Yeshua said to them, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat." Matthew 14:16
In the land of "milk and honey" many people are hungry. More than 30% of Israel lives below the official national poverty line according to Daniel Gotlib, top advisor at the Bank of Israel, a scientist and economist from the Ben Gurion University. This figure is born out by using the norms accepted in the USA and Canada, which would place between 23-28% of Israeli citizens in poverty.
The above statistic is best understood by remembering that Israel consists of new immigrants in nearly this same percentage. They are broken by the process of absorption. Immigration causes serious traumas. Some people have conflicts at home, some cannot learn the language, and some cannot get used to the new environment. They appear as the ragged and weighed-down people walking in the street or sitting in a park. Some of them have lost their houses and clothes, and now spend their days and nights on public benches. Some of them are drug addicts; some just cannot make ends meet. Some were deceived, and the shock of reality caused them to become chronically passive. Regardless of the details, we are able to see the pain and need, to see people who are not getting enough to eat. Yeshua's response to His disciples speaks to us. "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat." As His disciples, our goal is to be relevant in both the physical and the spiritual needs of our society.
Nazareth Congregation opened in August, 2004
From the very beginning of Tents of Mercy (Ohalei Rachamim in Hebrew), we were focused on two simple things - to show the truth to the lost and to feed the hungry. I am happy that our daughter congregations continue this initiative. We opened a new congregation in Nazareth in August, 2004. God showed us that Messianic worship must be restored in the city where Yeshua spent His youth and was later rejected. A few dedicated congregations already exist in Nazareth. We appreciate these Russian and Arab speaking churches. Yet we felt that as those who have returned to Zion, we are called to restore in Nazareth a congregation that will live according to the calling of Israel, Torah and the New Covenant, in the name of Yeshua, in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the Hebrew language. Thus we long to bring the light and to serve the city.
A Terrible Heritage
When Ohalei Rachamim opened in 1995, I was involved in establishing the humanitarian aid project. Praise God, today the project is supervised by more talented people, but then there was a need to do it and to learn everything about it. There were meetings with providers, contacts with volunteers, a building to maintain, etc. There were even conversations with people who tried to get help by lying. Many people do not lie intentionally. They just use their habit in the struggle for survival. This is the terrible hidden heritage from the former Soviet Union. Therefore, it is important to reach out to a needy person in the midst of lies, and even sometimes to be deceived, because this is the way our Messiah behaved. The Word says: "Who is blind but my servant, or so deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is so blind as he that is at peace or so blind as the servant of the LORD?" (Isaiah 42:19). I learned that even when we see negativity in someone's behavior, we must not stop trusting God. In Yeshua's words "Give and it shall be given to you, good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over."
"Give them Something to Eat"
The years went by, and our second daughter congregation "Netzer HaGalil" was planted. When we prayed about how to touch the needs of the general community, many of us received the words: "feed the hungry." It was not the revelation of just one person. But where would we find hungry people? We were aware of the fact that the municipal authorities would probably not trust us with this work, especially if they received accusations against us from ultra-orthodox Jews. Even if we found enough people, how would this change the situation? We are not the United Nations. Our finances are modest in comparison to the vast need. However, the Messiah's words "you give them something to eat," would not leave us.
We decided to begin by visiting similar projects in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. The information was valuable but less relevant to the smaller setting of Nazareth. Truthfully, we were afraid to begin. There were doubts. But - thank God! - we finally made up our mind. We learned that it is important for a congregation to receive a vision from the Lord, not just to pursue big projects for the sake of busy-ness.
Local Schools Requesting Sandwiches
After long months of struggle, the soup kitchen began feeding the poor in May, 2005. We started looking for needy people by ourselves. And we found them. At the end of the first week we had 100 names. These were elderly people who did not need advertising in order to find us. We invited one person, and others heard about us through the "grapevine." Single mothers came to ask for help. An Ethiopian Jewish congregation is asking for our help now. We received calls from schools with the request to prepare sandwiches for the children whose parents are not able to afford it! We have not even had time to respond to all the requests yet, but we see the need and pray for God's guidance.
What are these 150-200 meals a week that we are able to give to hungry people? They are not many, and just a small percentage of the needy people will receive help. However, this is what we are called to do...to start where we can with what is available. In this way we bring His kingdom will from heaven to the earth, and leave the way for God to give the increase.
What gives me the most happiness is the fact that the soup kitchen did not become just my project or the project of the supervisor, Oksana, who talks to people, prepares the food and distributes it. Instead, members of the entire congregation care for and think about the kitchen. There are many new ideas connected to it. "Let's make sandwiches and give them to the homeless in a park. Let's bring them to the congregation, feed them and show them a movie. Let's help them to feel like normal human beings." So, now we desperately need prayer and the wisdom to find those people whom God has prepared for us to help. Clearly, God who causes every fruitful work, will take care of everything. We just have to remember the words: "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."
YOU CAN HELP!
Your financial contribution will make a difference in feeding hungry people in Israel. If you would like to assist the Nazareth Soup Kitchen on either a one time or monthly basis, please do so below. Thank You!
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