Friends of Israel

Some Lessons from a Year with FOI

“So, when are you moving to Israel?”

That is definitely the most frequently asked question we have encountered in our year-and-a-quarter of service with The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.

And we have encountered lots of questions!

I have spoken in more than 50 different churches in four states during this time, and I have discovered that when people know you’re from The Friends of Israel—whether they understand what that means or not—they presume that you will be an expert on some things.

Those would include things such as: the value of Israeli currency; the population centers of Jewish people in the United States; the meaning of the passage of Scripture they have been pondering recently; the credibility of another group they saw on TV that supports Israel; the history of someone who worked for The Friends of Israel in years past; the status of Israeli politics; and the list goes on.

Some of the questions are trite, some are profound, and some are unanswerable. All of them cause my wife (who usually oversees our display table, and gets lots of them herself) and me to realize the expectations that people have for someone in the position I hold with The Friends of Israel, and move me to want to study further and be better prepared for anything that I might encounter.

There have been lots of surprises on our journey as well—many of them being wonderful blessings from the Lord.

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Has God Blessed America for Blessing Israel?

Reagan and Begin, 1981. (Reagan Library. Wikimedia.)

With the following words, America’s 40th president, Ronald W. Reagan—still in the first year of his presidency—greeted Menachem Begin, the sixth prime minister of the modern state of Israel:

We’re proud to stand beside you this morning, joining a tradition of hospitality for Israel observed by our Presidents for more than three decades. Your visit is testimony to the warm friendships, mutual respect, and shared values that bind our people … .

I welcome this chance to further strengthen the unbreakable ties between the United States and Israel and to assure you of our commitment to Israel’s security and well-being.

Israel and America may be thousands of miles apart, but we are philosophical neighbors sharing a strong commitment to democracy and the rule of law. What we hold in common are the bonds of trust and friendship, qualities that in our eyes make Israel a great nation. No people have fought longer, struggled harder, or sacrificed more than yours in order to survive, to grow, and to live in freedom … .

Shalom, shalom: to him that is far off and to him that is near. And again, Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to America.1

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Stories from the Field: Our Journey to the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

I was appointed by the board of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry at its November 2018 meeting to be a church ministries representative working in the upper Midwest. That was the result of one short trip to New Jersey. But it was also the conclusion of a very long journey.

My history with The Friends of Israel goes back a long way. In one sense, it began when my grandfather was among the earliest readers of Israel My Glory magazine. Then it dates back to the mid-1980s, when I first saw that publication in a magazine rack in church, and wondered what the title meant.

I could trace it back to college and then seminary, when I began reading textbooks by the late Dr. Renald Showers and became a great fan of his teaching. I was thrilled to hear him as the guest speaker for a Bible conference in our seminary in 1996. The week was memorable for being so cold that school was cancelled the day after the conference ended—an extremely rare occurrence! But even more memorable for me was the opportunity to meet Dr. Showers in person.

Our journey toward The Friends of Israel goes back to 1998, when I read a book by Bruce Scott, and invited him to come for a special Sunday at the church I pastored in Iowa.

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The Changing Face of Dispensationalism