seen what God is doing in Oliveira’s church, so today his church bring donations from several ministries to donate to the ICEJ. As one final comment on their giving, Oliveira said, “When we see the work of the Embassy, we feel very happy. It ensures that our offering of comfort is indeed comforting the people of Israel. The ICEJ can put into practice the generosity of the people of Bolivia. We are glad to know that the money is used in a precious way through the ministry of the ICEJ.”
 

 

Share this: