In March, New Zealand held a census and whenever there is a census I immediately think of the birth of Jesus. The gospel of Luke (Ch. 2) records that a census was held in Israel that demanded Joseph and Mary leave the city of Nazareth and travel 145kms to Bethlehem where Mary would also give birth to Jesus in fulfilment of the Scriptures. As Jesus was making His entry into the world, King Herod who ruled Judea heard the news that a King of the Jews had been born. In anger he immediately sought to have Jesus killed. Herod mercilessly slaughtered the first born boy babies throughout Bethlehem and the region to protect his authority but thankfully, Jesus had been whisked away to Egypt and His life was preserved. NZ’s census in March coincided with Israels feast of Purim. That night I was celebrating with a number of Israelis around a bonfire at MiCamp Ruapehu where we host “Meet at the Mountain”. Purim is another reminder of a time in Israels history when a mass murder was to take place at the hands of another despot named Haman. You can read the story in the book of Esther named after the woman who ultimately God used to rescue the Jews under the threat of extermination.
The events that unfolded in Israel on October 7th have emboldened those around the world who hate the Jews and want them destroyed, sadly many in New Zealand feel this way. As followers of Jesus and those who love Israel and the Jewish people, we like Esther have been placed for such a time, not to remain silent, (Esth 4:14) but to speak up for the sake of a people for who our Lord Jesus will one day return and save. (Acts 1:11; Rom 11:26; Zech 12:10; 14:4)
2023 IN REVIEW
The year began with lots of anticipation, but also some uncertainty as the affects of Covid still lingered. This was especially the case for travel. But it was wonderful to see many young Israelis return to our shores during the summer months and to stay with us at Meet at the Mountain. The Lord provided many opportunities for spiritual conversations and we have been in touch with several since the attack in Israel. Many have now exchanged their backpacks for military rucksacks as they are called into duty for the IDF. Please pray for them and also for the witness of the believing soldiers serving alongside.
2023 was a bittersweet year for our Ministry Representative Paul Gray. With mixed emotions Paul tended his resignation to the FOI-NZ Board in August having prayerfully decided to return to pastoral ministry in Southland where he lives. While disappointed to lose Paul in this capacity, we are very thankful for all he accomplished in the time he served at Friends of Israel, and are glad that he will be assisting the mission in an ongoing capacity as a trustee. Throughout this year Paul visited many churches speaking on why we should support Israel and other subjects; he also connected with a number of other church based events, and within the Jewish community as he travelled extensively around the country. In addition, Paul took responsibility for the day to day leadership and administrative activities to ensure the mission ran smoothly.
In March Paul hosted International Directors Dr. Mike Stallard and Dan Price, and in May travelled to the US for our FOI International Staff Meeting and a support raising bootcamp held in Philadelphia. Following Paul’s completion in mid September I have stepped in once more to provide oversight for the mission and am closely connected to the daily activities until a suitable ministry representative is found. Please continue to pray that the Lord will direct us to the right candidate who will build on what continues to be a growing ministry in NZ.
We are so thankful to also have Cassy Vivian who works 20 hrs per week in our Auckland office doing the day to day administrative activities such as processing book orders and donations. Cassy is really at the frontline for our growing number of supporters so please pray for Cassy at this time.
My role in ministry development has been very busy in 2023 with Meet at the Mountain, organising Israel tours, including our scheduled October tour that was cancelled. I also look after the print and email communications, websites, and social media for both FO-NZ and Australia as well as supporting our representatives in a variety of ways across both countries. This year we have seen significant growth in our online activity and a strong interest since the attacks of October 7th.
Financially the mission remains steady and we continue to give thanks for the generous support received this year and especially through the outpouring for Israel these past weeks.
I aim to spend more time in NZ in 2024 speaking and engaging with our supporters, and seeking out a new worker. Please join me in praying the Lord will raise up the right person to fill this important position and I'd love to hear if you know someone that could be the right fit.
Due to the situation in Israel and the low number of Israeli travellers, we have decided to cancel Meet at the Mountain early in 2024. Lord willing we look forward to returning again next summer. On a personal note, I would like to thank you for your prayers and support, especially as I take the responsibility to guide our work in NZ in the absence of a full time ministry representative.
I also want to say thank you for supporting FOI-NZ in 2023 and give special thanks for your comfort to Israel and the Jewish people around the world. We pray you have blessed Christmas and that God continues to supply all your needs as you seek Him in your life.
PS. Support for the Israel Relief Fund from NZ and around the world has provided close to one million dollars for emergency infrastructure & aid, including, bomb shelters, medical equipment for Magen David Adom, food supplies for displaced citizens and for IDF soldiers, grief and trauma counselling, hospital care and transport plus much more.Praise God & thank you for supporting the Israel Relief appeal. It’s not too late to give either online or through our Auckland office.