Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Off to Israel...

These are my dear friends, the Kashtans. We met Eitan and Orit nearly two decades ago and when you see Orit (the wife) and I together, you'd think we were sisters! Read about their testimony here:

They have four children, Alon and Amir, who are both in the military, Liel, their dancer and Ehud, their genius. Eitan runs a publishing company that translates Christian books into Hebrew for the church in Israel. Last summer Eitan told me that there are 9 million people in Israel - 6 million Hebrews and 3 million Russians. He said that there are only about 10,000 believers in Israel which equates to only 1-2,000 families. Because the number is so small, the Christian publishing houses won't translate books in Hebrew, for a lack of audience (they have to make money...).

Eitan's publishing house secures the rights to specific books and then translates and publishes them. This is done with donation money, i.e. a church in Canada donated $15,000 to translate Pilgrim's Progress in Hebrew. What a great project to have a church raise money to give the church in Israel Christian material!

We take for granted our Christian bookstores - they have nothing like this in Israel. When Eitan and Orit come to visit, they always spend a day wandering around Baker Books in Grand Rapids. It's their favorite spot to visit!

They also put out three magazines quarterly - an adult one, a teen one and a children's one. These magazines are a true lifeline for believers in Israel.

Orit works along side Eitan at the publishing house, but she also is a busy mother and worker in the church. She manages her children's sports teams, runs women's ministries at her church, and worked on producing the only two children's Christian music CDs in Hebrew. She has directed children's musicals and taught classes to the immigrants on Jewish history. She is very busy which leads me to what is happening there this weekend.

Two years ago, Orit formed a committee and put on the first women's Christian conference in Israel. One hundred Hebrew and Arab Christian women gathered for a day of teaching and sharing. It was a huge hit! After the conference, the committee sat down and discussed how things went and what they would do the next year. Orit suggested bringing in a friend from America to teach (me!) but they said, "We do not need a Gentile to teach us. We will teach ourselves." After the second year, they sat again. This time they had 150 women and the conference was even more of a blessing. They looked at Orit and said, "Okay, now we will take a Gentile."

Enter Kristen.

I am the Gentile of choice, I guess!

I leave with my twins, my mother, my daughter-in-law and another little girlfriend (Hannah Weflen) tomorrow morning. We land in Tel Aviv on Thursday and the conference is Friday. There are over 220 women signed up to attend. I will be speaking with an interpreter three times, on the topic of "Idols of the Heart." It is teaching that I am very familiar with, so I am not worried about that - but I am concerned about teaching with an interpreter. Please pray for clarity and coherency in flow as I teach. Please pray that God would be central to the conference, that the women, despite the translator, would clearly hear from Him and draw closer to Him because of the time we will spend in the Word.

Once the conference is done, we will worship at their church on Saturday (the Sabbath) and then on Sunday and Monday they will take us around Israel to show the girls the Holy Land. I am sure we will spend a day in Jerusalem...we'll see where else we'll go. Due to the volatile nature of the region, I doubt we'll head south...maybe we'll spend a day in the Galilee area.

On Tuesday our little entourage will fly to Rome, Italy, for a few days of touring. My mom is a wonderful guide - she loves Italy and has arranged our activities there. Then we come home on Saturday, the 10th.

So, there you have it. I am sure I'll have plenty to chat about when I return. Hopefully by then we'll have pictures from the wedding, pictures from the conference and Italy, news on the church plant plans...I should have plenty of material to keep you coming back and checking in.

Blessings to you all and thank you for your prayers!



  1. Wow, what a light this family is to their community and what a great privilege to be "the Gentile" to be selected to come among them to share of our God. It is hard for us, Americans, to understand a barrier like this, but we have only to look in the scriptures to see it's history in this land. It will be my prayer that your wonderful stories and message translates well. All of us that have had the great opportunity to sit under your tutelage can atest to your ability as a story weaver and it would be ashame for these ladies to miss out on that great asset. It is God that prepares the heart and it is God who pierces the heart. My prayer is that many hearts will be turned as you share his word on the subject of these idols. I know it was a real eye opener for me. Have a great and safe trip. I will try to control my envy. Oh to walk where my savior has walked. What a humbling thought. It brings tears to my eyes just to think about it. We serve an amazing God.
    Gloria Lambright

  2. They are truly precious friends, Gloria! Thanks for your prayers...

  3. Our family will pray that you have a safe trip tonight and also that hungry hearts will be fed.

    I didn't realize that Jewish Christians didn't worship on Sunday. I always thought that was something established by the Apostles. I figured at the very least they'd keep Saturday and Sunday. Please tell me more about this when you get a chance if you don't mind. (I know I might have to wait until you get back) :) Safe travels.

  4. Hi, Jason -

    In Israel, the Sabbath Day (Saturday) is their only day of rest - their only day off. They go to work Sunday through Friday - even the children are in school Sunday through Friday. On Friday, since the sabbath begins at sundown, they only work or attend school for half a day - usually wrap things up by one or two. So the church gathers on the sabbath, since their employers wouldn't employ them if they expected every Sunday off from work.

    Years ago, the church didn't celebrate Christmas either - they had Passover and their OT festivals, but I was sending Christmas gifts to them in December and found out that Christmas was not "observed." Today, however, they do observe it, but it is not with all the hoopla that we do here in the states. I think I understand why...but their Passover is when they share gifts with the family and at Purim they give food gifts to friends.

    I will write a post about their worship service soon, as well as make some observations about my time there...

    Hope you and your family are well, Jason...


  5. Thanks for the explanation. That makes a lot of sense. As far as working Sundays, that's getting to be a harder and harder deal in our own country so I can see how that would be impossible over there. I didn't realize that they worked 6 days a week over there. I guess I had just assumed that the weekend was still Sat/Sun. :)

    We are doing well. Just got back from 3 1/2 weeks in Canada (working for old employer.) It was fun but I definitely realize that I truly am American now. All the places were the same, but I truly felt like a foreigner in my hometown.