Thursday, May 24, 2007


For the last six days, my colleague, Edward Hunt -- Director of Operations for The Joshua Fund -- and I have been in Israel, meeting with local political leaders, emergency services officials, and pastors to deliver humanitarian relief to Israeli victims of war and terror and to get a better understanding of the latest round of violence. On Saturday, we were in Sderot, the southern Israeli town on the border with Gaza. More than 170 Kassam rockets -- fired by radical Islamic jihadits from Gaza City -- have fallen on Sderot this week. Six hit while we were there. This is a photo of one rocket strike that occurred about two minutes before we arrived.

Fortunately, this particular rocket hit no people or buildings, but landed in an empty field and immediately set it ablaze. The winds caused the fire to spread rapidly. It took firemen about 30-40 minutes to get it under control.

The smoke from the attack nearly blocked out the sun for a brief time.

Chris Mitchell (left) is the Jerusalem Bureau Chief for the Christian Broadcasting Network. He and his team took Edward Hunt (center) and myself down to Sderot to cover the story. To watch Chris's interview with me on the Gaza border, please click here.

While in Sderot, we talked with local residents and emergency services officials. Here, Chris Mitchell is interviewing an ambulance crew chief who told us that while casualties have been relatively minimal -- despite more than 4,500 Palestinian rocket attacks since 2001 -- the main effect of the attacks are shock and trauma. Half the town has evacuated creating a ghost town atmosphere. The other half live mostly indoors and in constant fear. Children have a hard time sleeping. Many wet their beds. "It's Russian roulette," he said. "You never know where the rockets are going to hit or whether you're going to live or die."

Kay Arthur, the internationally renowned evangelical Bible teacher, and I met for breakfast in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning. We discussed the just-completed conference Kay co-led for some 500 Jewish and evangelical women. We also discussed projects we could do together to mobilize more evangelical Christians to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. Kay recently interviewed me for 5 radio programs and 5 television programs on Epicenter, Ezekiel 38 & 39, and the current geopolitical threats to the Jewish State. Those programs are scheduled to air this summer.

On Sunday, Edward and I headed north to Kiryat Shmona to oversee a humanitarian relief project there. On Monday morning, we met with Shmuel Malul, the Deputy Mayor. Kiryat Shmona is a northern Israeli town on the border of Lebanon that was hit with more than 1,000 missiles and rockets during last year's war. Here, he meets with Jo Kaplan, director of The Joseph Project. The Joshua Fund is working closely with The Joseph Project to ship containers of humanitarian aid into Israel. This aid -- including food, clothing, medical supplies, furniture, toys, roofing materials, and the like -- is distributed through local followers of Yeshua (Jesus) to the poor and needy and to Israeli victims of war and terrorism.

In Kiryat Shmona, we were joined by members of Calvary Chapel of Rio Rancho, an evangelical congregation located in the suburbs of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Here, Jeremy Grafman, a Calvary pastor (center), and I meet with a senior advisor to the Mayor (in red) after the group watched an eight-minute video depicting the trauma the town went through during the Second Lebanon War (July-August 2006). We also met with Vice Mayor Meir Levy, who is also a local rabbi. We explained that we had come to bless the people of Kiryat Shmona in the name of Yeshua and that we want to continue to send more aid, more volunteers, and more people to pray with and for their community. During a $350,000 relief project we helped organize last November, we had met with Mayor Chaim Barbibai and were warmly invited to return as often as we could. In January, Edward Hunt took several major Joshua Fund donors up to Kiryat Shmona to meet with the Mayor as part of our continuing efforts to bless the people of this beleagured city. This time the Mayor was out of the country but we greatly enjoyed spending time with his team and explaining that while the followers of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Nasrallah hate them and want to destroy them, the followers of Yeshua love them and want to stand with them.

As part of this project, we had the wonderful privilege of visiting with and distributing humanitarian aid to Lebanese army generals and their children who now live in northern Israel. Some 110 high-ranking officers of the South Lebanon Army (SLA) and their families were extracted during last summer's war and relocated into Israel. For years, the SLA fought with Israel against the PLO, Hezbollah and other radical Islamic jihadists to create a free, independent and democratic Lebanon. Many SLA leaders have had family members killed by Hezbollah in recent years. Most have bounties on their heads for opposing the Iranian-backed Shiite militias. The Mayor of Kiryat Shmona asked The Joshua Fund if we would be willing to do a project to provide much-needed food supplies to these SLA families who left all they know and all they have behind in Lebanon. We were honored to say yes, in keeping with our mission statement: "To bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, according to Genesis 12:1-3." The passage in Genesis says that those who bless Israel will be blessed, and those who cursed Israel will be cursed. These SLA generals and their families have risked their lives to bless Israel and we look forward to doing more to bless them in the future.

The Calvary Chapel of Rio Rancho team was made up of 43 evangelical Christians who are on a two-week tour of Israel. They joined The Joshua Fund in packing and distributing boxes of food to SLA families, as well as to some 100 needy Jewish families in Kiryat Shmona. The disabled, elderly and disadvantaged were the first to make it to the Kiryat Shmona Aid Center to collect their boxes. Those with low-paying jobs came after work. This distribution was made the day before the Shavuot holiday (Pentecost). Afterwards, Jo Kaplan received telephone calls from the Mayor’s office and other local leaders with profuse appreciation and accolades, and an eagerness to work together on future projects.

The Joseph Project has provided more than $70 million worth of humanitarian relief supplies to the poor and needy in Israel through local followers of Jesus, as well as through Israeli hospitals, welfare agencies, the Israeli Defense Forces and the Magen David Adom. TJP and The Joshua Fund worked together to organize the project in Kiryat Shmona, following up on a $350,000 aid distribution project that we and similar organizations worked on in the town in November 2006, not long after the war.

Volunteers from Calvary Chapel of Rio Rancho loading food boxes on The Joseph Project's truck.

The boxes contained various foodstuffs, including flour, sugar, rice, tuna, pasta, pickles, olive oil, red lentils, white beans, crackers, humus, cake and pineapple, accompanied by the 100 shekel gift (about U.S. $25). CC Rio Rancho paid for the entire project, via The Joshua Fund.

It took about two hours to pack all the boxes in donated warehouse space in the center of town and it was a great time of getting to know the local Israeli believers, the folks from Rio Rancho, and to pray for the people of Kiryat Shmona. We'd love to help other evangelical churches who are planning tours of Israel and want to "tithe" one day of their tour to do a humanitarian aid project to bless Israelis in the name of Yeshua. If you're interested in such a project, please contact Edward Hunt, our Director of Operations: Or visit you can visit

Robert Hall is the senior pastor at CC Rio Rancho and has a real heart for blessing Israelis and Palestinians who have been caught in the crossfire of war and terrorism for so many years. Last October, Robert invited Joel out to New Mexico to speak to his congregation on the topic, "Are We Living In The Last Days?" and the ministry of The Joshua Fund. He immediately connected with the vision of "learn, pray, give and go" and has mobilized his congregation to do all four. He's teaching the 1,000 attendees of CC Rio Rancho about God's plan and purpose for the people of the Middle East. He's encouraging them to pray knowledgeably and consistently for the people of the epicenter and to realize the urgency of the fact that another major geopolitical war may be coming to the region very soon. His congregation has already raised enough money to send more than $200,000 worth of humanitarian aid to Israelis and Palestinians through The Joshua Fund. He's now leading 43 church members of on a two-week "prayer & vision trip" through Israel and planning to send another team from his congregation over to Israel to do more relief work with The Joshua Fund in November. In this picture, he's caring for one of the needy children in Kiryat Shmona. It's been exciting to see the sincere love and enormous passion that he and his wife, Juanita, have for this work and their sense of urgency that more must be done now, while we still have time. Together, we hope this pilot project will serve as a model for churches to follow and we'd ask you to pray that the idea spreads like wildfire. We were blessed that Reed Olson and Steve Adams from Focus on the Family were with us to see this project and its potential. Reed is the Director of International Ministries for Focus. Steve is the associate editor of Citizen magazine who is writing a profile on The Joshua Fund on how evangelical Christians can make a positive difference in the Middle East. We'll let you know as soon as the article is published.

In addition to preaching at a congregation in Jerusalem and meeting with numerous Israeli pastors during this past week, Edward and I had the privilege of participating in the humanitarian aid project with the CC Rio Rancho group as well as briefing them on the latest developments in Lebanon and Syria and how thse two countries fit into Bible prophecy. In this photo, I'm at a retreat center at the base of the Golan Heights with four dear, lifelong friends: Jeremy and Angie Grafman (right), and John and Cheryl Moser (center). Jeremy and Angie (one of the Mosers' daughters) serve on staff with CC Rio Rancho. Jeremy and I are both Jewish believers with a growing desire to bless Jews and Arabs with the love of Yeshua. Angie and I grew up together. John and Cheryl are members of CC Rio Rancho and were Joel and Angie's youth group leaders at Perinton Community Church in Fairport, New York. It was a particularly special time being able to serve together with them in the land of Israel.
* Please pray for peace in Sderot and Kiryat Shmona and for wisdom for the leaders in these communities.
* Please pray for the local followers of Yeshua in these towns. At this point, we know of only 10 believers in Sderot who meet in a house church fellowship, and about 100 believers in Kiryat Shmona, 15 of whom have come to faith just since the end of the war. Pray for their courage, for their spiritual growth, and for their wisdom to know how to be a blessing to their neighbors.
* Please pray that the Lord Himself would inspire the leaders of hundreds of evangelical Christian tour groups from all over the world to do similar relief projects for the poor and needy in Israel.
* Finally, please pray that The Joshua Fund could raise the $300,000 we need to help The Joseph Project rent, outfit, staff and run a new 15,000 square foot warehouse facility. Organizations all over the world want to send more shipping containers filled with aid for these needy Israeli and Arab communities, but Jo Kaplan's current facility is nearly maxed out. Another warehouse and distribution truck would help enormously, and we'd really like to get such a facility up and running soon, before another war begins. To send a tax-deductible donation -- or to donate securely on-line -- please click here.