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Planting Seeds of Love

May 26, 2014

by: Rev. Cheryl L. Hauer, International Development Director

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50 Years of Blessing Israel

www.flickr.com/Five Starr Photos

Often, God’s interaction with His people throughout history began with a seed planted in a heart, fed and nurtured by the Lord until it blossomed into prophecy fulfilled and dreams come true. Such was the case with Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Nehemiah, the prophets, the early Church and countless others whose stories are told in the Bible.

And it was certainly the case with Bridges for Peace (BFP). It began with a seed of love for God’s chosen people inexplicably planted in the heart of a small boy, growing up as the son of Canadian Christian workers in Korea. As that seed grew, it has touched the hearts of literally millions of people around the world, eventually coming to full bloom in an international organization that today is at the forefront of Jewish–Christian relations and Christian support for Israel. That small boy was G. Douglas Young, the organization is Bridges for Peace, and this year, we celebrate the 50th year of making Dr. Young’s dream come true.

A Father’s Passion

Dr. G. Douglas Young

Dr. Young was indeed a man of unusual vision and strength of purpose. Throughout his life, his love for the Land of the Bible and the people who live there never wavered. In his adult years, he would often recount the times that he heard his father speak with great excitement of the Jewish people and their return to their ancient homeland. He heard words like aliyah (immigration to Israel) and kibbutz (communal settlement) and in his young mind, he tried to imagine what life must be like in this amazing country so very far away from Korea.

He also frequently commented on the impact it had on his life when his father read to him from the Bible. Whenever the text mentioned “Jerusalem” or “Israel,” his father’s voice filled with emotion and his eyes with tears. As young as 8 years old, Douglas began to dream…would he someday be able to place his feet on the soil that was so important God wrote of it often in the Bible, and the very mention of it made his father weep?

Mrs. Young

With his education completed and his path as a career Christian worker solidified, Dr. Young felt God’s challenge to bring Christians into a correct understanding of the Bible’s mandate to support the nation of Israel. His endeavors to meet that challenge changed the lives of literally millions of people, from Bible college students in America to Christian students and pilgrims in the Holy Land, from those who heard his Christian radio programs to the readers of his publications. Then, ultimately through the ongoing work of Bridges for Peace.

Seeds of Love for Israel

Dr. Young’s heart was not the only garden in which God planted the remarkable seed of love for Israel. Throughout the years, there have been other Christians who spoke out on behalf of the Jewish people, recognizing that God’s covenant with them is indeed eternal. They were clergymen, theologians, politicians and poets, all proud to carry the label “Christian Zionist.”

As early as the sixteenth century, Christian voices began to be heard, calling for a restoration of the Jewish people to their land. A list of 17th to 20th century Christian Zionists appears in the book You Don’t Have to be Jewish to be a Zionist, and although not long, it is an impressive political “who’s who” from around the world. On it are such men of influence as Col. George Gawler, Governor of Australia; Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil; Rev. Joseph Beaumont of Canada; President Thomas Masaryk of Czechoslovakia; Napoleon Bonaparte of France; the Earl of Shaftesbury, Lord Balfour and Winston Churchill of Great Britain; Field-Marshall Jan Smuts of South Africa and many influential Americans including Abraham Lincoln. Though vastly differing in culture, language and political leaning, these men shared one thing in common. They were readers of the Bible who believed God’s message was clear: the Jewish people would be restored to their ancient homeland, and it was the responsibility of Christians to help. Capping that list is another familiar name: Rev. Dr. G. Douglas Young.

From Dream to Reality

Dr. Young’s dream of standing on the soil of his father’s beloved Jerusalem was finally fulfilled on his first journey to Israel in 1956. On that trip, the vision of a seminary for evangelical students located in Jerusalem was born, and by 1959 the Institute of Holy Land Studies was a reality. But it wasn’t until December 23, 1963, that Dr. Young and his family would arrive by ship in Haifa, belongings in tow, to make Israel their home.

www.flickr.com/Five Starr Photos

So it was in 1964 that Douglas established the foundations on which Bridges for Peace would be built. Although not incorporated until 1974, the activities that would be central to the organization were simply an extension of all that Dr. Young had been doing since his arrival. Reaching out with a hand of unconditional love and friendship to Israelis, he never missed an opportunity to show solidarity. In 1966, he took a course in first aid offered by Magen David Adom and volunteered for Israel’s Civil Defense force. When war broke out in 1967, Dr. Young was “called up,” taking with him the Institute’s panel truck to serve as an ambulance. At great personal peril, the Youngs, as well as their students, stood side by side with Israelis until, after only six days, the battle was over.

Often throughout his career, Dr. Young spoke of building bridges of peaceful friendship between Jews and Christians. Today, we proudly bear the name Bridges for Peace and remain true to his vision of building sincere, respectful relationships with those God has called His chosen ones. Through our many projects, we make a constant and tangible statement to the Jewish people that Christians around the world are indeed their friends.

Touching nearly 40,000 Israelis a month, BFP feeds the hungry, cares for children, repairs the homes of the poor, provides food and encouragement to the destitute, while telling Israel’s story worldwide and reaching out to the church to counter replacement theology and anti-Semitism. Through it all, we can only thank the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for the privilege of being part of His amazing work…and for 50 years of making Dr. Young’s dream a reality.

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