A papa to our national youth ministry Katzir, we asked editor-in-chief, Eitan Shishkoff, to pull double duty as a reporter to interview Katzir's incredible Creative Director, at their annual summer camp (for security reasons we cannot divulge the director's name). Through his energetic and persistent efforts, this year's summer camp consisted of six creative workshops. These facets of expression combined to create an inspiring "end of the camp" production that played in Jerusalem.

This is quite a complex production involving music, dance, acting, photography, writing and art. How long before the camp did you begin preparing the script?

Eight weeks before the camp I had absolutely no idea of what I was going to do, until I went to a car wash. While waiting for my car I prayed and received a download from the Lord. The script for the drama came to me, including music and dances to go with it. That's what makes every year so special and different.

What have you seen happen in this camp?

The most relevant thing I've seen ... which deeply touches my heart every time - is to see kids coming alive. Maybe I can summarize with one example. During this summer's camp I was on my way to the main meeting, and just by chance I saw a guy turning back his script with a sad face. He said, "I give up." So I left the meeting, took him to a quiet place and asked, "What happened? I don't care about the workshop, I just want to know how you feel and what happened." "I don't think I'm good enough and I don't want to act anymore." He was the drummer/actor - a large part. So we talked for a little bit. I said, "It doesn't matter if you failed. There's a gift, given to you by God. He will never take it back and you must never give up. Tomorrow I want to spend the day with you." So neither of us went to the activities. After that he took the script and learned everything. At one point he told me, "I'm not playing the drums anymore." I said, "Every time I see you playing the drums it gives me joy." Every day I saw him playing I couldn't watch because it filled my eyes with tears. The main problem was, he was discouraged because he felt he failed. The amazing thing is that it's OK to fail with God, because in failure we actually find the victory of grace that takes us through anything.

What is the message of the musical?

The main message is "Don't give up." Never give up no matter what. Don't look at your own achievements but look up to the Lord - that should be what drives you. We live in a society that tells us that our success takes us forward. Rather it's the Lord that enables us to excel. We should base our success on His strength. By the way, I like the saying "We preach best when we preach what we need the most." This is the message I need so often: I fail and get up and keep going.

The core subject of the camp has been the Life of Shimon Kefa (Peter), Yeshua's fisherman disciple and how he overcame his struggles and failures to become a man mightily used of God here in Israel. How does the production, set in a modern day high school, parallel his life?

I think that in high school a young person is faced with a huge number of personality/identity issues. They rarely find answers, and only in exceptional cases do they receive anything on that level from a teacher. In our play this weird substitute teacher comes along with an unusual way of talking that grabs the main student's attention. Indeed there's a parallel of Yeshua coming to Peter with a very challenging and yet loving message that totally grabbed his attention.

He's got the moves
Worship through dance and song

Watching you work with young people is an inspiration. Why do you devote time to working with youth?

One of the main reasons is that I see so much of God's beauty, so much of Himself inside these children. The enemy of our soul is at work to shut down that beauty with messages telling them they're not good enough. It's imperative for us as leaders to unlock the beauty that's been in storage inside of them, that will display who God is to the world, through these kids' lives. A key message from God is "I have created you in my image." God is the creator of all things. And we have that DNA inside of us. That image has been has been corrupted by the enemy and so, you know, we have to redeem that.

What happens inside a young person who enters this creative effort?

The very first thing is he discovers he has a gift; and he's surprised, sometimes even amazed to discover that he can do what he's doing. The truth is that he's able to do it simply because someone believes in him. The second thing is that his self-esteem starts to grow. That will change his behavior. Third, eventually he will be proud of what he has done. But this pride comes with gratitude to the One who gave him the gift.

Is the emphasis on performance, or is there another goal?

Without a doubt the main goal is the process, not the performance. This is what gives us the opportunity to disciple them ... giving encouragement, building them up through the process. The final performance is only the result, an outcome. It is really the process that matters more than anything. We're not trying in 9 days to turn them into a musicians, dancers or actors. But we do want to release the joy of creativity and the security to try. For example, I taught a young person who later became a front page photographer for the Jerusalem Post. The fruit of this process can change society.

What was your career in your native country?

I always had two parallel, but seemingly opposite paths. I studied building design. Then I worked as a quality control engineer for the U.S. Navy, connected with anti-terrorism protection. At the same time, I had always loved being on stage. I studied classical music, opera and acting. I started directing at 19 and produced my first play in high school. It contained a gospel message for secular students! So for almost 20 years I've been doing productions in all kinds of media, including television.

Why did you choose to leave that and serve the Lord in Israel?

Circumstances brought me back to my best friend, a pastor of a church. He asked me to produce a musical. The musical ended up being a tremendous success with a strong anointing; it was performed in secular theater. The night of the last performance, God told me clearly "This is what I want you to do for me." At this time I was employed by the US Navy and at the top of my career. For six months God spoke to me in a very powerful, supernatural way. I would have dreams, waking up in the middle of the night. God would tell me He wanted me to leave my job without telling me what's next. I just felt I needed to be obedient. Completely blindfolded, having no idea what was waiting for me, I signed my resignation. At that time I had no interest in Israel whatsoever. I thought that Christians who came to Israel were idolaters for calling it a "holy place." That was, until my dearest friend bought me a ticket to Israel without my permission. So I was forced to come for a five day visit. In Israel, God gave me a simple revelation. He said, "I love this people and I love this land." It was enough for me to leave my life behind. I said if you love these people, I will love these people too.

You just got married a few months ago to an Israeli woman whose roots are in the Messianic movement here. Are you planning to settle in Israel and learn Hebrew?

(Laughing) I think I should have learned Hebrew already. It is my strongest desire. And yes, I'm here to stay and raise my family.

This is your third year participating as Creative Director with Katzir. What attracts you to the work of Katzir among Israeli youth? Do you intend to continue?

I've studied revival history. People think they've seen revival but they haven't seen anything until they see what God is going to do with the youth of Israel. I have not come across a collection of young people like this anywhere; and I've done youth work in Europe, Italy, England and the USA. I am fascinated and amazed to see so much quality, so much of God's fingerprint on these youth. So I am ready to invest my life to help them step into the fullness of what God calls them to do. This will bless Israel and the nations. Why Katzir? Behind any ministry there are people. I believe in joining with the people. Behind Katzir I found people of tremendous integrity and passion for God's kingdom. It is a privilege, an honor and a precious opportunity for me to be part of this team.

What do you see as the future of Messianic youth in Israel?

I really think that we are on the verge of an outpouring of God's spirit upon Israel's young people. And I am convinced that this generation is going to make history.


By Eitan Shishkoff

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16:51 07Aug10 Erik Ronneberg -
Thanks for using the role of a substitute teacher! I do this and many times it is a thankless job, but YES, you can touch the life of one student sometimes, so it does have value. This encourages me to keep going in my work.

Also in this issue of the newsletter:

Daniel Juster: The Cowardly Are Damned
Marty Shoub: Made For Each Other
Ariel Blumenthal: East Asia, Ancestor Worship and the Revelation of Yeshua (Part One)