On a vibrantly beautiful Shabbat
spring morning I am greeted at Netzer HaGalil Congregation with warm
smiles and loving hugs. This fellowship was planted in Nazareth in 2004 by
our own daughter congregation in Haifa, Shavei Tzion (Return to
Netzer, in Hebrew, is a sprout, shoot, offspring, young branch, or a
descendant. "New life budding in the Galilee," might be a free
poetic translation of their name. This is indeed a season of new life and
fruit in this growing congregation of 50 members. For its first dozen
years, Netzer conducted worship services and operated a soup
kitchen/food distribution ministry out of a tiny facility. If 25 people
arrived for a Shabbat service the place was packed!
Last year, in a step of faith, the congregation took over the rent contract
from a neighboring pub. It had finally closed after years of intercession
to remove the seedy joint from next to their Messianic worship center. You
can imagine the joy that accompanied remodeling and expansion. Now, the
sanctuary seats 100 easily, and its high ceiling gives a far greater
feeling of freedom and spaciousness.
As the Shabbat praise and prayers begin I am again struck by the creativity
of God in His choice of vessels. Pastoring an all-Russian Jewish
community, Vakif comes from a Muslim background among the rugged Tatar
people of Russia. He stands before his flock in a tallit (Jewish prayer
shawl), earnestly chanting prayers in Hebrew with a whole heart.
After the Torah reading I'm introduced and speak about "Expectation."
My text is Mark 2:1-12, the story of the paralytic lowered through the
roof. I ask "What do you want to happen in your life?" and mention
some causes for broken expectation: disappointment with others,
frustration with ourselves, unfulfilled dreams. During the message I see
precious faces, some with tears, some worn with weariness and worry, others
with broad smiles. Their hearts are open. I invite those who wish to renew
their expectations of life and of Yeshua's promises to stand. Many do.
Among those who come for prayer, Anna, a grandmotherly Russian Jewish
immigrant asks prayer for physical healing. Vakif cues me that she
doesn't yet know the Messiah.
As I continue praying, I see Tanya, Vakif's wife, speaking with Anna in
the back. A while later they return, announcing that both Anna and another
mature visitor, Tamara, have asked Yeshua into their hearts! I'm
overjoyed. Vakif then brings before the congregation Anna, Tamara, and a
brand new couple who've just this past week been born of the Spirit.
"Here are the new members of our Messianic family. Please welcome
them," he declares.
Such episodes are not to be taken for granted. The plight of elderly
immigrants is not an easy one. Fellowships like Netzer haGalil reach
out with compassion and hope. There is new life in the Galilee!