‘Tis the Season for Family
When Kobi and I graduated from Bible school in 1999 and married, we immediately moved to Israel. Once we got settled in our little apartment, we got into a daily life rhythm. Kobi would make his way to Hebrew school in the morning, and I would head off to my desk job. Kobi would spend 5 hours in Hebrew school and return with several hours of homework – due the next day. Our schedules were haphazard and some days we barely saw each other. But we knew it was temporary and we knew that for us to be effective in Israel, Kobi needed to have a good handle on the Hebrew language. We also knew the best and perhaps only time we could live like this was before we had kids.
We didn’t realize it would be 5 years before we discovered the good news that we were expecting our first child. During those five years, we spent time discussing our life goals and pursuing what we felt God’s destiny was for us. It involved music, mentoring young people, and teaching others about Israel. We also took time to consider the stories of people who were successful in ministry but didn’t keep their own character issues in check – leading to eventual moral or ethical failures. Thus, we pursued relationships with men and women who were older and more mature than us in the Lord who could advise us and hold us accountable.
When our first daughter was born, other than enduring sleepless nights, our lifestyle didn’t change much. With only one child, we could toggle between ministering in Israel and abroad without too much trouble. We loved traveling, and by the time our daughter was a year old, she had been on almost 30 flights. We were on a mission to help Christians understand the Israel of today – and one kid was small enough to pack in a baby carrier and take with us.
In the beginning of our journey, we encountered few Christians who understood the significance of modern Israel and the steadfast nature of God’s promises. This only strengthened our resolve that what we were doing was important. Our hearts were passionate to reach out to the Church worldwide, knowing at best, most Christians only viewed Israel as some historical mystery or prophetically relevant place in the future – and at worst, they saw her as completely irrelevant or eternally cursed for rejecting Yeshua.
When we found out we had a second child on the way, we put a pause on traveling and engaged full time in a local congregation in Tel Aviv. Between preparing for the Shabbat service, renovating a ministry center, evangelizing on the streets and counseling congregants, our plate was full. It wasn’t until baby number three arrived that we hit a wall. After 5 years of life together without children, we “suddenly” had 3 kids ages 3 and under.
Between nursing, diapers and toddlerhood, we simply could not keep up the ministry pace we had been maintaining. We wrestled in our hearts between our passion for what we knew God had called us to do – and the family we knew He gave us to raise. Since our work was ministry, we were effectively on call all the time for anyone who needed us. As a mom, I found myself increasingly depressed and annoyed at our kids. God had called us to do “His holy work” and my kids were taking up most of my time and routinely interrupting what free time I had left. I often had to choose between spending their nap time cleaning the house, taking a shower, addressing some ministry crisis, eating or having devotions. No matter what I chose, there was always something important left undone.
A BETTER WAY
The fact is, there are simply not enough hours in the day to do full time ministry and full time parenting. And what are a couple of kids at home when the need “out there” is so great and the masses are calling you? We heard plenty of teachings to justify the neglect of home life in the name of furthering the Kingdom of God, but it just didn’t feel right. As our family grew (we now have five kids!), it nagged in the back of my mind that Scripture never portrayed children as anything other than a blessing from the Lord. And yet, all these teachings made it feel as though family life was an obstacle to God’s call. After all, wasn’t this why the Apostle Paul said it was better to stay single so you could give yourself whole heartedly to the Lord?
While the New Testament seems to be full of lone rangers sleeping under the stars and hopping from ship to ship in their quest to reach the ends of the earth for God, the reality was much more complex. For sure, there are those who God calls to live single lives, but even in Scripture, they were the exception – and they had to work with families to be effective. Since family and the passing on of wealth and wisdom from generation to generation was so well understood from the Jewish Scriptures, it’s no surprise that the writers of the New Testament felt little need to reiterate these things to their audience. The problem occurred when the Gospel was taken to the nations and absorbed into various Gentile cultures. When those cultures rejected the Jewish roots of the Bible, they effectively lost the back story to the characters in the New Testament – and the lone spiritual super star was born.
Although Paul personally thrived in his singleness, whenever he planted a congregation in a city, he did it in a household. In other words, his role was that of a messenger and therefore he traveled light. But, he needed the stability of a home with a family to establish something with staying power. Because one simply cannot build a community that will last for generations on the shoulders of singles. After much wrestling and prayer, we concluded that if family life was a barrier to ministry, the problem wasn’t with the family, the problem was with the modern model for doing ministry.
MODEL FOR FAMILY, MODEL FOR MINISTRY
A couple of years into this approach, during a summer ministry trip with the whole family, our 9 year old daughter, Illit, asked if she could share something during a service. We agreed. Every place we visited we had her come up before we got started and let her share for a few minutes and offer to pray for people after the service. From the very first time she shared, we saw the impact this had on the congregants. As the service ended, people came up to us, but when we offered to pray for them, they apologetically asked if our daughter could pray for them instead. Being a bit on the shy side, Illit was hesitant at first, but as she pushed past her nervousness and prayed deep, heartfelt prayers we watched grown men cry. She was just a child, but her gift of compassion and sensitivity to the Lord made up for her youth and inexperience when given the opportunity.
A few services later, as we chatted with some people after the service, our 7 year old daughter walked up and handed us some money. Absentmindedly, we took it and continued our conversation. A few minutes later, she came up and gave us some more. The third time she walked up and handed over a couple of bills we turned and asked her curiously, “What are you doing?”
“I’m selling your CDs”, she replied and walked off. We returned to our conversation and about 20 minutes later, our little 7 year old proudly walked up with a wad of bills and exclaimed, “We’re all sold out!”
“Sold out of what?”
“How did we sell out? We brought a bunch.”
“I walked around and asked people if they wanted to buy them; you can’t just wait for them to walk up to the table,” she explained as if this should’ve been obvious to us. We stood there dumbfounded. Our 7 year old, Lahav – who was known in our home for finding the most creative ways of getting out of clearing the dinner table – had just appointed herself our ministry resources sales rep.
At first, we were hesitant because we weren’t sure how it would look to have our kids as marketers, but people found her enthusiasm adorable. The more places we visited, the more excited Lahav got about her newly found role. In a conference this past year, her outgoing, never-disheartened attitude even drew some “job offers” from a few sales reps she accosted as they passed our table. We were a bit bewildered, but overjoyed by her intense determination to succeed in promoting Yeshua Israel (she never asked for anything in return). But we realized that she had absorbed our family and ministry vision and, just like her older sister Illit, had simply plugged herself in where her giftings were. One at a time, each child would approach us and ask to help in some fashion. This was it. We had found a way to build a ministry and a family together.
What we didn’t see coming was the sudden interest in our family. We hesitated at first, since it’s never comfortable putting your family out there knowing its flaws. However, we decided, just like everyone else, we were aspiring to be a healthy family, not a perfect one. And if it helped others to watch us feel our way through this family thing, then so be it.
Since most of the year we live in Israel, our daily focus is largely discipling Israelis and making worship music. Therefore, having our kids involved in ministry was as simple as inviting people over to our home to experience our family. We weren’t trying to show them how perfect kids behave, but rather how kids with a vision and family identity can think and function like a team. We had everyone from singles, to young couples to grandparents over. It was risky, since any one of our kids could have a bad day and that would be the only day our guests would see. However, even the “bad” days were effective in demonstrating how to be a team when one of the team members is a bit out of sorts.
When we travel with our kids in tow, we spend more time teaching on Israel. We found, however, that we could spend 45 minutes speaking about Israel and 5 minutes mentioning our family in passing and people were more interested in those 5 minutes than anything else we had said. We initially wondered how to tie in the message of Israel when so many were interested in the family aspect. Then we realized that rather than merely teaching on the blessing Israel was supposed to be to the world, we were being that blessing in our own little way. Think of it a bit like show and tell.
Pastors and congregants alike would come up after services and ask if we had a curriculum to expand on what we did with our family. We considered creating a traditional workbook layout, but we’ve had a few of those given to us over the years and always felt like filling them out was a sort of self-imposed homework session. I was never good at homework. In search of a family-friendly manual that could involve the kids as well, we came up with a part-coloring book, part-instructional workbook and are pleased to present you with our new book “Color Me Family” A Practical Guide to Family Discipleship.
We all have passions, dreams and ideas of how we wish to see our lives play out here on earth. Our version of the best life ever may include a stage and a spot light, or it may include a secluded spot where we can get our job done uninterrupted. But whether bonded to us by law or blood, our family members will have more impact on our life and legacy than anyone else. They are the ones we put up with even when they drive us crazy, and they are the ones we run to when everyone else turns on us. At the end of the day, we all want to come home to a warm place where people love us and welcome us in out of the cold, daily life among strangers – and only family will do that.
We take the kids with us as often as possible on ministry trips.
Would you partner with us to build up families in the land of Israel? You can give a one time gift, or sow a little every month and watch your investment in Israel grow using our automatic monthly giving plan – Click Here to Donate
ALL DONATIONS ARE TAX DEDUCTIBLE. YESHUA ISRAEL MINISTRIES IS A 501 (C)(3) NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION.
Dear Lover of Israel,
Shalom from Jerusalem!
We are so excited about this coming year! On a national level, 2017 is the 50 year anniversary of the reuniting of East and West Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital! Returning all of Jerusalem to Israel’s rule has made it possible for Jews and Christians to freely pray at the Wailing Wall to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Every 50 years in Scripture Jews were told to celebrate a year of Jubilee. It was to be a time of forgiving debits, freeing slaves and experiencing all around blessings from the Lord . Though Israel has not yet fully recognized her Messiah, 2017 will be a Jubilee year since the name of Yahweh has been continually declared on His holy mountain.
The second reason we are so excited is because of a recent development with Yeshua Israel. Last year this time, our hearts were filled with a burden for Israeli musicians and worship leaders to have a “home” where they could develop their skills and be discipled. We wrote two articles, “When the Levites return to their post,” and “Make a Joyful noise – in Hebrew,” about the need for raising up skilled worshippers to fill the land of Israel with the sounds of worship.
Within six months of writing the initial article, a talented man named Eli founded the Ashira Project, joined Yeshua Israel’s Israel Worship Initiative. The mission of Ashira (Hebrew for “I will sing”) is to record and distribute Israeli worship at no cost to the artist or the listeners. As these musicians and worship leaders are developed, the long-term vision of the Israel Worship Initiative is to spread Israeli worship throughout the nations and endear the heart of the Church to their Jewish roots.
Though we have been making significant progress with the Israel Worship Initiative, our activities remained limited because of the small space in which we’ve had to work. Some ministries have occasionally allowed us to use their facilities, but Yeshua Israel has never had a “home base” that we were free to use as much as we needed. We needed a space conducive for gatherings where we could meet and pray. We also needed a place that was sound-proof so our musicians would be able to create and play music freely without disturbing the neighbors. A noise friendly place has been the most difficult thing to find.
This month the Lord surprised us by dropping a place in our laps that will serve as our new ministry base. We could almost say the place found us. From office space to meeting space, it has everything we had prayed for. And as evidence that God likes to go above and beyond what we could ask or think, this place also has in it a fully functioning recording studio! This ministry center will be a place where Israeli believers and artists can hone their craft and also spend time building relationships and deepening their walk with God.
What a difference a year makes! Last year end we had only years of prayers and a direction we felt the Lord was leading us in, this year end we have three completed albums by Ashira and a new ministry center!
We move in the first of the year and have a one-time opportunity before the current studio manager leaves to purchase the equipment already installed in the studio for $65,000. We have already raised $35,000 and need only $30,000 to close the deal. This is an amazing deal as professional studios can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to equip and furnish.
As this year closes out would you consider investing in this center where we can disciple young believers and where Israeli worshippers can practice and create? Would you make it a point to pray for God to increase Hebrew worship throughout the land of Israel?
With everything vying for your attention these days, we wanted to say thank you for taking time of Yeshua Israel. Your love and support make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those are able to impact because of you.
Happy Holidays and a Blessed New Year,
Kobi and Shani and the entire Yeshua Israel team