by: Janet Aslin, Assistant Editor
A trip to the Holy Land is a lifelong dream for many Christians and each year many come by the tens of thousands—their dreams fulfilled. Scripture will come alive when you visit the places Jesus (Yeshua) walked during His earthly ministry. Tabgha, on the shores of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), where Jesus prepared a meal of bread and fish for His disciples (John 21) is a personal favorite. Your first sight of Jerusalem, the eternal city, will no doubt bring tears to your eyes as it did mine.
Yes, these experiences are important but modern-day Israel is also very much a part of God’s plan. He is bringing His people home as the prophet Jeremiah foretold thousands of years ago. “Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place…. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul” (Jer. 32:37, 41). The exciting news is that, as Christians, we can partner with God in Israel’s restoration (Isa. 60:10). You may be thinking, “How can I do that? I’m only coming for a very short time.” I’m so glad you asked!
The Bridges for Peace Discovery Group program connects visitors to Israel in a real way by introducing them to Jewish people living in the Land and giving them an opportunity to serve the people of Israel. Eyes are opened to the struggles Israelis face. Our loving service offers hope. They are amazed that Christians from around the world love them and want to stand with them. It can be a life-changing experience.
Simply put, the program is an extension of BFP’s mission to support Israel and to build meaningful relationships between Christians and Jews. Daniel Kirchhevel, the program’s coordinator, is responsible for developing and nurturing relationships in the community and asking how we can help. The program is a flexible one, depending on the needs at any given time and also on the size of the group. Discovery Group outreaches range from three participants to larger groups.
What does a Discovery Group experience look like? Most importantly, it will be a practical, hands-on experience and you will be meeting a very real need. We work with community centers, schools and homes for the elderly, just to name a few. Previous groups have painted, done gardening work, visited senior citizens in assisted living centers, helped in English classes and packed food at one of Bridges for Peace’s assistance centers. The type of project we plan for you will be tailored to the size of your group and the current needs of the community.
One thing is certain; your experience will be unique. Most tour groups do not have such opportunities. You will touch the lives of real Israelis. Here is one man’s testimony after spending time in Beit Shemesh at two schools—helping install park benches, painting and helping in the English classes: “My experience on the day we left will never leave me. The school’s rabbi coming up with a smile; a hand on my shoulder and a thank you; the principal shaking my hand in appreciation; the hug goodbye from my host. It was unforgettable and very humbling.”
Discovery Groups have impacted Christians from around the world. Satomi, from our Japan office, wrote, “The Discovery program has always been the highlight for Japanese tour groups. In Japan, the Jewish population is very low. Most of us have never met a Jewish person. It gives much pleasure to meet the people we have been supporting financially.”
When I asked Peter Fast, Canada’s Deputy National Director, about the program, he replied: “Canadians love the Discovery Group program as many desire to give back, to meet local people and bless Israel in a tangible way beyond simply touring and spending their money.”
What about reactions from the Jewish community? Christians are making a difference. We received this letter from an Israeli social worker, “I want to thank you for coming to the old age home. You were amazing! I have had many groups, but not like yours. You connected with the people and made them feel good—empowered. As for the gardens, I could not believe what you did.”
If you are planning a trip to Israel and want to learn more about how you can be involved in this type of volunteer project, here are a few things that will be helpful to know. First, the earlier you contact us, the better! The schedule can fill up quickly. Also, there is a cost associated with the Discovery Group project. We ask that you pay for the materials we’ve purchased for the project you will be doing, but you can rest assured that 100% of your money goes to bless the Jewish people. Administrative costs are absorbed by Bridges for Peace.
We’re excited about this program! We have seen it change lives, both of the Christian volunteers and the Jewish recipients. We encourage you to consider giving a day—or several days—of your time here in the Land to partner with us as we build lasting relationships. For more information, write to email@example.com
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