The Friends of Israel in Action Nov/Dec 2023
Mountain Ministry in New Zealand
The beautiful island country of New Zealand features lush volcanic hillsides, scenic mountain passes, hospitable people, and sheep—lots of sheep! Stunning sunrises grace the Pacific Ocean each morning, and countless stars blanket the sky at night.
It’s no wonder New Zealand receives so many visitors. These visitors include thousands of Israeli travelers who come to soak in the natural beauty of its islands and the spectacular volcanoes used as filming locations in The Lord of the Rings movies. Their arrival, of course, provides our field representatives and volunteers in New Zealand an opportunity to minister to God’s Chosen People.
Traveling to see the world is a prominent part of Israeli culture. Upon finishing two years of mandatory military service, fresh from combat and rigid military life, many young Israel Defense Forces soldiers traverse the globe to sightsee as much as they can on a modest budget. So, our team in New Zealand (FOI-NZ) steps in to show them the love of Messiah Jesus.
FOI-NZ has established Meet at the Mountain, a backpacking center close to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, to provide hospitality to these Israelis. There our team offers meals, inexpensive lodging, and transportation to various trailheads in the mountains. This ministry allows our workers to enter into deeply impactful conversations and cultivate ongoing relationships with many of these young travelers.
The first question many Israelis ask our team is, “Why do you do this?” We tell them about our love for Messiah Jesus and our desire to bless Jewish people around the world. Many of these backpackers engage in spiritual conversations they could never have at home for fear of how other Israelis would respond to them asking questions about Christianity or the Bible. Our team has daily opportunities to answer questions, discuss theology, and explain our hope in Messiah Jesus.
Last spring, our backpacking center reopened for the first time since the pandemic shut down travel in 2020. As we welcome new backpackers, we also ask God for opportunities to follow up with our many Israeli friends now back in Israel.
Would you pray with us that God might make that possible and help us connect these young men and women with believers in Israel who will continue the relationships we’ve established? We look forward to how God will grow the ministry this coming season in February and March 2024 and, Lord willing, beyond!
You can support our New Zealand team and other FOI ministries like this around the world. Thank you for your prayers and financial support!
In Canada, please give here.
A Heimish Hanukkah
Hanukkah season is upon us, a time when we at The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry (FOI) love to give Hanukkah gift boxes to our Jewish friends.
Last Hanukkah, FOI Director of North American Ministries Chris Katulka and his family traveled from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Brooklyn, New York, to deliver one of these gift boxes to their Jewish friend, Shlomo. Chris met Shlomo a few months earlier through Encounter, an FOI ministry that connects Christians with Jewish communities in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
When the Katulkas arrived, they rang the doorbell once, then twice, then waited patiently in the cold winter air. Chris had contacted Shlomo earlier to confirm their visit but now wondered if Shlomo had forgotten.
In time, Shlomo’s mother opened the door. When she saw Chris; his wife, Karen; and their four children standing on her stoop, she seemed uneasy about the strangers.
“Good evening!” Chris said. “Is Shlomo home? We have a Hanukkah gift we’d like to give him.”
Once Chris mentioned her son’s name, she welcomed the Katulkas into her cozy home. Minutes later, coffee and hot chocolate were brewing; homemade latkes (potato pancakes) were on the griddle; and the Katulka kids were learning to play dreidel, a traditional Hanukkah game.
The Yiddish word heimish is hard to define, but it encapsulates the phrase make yourself at home. It’s best understood as a homey, warm, and relaxed feeling. Shlomo’s family has been heimish from the moment Chris met them.
Shlomo has turned their heimish habit into a business. His Jewish family invites interested people into their home to experience a kosher lifestyle. After they hear from a rabbi, they embark on a walking tour through Crown Heights to see and learn more about the Orthodox Jewish life.
Shlomo’s clientele normally consists of Jewish groups from out of town, but Chris discovered that evening that Encounter is the only Christian group he guides through Brooklyn. What a blessing!
The Katulkas came prepared with a gift box full of Israeli goodies for the family to enjoy during the holiday season. For years, God has used these gift boxes to deepen relationships with our Jewish friends and share the hope of the Messiah.
Shlomo welcomed the Katulkas to stay for the hanukkiah (nine-branched Hanukkah menorah) lighting before their journey back to Philadelphia. Their visit provided a great opportunity to strengthen their friendship with Shlomo, enjoy fellowship with his family, and shine the light of love that only comes from the Light of the world (Jn. 8:12).
You can support Chris Katulka and others like him serving in North American outreach with The Friends of Israel. Thank you for your prayers and financial support!
In Canada, please give here.
Photos: The Friends of Israel Archives