Evangelical pastors train to fight anti-Israel extremism on trip to Holy Land

Tears welled up in Pastor Jake Taylor’s eyes as he stood in front of the Western Wall this week, his hand rubbing its smooth stone. He said he could feel the presence of God.

‘I’m a logical person,’ he told ALL ISRAEL NEWS on Monday evening after a long day of sightseeing in the Holy City, including a visit to the ancient City of David and a meeting with the deputy mayor. of Jerusalem Flower Hassan-Nahoum. But he said the highlight was at the Western Wall.

“I wrote my prayers for my children to be marked by God, then I walked towards the wall,” Taylor described. “Something happened when I put my note in the wall and started praying. I was happy to wear sunglasses because I started crying. I don’t understand this, but I could feel the presence of God.”

Taylor is one of about 30 young adult pastors, mostly from the United States, who was in Israel for 10 days this month to explore the Jewish state as part of a mission organized by Bishop Robert Stearns and his Eagles Wings Ministries. Stearns is an internationally recognized Bible teacher, musician and thought leader.

But he is also known for taking thousands of young Christian leaders to Israel over the years to learn about their roots and the modern State of Israel so they can defend Israel and the Jewish people in the face of growing anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. .

“It’s clear to me that the most direct and effective way to befriend the State of Israel is to bring young evangelical leaders here,” Stearns said. “If they don’t have the opportunity when they’re young, they usually won’t come until their 60s or 60s, and then we miss 30 years of their preaching from the pulpit and the opportunity for them to bring in their own groups. of their churches.

“The land of Israel is the best in public relations,” Stearns added. “Letting people walk here, meet people and see the facts on the ground – that’s the most powerful tool to build support for Israel.”

Stearns said he brings people to the country out of a “debt of gratitude” to the Jewish people, who brought ethical monotheism to the world, “making it a better place.” He also said he felt the need to repent of the “unspeakable horrors that have been done to the Jewish people under the banner of the cross.”

But just as important today, the world is facing existential threats from radicalized Islam and militant secularism, and “we must stand together. I believe that to fight for Israel is to fight for Israel.” future of planet Earth,” he said.

The challenges Israel faces are the challenges the world faces, Stearns said, such as how to balance religious pluralism and minority rights while maintaining deep traditional values.

“France is committing cultural suicide,” Stearns said. “The birth rate in France is not sustainable alongside the immigration of the Muslim community. You are going to have an Islamic France in the very near future. So how do you maintain the character of the state and at the same time ensure freedom of religion? and press?”

“This is the fight for democracy that is taking place in our world now.”

Stearns expressed concern over the letter sent last week by 57 progressive Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and FBI Director Chris Christopher Wray, calling on their organizations to open an investigation into the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh earlier this month.

Akleh was shot in the head during violent clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian terrorists in Jenin earlier this month. Israel said that while an Israeli soldier fired the shot that killed Akleh, it did not appear that the soldier was guilty of criminal misconduct.

“I think these members of Congress are very misinformed,” Stearns told ALL ISRAEL NEWS. “Any nation will always experience isolated and extremist acts by limited marginal members of society. But there is no doubt that in Israel the Christian community is protected and valued, and our holy places are valued.

“For members of Congress to be duped so easily is frightening,” Stearns continued. “I also condemn in the strongest terms the legislation calling for the recognition of Nakba Day. It is a tragedy that this was allowed in Congress.”

On May 16, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., introduced a House resolution recognizing the Nakba and the rights of Palestinian refugees.

“The assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh last week made it all too clear that violence and war crimes are a continuing and pervasive assault on the existence and humanity of the Palestinian people,” Tlaib said in a statement. press release presenting the legislation. “The ongoing ethnic cleansing of Israel’s apartheid government seeks to degrade Palestinian humanity and shatter the will of the people to be free.”

Stearns expressed concern about the support of the younger generation of evangelicals, who face such messages on their college campuses and in the media. For example, a study published by Tel Aviv University in June last year showed that the rate of support for Israel among evangelicals aged 18 to 29 more than halved between 2018 and 2021, from from 69% to 33.6%.

“I think educating and mobilizing the next generation of evangelicals is key,” Stearns said.

He explained that Eagles Wings Ministries fully funds these missions for young pastors. In exchange, they ask travelers to publish their trip on social networks every day, which “they do with joy”. community with you day to day.”

See the Bible in action.

Taylor said the trip woke him up as Stearns described it.

“We are people who preach the Bible for a living. We believe in the Bible, trust the Bible, and it seems irresponsible not to go to where it was written,” he explained. . “Today we stood where King David stood. To see him in action, to look at the Kidron Valley we’ve been talking about for years – now there’s a context.”

But he said his favorite part of the mission was celebrating Shabbat dinner at an Orthodox Jewish home, where he watched parents bless their children.

“I pray and bless my children, but am I super intentional?” he wondered. “Just seeing Jewish culture and how people are committed to their faith, generous and hospitable, it opened my eyes.”

Another trip participant, Pastor Lawrence Adjah of Dallas, said he expected to experience God in Israel, but going to the Western Wall was more emotional than he had anticipated.

“Something happens when people around the world recognize God together,” Adjah said. “For me, the Wailing Wall was a revealing image.”

Taylor said he now realizes that people are “ignorant” of what is really going on in Israel and that he plans to educate his church.

“I’m becoming someone who comes back as an ambassador to counter the mainstream media,” Taylor said, which he thinks he can do even through one-on-one conversations.

Adjah said his ministry operates in 35 cities around the world and plans to bring groups to Israel from each of these centers, to take them to Shabbat dinner and give them the same experience as he. had.

“My job is to be diligent in my reflections over time, to be diligent in sharing what I’ve been through here,” he told ALL ISRAEL NEWS. “And I promise to come back.”

This article originally appeared on ALL ISRAEL NEWS and is republished with permission.

Barry F. Howard