Christians from 10 nations travel on ‘hope, healing, service’ tour

Seventy-five Evangelical Christians from 10 nations landed in Israel over the weekend on what is being dubbed a “hope and healing service tour” to support border communities who were impacted by the October 7 massacre.

“We believe that when someone you love is hurting, you show up for them,” said Michael Mistretta, CEO of the Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries (FIRM), who leads the delegation.

“We’re witnessing this wave of Christians who are coming to Israel, even in a time of war, not just to tour, but to serve the people of Israel, to show up in person and say, ‘Israel, we’re with you. We want to stand with you in your time of need.’

“These Christians came to say, ‘We love you, Israel.’”

An international effort

The Christians come to Israel from the United Kingdom, Moldova, Ireland, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Portugal, Singapore, Kenya, and the United States. Most are Evangelical, although some Catholics and Christians of other denominations are also on the tour.

‘Hope, healing, service’ Israel tour attended by 75 Christians (credit: FIRM (Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries) )

FIRM’s educational development director, Casey Tait, said many Christians had contacted the organization and said they were praying and giving money but wanted something else to do to help. As such, “we mobilized quickly and came up with all sorts of different projects.”

Visiting Israel during war time

They will spend the week traveling throughout the country, including planting hundreds of trees in an October 7 memorial garden in Kela Alon and packing family-size grocery boxes to feed hundreds of families throughout Israel. They are doing light renovations in several kibbutzim and hosting a recreational day for 400 children of displaced families from the northern communities – temporarily living in Afik and Midreshet HaGolan.

This Wednesday, the delegation will participate in a “National Serve Day” initiative in Dorot and Ein HaBsor, orchestrated by FIRM and supported by local partners. Collaborating with a dedicated team of 500 Israeli volunteers, the group will engage in various activities, including harvesting and planting crops such as flowers and sweet potatoes. Additionally, they will contribute to the community by undertaking cleaning tasks and making light repairs in homes and schools with non-structural damage.

These efforts aim to prepare the local infrastructure for the return of displaced families, fostering a sense of restoration and renewal.

Finally, they will meet with heads of communities, local government officials, and families affected by the war.

FIRM IS an eight-year-old non-profit organization that serves a network of 74 Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian communities in Israel, as well as Israel in general. Messianic Jews are often people who were born Jewish but now believe in Jesus, which is extremely controversial in Israel and the Jewish world. However, today, many Evangelical Christians have joined Messianic congregations.

These groups also often focus on converting Jews to Christianity.

Tait said that “missionizing is not the organization’s primary role.” While she admitted that “obviously we want to share the love of God [Jesus] and people we work with in Israel will share their stories,” she said that there is no forceful proselytizing and that the NGO makes it straightforward to any volunteers that their trips are not an avenue for evangelism.

“That is not the goal at all,” Tait stressed. “We understand the complications and live according to our values, but the goal is not through acts of service to evangelize.”

There are around 310 Messianic Jews congregations in Israel. Tait said about 700 Messianic Jewish soldiers serve in the army, including elite units.

SINCE OCTOBER 7, Christians have contributed over $10 million to an emergency crisis fund facilitated by FIRM for numerous war relief projects. These collaborative efforts have provided 2,200 ceramic bullet-proof vests, 1,700 helmets for reserve units, tactical gear, and essential supplies for first responders. In a significant feeding initiative, 15,000 grocery boxes have been distributed through 10 hubs nationwide, ensuring sustenance for 50,000 displaced individuals. Moreover, 60,000 hot kosher meals have been served to both soldiers and families.

FIRM has partnered with hotels across Israel to provide shelter and support for displaced families, accommodating around 1,500 individuals, including over 400 children, in seven locations.

“The Jewish people feel alone in the world like they don’t have many friends,” Mistretta said. “It is one thing when Jewish families come and serve and another thing when non-Jews come and serve – not just in good times but hard times.”

He said FIRM plans to run a similar trip at the end of January, and he hopes to have hundreds of volunteers join him then.

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