It was with an air of great anticipation that for the second year two ministry partners, Shalom Israel Asia Pacific and Christians Care International, gathered on March 10-12, 2017 in the Church of Singapore at Bukit Timah in the very centre of Singapore. Christians from right across Singapore, as well as representatives from Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and even from Pakistan were present for the purpose of affirming our deeper commitment to the vital task of bringing God’s people – Jews and Christians – together at a crucial time in history.
It was a gathering “For such as time as this…”
Purim 2017 was conceived, planned and hosted by Pastors (Dr.) George and Mano Annadorai whose ground-breaking ministry has been mobilising Christians from all over the Asia Pacific region to unite in the most astonishing outpouring of love, generosity, practical support and defence of Israel and the Jewish people. Their ministry, Shalom Israel Asia Pacific, is inviting all of God’s people in the East to become a part and a partner in the last great move of God on behalf of His beloved covenant people. Through amazing initiatives, including their recent purchase of farming land in Israel which will be used to grow food to be distributed among the poorest in Israel, Shalom Israel is greatly blessing the Jewish people.
Pastor George Annadorai opened PURIM @ 2017 with a reminder of the challenge which God had placed upon all present in 2016 to “Cross the Line”, as illustrated with reference to the opening chapter of the book of Ruth. Here, Naomi’s daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, were presented with a choice. Following the deaths of Naomi’s sons (their respective husbands) they could either return to their own families or they could remain with their Israelite mother-in-law. Orpah, after only a brief hesitation borne of compassion, returned to her family. Ruth by contrast clung to her conviction that she would remain with her mother-in-law since she knew the story of Rahab, who had sheltered the Israelite spies in Jericho, from a generation earlier. Ruth “Crossed the Line”, committed to Naomi and, by extension, to Israel. Consequently, she finds her own place in Matthew’s genealogy alongside Rahab whereas we hear nothing further about Orpah. Compassion for the Jewish people, Pastor Annadorai stressed, can be a first step but will take a person only so far unless that compassion is undergirded by conviction. If we have begun to stand with the Jewish people out of conviction, then the next step is to consolidate that conviction and “Cross the Line” by committing never to turn back. In this manner, our conviction culminates in a Covenant.
It was my immense privilege to be invited to introduce Christians Care International (the new face of our ministry, formerly called “49:22TRUST”): a Christian ministry led by a Jewish man, Don Horwitz. Our mission is to stand with Israel and the Jewish people through direct service programmes providing a continuum of care to Jewish people in need. Walking together in the radical love of God, which we have received in Christ, is the only antidote to the antisemitism, evil and hatred which are so prevalent in our world today. In accordance with Paul’s teaching in Romans 11, this love needs to be extended not only to Christians but to the Jewish people, Israel, into whom we have been grafted.
Isaiah 49:22 is the biblical mandate which has defined God’s call upon Christians Care International since its inception. God promised to call upon the nations who believe in His “banner” (Messiah) to put that love into action by raising up the Jewish people in their arms and upon their shoulders, to enable them to make ‘aliyah’ (the Hebrew word for ‘ascent’ as well as for repatriating to Israel). For us, making aliyah means raising people up, transforming their lives and meeting their most fundamental needs, not just helping Jewish people to return to Israel. This is what it means for Christians to walk with the Jewish people.
Pastor Annadorai gave a testimony of the time when he “Crossed the Line” while assisting Jewish families making aliyah from Odessa in the 1990s. His challenge to each delegate at Purim 2017 was that we each take our own personal step “Across the Line” in our relationship with Israel and the Jewish people, never to turn back, while confirming this step with a covenant-commitment.
As Don Horwitz re-joined the conference on Saturday after recovering from a short illness, Pastor Annadorai highlighted the special work which God is doing in the re-union of Jew and Gentile (Jew and Christian). It is the partnership between us that enables us to fulfil the calling which God has placed upon us. This partnership extends ultimately to the fulfilment of the Great Commission of Christ to the world, which cannot be accomplished without the partnership and participation of the Jewish people.
Don in turn spoke about how God had led him on a path which culminated in him being invited to lead of Christians Care International and the opportunity which this presented for bringing Christians and Jews to work together. We all face a unique challenge because of the years of animosity so entrenched between Christian and Jews. Relationships need to be built and trust needs to be earned if this hostility is to be overcome. Neither of these things will happen overnight, but things are slowly changing and it is these changes are further enabling us to help Jewish people in need. The dividing wall between us is being broken down one brick at a time.
The Jewish children from the school in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine, including those currently living in CCI’s Kalaniot Emergency Shelter, broadcast their messages of gratitude and love by holding up signs with the words which they wanted to share thanking Shalom Israel Asia Pacific for the home, food, clothes, guidance and education which they have so generously provided because they cared about them. All present at PURIM @ 2017 were invited to photograph themselves holding their own message of love for the Jewish children. Photographs will subsequently be translated and shown to these same children whose lives are being transformed by their support. Don explained that Jewish children who have been scarred by abuse, neglect and abandonment require our long-term commitment to their care and development. We do this through our team of psychologists currently working across three locations in Ukraine with over 1700 children.
Don further shared about how together we are able to raise people up out of poverty and suffering by meeting the needs of individuals, including those hardest to reach and help: people like a man called Lev Karpov. Lev had suffered a critical head injury and was left incapacitated after being struck by a car and had been given no hope of survival. Care and support for him and his dedicated wife, Anna, were provided each step of the way. Lev defied medical expectation with his recovery, began to feed himself and communicate once again. After five years of work and commitment, today, Lev is safely living in Israel where he continues his rehabilitation.
In all cases, Christians Care International considers and treats everyone we help as an individual. The Jewish people are not to be characterised by numbers, but as people with names – each one known and precious to God. We are challenged to respond as God’s hands and feet to raise up these who are his children, and part of our own extended family.
On Sunday, March 12, we were honoured to welcome the Deputy Israeli Ambassador for Singapore and her husband who sincerely thanked all present for our friendship with Israel. Pastor Annadorai conveyed to them a succinct and heartfelt message concerning the hostility and antisemitism with the Jewish people have faced: “In the 20th Century, Christians were part of the problem. In the 21st Century, we want to be part of the solution!” This statement perfectly captured the essence and commitment of PURIM @2017 as the solemn responsibility which we all share as followers of Christ towards our Jewish brothers and sisters.
As our time together drew to a close in prayer, Pastors George and Mano Annadorai invited all who were willing to stand up and join hands with Don Horwitz, together with his wife Yulia, symbolising our commitment as Christians to “Cross the Line” in partnership with the Jewish people. It was a sight which deeply moved me as nearly everyone in the building responded, forming long lines from either side of the stage as people either made or renewed their commitment to walk, work and war together with our Jewish brothers and sisters in the all-important task of building the Kingdom of God. Shalom Israel Asia Pacific and Christians Care International stand united in this mission.