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May God make you like Yeshua the Messiah (VeYichi)

It is Friday night. The Shabbat candles are lit, with a blessing over the family, both near & far. The table is set for a nice family dinner. The children are gathered and excited. Dessert is going to be cake & ice cream, their favorite. But before we eat, we first bless. And in our home, as in Jewish homes all around the world, the children are the first to be blessed.

“May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh”
“May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel & Leah”

Praises are giving to the woman of valor (Proverbs 31). There is a blessing over the wine, with words from the story of creation and of how God installed the Shabbat to be a day of rest. Two loaves of beautiful braided challah bread are uncovered and blessed as well. After everyone has a little piece of bread and wishes the each other “Shabbat Shalom” it is time to eat.

We find the words for the blessing over the boys in this week’s Torah portion where Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph as he got near the end of his life.

Jacob had gotten very old and was ill. Joseph was informed. He went to see his father and brought his two sons along with him. Jacob was told that Joseph had arrived. He gathered his strength and sat up on his bed. Jacob’s eyesight was not so very good due to his age, so when Joseph brought his sons near to be blessed by his father he positioned them so that his father’s right hand would be on Manasseh’s head and his left hand on Ephraim’s head. After all, Manasseh was the first born, he should receive the greatest blessing from his grandfather.

Jacob decided differently and crossed his arms, placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left hand on Manasseh’s. Joseph tried to correct his father, but Jacob refused. He knew that he was doing. And until this day, when boys are blessed Ephraim is named before his older brother Manasseh. A tradition we have our forefather Jacob to thank for.

My father in law made a little change to this blessing when he came to faith and we continue to follow his tradition when we bless our children on Friday night.

“May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh and like Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah”
“May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel & Leah, like Mary the mother of Yeshua, and like Yeshua the Messiah.”

No matter what age you are, may these words bless you, and may you be more like Jesus every day!

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So much more then we hoped for

In several cities in Israel we organize gatherings for believer single mothers and their children. We schedule these meetings around the Jewish holidays, of which we have several throughout the year.

We don’t just invite the younger single mothers who have young children. We also include those who have grown children who no longer live with them, as well as some believer widows who never had children.

While our intention is to give these moms a fun evening, with a meal and fellowship, we have noticed something extraordinary happen. The meetings became support groups. These women became friends, good friends! They are using their unique gifts to help each other.

And while some of the women might complain, they will be quickly reminded by those whose who have been on this road a bit longer that the Lord is faithful. The slightly older women form an amazing source of encouragement to the single mothers who are still very much at the beginning of the journey. They are living proof that it is going to be okay.

But it doesn’t just end there. These amazing women, with all the challenges they face, don’t just encourage the other moms, they encourage us. We arranged for these events because we want to bless them, but they end up blessing us. Their perseverance is inspiring. Their prayers are powerful. The love they show is overwhelming.

The result of these meeting is so much more then we could have ever imagined. We had high hopes, but we could have never even dreamed to have an outcome like this. These women are living proof that with a little push in the right direction, amazing things can happen.

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Eitan & Shira were saved from financial ruin

Eitan & Shira*, together with their children, Dana* (9) & Mor* (4), are part of the local body of believers. Both parents are hardworking people who are an example for those around them. A few years ago, they started a restaurant in their neighborhood but sadly, their business attempt failed. They were left with a modest amount of dept. Both Eitan & Shira were very motivated to pay off the money they owed. Shira works as a personal aid for a disabled little girl in a kindergarten. The local congregation helped Eitan to get his truck driver’s license and he found a job. They had a good plan in place to get the family back on their feet.

Unfortunately, an existing medical condition worsened which made Eitan very sick and he needed to be hospitalized for an extended period of time. He was let go of his job because of his illness. Not only did the family lose his income, their expenses rose because of the hospitalization and expensive medication. Both Eitan & Shira felt crushed. They had worked so hard to stabilize their family’s financial situation and now the bills where pilling up again. How would they overcome this?

While it wasn’t easy for them to ask for help, they realized that they needed additional support. We quickly realized that this family had hit a road block and needed some help to overcome the difficulties. Thanks to our generous partners we were able to give this family encouragement, support and the funds needed.  Please keep this precious family in your prayers as Eitan continues to recover. They express their gratitude in the letter below:

We would like to thank you for your generous donation. Our family has gone through a very difficult period, both health wise and financially. You gave physical, mental and financial aid while Eitan was hospitalized with a serious condition. Just when the money you donated ran out, thank God, we received a disability pension from the National Insurance Institute. Many thanks to the staff for their support and guidance. You rescued our family from the financial ruin in a difficult time and for this we are very thankful. Thanks to God, for he answered our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ.

* Names changed for privacy.

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Ann’s Story

Ann’s  Story

In 2003, Ann’s life changed forever, when her husband flew abroad to begin another degree. They had planned for him to go and find a place for them to live and continue their life together while he studied, but soon after he arrived, he called to tell Ann that he no longer wanted to continue to be a part of the family and did not want Ann and their then 8-month-old child to join him after all. This unexpected and heart-breaking news left Ann in the shock of her life – emotionally wrecked and financially unprepared.

At this time, Ann was not following the Lord, but after much prayer and guidance from her mother, she gave her life to Him in 2004 and began attending a congregation, that she and her child are still a part of today.

When Ann’s husband left, she was working a low-paying job that was not sufficient to support herself and her young daughter, as well as additional assistance for her retired parents. Furthermore, the legal situation with her now ex-husband incurred large fees for attorney representation (including an attorney that refused to take her case on the basis of her being a follower of Jesus and refused to return her payment), and unexpected medical bills also arose. This situation quickly led to a downward spiral into deep debt and loans. Although she knew she was struggling and desperately needed help, she had “never had a model or someone to guide her financially, and [she] was so ashamed that [she] did not share with anyone” about her troubles.

Along the way, Ann was blessed with a job that provided her with a much higher salary and helped to reduce some of her debts, but the change was minimal; early in 2018 the department in which she worked closed, and she was suddenly out of a job again.

For years, Ann has attended the Single Mother’s group led by E.L.Y. Israel staff and has received much support spiritually and emotionally, but she did not feel she had the courage to ask for help financially. Then, following a message about being released from slavery into freedom that was shared during the Passover group meeting, Ann felt and understood that she had been “walking around and around in the wilderness for too long,” and she felt God leading her to share with the E.L.Y. staff and ask for financial advising and assistance.

Following her request for help, E.L.Y. staff has been meeting with Ann in order to teach her better financial habits and reduce her monthly expenses. The staff also requested monetary grants from partner organizations in order to help tangibly rescue Ann from the immense debt. In the past month, Ann’s debt has been reduced by approximately 80%, and the support and advising she is receiving from E.L.Y. staff is continuing to help her achieve her goal to become debt-free and not leave this weight to her child.

Ann is so thankful for God’s faithfulness to her and her child, the support of her congregation, and the change that has been able to take place since she allowed others into her struggle. 

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Living in the Holy City

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17

Not too long ago I drove somewhere with a colleague. Every time we encountered a bothersome driver along the 30-minute drive he would bless them. He would say a quick prayer over them & their family and pray that they’d arrive at their destination safely. I was inspired.

You see, Jerusalem might be the Holy City but just like in any big city around the world, traffic can be a nightmare. Their roads are simply not wide enough for the number of cars. It is a real problem & the city is working hard to solve this. Road construction is going on everywhere, which makes things worse before it gets any better.

What makes dealing with traffic in Jerusalem even more stressful are the Jerusalem drivers! Living in the Holy City does not automatically make one holy. All around the Mediterranean Sea live is lived more passionately and it influences the driving style. It is more ‘intense’. Add to that the stress of living in a country under the constant threat of terror & war and you start to get an idea of how it is to drive in the Middle East.

One of the things I love to do when driving is listening to worship music. When I am alone I love to sing along. Life is busy and having a moment to praise the Lord uninterrupted is a real blessing

So there I would be, singing along, praising the Lord, and suddenly someone would cut me off. Now I have never been one to use rude language or curse, but I would interrupt my worship to honk my horn and yell at the other driver (who could not even hear me, because they’d be in a different car). And instead of arriving at my destination with the peace in my heart that comes from praising the Lord, I’d arrive bothered & frustrated.

For a while, I would just blame the situation, if only there wasn’t traffic if only the other drivers would be calmer, if only…. But my inability to take control of the situation kept bothering me. I didn’t want to let this get to me. I wanted my commute to be a moment of spiritual refreshing. I wanted to change. And while God can change anyone and anything, even Jerusalem drivers, the only one I could change was me. I just didn’t really know how.

God answered my prayers by having my colleague show me a different way to deal with my frustration at the traffic. Instead of yelling and letting it steal my joy, I too could bless the other driver. I could interrupt my singing with a prayer. I could defuse my frustration by seeing the other driver as a person worthy of God’s love.

And while there continues to be traffic in the Holy city, my commute has become a whole lot better, because God used someone else to help change me.

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God hears our prayers

Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. I am overwhelmed with troubles……..you have overwhelmed me with all your waves……..all day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. (Psalm 88)

This psalm really spoke to me. The season of life I find myself in has been intense. It has been blowin after blow after blow. It has been hard, and my heart keeps breaking. The waves of trouble just keep coming and I am overwhelmed. At times I’d worry that I’d lose my footing.

In this world, you will have trouble… (John 16:33)

Jesus himself warned us. Following Him would not be a walk in the park. It is hard, and we will have trouble in this world. God is good, and He loves us. But life on this earth is hard to even when we know that He has overcome the world (John 16:33)

I really needed some encouragement, to take heart. I asked the Lord for a sign that there would be a different season ahead. So that I’d know deep within my soul that the waves of trouble would not overtake me but that the Lord would set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. (Psalm 40:2)

On the way to go visit my daughter in the hospital, I passed one of our favorite hiking spots in the Jerusalem hills. Years ago, my daughters named this area ‘the Pink Forest’, because right at the beginning of spring the whole valley turns a beautiful shade of light pink. It is the almond trees that make this area so beautiful, they are the first trees to blossom and it is a sign that spring is near. We love to visit ‘the Pink Forest’, take lots of photos and enjoy that change of the season.

As I got to the top of the hill there was one lonely almond tree. It is still too early for spring, but there was the tree, full of white & light pink blossom!

It is still winter, and there will be more storms ahead, but the beautiful blossom at the top of the hill gave me the encouragement I needed. The season will change, we will walk in the Pink Forest again. The current season might be dark & difficult, but God hears our prayers and He is faithful to bring us through because He has overcome the world! (John 16:33) and He is the God that saves me! (Psalm 88:1)

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A holiday celebration for single moms

Imagine entering a building. While it wasn’t too cold outside, it is a warm welcome as you enter. The stress of the workday slowly leaves your body and your shoulders relax. From the lobby you can hear music. A piano is being played and people are singing. It is a balm to your spirit to hear the holiday songs together with lyrics that proclaim the glory of our Lord. The air is filled with the sweet smells of the traditional holiday foods. A photographer offers to take a family photo. Your heart rejoices as you see so many of your friends gathered. In the main room there are comfortable chairs, a seat is saved for you.  But before you can sit down you are greeted with hugs from friends who have become like family. The holiday candles are lit, with prayers that the light of God will fill the earth.

Together you eat. There is more than enough. Your little kids are running around, excited to see their friends. After the food all the children hurry upstairs, there is a SuperBook movie for them and fun activities about miracles. Your teenager makes her way upstairs too. Tonight, she will be taught how to make wise financial decisions. You say a quick prayer that she will listen and hopefully not make some of the mistakes you made.

You sit with your friends. The room is a whole lot quieter now that the children are upstairs. Together you listen to an encouraging word; about the holiday, the importance of community, on the miracle of a changed life. Music is played again, and you enter into worship. The love of the Lord fills your heart and lifts you up. You form a smaller circle with the women next to you. Each of you shares her burdens and together you lift them up to the Lord. You pray for each other’s children. You encourage the woman next to you and she encourages you. You hug each other tightly, you both know how the other feels and what it is like.

You are a single mother, your family is small, it is just you and your children. Your husband isn’t in the picture anymore, for various reasons. Life is difficult, and every day is a struggle. You work hard to provide for your children & yourself. You face more challenges then you’d ever imagine possible. You feel alone, most of the time.

But tonight, on the 3rd night of Chanukah, as you gather your children to take the bus home, your heart is full. Every family got a gift card for the holiday, which is a huge blessing. But the biggest blessing of this evening was being together, being heard, being seen, being encouraged. And being reminded that you are never ever truly alone!

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Whatever you did for one of the least of these

My husband & I suddenly had a free Friday morning together. We debated going out for breakfast but decided to pick up some groceries instead and do a breakfast date at home. We parked at a supermarket we passed on the way. I decided that I wanted to get fresh juice, a pre-cut salad, cheese, and a nice loaf of whole wheat bread.

As soon as I walked in I realized that I wasn’t in ‘my’ supermarket. The bread counter was right in the entrance of the store. The bread offered was simple and the selection limited. They didn’t have any of the breads that I liked. I got some simple white rolls instead. I passed the meat counter and noticed that also there the selection was limited. I continued towards the vegetables. No pre-cut salads. And no ‘luxury’ fruit or veggies either. Simple and basic. I got some lettuces, cucumber and tomatoes to cut up and make my own salad. Fresh juices were not to be found. The dairy section was next and also there the selection was limited.

I was kind of bothered that I could not find the things I wanted. I almost regretted not going out for breakfast instead. But then I started to look around me, at the people in the store.

In ‘my’ supermarket people fill up their carts for the weekend but here people where buying very modest amounts. People compared prices. No one was buying snacks or soda. Only real food. And this was their Shabbat shopping. They were buying the basics. The items that the government subsidized. Payment was done in cash and more than once people put items back due to insignificant funds.

But is wasn’t just the items in their baskets or carts. Their coats & shoes were worn. Clothing was clean but dated. Haircuts were simple and hair color done at home. After the shopping groceries were not loaded into the car, but people walked home or took the bus.

Israel is a modern country, we are the startup nation. There is a lot of advancement. We are doing well. But minimum wage is low, so low that it doesn’t cover the cost of living. Even families with two incomes struggle to make ends meet. Many people work very hard but are only able to provide the bare minimum. The financial struggle is even greater for single parent families. They live paycheck to paycheck with nothing left for extra things.

It was uncomfortable to be confronted with how hard life is for so many people. But it was important for me to have this experience, took look outside of my bubble. Because this kind of living is the reality for the families that we help at CBN Israel. Hard working families and single moms who simply don’t have the funds to buy a new refrigerator when theirs breaks, or get winter coats for their children, or simply have some extra’s for the holidays.

We want to bless these families by helping them with their very real needs. We want them to know that we care and reassure them that they are not alone. But most of all, we hope that we get to show them the love of the Messiah.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25: 35-40

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Broken hearts & crushed spirits

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

  • Hannah* is the mother of four young children who she raises by herself. While divorced, he ex-husband continues to harass her & her children. They live in fear.
  • Shlomit* is a single mother of a seven-year-old daughter. Her ex-husband destroyed her self-esteem and she has very little self-worth.
  • Rita* left her husband because he abused her. Her children visit their father once a month and they report that he has started hurting them. The visits discontinued.
  • Miri* is a single mother of five children. Her ex-husband claimed to be a believer but treated her very badly. In the end he left her and her children Her heart is broken.

Over and over we meet single mothers with broken hearts & crushed spirits. It is not just the heartbreak of being left alone or needing to raise their children on their own. Many of the moms have suffered abuse. While physical abuse has left visible scars, many of the women have invisible scars too. They were beaten, but also abused mentally. Emotional & verbal violence did incredible damage to their souls. Their children have suffered greatly too; some by seeing their mom abused, others by being beaten or belittled themselves. These are experiences no child should have growing up.

Hurt of this magnitude leaves us feeling hopeless at times. Where do we even begin to heal a broken heart? How do you comfort a crushed spirit? The needs are too great, but we want to help. We want to show the Father’s love, because He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

This is where you can help too!

We ask you to stand with us in prayer.

The first thing we need is wisdom on what each person needs. The second thing needed is proper care & the right counselors. The third thing is funds, we need provision from the Lord for this great & ongoing need.

We want to do more than provide for the physical needs of the single moms & their children, who are like the widows & the orphans that the bible speaks off. Physical needs are important, but we want to take it a step further. We want to be there for them emotionally too. We want to show them the love of the Messiah. We want to show the children that the Lord God heals and doesn’t hurt them like their earthly father might have done. We don’t want them to stay victims, we want them to be conquers.

We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 37-39

*Names are changed to protect the privacy of the women.

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A much needed hug

I don’t know how the mornings are in your house, but in my home, we are all in a rush. The kids need to get to school and kindergarten, the parents have to get to work. Everyone needs to eat breakfast. Mommy needs a cup of coffee. Lunchboxes need to be prepared. The laundry that was started the night before needs to be transferred to the dryer. Even on mornings where everything goes smooth, we are all moving nonstop.

On one of those busy mornings my three-year-old son suddenly turned to me for a hug. Like most three-year-old boys he is usually on the go. But on this particular morning put his arms around my legs and hugged me the way only a three-year-old can give hugs. If you have ever been giving a hug by a small child, you know what kind of hug I mean; full of trust, almost melting into you. And we just stood there, in the middle of the kitchen, during the busiest time of the day, hugging for what felt like forever. He needed a hug, and honestly, I needed it too.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:8

Life is busy, a lot of times with good things. During a busy season it is easy to forget to take the time to just turn to the Lord, to connect with Him. It is not that we don’t want to, we simply are busy and on the go. But just as my little boy took a moment for a much-needed hug, I encourage you to turn to the Father and get a hug from our Abba. Especially when times are busy. I need it and so do you.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! I John 3:1

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