A Tale of Two Buildings
by Moshe Morrison, Teaching Elder, Tents of Mercy

The tapping on the glass is what woke me, but it was the flashlight shining in my eyes that really brought me back to a place of consciousness. It was two o'clock in the morning and the police officer who had spotted my car sitting alone in the church parking lot wanted to know what I was doing there. Perhaps she suspected that I was homeless and that I was living in my car. I explained that I periodically came down to the empty church lot at night to pray and that it was not unusual for me to doze off while doing so. After receiving my explanation and checking my license and registration she was satisfied, bade me good night and drove off. I returned home to sleep in my bed. So the question is, "Why is Moshe talking about sleeping in a car 20 years ago in Baltimore when this article was supposed to be about the new facility that Congregation Shavei Tzion has purchased in downtown Haifa?"

There is a major connection between the two circumstances that illustrates the principle expressed in the book of Proverbs: "The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9); "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Thirty one years ago my wife Katya and I founded Rosh Pina Messianic Synagogue in Baltimore. I led that congregation for the next 13 years until we moved to Israel. We barely knew what we were doing, yet God honored our efforts. The congregation prospered and continued to grow. We met in our apartment for the first 3 months then rented a church social hall for the next 9 years. Our hosts could not have been nicer to us. However, it was obvious we needed a place of our own. We prayed that God would provide us with a facility for years. I had my eye on every possibility that came along - from vacant furniture stores to old church buildings.

Then I found an old Methodist church. It was magnificent, made of stone yet very simple with a tower. (I began planning how my office would be built in the tower.) It was about a 10 minute drive from the main Jewish community in a beautiful country setting in an area of wealthy homeowners. The congregation was diminishing, only about 14 members, almost all ladies over 70 years old remained. Surely they would sell. The Methodist district superintendant thought it was a great idea.

Many evenings I would drive there and sit in the parking lot and pray for the building. Sometimes when Eitan came to visit we'd go and pray together for the building. But it was not to be. The members absolutely refused to sell, but God knew what was best. The building was beautiful inside but had only one toilet washroom in a closet. There were no classrooms. The basement was not even fully dug out. Yet I was so enamored with the place that I was willing to overlook all the potential problems and the immense amount of work and money it would take to prepare it.

The First Choice ... God's choice!
Instead, the Lord took those prayers and redirected them. In perfect timing and understanding beyond our thoughts, He presented us with just the right place. The building was also an old Methodist church, but in the heart of the suburban Jewish sprawl, one mile from the Jewish community center. It had a fully refurbished kitchen and social hall and a new education wing. Like the other church, their members were old and few. In the years leading up to our purchase they had watched the suburbs swallow up the farmland and they planned for the many new young families that would want a church. One old farmer who had been going to that church since childhood told me that it never occurred to any of them that all the young families moving into the area would be Jewish. They were ready to sell. Rosh Pina congregation has been in that building now for over 20 years; the choice of God who knows what's best for His children.

"To the Angel of the messianic community in Philadelphia, write: 'Here is the message of the holy one, the true one, the one who has the key of David, who, if He opens something no one else can shut it, and if He closes something, no one else can open it'" (Revelation 3:7).

We would be naïve to think that we're smart enough or clever enough to chart our path through this world, through this life without the ongoing guidance that comes from heaven. In life it is inevitable that there will be dangerous icebergs in our way as one might encounter in the extreme northern and southern hemispheres. An iceberg is treacherous because only about 10% of it can be seen above the surface of the water. The remaining 90% is submerged. This is why we so desperately need Yeshua. He can see what is hidden to us. And because He carries the key of David, He locks doors that are not expedient for us to enter and instead unlocks doors that will bless His people and further the kingdom of God.

Regular readers of this periodical are well acquainted with Leon Mazin, one of our original elders from when Tents of Mercy was founded back in 1996. He is from the former Soviet Union, married to Nina and they have five children ranging in ages from 5 to 18.

In 2001, with the blessing of the leadership of the congregation, Leon took a handful of people from Tents of Mercy and brought them together with another small group of people in Haifa and began Congregation Shavei Tzion (Those Who Have Returned to Zion) which has grown dramatically. For the past six years they have been meeting in a wonderful building in downtown Haifa - five stories high with space on the roof. It really seemed to be the ideal building for them. Plus, the owner wanted to sell at an ever decreasing cost. Just around the time they had enough money for the purchase, problems began appearing that prevented the sale from going forward.

Leon Mazin and a friend exiting the newly purchased facility
When these sorts of things happen, it's very easy to give into frustration and disappointment. But again our knowledge is limited because we can't see the future or even things below the surface in the present. Perhaps the past has been satisfactory, the tools with which we had to work did a good job and we see no need for something else. It's not hard to become fixated on what we think should be, especially if it is something good for the kingdom of God. But that is a good time to remember that He who locked the one door, has keys to other doors that He will open instead.

As it turned out, there were a number of problems connected with illegal additions and improvements to the building that would have come back to haunt Leon and the team had the purchase gone through. He who holds the key of David showed up and the door they thought was open was tightly shut and no man could open it. God's superior knowledge protected them from a serious mistake.

And now Shavei Tzion has at last purchased a building for their congregation. It is four times bigger than the one they are currently renting. There is lots of space for a large sanctuary, a cafeteria, classrooms for a music school and Bible school and a dormitory/hostel for volunteers who come to help. The building is closer to a larger number of people from the congregation and there is even parking for visitors. Leon is grateful to God (and we are also) that He again proved Himself faithful in protecting them from making a mistake with the first building. Instead He has given Shavei Tzion a better tool with which to serve the Lord.

© Copyright Tikkun International Ministries. All rights reserved.