Churches of Israel: St. George’s MonasteryBy: C4i

In the early end of the 4th century, Egyptian monk St. John of Choziba and his five chosen hermits set out into the desert. They were looking for a simpler life, a life of worship and quiet study. Somehow, from this humble mission they would end up laying the foundation for one of the most magical and breathtaking churches in Israel and most would argue the entire world – St. George’s Monastery.

To see it today, the monastery is like something from another world, a dream you can touch. Carved directly into the rocky side of a mountain canyon in Wadi Qelt, the monastery features white stone walls overlooking a lush garden complete with cypress and olive trees. An absolutely jaw dropping sight. While it may look like an ancient relic from another time, it is in fact still an active church! Greek orthodox monks still live and study in the monastery today and welcome visitors to respectfully tour the church.

The monastery has seen many changes since the days of St. John of Choziba. The original monastery was merely a small retreat St. John built for himself and his monks and a hall where communion could be held. They chose the location because it was relatively close to the cave where the Prophet Elijah is said to have been fed by ravens. They were actually part of a trend in the area, more than 60 monasteries were raised in the Judean desert during that timeframe. Today, precious few remain, and the St. George Monastery is easily the most majestic among them.

Even what we see today as the St. George Monastery has been through several disasters and rebuilding efforts. St. John’s original monastery was expanded on and later renamed after Saint George of Choziba. It was an important spiritual center in the area until it was destroyed by Persian invaders in the latter half of the 6th century. In the 8th century, interest in the monastery’s ruins reignited and it was seen as a pilgrimage location. During the crusader period, the monastery was partially rebuilt (much of that work is still visible and used today) until conflict in the area forced the project to be abandoned.
Finally, in the early 1800s the monastery was reestablished. Greek monk Father Kalinikos oversaw the completion of the restoration and reopened the monastery in full force. Since then, it has been home to dozens of monks including the Romanian monk-priest, Father Ioan who lived out his final years in seclusion within the monastery and was posthumously named a saint.

Visiting today is allowed and encouraged, but you will need to bring your hiking gear. Getting to the monastery involves at least a 15-minute hike in the hills of the canyon using the most direct route, so be sure to wear dependable shoes, sunscreen, and bring some water. 

While there, you can explore the three-levels of the monastery. There are two separate chapels within the structure and a wide variety of mosaics, paintings, and ornate byzantine-era architectural flourishes and decorations to marvel at. The monastery also houses the tombs of St. John of Choziba and the original five hermits who founded the monastery, St. Ioan’s fully preserved body, and relics from 14 monks killed by the Persians in the 6th century. Incredibly preserved history that gives us a concrete connection to the lives and times of these believers. 
Perhaps most interesting of all, there is a mountain trail to access the cave-church of Elijah. Certainly this is a fascinating piece of living history. The church even includes a (tiny) escape tunnel to the top of the mountain. How interesting is that? A good reminder that it wasn’t always safe to worship the Lord openly. 

St. George’s Monastery stands as a reminder from another time. It is one of only 5 active monasteries still left in the Judean desert and is by far the most impressive. It might be a bit of a walk to get to, but this real-life fantasy is more than worth the effort. 


Giving means more than moneyBy: C4i

In Israel today, approximately 40% of all children (Jewish and Arab) are at risk due to poverty. At C4i, we fight to provide food for the hungry, protect children at risk, and assist new immigrants who are struggling to find their place in the Holy Land with contributions from donors. Ordinary men and women of conscience who are willing to entrust us with their hard-earned money for the good of complete strangers. We thank God for each one of our donors and appreciate every cent that is gifted to our cause. 

As important as financial generosity is, giving means more than that. The Christian spirit isn’t confined to dollars and cents. What about those who can’t afford to give, who might be struggling to provide for themselves and their own family? Are they locked out of a fundamental aspect of Christianity because of their financial situation? Absolutely not. There are still many ways we can all give, regardless of our finances.

We are more than our bank statements

Generosity is not limited to strict numbers. I’ve had lean years in my life and one story from the Bible has always granted me comfort – the widow’s mite from the Book of Mark. 

"He (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, 'Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Giving isn’t about math and sums, it’s about sacrifice and intention. The widow in that familiar story gave only a little, but she dug deep to do it. Her two little coins were more valuable to God than an entire purse from a wealthy man because she actually had to give something up to give them. The obvious take away from this story is that every gift counts. Even if you can only give a little, if it is given from a place of love and sacrifice God can use it as if it were a fortune. 

The other take away is that we are more than our bank statements. Jesus was impressed with what was in that woman’s heart, she gave from one of the few resources she had left because that is what she could do. Think about the resources you have that are not necessarily money. Do you have any helpful talents or skills? Are you able bodied and able to help others? Do you have a vehicle, a kitchen, knowledge, or anything else that might be used to help someone? Then no matter what your bank says you have something valuable to share in the spirit of the Lord.

Other ways to give

You have so many more gifts to share. Think about these options when you’re unsure of what you have to contribute to others.

Old and less frequently used goods and items. We all have things we’ve collected over the years that are just taking up space. Maybe there was a mistake on your wedding registration a few years back and somehow you ended up with two different blenders. Or you have old clothes and shoes kicking around the closet no one has worn in ages. Maybe you have older model electronics like a tablet or a game system you no longer use, or power tools you’ve upgraded from. All of these things can be richly enjoyed and appreciated by others! You can either give them directly to a family you know that could use an extra hand or drop them off with a charity and rest assured that they will use them to provide a positive impact that helps another family. Those old shoes and that last generation tablet might not mean much to you, but for someone hobbling around on a pair of shoes with a hole in them or who can’t connect to the internet because they don’t have a device, they will mean everything! 

Donate your time to the local church. The church is always going to be a focus point of generosity and a place in need of time and bodies. Giving financially to your church is always a good thing, but it can be even more impactful to give your time. Churches have a dizzying array of needs, from simple grounds keeping and cleaning, to volunteer roles in groups, to kitchen and prep help, local ministry, and the list goes on. Ask where you can help, and the church will gladly accept!

Donate your love. You never know how much a simple note or phone call can mean until you really need to hear a friendly voice. Even if you don’t have any other resources, you can always give your love and prayers. A small handwritten note telling someone how much they are appreciated, a phone call asking how they are doing, inviting someone over for a chat - none of these cost anything but each of them can make a real difference in someone’s life. If you want to give but don’t have much, never forget that God gave you an infinite supply of love to share.
Giving is far more than money. With a little creativity and an honest heart, each of us has a fortune in goodness to give.


Heroes of the Holocaust: Jeanne DamanBy: C4i

Jeanne Daman was not a Jew. She had never broken any laws or been in any trouble. She was by all accounts a model Belgian citizen, professional, helpful, and law abiding. A young schoolteacher used to minding her own business. But Daman was raised Catholic with a strong sense of right and wrong, and that moral clarity helped guide her when the world she lived in slipped into madness and prejudice. 

In 1942 in Nazi occupied Brussels, Jewish children were barred from normal public schools in a discriminatory decree by the Nazis designed to fracture, weaken, and punish the Jewish community. Of course, Jewish families living in Brussels didn’t take this lying down and they raced to set up their own alternative schooling for their children. As a schoolteacher Daman saw this naked discrimination for what it was and understood the damage it would do to both young children developmentally, and their families having the extra burden of daytime child care thrust on them.  When Fela Perelman, an organizer dedicated to helping Jewish children, asked if she would be interested in helping with a Jewish kindergarten, she readily accepted the offer with no hesitation. 

Daman joined "Nos Petits,” an alternative Jewish school educating around 325 children. It was an act she was proud of, but being in close contact with Jewish children and their families was to be confronted with the full terrible reality of what was happening in her country. She could see these were mere ordinary children, with ordinary parents who worried about the same things as French or English or even German parents, and they were persecuted for no reason and with no mercy. Each day another child or two would fail to attend and every time they investigated why they were met with the same grim story – their family was rounded up. 

Orphans began to collect along the margins of society. Jewish children who by mistake or miracle were not arrested and deported with their parents who were left adrift and lost with nowhere to go. Daman and her fellow teachers took in these children and tried to find them homes. Soon, Jewish parents who understood what was likely to happen began approaching them in advance, asking Daman and Perelman to help protect or hide their children. These were acts of pure desperation, no parent wants to willfully give up their child. But they saw it as a choice between that or death.

Seeing the brutality and cruelty of the Nazis’ persecution against the Jews up close changed Daman. Her already strong convictions hardened to pure steel. She became more and more involved in efforts to save these children and disrupt the Nazi occupation.

Before too long the school was closed. It had ceased to be a safe place to send Jewish children and instead became a tempting target of harassment and arrests. Working with the ONE (l'Oeuvre Nationale de l'Enfance) resistance group, plans were made and carried out to smuggle many of the children attending the school to willing Belgian families. These children would be coolly plucked from a train station one day and suddenly arrive in another with a new name, ethnicity, and family, the Nazis none the wiser. 

With the school closed and the majority of students either safely placed with new families or returned to their own, Daman could have walked away. She had already played a huge role in helping many families and taken a lot of risk. No one would have faulted her if she decided she had done her part and spent the rest of the occupation keeping her head down. But that’s not with she did.

Daman only ramped up her efforts to safeguard and protect innocent Jewish children. She traveled across Belgium making connections and finding trusted sympathizers to help organize the protection these orphans would need. She made connections with churches, wealthy families, and more to get Jewish children new identities, ration cards, and shelter.

As the occupation became more brutal Daman found herself helping more and more adult Jews. The desperation was palpable and so was the risk. Working with resistance friends, Daman helped Jewish women procure new identities and join respectable Belgian families as "maids” and "domestic help.” It’s unknown how many lives she helped save with these clandestine maneuvers. 

All the while, Daman was keeping tabs on hundreds of children she had helped save. She would ferry messages between them and maintained a small but vital line of communication between them and their surviving relatives. If not for this, many of these children might never have found a way home after the war.

Eventually Daman joined full-fledged resistance efforts. While she previously limited her activities helping Jewish children and vulnerable adults (particularly women) her distain for the Nazis and their Belgian collaborators grew. It wasn’t enough to protect people from harm, she had to start preventing the harm from occurring in the first place. And the easiest place to start was with collaborators.

With the distance of history, it is easy to forget what an absolute abomination the collaborator was. These were Belgians who saw the Nazis kill their own sons and husbands in battle, trample over their corpses, plant their swastika flag on their land, and install a system of brutal oppressive laws targeting the most vulnerable among them. Instead of having the courage to resist, or the resolve to bear the injustice of the occupation while giving the Nazis as little aid or deference as possible, the collaborator raced to put themselves first. They would send an entire family to a concentration camp just for a few extra ration cards from the Nazis. Imagine the horror of your neighbor effectively sentencing you and your children to death all for an extra half pound of butter - unimaginable selfishness and evil.

Daman helped resistance members identify and isolate collaborators. Finding employment as a social worker with the Secours D’Hiver welfare organization, Daman used her role and small amount of authority to travel freely and access documents that would otherwise be out of reach for the resistance. While she never pulled the trigger herself, she pointed the resistance in the right direction and played a role in luring some collaborators to discrete locations where they could be handled without attention. 

Daman became more brazenly involved in open resistance operations. She would smuggle weapons to different resistance members on her bicycle, peddling past the watchful eye of the Gestapo. She relayed intelligence and messages between cells, organizing ways for the people to fight back against the Nazis.

Her journal heartbreakingly illustrates why she was driven to such lengths. The deep well of anger, sadness, and even guilt that pushed her on, day after day, to risk her life for others.

"…one day, Gestapo agents arrived at the school in a truck. They named three children, told me they had been asked by their mothers to pick them up and take the little ones to them. These Gestapo men were pleasant and polite. Of course, I knew what it meant. But I had to think of the 60 other children we had in our school that day. 
I was helpless to stand up to them and I didn’t. I dressed those children myself, the youngest was three-and-a-half years old. I put them in the truck myself, delaying the moment when the Nazis would touch them. And they took them away. We learned later that the parents were hiding and the Nazis used this trick to get them out in the open.
It worked. They got them all.
I knew those children would never be seen again, or their families. I couldn’t intervene without peril to all our children. But I felt I should have done SOMETHING. I was anti-Nazi by conviction before. Now I wanted to strike back myself, to damage them.”

Daman was never caught. She saved untold hundreds of Jewish children, women, and men. Her clandestine efforts with the resistance to route out collaborators and disrupt the occupying Nazis no doubt saved many lives as well. After the war she worked diligently to reunite as many young Jews with their surviving families as possible, and to raise funds for Israel so they would have a safe land to call their own with the UJA (United Jewish Appeal). Her great works were recognized both by the Belgian government and in Israel. She was inducted into Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations in 1972, a well-deserved recognition for someone who did so much for the least of her neighbors. 


Restoring a 2000 year old basilicaBy: C4i

- The Roman basilica in the Tel Ashkelon National Park. Image from Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Tel Askelon National Park hides a secret that will soon be uncovered for all. Originally discovered in the 1920’s, the park sits atop a massive Roman basilica that’s construction dates back 2000 years. Despite knowledge of the site, various difficulties made it impossible to excavate until recently, with two major digs in 2008 and 2016 finally revealing the scope of what can be found. Now, the park and the Israel Antiquities Authority are prepared to finally excavate the basilica in earnest, planning a large-scale dig and restoration projects that will bring this ancient marvel back to life.

The basilica is a treasure trove of historical wonders. More than 200 marble items have already been found on the site. These include columns, ornately carved column capitals, and statues. A large part of the new excavation and restoration efforts will be aimed at repairing and restoring damage done to these statues and columns by an earthquake in 363 CE. The idea is to restore as much of the basilica as possible so modern visitors can explore it as it would have existed in Roman-era Ashkelon.
- Statues from the Roman basilica in Tel Ashkelon National Park. Image by Yaniv Cohen, Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

The basilica would have been a place of great importance in its heyday. Likely created/commissioned by Herod the Great, whose family may have come from Ashkelon. The IAA believes this to be the case, citing coins found in the foundation of the building as supporting evidence in a statement ""Herodian coins discovered in the bedding of the structure’s ancient floors show that it was built at the time of one of the greatest builders ever to have lived in the country.”

The basilica would have functioned as a seaport and heart of trade and community business. A multi-purpose center for the city, docks would welcome ships loaded with goods for trade while the halls of the building would be used for social events, religious ceremonies, and even legal disputes. A kind of one-stop city hall, civic center, and dock. A remarkably sophisticated accomplishment of civic engineering and planning.

As well as the basilica, the renovation efforts will also be restoring the ancient Odeon theater on the site. This will be the first time the public will be able to view the ancient stage and seating area. A taste of what day-to-day life would have been like in Roman-era Israel.
The renovations will be adding new paths and walkways in the area to allow visitors easy access to these wonders.  Ashkelon Mayor Tomer Glam has high hopes for the project. "I am convinced that the restoration and conservation work in the park, the new archaeological discoveries and the development work – including new accessible paths – will contribute significantly to the park’s natural beauty and strengthen its status as the most beautiful and well-kept national park in Israel.”

Exciting times for Ashkelon and another fantastic reminder of the rich and living history of Israel. 


Jerusalem’s post-COVID tourist planBy: C4i

In response to the COVID crisis, Israel closed its doors to foreign tourists last March. Since then, it has been a slow and tedious waiting game. Both for those who long to visit the Holy Land, and for the many businesses and industries within Israel that rely on tourism to thrive. It’s been a long time coming, but Israel is finally prepping to reopen to tourists and Jerusalem is ready to impress!

The tourism industry in Jerusalem hasn’t just been cooling their collective heels this entire time. This extended period of lockdown has been just the chance many locations and sites needed to renovate, expand, and retool. Not only will it be possible to visit Jerusalem in the near future, but you’re in for a better, more accommodating, and more exciting visit than ever!

The Tower of David Museum
The Tower of David Museum is already a magnificent location in Jerusalem. A historic site, the museum has long offered breathtaking tours that stay with visitors for a lifetime. You can climb the citadel and take in a bird’s eye view of Jerusalem that is unrivaled by any other structure in the city. Or you can do the opposite and explore the Kishle, an underground prison and police station that has played a large but often subtle roles in shaping Jerusalem’s history. All of these tours and sites are waiting to be explored and embraced again by the international tourists.

But the museum wasn’t content with that. During the COVID lockdown, the museum embarked on a $40 million dollar conservation and expansion project. The goal is to both maintain the ancient citadel and archeological park while DOUBLING the size of the museum. The ambitious new plan aims to reshape the average journey through the museum, starting with a new sunken visitor center. A full seven new galleries are planned as is a new café and plaza - the perfect rest spot to take a break in between exhibits!

The expansion will also include an area below the Jaffa Gate Plaza. This area has been the site of several interesting archeological finds from the Roman-Byzantine era but has sat largely abandoned for more than a decade due to various circumstances. With the museum taking charge of the area now, expect to hear about new digs and archaeological finds in the near future, very exciting! 

The Old City
A historic site like the Old City of Jerusalem should be enjoyed by everyone, not just those with no mobility issues. This is the logic that has guided a massive accessibility project throughout the Old City. Work began in 2019, but the COVID lockdown has allowed the multi-year project to move ahead of schedule (working around much fewer bodies than they planned on) and the results are taking impressive shape!

While the Old City’s narrow and often steep cobblestone paths are iconic and historic, they are also a nightmare for anyone with an accessibility need. Trying to take a wheelchair, stroller, or walker through those streets was up until recently a losing proposition. Now though, the city has expanded several streets (taking pains to preserve their historic character), provided alternative routing where alterations were not possible, added new staircases and elevators in some places, and have added new handrails on old (and sometimes treacherous) staircases. In addition to all of these physical improvements, the Old City has also upgraded its signage, providing new and much clearer directional markings and waypoints. All in all, it has never been easier to explore the old city comfortably and safely!

But that’s not all, not only is it easier to visit the Old City, there will also be more to see! A new route in the Western Wall Tunnels is planned to open this summer. This new route will take visitors into an exciting recent archaeological discovery, a public building dating back to the Second Temple period. This structure was built in the very early days of the first millennium and is said to have been used for large public functions and as a meeting place for dignitaries and politicians before entering the temple mount. It is an incredible look at real history and another exciting reason to visit the Old City!

COVID has kept us all indoors and at home for a year and a half now, but a new day is approaching. One lesson we can all take from this global ordeal is to not take our opportunities for granted. You never know when a border might be shut or a location suddenly inaccessible. Pretty soon we’ll have the opportunity to visit the Holy Land and an improved Jerusalem, make sure you take it while you can!


1 million orphans – the hidden victims of COVIDBy: C4i

"For every two Covid-19 deaths worldwide, one child is left behind to face the death of a parent or caregiver.

This is the grim math outlined by the CDC’s Susan Hill, one of the key authors behind a new global child welfare report that outlines a massive, and growing, orphan crisis. 
Over the course of the pandemic, much of the primary health concern discussed in the media and addressed by policy makers has been focused on the elderly and adults with compromised health. This makes sense at first blush, after all the highest morbidity rate for the virus rests in those groups while children have shown to be more resilient to both the immediate effects of the virus and its long-term impact. However, this focus has crucially overlooked cases where the parents and guardians of children take ill and leave a child behind. With more than a year to study the phenomenon, this new study is sounding a dire alarm bell – we are in the midst of an orphan crisis. 

The report breaks down the numbers. By the end of April 2021, 1.5 million children had lost a primary guardian (consider a parent, grandparent, or direct caregiver) due to the coronavirus. The impact of this cannot be overstated. Children are being left behind as the virus ravages the age cohorts entrusted with their care. 

Worse yet, as COVID can turn terminal in weeks or even days, in the majority of these case there is almost no time to prepare the child. Either emotionally to understand the trauma they are about to endure, or to introduce them to and help them adjust to their new living conditions. Over a million children have had to deal with their lives turning upside now in an instant, a bewildering and scarring event. Many of these children are then thrust into institutions such as orphanages or group homes. 

Institutionalization is an extremely common outcome for children across the world in the event of the death of a parent. Even in cases where there is a remaining parent (say the father dies but the mother survives), many still end up in the system. Either the remaining parent can’t manage, works far away or the time demands for work mean they are unable to properly care for their children, or a myriad of other situations can easily lead a surviving parent to surrender their child. 

Unfortunately, as the study indicates, institutionalization often leads to a much harder road for the child. Obviously, there is a horrendous burden of trauma placed on any small child who loses a close loved one, combined with the disorientation of being placed into a new and unfamiliar situation. Entering an institution at the best of times carries with it the risk of developmental delays, behavioral issues, and a higher long-term risk of experiencing mental health issues, abuse, and poverty. Entering due to a parent’s death at the hands of a pandemic that has placed additional strain on these institutions will likely make it even harder for these children.

The report’s findings have spurred many groups to action. "We cannot allow any more victims, even if indirect, of this pandemic. If we do not protect this generation, they run the risk of being left behind. As children lose one or even two parents, families are often pushed further into poverty, which can mean children will drop out of school and start working to help with the family income. "These children will not return to school, and will likely be trapped in a cycle of poverty” said Bidisha Pillai, Global Policy, Advocacy & Campaigns Director for Save the Children.

The sheer scope of the challenge presents an opportunity for the Church to take a leadership role in addressing the crisis. As an unthinkable number of children face down an uncertain future, it will take men and women of good conscience to care for these lost lambs and provide them with the help they’ll need to recover from the loss of their parent or parents and thrive in life. Some churches and faith groups are already preparing donation funds to help combat this global crisis while others are asking even more, encouraging families to open their home to foster and/or adopt an orphaned child.

That is an incredible thing to ask, and a responsibility each family would have to carefully weigh and consider. But the crisis is real and what these children need most is a stable and loving home. Hopefully as Christians we will be able to rise to this occasion and follow in Jesus’ example.

"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me” – Mathew 1:5


The simple blessing of foodBy: C4i

Food is one of the most basic pleasures in life. It’s something we both need and also enjoy. But for as elemental as food is to the human experience, it can be so much more spiritually. Food is part of God’s plan for us and can be a powerful way to connect with the Lord and reflect on His blessings.
One of the tragedies of the original sin that often goes unnoticed isn’t just that Adam and Eve gave into temptation when they ate the forbidden fruit, they also turned their nose up on everything else God gave them. God created wonders beyond imagining for them, as it says in Genesis 1:29 
"Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.” 

But they did not appreciate that bounty. We can learn from their mistake. God intentionally created the world to support a wonderful variety of food for us to enjoy and we can celebrate Him and His creation by taking the time to fully appreciate what we have. Here are some ways to glorify God when preparing, enjoying, and cultivating food.

Gather around the table 

The most obvious way to appreciate what God has given us is to give thanks. Prayer before dinner is a traditional and perfect way to honor the blessing God has given us. But there are more ways to bring worship to a meal. One great way is to practice hospitality and charity at the table.
Everybody appreciates a meal, so invite them over. Next time you’re grilling up burgers on the BBQ, ask your neighbor if he would like one. Know an elderly person who doesn’t get out as much as they used to? Have them over for lunch, they’ll be nourished by more than the food you offer them. Call up an old friend and let them know you still care with a homemade dish. 

As we finally emerge from our COVID fear and isolation, now is the time to redefine how you want to live in this world and interact with people. I can’t think of anything more beautiful than becoming a home of warm laughter and meals. When we welcome others into our home, share our blessings with them asking nothing in return, and reflect the values of a Christian life in our actions we worship the Lord.

Reflect on your blessings

Another way to worship the Lord with food is to simply be mindful of it. Food is one of the most essential things in life, in it’s absence it is the most important thing. But in the West, we often take it for granted. I’ll spare us the typical lecture, but it’s true, most of us live very fortunate lives where we’re able to eat the food we like regularly without worry. Just a quick trip the grocery store and you’re set for the week.

So, let’s slow things down. Next time you’re shopping the produce aisle, take a moment to think on how those apples got there in the first place.  Every apple comes from a tree that was planted as a small sapling years ago. It was tended to and made a part of an orchard. Men and women working that orchard harvested that apple, collected it, packaged it, and prepared it to be shipped to a store. Every single piece of fruit, every vegetable, every cut of meat on the shelf has a similar story. One of nature and cooperation, and many hands making things possible. It’s a miracle to live in a world where we are able to have so much and are able to enjoy such access to God’s gifts.

And such a variety of gifts! Not only should you take the time to reflect on what God has given us, we should actively seek out His blessings! There are so many different types of food out there to try, so many ingredients, cuisines, and different preparations. It is a joyous thing to sample God’s creation, so be bold and try new things. Try food from a different culture, be receptive to a new spin on an old favorite, share recipes with your friends and expand your repertoire. It’s all part of God’s creation, the abundance He has gifted his children with, embrace it with gratitude.

Grow food

Speaking of the work involved in food, try growing some yourself. Planting, maintaining, and eventually harvesting a small vegetable garden can be an immensely spiritually fulfilling act. Seeing the beauty of nature unfold in your own backyard is bracing, and the act mirrors the care God has put into us. Every step of the process, from preparing good soil with fertilizer, to planting tiny seeds or plants, to tending to them regularly to keep them well watered, pruned, and pest free, takes love and faith. It might not seem like much, but even a small garden with a few of your favorite ingredients (some tomatoes, onions, a few peppers, some herbs) helps not only to put the work behind the food we enjoy into perspective, it can draw you closer to God spiritually. Carefully tending to His gifts and watching them return 10 fold - the spiritual life in microcosm.

This is something we can all do, even if you live in an apartment or condo and don’t have a yard you can plant in. A window box with a few herbs you use regularly can be enough. It is such a simple joy to pluck a few leaves of basil from the window sill to sprinkle into a soup you’re making, or to pick a sprig of thyme to give your chicken that little bit of extra flavor that makes it special. It’s good to remember that food doesn’t come from plastic packages with focus group approved logos and slogans. It comes from nature, God provides it all.

Stay mindful of the blessings God has provided for us, grateful for all we can enjoy, and ready to share that joy with others, and food can be a wonderfully spiritual part of your life.


Thank you for standing with C4i for IsraelBy: C4i

C4i update: July 2021:  

Israel Today:  Israel has a new Prime Minister and leader. Naftali Bennett now captains the good ship Israel, effectively ending Bibi Netanyahu's 12-year tenure. The fact that Bibi survived so long on the stormy seas of Israeli politics is an admirable feat. But Naftali Bennett will need fair winds and calm seas, at least in the near term, as he governs an 8-party coalition with opposing views and competing ideologies, some religious, some secular. Multi-party cabinets have a dubious history in Israel – most don't last for long!

Bennett also assumes command in the wake of several days of intense conflict and rocket barrages that forced most Israelis into bomb shelters or safe rooms in their homes. The fact that an uneasy ceasefire is in place hasn't stopped Gazans from sending incendiary balloons into Israel or Israel from responding with new bombing sorties over Gaza. So Bennett will need the Wisdom of Solomon to govern under a myriad of challenges. 

The Gaza Strip: the cauldron of conflict:  The most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas operatives in Gaza (May 10-21) demonstrated once and again that Gaza is a festering sore that refuses to heal – a problem that defies a solution. I have often thought about how Gazans are missing a glorious opportunity to improve their standard of living. With the Mediterranean Sea on their doorstep and miles and miles of beautiful white sand beaches at their disposal, peace with Israel could bring great prosperity. Imagine a coastline dotted with hotels and thousands of foreign tourists arriving daily to soak up the Gazan sun and taste Palestinian cuisine. 

But this vision of a better future seems lost on the residents of Gaza. In August 2005, Israel unilaterally closed all Jewish communities in Gaza and forced the withdrawal of some 9000 citizens. Hamas, a terrorist entity, was subsequently elected to govern Gaza, and it wasn't long before rockets were raining down on Israeli border communities. These rocket barrages have continued almost daily since then, with hardly a mention in the Western media. During the most recent conflict, the media emphasis was on the poor Palestinians suffering under incessant Israeli Air Force bombings. And, of course, there was an outcry when Israel dared to bomb a building shared by Al Jazeera and the A.P. (Associated Press). Never mind that Hamas was using the same building as a cover for their anti-Israel operations.

How can Israelis hope for peace with the Palestinians when Hamas carefully orchestrates regular conflicts for worldwide propaganda purposes? Hamas is also winning this propaganda war since the unwise have no discernment, readily empathize with the Palestinians, and have deep-seated disgust for the Jews!

Prophetic Perspective:  I believe we have entered the Last Days. World events are unfolding as if on prophetic cue. For example, we are currently going through a COVID pandemic or "pestilence," as Jesus prophesied (Matthew 24:7). In addition, unprecedented locust swarms continue to ravage crops across the Middle East, Africa, and India. 

Jesus gave these prophetic warnings nearly 2000 years ago; we are witnessing their fulfillment in real-time today. The gospel writer, Luke, described our troubled times this way: "… and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea, and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth for the powers of heaven will be shaken" (Luke 21:25, 26). 

Over the past two years, China has been experiencing rains and floods of biblical proportions. The U.S. mid-west and south-west continue to suffer under severe and worsening drought conditions resulting in inevitable livestock and crop losses that will negatively impact the food supply chain. But then,  widespread disease and famines have always been part of the prophetic equation anyway!

Israel: The Prophetic Connection:  The Prophetic Connection is now airing on three global television platforms via TCT, Daystar USA, and Inspiration TV.  TPC is available in more than 250 nations and seen by millions of viewers weekly. Thankfully, God is blessing C4i's efforts as we do our best to faithfully declare His TRUTH about Israel to the nations in these last days before Christ returns.

You can always find our updated TV schedule at:


Walk the road to EmmausBy: C4i

"Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.”

One of the most beautiful moments in the scripture follows after the resurrection. Cleopas and an unnamed disciple are walking along the road to Emmaus. It’s been three days since the crucifixion and their minds are reeling with all that has happened. First Jesus was taken from them, abused, humiliated, and crucified. Although Jesus insisted it was meant to be, it was not something every disciple could comprehend. Then on the third day they receive strange but wonderous news. The stone on Jesus’ tomb had been rolled back and his tomb stands empty, no trace of the Son of God.

What would have been rolling through their minds at that moment? Could it be true, could Jesus have returned as he promised he would? Certainly, that would be their most cherished dream, but could they dare to open their hearts to it? What if it wasn’t true? What if it was? 

It is in the midst of this inner turmoil and conflict that Jesus joins them on the trail. His identity is kept from them, they cannot recognize the man who walks beside them, instead they speak with him as if he is a stranger. He asks them questions about the source of their woe and then offers reassurances that put some fire back into the two bewildered disciples. It is only when they invite this stranger to share a room and meal with them for the night that the haze preventing them from recognizing Jesus is lifted and they are able to rejoice in his true resurrection. 

It’s a wonderful passage, one that both touches on the real humanity and uncertainty of the disciples and the kindness and patience of Jesus. Now, with the newly christened Emmaus trail, we have the chance to follow those incredible footsteps and walk the road to Emmaus ourselves. Another chance to connect with actual biblical history and remind ourselves of what the early members of the church experienced in those glorious days with Jesus.

The Emmaus trail is a new collection of paths and trails between Jerusalem and Emmaus. It is designed to replicate the path taken by Jesus and the disciples and winds through some of the most beautiful scenery the Judea Hills has to offer. 
- Photo from

The trail begins at the Saxum Visitor Center in Abu Ghosh. This center is worth a visit all on its own, including a museum celebrating the life of Jesus. The displays include interactive 4D projections of holy sites across the country and different periods of time as well as traditional maps and models of local points of interest. The center actually opened in late 2019, just in time for the COVID crisis to tank Israel’s tourism industry. As such, both the center and trail are in pristine new condition, eagerly awaiting the return of Christian pilgrims looking to connect with biblical history.

The trail is broken into four separate legs to make navigation easy and take you to some interesting locations. After a brief walk on a paved road, the trail gives way to the first major leg through the JNF Netherlands Forest, a beautiful green oasis dotted with road signs in Hebrew, English, and Dutch. From there you can continue on to a road station dating back to the Roman and Byzantine days.  A little further on down the next leg, you can find Roman milestones. These stone pillars resemble a kind of shrunken down Stonehenge and were used to mark directions and distance by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago!

Continuing on this path, you’ll soon arrive in Spring Valley. This is the most densely packed area of the hike for historical sites, so be sure to bring one of those guide maps from the Visitor’s Center! Sites to see include a massive tomb carved from a block of stone with no other materials used. A masterclass in ancient stonemasonry. You’ll also find an ancient Roman bathhouse (something that historically would have been a common site on trails between major cities and ports like this back in biblical times), the remains of an ancient vineyard with its own winepress, and more. All of this leads to the final destination on the hike, the monastery of Emmaus Nicopolis. This is a working monastery still attended to by nuns and monks surrounded by idyllic parklands and trees. A perfect place to rest after a long hike!

The Emmaus Trail is far from the only trail in Israel that allows you to retrace the steps of Jesus and his disciples, but it is an extremely pleasant option. In comparison to the ambitious 65 kilometer Jesus Trail that includes long exposed stretches, the Emmaus Trail is a brisk 30 kilometers and includes plenty of shaded portions and opportunities for rest stops. This makes it something that is easier to work into a trip to the Holy Land as you can either make a full day of it, or merely walk a portion before arranging a pickup along the way. A perfect way to connect to one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible while also taking in everything else Israel has to offer!


Heroes of the Holocaust: Sergeant Roddie “We are all Jews” EdmondsBy: C4i

Courage comes in many forms. Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds joined the US Army to serve his country and fight the Nazis. He was trained to be a courageous soldier. They taught him how to issue commands, how to storm far-off beaches, and to charge into machine gun fire without missing a step. It was the kind of courage that he needed to survive the fight he was dropped into. He was sent to the field in December 1944 mere days before the Germans launched a massive surprise counter-offensive to retake a Belgium port. You may know the operation better as "the Battle of the Bulge.” The Nazis fielded more than 450,000 troops and 1,500 tanks to halt the allies advance in the single deadliest campaign endured by the Americans in WW2. 

Edmonds was green, this was his first actual combat encounter. And while he did his duty, he was captured like so many others by the Germans and sent to Stalag IX-A, a Nazi POW camp. It was here where he would find a different kind of courage and would cement himself as a hero to his fellow brothers-in-arms and in history.

Paul Stern was a combat medic from New York and a Jew. Like Edmonds, he was also caught in the madness of the Battle of the Bulge. Nobody taken captive by the Nazis was safe, but for Jews it was an almost guaranteed death sentence. Marched for days in deep snow without proper clothing, the deaths began almost immediately. Stern watched as fellow soldiers dropped dead in the snow from exhaustion and hypothermia. When they finally arrived at their destination the situation did not improve. He and his fellow POWs were loaded into boxcars and driven for days with no food to Stalag IX-B. Jewish POWs were immediately segregated from the other prisoners, taken to a specific barracks where the conditions were purposefully more miserable and dangerous than the others. Emaciated bodies kept barely alive on starvation rations, trying to get whatever rest they could in lice infested mattresses. 

This is where Stern most likely would have died if not for a battlefield commission he earned weeks before his capture. Shortly after arrival, the Germans separated the officers from the regular enlisted Jews. The enlisted Jews were taken to a slave labor camp where they would almost certainly perish while the officers were taken to Stalag IX-A, where Stern would meet Edmonds. 

Stern had a secret he kept during this time; he could speak fluent German. While prisoners were asked if they spoke German (and in some cases German speaking prisoners would be used for clerical or other duties more appealing than slave labor), Stern kept quiet. He thought that being able to understand what his captors were saying without them realizing might be helpful. And while it didn’t ever materialize into an escape plan, it did help him survive and allowed him to understand Master Sergeant Roddie Edmond’s courage.

The US Army has guidelines for captured soldiers. These guidelines encourage soldiers to find ways to survive and escape if possible but place extra responsibility on ranking officers. In the event of capture, officers were expected to resist the enemy in anyway possible while safeguarding the care and lives of the men to the best of their ability. Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds rose to this challenge and then some. He became a leader to the men, a source of stability and strength in an oppressive situation. Respected by the men and able to speak German, he became their voice when the Germans demanded something.
After a few weeks, the Germans ordered all Jewish POWs to report in the morning. Everyone knew what that meant. They were preparing to either exterminate the Jewish population of the camp, or transfer them to an even worse slave camp where they would be worked to death. Edmonds organized their resistance.

In the morning, almost 1000 servicemen, Jew and non-Jew alike arranged in formation in front of the camp barracks, Edmonds leading at the front to report. The German officer in charge saw this and reeled on Edmonds "they cannot all be Jews!”
"We are all Jews” Edmond replied in a flat even tone.

Even when the officer drew his pistol and put it in Edmonds face his resolve didn’t break. He spoke in slow, careful German "According to the Geneva Convention, we have to give only our name, rank, and serial number. If you shoot me, you will have to shoot all of us, and after the war you will be tried for war crimes.”

Understand what Edmonds was doing here. He was openly defying the commander of the prison camp, making himself and all of his men a target in order to save his Jewish brothers-in-arms. It is one thing to find courage in a battle, to risk your life in the heat of combat. It’s another to willfully and intentionally put your own life on the line to save another’s. Especially when you are confronted with unimaginable cruelties on a daily basis and know that every single one of those cruelties could and likely would be used against you as punishment for taking a stand. But Edmonds didn’t flinch. He didn’t make excuses, he didn’t shirk, he knew what the right thing was in the moment and stuck with it. The courage of a good man.  

Miraculously, rather than make an example of him, the German officer gave up and left the group. No punishment, collective or personally to Edmonds followed. Of the 1000 servicemen who lined up that day, more than 150 of them were Jewish, and they all owed their lives to the courage Edmonds and their fellow non-Jewish comrades for shielding them with their own lives. Incredible bravery in their darkest moment. 

More than 70 years later, Stern would say he could still recall the words Edmonds used to save his life and the life of every Jew in the camp. "We are all Jews.”


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