Global Update Vol 3 - Egypt, Ethiopia, Israel

They were from all over the Gulf States, from North Africa, and various parts of that Middle East section and they were writing in with questions about who is this Jesus, what about this, that and the other thing, all the theological parts.

Joy- Welcome friends, to God’s Church on the Move.” We are thrilled to have you join us! It’s a new year, January 2019 and Ron and Charis are in the studio. They have just gotten back from Ethiopia, Egypt, Israel, all spiritual hotspots where God is interacting with believers and transforming lives in really the most incredible ways. It’s an honor to be here today. I trust that you are as eager as I am to hear from Ron, the founder and President of Empower, and Charis, Vice President and Director of International Operations. So, Ron and Charis, you have been home not too long from your trip overseas. Where do you want to begin and what do you want to tell us?

Ron- I think what we are going to do is start, Joy, today in Egypt and just give you a little update of what Empower is involved with there and what the conditions are like. We were able to meet with workers from all over the Middle East who came to tell us their story and basically God’s story of their endeavors and His work in that area. The two areas that we are going to bring out though is what God is doing through the internet throughout the Middle East, basically on social media and second of all, I want to tell people about what is going on on the Nile River with widows in villages. So, let’s start first of all with social media and Charis, I’m going to get you to break into this one because I’m not the best at social media, in fact, I would say I am totally illiterate.

Joy- Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.

Ron- I know, I know, I turn on my computer and that is where it ends. But can you just sort of share with the folks in that regard what is going on.

Charis- Well what they had explained to us is that all throughout the Middle East they reach out and share the Gospel with people, younger people in general, on social media and it’s a way that they can ask questions, they can counsel people, they can basically befriend them and work with them and it is all done online. So there is a safety involved with that in the Middle Eastern environment but there is also the freedom for them to ask anything. There are counselors on hand to talk to people through the different social media. Most of it, which I found funny, most of it they use Facebook over there which from a North American standpoint seemed a little dated but evidently over there it is very common for younger people to use that.

Ron- The one thing that got me as well, was the fact that the counselors were overworked by the number of people wanting information. They were from all over the Gulf States, from North Africa, and various parts of that Middle East section and they were writing in with questions about who is this Jesus, what about this, that and the other thing, all the theological parts. And I still remember the one sort of thing that showed me the tension in the Middle East right now, the one testimony was please don’t tell my mom and dad that I’m asking these questions, I think it was a 17-year-old boy and it was a matter of if mom and dad found out that I was asking these questions or thinking that there was another way to find God outside of Islam, they would be very, very upset with me. Therefore, the young people are trying to find answers right now.

Charis- It gives them the safety and the freedom to ask the questions without the threat of other people finding out. They also said that they also get a lot of people coming on and asking questions from Europe too.

Ron- Really? I missed that in the conversation, I’m glad you were there! Okay, that’s good! And that would be because a lot of Arabic-speaking people from the Middle East have gone into Europe as refugees.

Charis- That’s right.

Ron- Well, that was the one area that really impressed me and I think we are going to be doing more and more with that in the future from Empower’s point of view because not only do they need these counselors, and these counselors work very, very hard and they can also provide scripture in digital form if they can‘t mail a hard copy to them, they can send it out in digital form and there are Bible studies that we provide, scripture portions, study Bibles of all sorts so there is lots of tools at our disposal to be able to give.

Charis- They were also explaining that a few of them will get together online in chatroom settings and talk back and forth so it’s almost like their own small Bible study groups or groups where they can ask questions back and forth to each other. So it’s their version of a mini church shall we say, but thinking outside the box for the environment that they’re in.

Ron- For many of those people in that situation, that is their church because they have no other options to attend one and that is fantastic. Second of all, we are going to go and talk about the widows along the Nile River and this is south of Cairo and along the river where most of the population is in Egypt today, lives within five or ten miles of either side of the river because that is the only place that something grows, outside of that its sand and, therefore, these villages have popped up all along there over thousands of years. We’ve chosen to work there and primarily with the churches in some of these communities in the villages that need scripture, that need Bible study materials, as well as those that are suffering right now and that would be the widows and the orphans in these situations. Here is what has happened. In many of these villages right now, they’ve got industries where they take this white chalky calcium, I suppose, stone that is in the hillsides and they carve it out with power tools to make building blocks, like concrete blocks. These are used to put up houses so they are very white and very powdery. And when they cut them out this dust comes up like from cutting tools, like chainsaws and it gets into the lungs of the workers. Well, primarily these operations are owned by those who are Muslim background but the ones who work in the pits in the hillsides with the tools and are breathing this dust that comes up are young Christian men and those are the only jobs that they can get. So they go in there and they don’t have masks or anything of that nature to protect themselves and many of them die. I think when I was there they called it concrete lungs, whereby this powder gets into the lungs and they, after a few years of this just die. So now what we have is hundreds and hundreds, maybe even thousands of widows that has come out of this situation, and little kids all over the place that are suffering. When I went in there, going down the river we stopped at this one village and we walked into this widow’s house and I will never forget this. They were putting a roof on, some of the guys were putting a roof on for us on her house. There were walls up for years, dirt floor, extremely poor, no plumbing or anything like that. She and two little children probably about three and four years of age, they were sitting on the dirt floor, she had a few clothes, the ones that the children were wearing and she was wearing there but also a few extra clothes that were over a half wall but very, very few and she also had a Bible and the Bible was in a plastic bag and she stored it in a hole in the wall there and she had one cooking pot, a small cooking pot and she told us in the evening when she got home from work, whatever she did, she would go out and find greens or some sort of nutrition or buy something at the market with a little bit of money and make up a sort of a stew-ish sort of soup for her and the two kids to have. That was their food for the day. They would use the outside fields as their washroom. There was no roof, they were susceptible to the sunlight, what rain would come down, dust storms, everything like that. She then showed me this, then what she would do at night time, she would take this little shovel and what she would do she would turn over the dirt in an area that was about the size of a bed and she would turn it over so the children would have a softer bed at night. There was no blankets, there was nothing like that and they would lay on this and that was their bed. And I’m thinking to myself, oh my goodness, this is a Christian woman who follows Jesus, not much future in the normal. But we are working with that church in the community who is reaching out to these widows. We are helping with the roofs, we are helping with various things to get her up in her own business and get going, we are helping with the children, taking in and they are providing Christian education right now for the kids, all these things revolving around this problem. But what this is doing, this is why this is so impressive for me, is that this is a huge testimony to all the other people who are not Christians living in the community. And this is the bond of Christ all coming together. They are not just helping the widows, but the orphans, the education system, the church, the pastors, everybody is being blessed by all these resources from outside. But it has all been for strengthening that church from within. It’s not like Empower is putting a badge on the door saying we helped here. Nobody knows that we are doing these things in that village, this is all coming organically through the pastor and that church and everything like that, and the workers that go in there are all of Egyptian background. Therefore, that is what we do. We try to strengthen the church and to fix problems popping up because of social situations, political situations, economics, and things like that. And, therefore, we are not a humanitarian organization, Joy, but in some of these areas we can extend the Gospel, we can reach out to other people by helping in such things as this.

She and two little children probably about three and four years of age, they were sitting on the dirt floor, she had a few clothes, the ones that the children were wearing and she was wearing”

Joy- Right and nothing more important than a roof on a house. I’m wondering, the temperature in this area. Do they have extreme temperatures?

Ron- Cooking hot, like I mean baking. Being there in the summertime, well over 110 degrees Fahrenheit which would be 45 degrees Celsius. And in the wintertime it’s cold. It’s not snow but it gets really cold at night, in the desert especially. Therefore, it goes to extremes.

Joy- Is it common not to have a roof in this area? Was she just one family?

Ron- If you are poor. No, no, it’s very common. They might get walls up and work on their house over the years but many times a young couple would start with the walls and would get around to the roof. Well if the husband dies what do you do? There is nobody to take care. She has to try to find a little bit of money to go out for food by doing something so she has no way of getting ahead and that is why we have to help in that situation. It’s important to win people to Christ, disciple them and these ladies that are being taken care of in these villages all belong to discipleship groups, all are being given Christian training, all are being helped to find employment and get kicked off in that, their kids are being cared for. It’s a full package.

Joy- Right, and does the desire to follow the Lord come out of the aid that they’re given or is it all mixed in together?

Ron- It’s all mixed in. It’s both a little bit of money to help them immediately and then it’s to stand on their own two feet after a while, it’s to grow in Jesus, to their walk with God, and to raise their children in a Christian home. All things considered it’s building the body of Christ in that community on an individual basis and on a group basis.

Joy- In a full organic type of a way where you are doing a full body. You had mentioned that no one really knows Empower is doing this stuff. Is that an important feature? Do you go in not wanting people to know how Empower is helping?

Ron- We do not, in fact we would like to hide. We learned this years ago, we want to lose our identity in the church of Jesus Christ around the world. Nobody needs to know who is helping who, it’s just a matter of Jesus knows and Jesus loves his church and the bride of Christ. Therefore, we just go in anonymously, we will help out, we find good people, nationals on the ground who will be able to handle this sort of thing. Therefore, it is done by the indigenous national church and they are the ones that are standing out in the front lines. We are just way in the back.

Joy- Right. Alright, so that was Egypt and the widows on the Nile. Fantastic. Where else are we going?

Ron- We are going to go to Ethiopia and most of our time today is going to be talking about our situation in Ethiopia. We are going to go a little bit further than we have done before explaining what is happening now, especially in that part of Ethiopia that is Muslim background. For people who don’t know this, and I’ve said this before but there are about 100 million people in Ethiopia today. 50 million of those identify themselves as being orthodox and this comes out of the Ethiopian Eunuch in the book of Acts when the Gospel was taken down south and about 50 million of the 100 are following that. Then you’ve got about 20 million who are evangelicals and consider themselves to be of that belief and they are called actually, Pentes and it’s not that they are all pentecostal, it’s the fact that Pente goes for Pentecost and that is when they identified the work of the Holy Spirit coming and they just call them Pentes. And so that is that but there are also about 30 million of the Muslims that are in the country and those are the ones that are really accepting the Lord right now and they are walking away from Islam and they are coming to the Lord. That is why we want to talk a little bit today as to how this is happening and give some stories that Charis and I were told about the situation. You see, there is something growing up right now whereby, it’s not the traditional Western-style church within the country. Muslims are coming out and forming congregations that are strong in the word of God, their doctrine is good, it’s sound, it’s Biblical and shall I say evangelical. They believe in the inerrancy of the word of God, they have put away the Quran, they have put away their Islamic beliefs, but they have not put away their form of dress, the foods that they eat, how they would gather together in a church gathering. For instance, they don’t have pulpits, they don’t have a lot of seats in fact they don’t have seats when they gather together, they sit on the floor. In Islamic mosques, men are taught in there, women are somewhere else but in the churches that are being created there right now it’s the men and women together so they have changed a few things but much of it, if you were to walk in, you would think boy this looks sort of Muslim in background but it’s not. The form of it is very much in their culture, their style but their internal belief is right according to the word of God, it’s Biblical, it’s sound, there is no falsehoods or what we call it, syncretism or mixture going on. They haven’t mixed Islam with Christianity and come up with some sort of mixture. No, this is a pure Christian church but when you look at it, it’s got their culture all over it, what they have grown up in. So that means their clothes, their food, their way of talking, their way of studying, but these churches meet regularly, in fact, just going by my notes here, they were talking about there were two sheiks there, former Sheiks.

Joy- And what is a Sheik?

Ron- A Sheik is a teacher, a leader of the mosque, we’re going to call them an elevated pastor. And there were two of these fellows and they were very, very well educated and they were talking about what was going on and they had started eight of this sort of church in the villages around them, eight villages, and the Sunday before we got there they had just baptized 60 people. These churches are multiplying very, very quickly and when we asked them they said, Yeah we baptize about 60 people a week right now.” And they are just growing by that number. There were two ladies there who were going to a nearby village and keep going to these villages and this is the ladies reaching the ladies because it’s difficult for the men to. Go ahead, Charis.

Charis- Yeah, in their culture, women are not supposed to be talking to men alone and so it’s really important that they have these female church planters out there because they can go out and talk to the other women, witness to them, share the Gospel with them and the women feel open to talk to them because they are female.

We just go in anonymously, we will help out, we find good people, nationals on the ground who will be able to handle this sort of thing. Therefore, it is done by the indigenous national church and they are the ones that are standing out in the front lines.

Ron- The one thing as well, we were talking about these baptisms and we found out that there is a lot of deliverance during the water baptisms. That means, a lot of these people were into the occult, they were into voodoo, witchcraft and all that sort of thing as well as being into Islam and there was a mixture of that. And when these people are going through water baptism they have a manifestation of the demonic powers that were in them before and they have to be dealt with right then because baptism is a defining moment, more than it is recognized in the West as a whole. Around the world in our operations we are noticing that whether it is Islam or whether it’s Buddhism or Hinduism, water baptism is that moment of public declaration that a person is following Jesus. Well, all the powers of darkness that were in and on these people fight back at that moment because that is the moment of declaring ownership. They wanted to own these people and now when Jesus says, no, I’m the owner of this life that means that there is a bit of a struggle. They deal with it right there at that time, the people are baptized and they don’t run into those problems after that we’ve been told.

Joy- So even though they have made the decision to follow Christ, at the moment of baptism there is still a struggle?

Ron- There are still remnants because remember their walk with God is a journey and usually their commitment to Jesus and the time that they are water baptized there is not much time between those. It is sort of like today I accept Jesus, tomorrow I am baptized. So there is this period of time, they are making this all, this one big step very, very quickly and that is why these things come out. We can get into the theology of this but probably everybody has got to come to grips with it themselves, I’m just telling you what is happening there. The other thing that we are impressed with is this. When they, various teachers and evangelists, go into these villages they receive threats, they receive persecution from the powers that be, the religious powers that be in these villages and the missionaries just take this as normal now when they go in. It’s not like they make a big thing out of it, they aren’t massively surprised. They go in and they know well, we’re probably going to get stoned today and we’re probably maybe even going to get stabbed and a couple of us are going to die, we realize that but we have to take the Gospel to this village. So we asked them, we said, What is the reason why there is such a desperation to go and do it right now?” and the one brother said, Because they’re dying without Jesus!” and he said, they could die tomorrow and stand before God and have not accepted Christ, it’s sort of like a race to get there before they die.” Another brother wanted 300,000 Bibles or New Testaments immediately for the Christians that had just accepted the Lord, the new believers that just came to the Lord out of Islam. It was twice, wasn’t it Charis, that he said this? And he said, We’ve got to have these Bibles because they are going to die without having a Bible, they need it now!” This is urgent. Well, there is an urgency of not only getting them a Bible but it’s an urgency of taking that message to the next village because they might die. We have got to get the urgency back into the Gospel over here! That is what we are seeing over there and why so many people are willing to undergo the persecution and the tortures and the stabbings and all these things, is because people are dying without Christ. So that is the background now for all the stories that we’re going to tell. Charis, I’m going to let you talk about the young lady who is 22 years of age accepting the Lord and sleeping for a week, I want you to tell that story.

Charis- Oh, yes so we were in this small mud church in a small village out in the middle of nowhere and there were probably about, oh, I can’t even remember, maybe about 15 people that came in just to meet with us, and there was this girl and the whole time we were sitting there she kind of just glowed. There was something about her that you were just drawn to her. And she got up and she told us that before she became a Christian, she was scared all the time, she lived in constant fear and she said that she couldn’t sleep. The problem was she was so scared, she was scared to sleep, she was constantly living in fear. She said the biggest change for her once she accepted the Lord was that she had such peace that for the first week she was able to sleep deeply and she said she was so excited that she was able to sleep for a week because she had such peace in the Lord.

Ron- This means a lot to me because I looked at this little girl, 22 years of age and here she was, coming out with a smile on her face, there was peace there was joy all that, because the question we asked that set this up was, what was the greatest change in your life since becoming a Christian? And over here a lot of times we don’t ask that.

Joy- We might be afraid to ask that.

Ron-People will accept the Lord and, well, maybe it is, because there isn’t that much of a change. But when I’m overseas we will ask that question. What is the difference now? What do you find is different from your old religion now that you know Jesus? And this was this young lady who put it so succinctly, and for both Charis and myself it was a matter of, look at this, this is a prize example of what God will do because these people are scared. They are scared to die. They know they don’t have the answer. We were talking to this one leader this one day and he was like the, I’m going to use this term, he was like the Ravi Zacharias of teachers for the Muslims. In other words, he used to be a Muslim Sheik, a leader in the mosque and through a miracle of macaroni exploding, shall we say in growth, on the table and just coming out of the pot and not stopping and it drew him to think that there is a God out there and I’ve got to find this God. Then he went and talked to a missionary and accepted Christ. He was well learned in the things of Islam and now he is so deep in God and the understanding of the scriptures and everything like that. So we were sitting there with him and he was telling us about this immense growth of the church and all these people coming to the Lord and then he said, You realize that there is no specific savior in Islam.” In other words, he was telling us, Mohammed died looking for the savior or a savior. But that is they don’t have one specific,” and then he says, when you share with them about Jesus who came the first time and fulfilled everything that was necessary to prove that he was a Savior and now he’s coming a second time in fulfillment of the scriptures again proving that he was the Savior, the one and only,” he says, that is so important to people from Islamic background who are out there searching for some Savior to save them. When you explain that Jesus already did this, that gives them the peace and the joy.”

Charis- He said that they found what Mohammed was looking for.

Ron- Yeah, that’s their intro a lot of time in witnessing.

Charis- Exactly, so they don’t come at them saying you’re wrong, they come explaining that we have found the piece of the puzzle that was missing. And then they go on to explain everything else.

Ron- And he also said, we don’t come in a confrontational way to try to get a fight going and to prove that we are right and they are wrong. He just said, we just take what they believe and then we explain a better explanation or where this is leading to or the deficiencies in what they are thinking, that Jesus is the fulfilment of what you are looking for and, therefore, it’s in a non-confrontational way. That is a lesson we have to learn over here because it’s almost like we’re looking for a fight all the time when we’re talking and trying to witness to people.

Charis- He also said in the Quran there are hints to Jesus and Jesus being the Savior and it pointing to the Bible.

Ron- We are going to move on because there’s a couple of stories here that were really interesting. We were talking about the villages that we would be going into and the people would be going into these villages and they would be talking about going from one to another to another to another to another and they would give these women and the evangelists and everything like that all the tools that they need. Well there was this one young lady and, Charis, you can probably help me with this one as well, you’re great with details, she came out and she accepted the Lord and when she went home she had a problem and she had to stay out at night outside, do you remember that one?

Charis- Yeah, I sure do. So she had accepted the Lord and she was going out with the church planter, out sharing the Gospel with people and one night she came home and her parents had found out what was going on and her parents said no you can’t come in this house and it was in an area that had a lot of hyenas. It is known I guess in this area that there are so many hyenas out and so she spent the night outside of the house and her parents were worried that the hyenas were going to get her and I’m sure she was too but she prayed that God would protect her. And in the morning her mom ran to the door and went to look outside and she was there. She said she had peace that God was going to protect her all night and so since then her parents are fine with her doing whatever because they know that God protected her.

Ron- She referred to it as being like Daniel in the lion’s den and that God would protect her no matter what was going on. This was only a young lady who would go out and do these things. What she talked about, as well, was the fact that she would go out to these villages, she didn’t know a ton about the Gospel, in other words not all the fine details, all the questions she couldn’t answer that people would throw but she knew enough that she would get a group together, she called it her little gang or something, and she would take them to the church planter, the church planter and the pastor would answer all the other questions, lead them to Christ, and then she says okay, I’ll go get some more and she would go out to another village and get, through her enthusiasm through her knowledge cause she had more, she would draw them in and she said this is what she would do. She would go get them, the church planter would win them to Christ and she would keep going village after village after village and that was what her job was.

Joy- And that was Ethiopia, and do you hear, there are so many miracles in Ethiopians, so many amazing stories in Ethiopia and those are just a few. I imagine going to Ethiopia and seeing this is incredible for both of you.

Ron- It is, it’s a powerful thing. Charis, you can probably speak to this better but to see people from all walks and backgrounds of both being young women, older women, young men, older men, children, every age group, every social situation, every background whether it’s in Islam or witch doctors and everything like that, God is breaking through to these people in all their situations and that is the most impressive thing for me.

Charis- I think it was interesting because sitting around in this room with all these church planters and evangelists, it wasn’t just one age group, one gender, there were young men, there were young women there were older men, older women and so it really kind of showed you that God’s not just using the young people or he’s not just using the older people, he’s using everybody. Everybody has the opportunity and they really see the urgency.

Ron-And they are excited.

Charis- They are.

Ron-You can see it on their faces that wow, we finally found the answer and it’s now our responsibility to go so they are owning their problem and they are owning the answer of God. Last story and then we are going to move on to Israel. We are going to talk about a man that I had heard about before, I didn’t really know who he was, who burnt down a church. Now, this fellow was really, talk about excitement, this fellow was sitting in front of us and he was energetic, he was detailed, he was just on fire. And he started this way, he says, I grew up in the mosque,” in other words it was like, I didn’t have a house, I grew up right IN the mosque, and from six years of age on he was studying. He knew the Quran so well he said, that he corrected people for wrong pronunciation, for wrong spelling, everything. He knew all of the other books as well, the other Muslim books, and also he had a letter from the highest levels of Islam in Ethiopia that he go could go anywhere and teach the Quran. When he was 15 years of age he took to task the leaders of the mosque in his hometown because they had allowed a Christian missionary to come in and start a church in their village and he was angry. This reminded me of Saul, the Apostle Paul, but before that he was Saul the persecutor of the church and it said that he had incredible zeal. I could see that in this guy, that he had a zeal but it was misplaced in the wrong belief system and so what he wanted to do, this fellow, he says, “ I wanted to go and kill this leader, I wanted to kill this pastor in my home village,” and he says, I was looking for an opportunity to do it because I knew that if I could kill this pastor that I would have a direct pathway to heaven because God would be so happy with me and, therefore, I was looking for an opportunity.” Well, something came up before this and he says one night he was going to this village and he went in there, to the church and he saw that it was big, there were mattresses all over the place and they were waiting to have some sort of conference and all the people would sleep on the ground shall we say. And he said, I went and I burned the whole place down.” He took a torch and he went around to parts of the church and he would burn the whole thing down and he said it all went up in smoke. I remember hearing this story years ago of this church that had burnt down and he said, That was me,” and then he said, I hid in the bushes when all the people from the church gathered arouind and I was listening to them because I wanted to hear their plan as to how they were going to get me,” and he says, in Islam, we would have put a curse on the person that did this sort of thing.” But they didn’t do that, he says They stood around, held hands and prayed for my salvation. They prayed that God would take care of the man that did this and that He would draw him and they forgave me.” In their prayers, they said we forgive him and God forgive him. Remember how Jesus said forgive them and in all these situations even when he was crucified, forgive them, forgive them, forgive them. Well, it’s what they did here and he said, Man, I could go out right now and kill the pastor and they would forgive me for that as well,” so he says, I knew there was something different about these Christians.” He then started to have dreams and at night he would see these visions and dreams but part of it was always hearing the word forgiveness. Forgiveness. And he kept reliving the prayer meeting where he heard that all these Christians were forgiving him for everything. He couldn’t get away from it. And this went on and finally, it haunted him so much he went and talked to a teacher, another pastor, evangelist and he said, I can’t get this out of my mind.” He explained the Gospel to him. This melted him and out of that he lead nine Sheiks to the Lord, nine pastors in his village, nine of the fellows that were like his counterparts, he led to Christ. And then he says, But I’ve also gone to another village and they broke two of my ribs,” so he says, I’ve undergone some persecution as well.” And he says he wants all these people that have been in thick darkness for so long to finally come to the light. And then at the end we said, So how is it going now?” and he says, Good, I have now led 117 Sheiks to the Lord over the last few years that I have been a believer.” 117 leaders! He is an evangelist on a mission and he would burn down a church but now he is building the church. Totally different.

Joy- Wow, and he is leading the leaders to the Lord and those leaders themselves lead many other people so it’s a big harvest.

Ron- Exactly, it’s going very, very quickly. We could tell you more stories but we are going to move on to Israel for time if nothing else. I wanted to talk about Israel because it is very exciting to see, as usual, what God is doing in the country of Israel as a whole. And obviously, you’ve got two groups that live there. One are Jewish background that are primarily Hebrew speaking but a lot of Russian speaking that are coming into the country now, as well as you’ve got Arab speaking believers up in the northern part of the country primarily. And we went in there and started to meet with various leaders, people who are in outreach in the country and we have good friends up in the northern region at one of the major churches there. They had shared with us the fact that in 1989 there were 30 Messianic congregations in the country of Israel. Today there are about 230 if not more congregations and that they are growing all the time. Many of these congregations are people from French backgrounds where they have been forced out of France because of the persecution of the Jewish people. They have come into Israel and have come to the Lord saying that Jesus is the Messiah, Yeshua is the Messiah, and forming congregations, French-speaking. You’ve got Ethiopian, Eritrean, Russian, as I said. We’ve got pictures that we saw of all these holocaust survivors who were Russia-speaking who would come out of the camps in the Second World War, very elderly now and they had made it up into Israel, they were coming to know Yeshua as the Messiah. We saw pictures of them sitting in white robes on the banks of the Jordan River, ready to be baptized and these people are turning into the best evangelists within the Russian-speaking community that you have ever seen. And these congregations are popping up everywhere. Today they estimate about 30,000 Jewish believers attending messianic congregations as well as others, thousands of others that don’t come to these congregations because of politics or family or they are within Orthodox Judaism and they are not allowed out but they still believe in Jesus as the Messiah but they are just not able to attend and identify openly. So there is a great growth right now in the body of Christ within Israel as a whole, as well as you’ve got up in the North, the Arab congregations that are growing as well. One brother we work with there up in the Arab congregations by the sea of Galilee, he was talking about the fact that they have these church services and he was saying about that the church is full of believers and he says we leave the windows open at the side and they put up a tent on the side of the church so that Muslims who want to hear the message but are not allowed to come into the church, will come and they will listen under the tent through the windows to the preaching of the Gospel. We were able to take in a 20-foot container of Bibles to help them in this area and we have to do more now because they ran out of Bibles. In fact, when the last box was distributed of Bibles, when they did the distribution apparently there was a tug of war between two pastors.

Charis- A friendly one.

Ron‑A friendly one, yeah, a Christian tug of war, a friendly Christian tug of war over the last box. They were just hoping that they could have it because the desperation is there. People want to hear, not just believers who don’t have a Bible, but we are talking about people from a Muslim background, living in Israel who want to hear about the claims of Christ. They know there is a difference between believers and unbelievers and they want to know why. So that’s going on right now. Charis, do you have anything you want to add as far as what you saw when you went in there this time?

Charis- I just, when we were meeting with the Arab congregations, the urgency, once again, we talked about in Ethiopia the urgency, they were talking about how there is such an opportunity right now, people are searching and so it’s not just localized to one country. God is on the move all over the place.

Ron- We are going to do something in 2019 which is different. And what we are going to be doing is fulfilling a burden that God laid upon my heart and has been confirmed when we went over to Israel as well. What we are doing, we’re calling it Operation Equip Israel” and what we mean by that is this: that Israel right now is in a point of transition, and this transition is that the body of Christ has grown up to such an extent that God is raising indigenous Israelis who are taking ownership of the churches shall we say, of their own situations. They are becoming the Bible teachers, they are the driving force. Up to now, it’s been a lot of foreign folks, we’ll call them missionaries, maybe Western missionaries, but people who have come from all over the world who have started these congregations, who have been in the leadership of the congregations but now a transition is happening and now it’s more of the nationals that are taking leadership and they need help at this present time. This is what they need help with; they need Bibles, they need scriptural materials, they need all sorts of tools to help them grow deep in the Gospels, knowledge of the Word, and become teachers and pastors and leaders. And therefore, we are working with the Bible Society, great folks over there in Jerusalem, and we are doing right now, starting this off, we are doing the largest shipment, procurement, distribution, placement of Bibles, and Bible related material in Israel’s history. We’re going to be doing it this year. And we are not talking about a few thousand, we are talking about a few hundred thousand if not more. These are going to be Bibles, these are going to be children’s materials, it’s going to be outreach material, everything that is necessary from New testaments to Old Testaments to parallel Bibles, French-Hebrew Bibles, Russian-Hebrew Bibles, everything they could ever want. There are some 200 or 250 young men that are in pastoral training right now in Israel and they don’t have enough money to be able to buy all the tools that are necessary like Bible atlases or good commentaries or encyclopedias of the Bible, all those books that really explain the in depth nature of the Gospel and the history and all that sort of thing and they don’t have that money. And there are congregations that are extremely poor and they don’t have money to buy outreach materials, many of them don’t have full Bibles. The people are poor and people say, well I thought Israel was a rich country. No, the cost of living there is very, very high, so much so that when you graduate from high school, immediately you do your two years home service in the military, after that we were explained that they come out of that and usually get married, then they are going to start their children and at the same time there is not enough housing and, therefore, many times you have to live with your parents or in-laws or some sort of situation like that. I have heard of, regularly, dad having a job, mom having a job and then one of the two of them have another part-time job just to make ends meet. Therefore, to try to support their church gathering or congregation or their outreach and their pastor, all this sort of thing, they don’t have the cash for it. But we have the ability and God has laid it on Empower Ministries right now to go in and do this with the French congregations and the Ethiopian and the Eritrean and the Russian Jews and the other messianic congregations in the country, as well as those Arab-speaking folks up in the Northern region who do not have enough scripture, children’s material, Bible School materials, all this, we are going to be doing this right now. If there was a time to touch Israel it is today.

Joy- So Operation Equip Israel” is huge, it’s massive, it’s right up Empower’s alley and it is going to affect all of these people groups in Israel. It sounds really incredible.

Ron- We are going to help to strengthen the work there to help indigenize the body of Christ within Israel today because the transition is now and that is why they need an injection of God’s Word both for outreach as well as to make them deeper in God.

Charis- This is going to take them to the next level basically.

Ron- Totally, and everybody that we have asked there, all the various people groups shall we say within the country all will say this is the greatest need at this present time. So that is what we are going to be doing, we’ve got everything underway. For the folks that have been listening to us, in January plans are underway we will lay this out in print form and send this out to whoever wants to be part of this. But this is going to be one of the biggest things I think Empower has ever done.

Joy- And how exciting to be a part of one of the largest deposits of Bibles in Israel. Equip is real. Very exciting.

Ron- In the year 2019. It will probably last a little bit longer than that but this year we are working on it because the tension in the country, the opportunities are now as well as the fact that the opportunity for war is there now because things in the Middle East are warming up. So today is the day, not tomorrow. Today is the day.

Joy- Well that is definitely something I want to be a part of, equip Israel, I love it!

Ron- And that’s it for this time, Joy.

Joy- Great, well, there you have it guys, God’s Church on the Move” with Ron and Charis Pearce. Thank you for listening.

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