We have a simple motto at congregation Tiferet Yeshua: Love God. Love each other. Love our city (Matt. 22:38-40) When our leadership team was discussing the best way to “love our city”, God reminded me of a powerful and convicting passage in the book of James:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
James 2:14-16 ESV
I then felt God tell me: put your cooking skills and pastoral training together and hit the streets. I didn’t need to look very far for a place to start: just a few city blocks away from our congregation is Israel’s skid row, the worst area in all Israel for drugs, homelessness and prostitution. That is how Feed Tel Aviv ministry was born.
Love is an Action…
Each week, we prepare 450 healthy, home-cooked meals, the majority of which we serve out of a soup kitchen facility in the worst area of south Tel Aviv. After we finish serving warm meals at the facility, we bring sandwiches and drinks to the back alleyways where the hard-core drug addicts live who are too weak and sick to make it to our facility.
We are always asked, “Who are you? Why are you here?” That is our cue to share about the love that has brought us to the streets to serve them. We offer prayer and the word of hope to whomever is open. Whoever is willing, we offer to bring directly to a drug rehab center run by believers.
Last Minute Hope – A matter of life and death
Many of the people who volunteer with us for the first time are shocked by the squalor and suffering on the streets. It is a very difficult and dark place to serve, and the lives of the people we minister to are in constant danger from drug overdose, violence, or illness attacking their weakened bodies. Rarely are people able to commit to going to drug rehabilitation we offer them– it is a frightening and challenging step for them, if they are clear-headed enough to make that decision, and those who do usually have a spouse or a child for whom they want to turn their lives around.
I can’t tell you how many people we have prayed with and shared the gospel with. When we do, I know that it might be their last opportunity to hear life-saving truth. Several years ago, we were praying with a woman who was horribly addicted to street drugs: she broke down weeping when we prayed for her, and I will never forget her prayer asking the Lord to save her and inviting Him into her life. The next day, someone informed me that she was found on a park bench the following morning: she had died during the night. Our hearts were broken, but we also knew that that precious woman had cried out to God the night before and invited the Him into her life.
A young woman caught in drug addiction and prostitution…
Nicole showed up at our outreach every week. She would have a warm meal and the ladies who volunteer with us would always talk to her and prayed with her often. Nicole was very young and found herself caught in a vicious prostitution ring run by a powerful criminal gang that kept her enslaved through her relentless drug addiction. We shared the gospel with Nicole, and she prayed with us, but she always ended up going back out onto the street. Two weeks ago, someone who comes to our outreach center shared the sad news with us: Nicole had died of a drug overdose. Her death was reported in a small local paper.
As much as this ministry is an outreach to the neediest of the needy, the people on whom our society has given up, it is also an essential learning experience for us.
When we minister to these precious people, we touch the essence of what it means to follow Yeshua: humbling ourselves to be open to and to serve those who are in the most desperate need of His love. That is indeed what He did for us.
I think that these dark, trashy, rat-infested streets where the homeless live is not very different from how the world felt to Yeshua when emptied Himself of His glory to come down to earth to serve and save us.
Thank you for supporting this important outreach! When you do, you are with us serving food and sharing the words of life to the neediest of the needy here in Israel.
by Moti Cohen
Director of Feed Tel Aviv