I remember the day I started writing this letter. It was during the fall Jewish holiday season, and I was filled with hope and excitement for the Jewish New Year, which usually falls in September or October on the Gregorian calendar. I wrote the letter in good faith, and, as usual, I asked God to lead me as I wrote to you. I was satisfied with what I wrote and sent the letter to our Chosen People Ministries publications department for further editing and review.
Then, the world as we know it changed dramatically.
On October 7, more than a thousand Hamas terrorists broke through Israeli defenses. They attacked innocent civilians while the country observed the Sabbath and the last day of the final fall holiday, the Feast of Tabernacles. It was supposed to be a day of rest and rejoicing. But no one on the Israeli side was prepared for what would happen next. By Sunday, October 8, Israelis realized 1,400 men, women, children, babies, and elderly Jewish people were brutally slain by Hamas terrorists, and—horror of horrors—about 200 Israelis were kidnapped and brought to Gaza. Thousands were also injured—many seriously so!
I do not need to go into gruesome detail about what the terrorists did to the individuals they killed and captured. We know the torture and pain were indescribable and inhumane, often leading to death. October 7, 2023, was a day of primal brutality against Jewish people, the likes of which we have not seen since the height of Hitler’s reign of terror.
These atrocities still weigh heavily on my heart each moment of every day. Israelis are grieving lost loved ones, and the families of the abducted are hoping and praying for their release.
Thankful Amid Tragedy?
It is almost hard to believe we are entering the season of Thanksgiving. It seems so inappropriate to be thankful at this moment in time. I will admit I am having trouble thanking God in light of these last several weeks. I know the apostle Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), but I find it hard to be thankful given the events of these days. I continue to ask the Lord for a deeper biblical understanding of suffering. The pictures of little children and babies kidnapped and killed by Hamas haunt my every waking moment. These are my people—a nation called by God for His holy purposes—yet the sovereign and all-powerful God allowed evil people to perpetrate crimes of the most repugnant nature against my Jewish people.
I am not trying to find some good from what happened. Yet, after what I would call “forced reflection,” I have found some reasons to be grateful amid tragedy.
First, we discovered some friends and family we knew as ordinary people became heroes when Israel needed them. We are only now hearing some incredible stories of heroism during the events of October 7. Parents protected their children and sacrificed their lives in the process. A mom and dad hid their children and distracted the terrorists, but were shot and killed in the process. I am grateful for their love, their sacrifice, and their exemplary actions!
It will take time to uncover all the stories of bravery and heroism we must hear and tell. Jewish people honor their heroes, and I am thankful for this part of my culture, where we remember our heroes for years to come. One example is how we still commemorate those—Jewish and Gentile—who died at the hands of the Nazis for saving others.
I am thankful today for our Israeli staff’s courageous and compassionate response to the tragedy. For instance, one of our staff families heard there was a dire need for baby supplies among those who evacuated southern Israel. They promptly purchased pacifiers, baby food, and other resources to help these people who had to flee their homes at a moment’s notice. They have continually provided emotional, spiritual, and practical support for hundreds!
How can we come to grips with what happened and be thankful? How can we keep ourselves from being consumed by hatred and a desire for vengeance? How can we be grateful during this season of Thanksgiving in light of these tragic events? The answers are all the more elusive because of the graphic nature of the crimes appearing so often on social media, the news, and websites replaying the horrors, not letting us forget. The images stick in our minds, and I, for one, find them impossible to shake!
Yet, I know God wants me to be grateful—not for what happened, of course—but for His grace and mercy we find on the path of suffering. I am so moved by Jesus’ example described in the book of Hebrews:
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2, emphasis added).
His example is so powerful. Not only can we be thankful, but we can even find joy as we suffer because we know He overcame this world and, one day, all suffering will cease. He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and we will live with Him forever. This hope transforms the saddest experience into a moment of sober joy, knowing one day He will return, reign as King from the land of Israel, and take back His world. We long for His return. Today’s tragedy drives me to the cross to find the comfort and hope needed to live a thankful life.
I can also tell you I am grateful for my fellow followers of Jesus who have called, texted, emailed, and written notes asking if I am okay and if our Chosen People Ministries staff are safe. I cannot believe the generosity of individuals and local churches who have sent funds for ministry in Israel to express their love for the Lord, the Jewish Messiah, and Jewish people. Tragedy often leaves us feeling helpless, so we do what we can to alleviate the suffering and grief of Israelis, for whom Jesus died!
I believe giving to our ministry, especially during this season, is motivated by the noblest of Christian motives. I am grateful to be part of the body of Messiah, which is capable of such great love, compassion, and sensitivity.
We are still renovating a new space near our current Messianic center in Tel Aviv, which will enable us to expand our fruitful ministry to young Israelis. This facility is more than twice the size of where we are now. With so many young Israelis being called up to serve in the military during this crisis, ministering to young adults in Israel is more important than ever! I believe we are building this new center to handle all those who will seek the Lord as a result of the tragedies of October 7. We pray it becomes a haven of hope for Israelis.
To learn more and discover how to be part of the new Tel Aviv Messianic Center, go to www.chosenpeople.com/telaviv.
Thankful for You!
As I consider how God has blessed Chosen People Ministries, I am humbled by the passion and generosity of those like you who pray for and support this historic ministry, which begins our 130th year of Jewish ministry in January.
Thank you! All our missionaries raise their support. Some are new to our staff and have not yet raised their full support. Others serve in places with few Christians (Israel, for example) and desperately need our help and support.
Would you consider saying “thank you” to our staff by making a special gift to our under-supported missionaries?
Your gift will not simply make a difference in the lives of one or more of our missionaries but in the lives of those to whom they minister. You can have a part in reaching hurting Israelis through our dedicated workers in the Holy Land.
Please consider a generous gift today as it is very difficult for these workers to raise support in Israel, as you can imagine.
On behalf of the entire Chosen People Ministries family, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! Remember, your family at Chosen People Ministries is thankful for you!
We need your continued prayers for the Peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6), especially for those who lost loved ones and for those who are seriously injured or being held captive by the terrorists in Gaza. Let us also remember to pray for Palestinian noncombatants whom Hamas put in harm’s way and who need His mercy and grace as well.
Thank you for your love, prayers, and generous support for this historic work among the Jewish people—in Israel and beyond!