“I always felt drawn to Asia,” Daniel* (United States) said. “But after serving in different Asian countries for over 20 years, we were back in the United States and praying about our next assignment.
“We’d been praying for direction for six years. Nothing seemed suitable until suddenly at the same time two incredible opportunities were in front of me. Both were ministries I had been dreaming about doing. Either would have been a great fit for my wife, Christy*, and I,” Daniel remembered. “But then someone mentioned Israel to me.”
It was an unexpected opportunity for Daniel, and he wasn’t sure at first if it was God leading him there. “I couldn’t tell if God was in it, or if it was because it was Israel. What Christian doesn’t want to go to Israel? We decided to do a vision trip there just to see.”
While on that trip, God made it clear they were to move to Israel.
Unlike other Middle Eastern countries where a Christian can get a work visa as a professional worker, living in Israel is different. “Most people go as students of either Hebrew or Arabic. After that, you can pursue further education in Biblical Studies. That’s what I did. However, even though you are learning Hebrew, most people there speak English,” Daniel clarified.
“There also are many Jews who have emigrated back into Israel who speak Russian, German, Portuguese and Spanish, so workers who speak those languages can often find ministry opportunities within those communities.”
According to Daniel, sharing God’s love in Israel is as simple as talking with people: “One of the most effective things we do is go door-to-door, which is a focus for short-term teams. At first, people are afraid or hesitant to go up to people’s houses, but in the end, they say: ‘That was my favourite thing.’
“It’s because people invite you into their homes, so you are actually meeting the local people and hearing their stories. They enjoy receiving foreign visitors and are eager to speak with us.
“We’ll say: ‘Hi, we’re believers in Yeshua, and we’d love to talk with you. We love Israel,’ and they invite us in. We don’t hide that we are believers. They could close the door, and some do. But when we do these outreaches, there is at least one significant conversation. And then, since we know where these people live, we go back.”
In addition to community outreach, prayer is a major focus of Christian workers in Israel. “We now have a prayer house in the north,” Daniel explained. “It is the result of a vision of a Jewish widow, Ruth*, who after she became a Christ follower, began sharing her faith in her local community. She became aware of Christian ministries trying to reach the area, but something always happened to make these organisations and churches close.
“Ruth’s cry was: ‘Lord, why? We are bringing your message here, yet these things keep happening.’ Then she saw an image of a large balcony overlooking this region, with people from all over the world praying, and she understood this message: Breakthrough would not happen until a significant amount of prayer came into this area, because there have been millennia of conflict, idol worship and occultism there.
“Prayer first is needed to break it open so that the gospel can take root.
“She saw that picture 20 years ago,” Daniel continued. “She didn’t have the financial means to start anything, but she had the vision. When we learned of this, we tried to encourage her. We had all these ideas, but nothing seemed to work.
“Eventually, we realised we were supposed to do more than encourage her; we needed to partner with her. And then God provided the exact house we needed. This prayer house is part of the strategy for reaching this region with the gospel. It’s an area with over 100 communities, mostly Jewish and some Muslim. In the entire region, there are two churches.
“It’s a very unreached and wide-open opportunity.
The workers in Israel pray for three main things: “First,” Daniel said, “We are constantly praying what Jesus told us to pray in Matthew 9:38: ‘Pray the Lord of the harvest will send laborers into the harvest’. We pray these laborers will come both from overseas and from within Israel.
“Second, we pray for salvation of the Jew first and then the Gentile, according to Romans 1:16. It’s ironic, since most of the workers sharing God’s love in Israel are Gentiles. What’s funny is that it sometimes makes Jews jealous for their God and say: ‘Wow, you know the Bible better than I do. And you know my God better than I do.’
“Third, we pray for reconciliation between Jew and Arab. We have seen that as Jewish and Arab believers share the gospel together, it’s incredibly rich. They experience deeper reconciliation and understanding for each other.
“So, the prayer house is at the centre of it all,” Daniel continued, “People can come during the day to pray, and we use the house as a guesthouse as well.”
Long-term workers also join these short-term teams in outreach, as well as serve in local ministries, from passing out literature, relational evangelism amongst handicapped communities, to red-light outreach in urban areas and more.
“The thing is,” Daniel said, “Israel is approximately 8.5 million people. Last year, there were over 3.5 million Christians there.
“But those Christians were tourists vacationing in Israel while touring Biblical historical sites.
“There are actually only 30,000 Christians in Israel.
“There is a great opportunity to share God’s love wherever you go in Israel, because it’s not illegal to be a Christian there or to share your faith with people over the age of 18.”
And the opportunity to do this in the Holy Land is unforgettable. “There’s really nothing like living and serving in Israel,” Daniel continued. “Without going there, the Bible is a bit like black-and-white. Being there, it’s not just colour; it’s like six-dimensional. It’s colour, sensory, smells and so much more. You can see the places in your mind when you read the Bible. Much of the culture still has echoes of ancient practices from Bible times, if not the exact same ones, so the customs of Judaism in the Bible make a lot more sense.
“It’s so rich; you see the Bible come to life.”
Do you have a passion for seeing the people of Israel become Christ-followers? Click here to find out more about how you could serve short or long-term in Israel: www.om.org/en/country-profile/israel.
Kate Toretti loves to tell stories about what God is doing in the world. She currently serves as a brand contributor for OM in Argentina.