The Joy of the Lord is your Strength! (Nehemiah 8:10)
Shalom friends of FZS,
The scripture above is meant to encourage all of us in these spiritually trying times of global uncertainty and religious confusion. Compromise and the justification of social sins are the new norm for millennial Christians and it appears that many, once strong men and women of God have begun to allow the “little foxes” of sin to dwell in the Lord’s vineyard of their lives. Of course, these secret sins spoil the fruit of the true Spirit and much like the result of Samson’s shaven head, they have become powerless and unprofitable.
Lately, I have been meeting so many discouraged believers who like myself, are weary and disillusioned with “organized religion” and the blatant hypocrisy of so many pastors who claim to represent God on earth but love the praises of men while living in comfort and luxury. It is really quite easy for us believers to lose hope in such a confusing time, and just like Peter when he took his eyes away from the Lord and looked at the reality of the storm; without his focus on Yeshua he began to sink…
In Nehemiah 8, a revival is in progress. Ezra and some scribes read God’s Word to the people from dawn until noon who had forgotten the Law of the Lord. The people responded by weeping in repentance as they realized how badly they had failed the Lord. Returning to the Word of God which produces repentance is always the key!
But surprisingly Ezra tells the people not to mourn or weep, but to enjoy the feast, adding, “the joy of the Lord is your strength”. And so the people made a great rejoicing.
THE JOY OF THE LORD COMES FROM TRUE REPENTANCE.
We can assume that the tears of Neh. 8:9 were tears of repentance, because chapter 9 is a sincere corporate prayer of confession of the Jewish people. I suppose the joy of the Lord is knowing that God does hear our heart’s earnest cry and He does love and totally forgive us! In Psalm 32, David wrote after his sin with Bathsheba, he declares the blessings that are on the one whose sin God has forgiven. It’s not by accident that that Psalm ends with the exhortation, “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart” (32:11).
We first wanted to bring you a brief update on Luda’s condition. She has already passed 2 rounds chemotherapy which leaves her weak and very tired. It is too early to notice any remission so we continue to hope and pray for the Lord’s healing. Luda insists on coming to work because she says she does not want to sit at home and do nothing. Fortunately, we have a bed for her upstairs where she can lie down and take naps when needed. We have also started her on a fresh juice cleansing diet which she very much enjoys!
Luda (sitting) still working and helping serve the new immigrants
Luda enjoying her fresh squeezed vegetable juice
We have a praise report that another 20 ft. container of NEW clothing and aid is now on route to us, this time from the charitable organization, MTÜ Hea Isa (Good Father) in Estonia, Latvia. The container is scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem around March 15. MTÜ was also gracious enough to cover ½ of the shipping expenses. Thank you very much!
We have just finished a small expansion project that gives us much more storage space for humanitarian aid, as we often were pressed for space when receiving full large containers with aid. The addition is a second floor gallery that blends in nicely with the existing structure.
We also wanted to highlight some of the families that have come to us this month for humanitarian assistance during our clothing and aid distribution days at our FZS warehouse. Blankest are in high demand during the cold winter months in Jerusalem. Thank you for supporting the work here at FZS and keeping these projects funded!
Many of the families we serve on a daily basis have just arrived in Israel as new immigrants and they are in need of the basics necessities (such as diapers, blankets, food coupons and clothing) for starting life over here in their new home of Israel. Praise the Lord that we can offer assistance to the needy with Yeshua’s love!
Haus Schonegg, Switzerland
We are already organizing or next visit of Holocaust Survivors in April. We continue to work closely with the Jerusalem Association of Ghetto and Concentration Camp Survivors who select for us those survivors who are able to visit. We have been so busy, I forgot to post for you photos of the last group we hosted in December. One of the highlights of their visit was being asked to address the Swiss Army infantry corps concerning their experience of enduring WWII as POW’s. It was amazing to watch the interest of the young soldiers as the Holocaust Survivors shared their testimonies. The Swiss Army has already invited us back again when the next group of survivors will visits.
Holocaust Survivors sharing their testimonies with the Swiss Army
We are also happy to announce that a dear Swiss sister, Margrit Richard has been called of the Lord to serve at our FZS Distribution Center in Jerusalem for several months and possibly longer. The timing couldn’t be better because now that Luda is needing more time off with her illness, Margrit will be able to help fill in the gap.
Thank you Margrit for your willing heart to serve His people in Jerusalem!
Margrit Richard to serve at FZS
Finally, in March we will have 2 Dutch teams from GAiN Holland who will come to Haus Schonegg for work outreach. We will be adding a second bathroom and shower on one of the guest floors where there is only one shower currently. The teams will also be doing light repairs and some painting as well. We have been so blessed by these teams who come to us twice each year to help.
A GAiN team from Holland hard at work!
Thomas Kellenberger at Islandkids Int. is planning a conference of Holocaust Survivors in the Philippines this summer with the goal to bring awareness of the rise of Anti-Semitism and help fight global racism and xenophobia. Tom has asked us at FZS to partner with him and be a part of the organizing committee for the event in July, 2017.
The Commitment of the Jerusalem Group of Survivors
Alexander from the group of the Jerusalem Holocaust Survivors informed me that he and Lilian, the president of the group, are willing to send 3 to 6 Survivors to the Philippines. Alexander also said that they had very good experiences during previous advocacy visits to the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and the Ukraine. So let us pray and work together that their experience in the Philippines will be wonderful as well.
Inviting Survivors from Haifa and Cambodia
Last October, the Antolovich family from “For Zions Sake” also invited me to visit one of the groups of Survivors in Haifa. It would be great to invite the Haifa Holocaust Survivors to the conference as well.
During my time in Phnom Penh, I met Bou Meng who is a Survivor from Khmer Rouge Prison S-21. He signed a book he wrote about his suffering in the prison and gave it to me. However, since he couldn’t speak English, we were not able to further communicate. A.J. is one of the members of our organizing committee.
Lights of the World Bringing Hope to the Nations
I do believe that this conference is part of God’s plan for something bigger yet to come. A.J. said that during Hanukkah, she had a vision regarding the conference wherein she saw the Survivors who had endured the worst atrocities against humanity as lights in a world of darkness and that she believes that they were spared so that they may become witnesses to enlighten us. In return, we become light to them coming from their dark past.
I was then reminded about what I felt when Tanya, one of the Holocaust Survivors from Israel, said a blessing over Bradley and myself in December 2015. When Bradley and I left Tanya’s home, I said to Bradley, “I feel that I was filled with light when Tanya said her blessing over us. I can’t explain it but I am full of joy and happiness and all the worries and negative thoughts I had disappeared.” That feeling always comes back to me whenever I meet with Survivors. I believe they are the Lights of the World because they have overcome hatred and thus they have overcome the World. When chatting with A.J., she said that “Hope” should be included in the title of the conference. Reflecting about the Survivors as the Lights of the World and combining it with Hope what came into my mind is: “Lights of the World Bringing Hope to the Nations.”
Support for the Survivors
As the Survivors are invited as our most honored advocates for peace and against hatred in the world, they shall further receive support for their groups that will be raised through this activity. The conference might be the beginning of a series of international conferences where Holocaust Survivors meet with Survivors from other genocides. Maybe a group of Survivors could also visit Cambodia in the future. As I have learned, in Cambodia the reconciliation process started very late and was greatly neglected so that survivors and their persecutors never really had the opportunity to process their painful history. These conferences, aside from spreading awareness, warning the people about the catastrophic consequences of hatred and bringing healing to survivors, could also raise support for survivors of past genocides and for people groups who are suffering from persecution right now. In the future, maybe “For Zions Sake” could lead our organizing committee as well for such a continuous project as part of their advocacy for the Holocaust Survivors.
I believe our overall aim is healing, reconciliation, and the prevention of future catastrophes. We will create a venue for the witnesses of social injustice to share their experiences, sadness, and pain and for those who have overcome their past, to tell us how they were able to overcome and say “No” to hatred. Hopefully, in the process, this will bring healing for the conference participants, the witnesses themselves, and all of us and thus promote peace and understanding rather than hatred, violence, and discrimination.
Now my dear friends, I have shared much of my ideas and concerns and the rich input from some of you who have responded to my initial proposal. Please share with me your opinion about all of this:
Thomas Kellenberger (Thomas.Kellenberger@islandkids.ch)
Sierra Leonne Africa
We have just returned from a visit to Sierra Leone, West Africa with Alphajor Bah who is overseeing the building project of the Ebola Orphans Home we are helping sponsor. By God’s grace, we have just purchased over 1 acre of land and now surveyors can begin to build the foundation for the House, schools and vocational training buildings.
The people here are extremely open to the Gospel and we have encountered many opportunities to share the love of Yeshua with the various people we meet, even the Chief of Port Loko!
Negotiating with the village Chiefs and Elders for the Ebola Orphanage land purchase in Port Loko,
Alphajor has put together a building plan budget I would like to share with you.
Sierra Leone is situated on the coast of West Africa, bordered by Guinea to the northeast and Liberia to the southeast. It has an estimated population of approximately 7 million people. The country is rich in mineral resources; gold, diamonds, bauxite, rutile and iron ore which contributed to more than 80% of its foreign exchange earnings in the early 1990s. Its fertile farmland and coastline have tremendous potential for agriculture, fishing and tourism.
War torn Sierra Leone currently ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world (UNICEF State of the World’s Children) and 177 out of 187 countries in the human development index ranking (UN Development Programme Report, 2013). In 2014, the UN index report moved Sierra Leone one step forward.
Now with the emergence of EBOLA in May 2014 the socio economic activities have fallen drastically considering the disruption of farming and economic activities in the country. It has further disrupted the educational sector; almost all or little activities are going on in the country.
However, before the EVD outbreak, Sierra Leone was making fair social and economic progress. The proportion of people living in absolute poverty dropped from 66.4% in 2003 to 52.9% in 2011 and those in extreme poverty fell from 31.3% to 13.9% in the same period. The Ebola epidemic has worsened poverty and subsequently led to the addition of orphans due to the deaths of their parents.
Believers in Christ Mission International
The Believers in Christ Mission International is an existing Christian organization, which was established out of the desire to live the Word of God and the exemplary life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ;
– To cater for both the spiritual and physical needs of the very poor and weak of our societies;
– The need for salvation of souls through the living Word of God;
– To advocate for the voiceless, especially Ebola orphans and widows (James 1:27).
Since the inception of the organization on December 28th, 2014, the organization and members have over the years committed to our goal to fulfill our Christian obligations outlined above. We have already supported many Ebola survivors spiritually, emotionally, physically and gave them counseling and we hope to continue to ensure the wellbeing of Ebola orphans and widows.
Believers in Christ International intends on carrying out some of its objectives in the following manner:
-The establishment of a well fenced Children’s Home in the Port Loko district for 15 Ebola orphans and 3 caregivers;
– The establishment of two buildings within the compound for skills training and empowerment opportunities for widows and orphans.
The primary focus of the project is the provision of a well fenced and secure home in the Port Loko district, comprising of seven bedrooms, three toilets and bathrooms, living room, storage, outdoor kitchen, two skills training buildings, a self-contained apartment for volunteers and visiting partners, a water well, garden and solar powered energy.
The building project will comprise of the following three phases:
-The construction of the foundation, fence and water well;
-Block work for the entire building,
-Completion of building.
Believers in Christ Ebola Orphan Home – Time Frame and Project Budget:
Each phase is estimated to take six months to complete; a total of one year and six months for the completion of the home. The building budget is for 15 children and 3 caregivers.
|Description of work||Start and End Date||Costs|
|Phase I||The construction of the foundation, fence and water well||Mar 2017 – Aug 2017||$ 20,000|
|Phase II||Block and masonry work for the entire building||Sept. 2017 – Feb 2018||$ 20,000|
|Phase III||Completion of building||Mar. 2018 – Aug 2018||$ 20,000|
Monitoring and Evaluation.
Service provision in the implementation of the project will be monitored on a monthly basis by the Believers in Christ International members of the Executive Committee (EXCO). Monthly statistical, written and financial reports will be submitted to the philanthropist and partners.
As part of the monitoring and evaluation process, the visionary and National Coordinator (Mr. Alphajor Bah) and his wife will be there on a permanent basis with the children to ensure their safety and wellbeing. The National Coordinator, wife and the caregivers will monitor the day-to-day operations as well as progress against objectives.
As you can see, we have been very busy here at FZS since the beginning of the year as well as very blessed!
We want to say thanks to you as well for your faithful prayers and support to FZS Ministries!!!
Bradley Antolovich, International Director