Full Episode 031: 2021 - An Eventful Year in the Epicenter | Inside The Epicenter

It has been an eventful year in the Epicenter. Joel C. Rosenberg and co-host Dr. Carl Moeller revisit some of the fascinating moments from the podcast this year: interviewing Andrew and Norine Brunson, discussing Joel's latest bestselling book "Enemies and Allies," and revealing some of the incredible stories behind it.

They also highlight the incredible humanitarian work of The Joshua Fund and its strategy to encourage and strengthen local churches in the Epicenter during this challenging time.

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- [Announcer] Coming up on this episode of "Inside the Epicenter."

- And it's important, just like we say, it's not either/or, Jews, God loves Jews and he's not for the Arabs. No, that's not true. He's for both, and but it's also true, God does care for the powerless and the poor and the vulnerable and the widow and the orphan. And often, I mean, this is what Jesus and the apostles and the prophets all spoke of.

- 2021, what a tumultuous year in the epicenter. Wars, rumors of wars, pandemics, a perfect year to start a new podcast. Hi, I'm Carl Moeller, executive director of the Joshua Fund, and welcome to this very special episode of "Inside the Epicenter Podcast" with Joel Rosenberg. I'm joined by Joel Rosenberg, our founder and co-host with me on this podcast. Joel, looks like you're in a beautiful location. I think we have some really exciting things going on here, don't we?

- We do. It's great to be with you, Carl for this end of the year podcast. Yes, you're right, what a year this has been. At the moment, I'm not in Israel, though I could be. You've got palm trees behind me and lovely running water and a brook, but I'm actually in Simi Valley, California, as you and I record this. I'm speaking tonight at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on my new book that came out in the fall, "Enemies and Allies," and I mean, I'm just encouraged by how "Enemies and Allies," it just in the last few months, it became a national best seller and has been more and more, we've been invited to speak about the book on all kinds of media outlets, but also at really interesting places. And the Reagan library is a fascinating place. President Reagan had both triumphs and real tragedies in the Middle East in his own presidency, and so to be able to talk about this book there and what it means for the future of Israel, of the Arab Muslim world, the Iranian threat, and of course, US relations and strategy in the Middle East, is really quite an honor, and I think it speaks well to what Joshua Fund is doing on our educational side, what all Israel news and all Arab news is doing because this book really comes out of my experiences leading the Joshua Fund on these delegations, evangelical delegations into the Middle East, and the work we're doing on the new site. So I'm excited to be in Simi Valley and looking forward to that. I think we probably will run that talk in 2022 on one of our upcoming podcasts, Lord willing.

- Yeah, I think it's gonna be fantastic, and so excited to have this opportunity. What God has opened up this year. I mean, it's been remarkable. Joel, with much to cover in this podcast, much to look back on, much to look forward to. I mean, I think God is doing something incredibly remarkable for us at this stage. So, I wondered if-

- Your opener, I mean, you're right, 20, if you dial back, even to the end of 2020 with the breakout of peace, right, the Abraham Accords, four Arab/Israeli peace treaties, and normalization treaties, we haven't seen anything like that in a quarter of a century, and never have we seen four Arab countries within weeks of each other make peace with Israel. That's huge and it's having ongoing implications. We've talked a lot about it, as we've covered the "Enemies and Allies" book and these things. But of course, we had, in May, you'll recall where we had 4,500 rockets fired at Israel from Palestinian terrorists in Gaza that, you know, most people go through their whole life, nobody shoots a missile at them. I've lived in Israel seven years and I've lost track of how many rockets and missiles. I think we're somewhere over 10,000, just in the last couple of years. So probably at 15,000 or more since I moved to Israel. Think about that, that's just crazy. And then you look at Iran just potentially now, weeks or months away from able to build a bomb. As you and I record this, the world is trying to reopen negotiations in Vienna with Iran, but, you know, there doesn't seem to be any hope at the moment of a diplomatic solution. I'm not saying God can't do it. And a diplomatic solution, if it's a good one, is better, much better, vastly better than war. But right now, as we end 2021, the chances of a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear threat is, those chances are dropping and the chances of war are actually growing. So those are the things that concern me deeply.

- Yeah. Well, one thing is for sure. That 2021 proved that the epicenter is indeed the epicenter, and that there is much of world history hanging on what's taking place in Israel and the neighboring countries right now.

- That's right. So look, we'll just think of a couple of other examples. Just, if the things you and I just mentioned weren't enough, right, Dayenu, this alone would be enough, we say in Hebrew, we had the fall of Benjamin Bibi Netanyahu and his government being the longest serving prime minister in the history of Israel. We had the fall of Donald J. Trump in a highly contested, still contentious presidential election, and thus the rise of Naftali Bennett, a fairly unknown to the rest of the world prime minister, a young prime minister, 49 years old in Israel. The rise of, by the way, the youngest prime minister in the history of Israel, and then Joe Biden becoming president, the oldest elected president in the history of the United States. That's just a lot of change, right? A lot of change, and I think your idea of launching a podcast and calling it "Inside the Epicenter," was a stroke of genius, an inspiration from the Lord, because look, I'm stunned, I will tell you this. I've loved doing this with you, Carl, and I think there's, this is the gift that keeps on giving in terms of material, but when you and your team informed me that we've had 2.57 million views and listens in just the first year, over two and a half million? That is just a shocking-

- Staggering.

- Number to me, and it tells me there's a lot more interest in credible, biblical worldview understanding and analysis of what's happening in the Middle East and North Africa than even I would've realized, and this is what I do.

- Yeah, well, it's absolutely staggering, as you said. And honestly, another thing that our producers told us earlier was that we're in the top 3% of all podcasts worldwide. I don't know about you, but if I get a 97% grade on my test, I feel pretty good, and I feel like God has just opened up this opportunity, like you said, for literally millions of listens to the podcast that we have here, and I wanna just encourage all of our listeners to continue to share, and spread the, use social media or whatever you use to share this podcast link with everyone, because I do believe, Joel, what you speak about, what we have our guests speak about this year has been so instructive and so helpful for people to interpret what's going on. I mean, we often say we look at the Middle East, and we say, what in the world is going on in this most crucial of places around the world? And I think this podcast really helps people see that.

- I agree, and I love podcasts. I mean, you know, a lot of people, you know, I mean, young people tend to love them, but I think older people, older, I'm sort of maybe in the middle, 54 at the moment. But one of the things I find in the fast-paced, global environment is that I don't, of course, I'm not in the United States. So I can't just sit and watch television or listen to a radio program from people, even that I trust, much less the other side in real time. It's just not possible. So podcasts at least allow me on one side of the planet to listen to what other people are saying and thinking on the other side of the planet, not just West, but East as well. And what we're finding, I think, is that we're seeing multiple people from multiple countries, not just the United States and Canada. I'm not sure if we have an update on how many countries, but if we don't, when we kick off in 2022, we'll get that number. But what I think what we're finding is people who are hungry to know, and to understand, you can't put them in one city or one town. Wherever they are, the question is, how can they find credible, biblically-based teaching analysis, understanding of what's happening and why it matters, and how we should pray and how we should respond. If you're a pastor in Africa or a ministry leader in Asia or wherever, we hope that we can be a resource for you, even if you're the only person in your country or in your town. But if you've got English speakers that you know that are saying, yeah, I actually don't know whom to trust, right, well, the media is so biased, and so many ministries focus on one side or the other, but trying to get an understanding of the big picture, and so many people are avoiding the topic of prophecy. I think we'll do more topics, discussions of prophecy in 2022, I'm excited about that, but I think it's not healthy for the church to avoid, so much of the church being avoiding the topics when those prophecies deal with Israel and the Middle East primarily, and so much of this stuff is coming to play right now.

- Yeah, yeah. Well, I'll tell you what. I know that we're gonna, later in this podcast, talk about the things that we're leaning into and looking forward to for 2022. I know that there's so many exciting dimensions of what this podcast and the whole Joshua Fund ministry is looking forward to in 2022. We wanna get to that, but I wanna, if you don't mind, for just a minute, I thought it might be good for us to kinda look back over the highlights, your highlights over this podcast year, kinda the things that we've covered, and maybe highlight a couple of those things for everybody. I've got my list, and maybe after you share yours, I'll share mine and see how much overlap we have there.

- Well, on this podcast specifically, one of my favorite conversations this year was when you and I sat down with Andrew and Norine Brunson. Their story is so incredible. He being a pastor, arrested and imprisoned for two years by the Turkish government and the United States government at the highest levels, not just the secretary of state, not just the vice president, but also president of the United States pressing, pressing, pressing the Turkish leadership and particularly Turkish president, would-be sultan Recep Erdogan, pressing him, you've gotta release this evangelical pastor. He's done nothing wrong, you don't have a case. He's an American citizen. You're supposed to be an American ally. You're a member of NATO and you're holding him hostage. Now let him out. And the stress, the trauma that Andrew went through almost broke him. In many ways, it did break him, actually, but God was merciful. Norine, that the pressure, spiritual warfare, the emotional pressure of seeing her husband imprisoned, and in danger of going to prison for the rest of his life with no way out, that was just an amazing story and how God took care of them, but also superintended a lot of geopolitical, legal, economic events. The Economist magazine described Andrew Brunson as the most expensive prisoner or hostage in the history of Europe. You had Andrew Brunson's, because of the economic sanctions that President Trump imposed, it costs Turkey $40 billion, and they still wouldn't let them out until eventually. But that story I thought was so important. I tell that story in "Enemies and Allies," and of course, I refer, as we did in the podcast, to Andrew's book, "God's Hostage," which I highly recommend. But that's a wonderful example, I think, in what this podcast can do. People that you and I know personally, that we have an opportunity to sort of take our listeners into a conversation with people whom God has chosen to put at the center of the center of the fights, right? Arguably, Andrew Brunson might be the most famous evangelical at least American evangelical in the Middle East because of this crisis, and it drew an enormous amount, a movement, really, a global movement of prayer for Turkey and for the the broader Muslim world. So I hope that you and I can do more interviews. I've loved the conversations we've had, laying out what is an evangelical and why do evangelicals love Israel? Where's that coming from biblically and is God done with the Jewish people or not done? And why do we say he's not done, but also, one of my favorite ones was, do evangelicals hate Palestinians and Arabs? Of course, the answer's no. But there's a lot of people that think the answer is yes. And so, so covering some of those, I would almost say, primmer, basic, like 101, 201-type topics, and to build on those, I thought it has been really encouraging, but I look forward also to doing interviews like we did with Andrew and Norine because I think we uniquely have an opportunity to kind of bring people into the room with us. And that was a really fascinating conversation, one absolutely worth sharing. I think it's one of the best shows that God let us do this year.

- Yeah, no, I totally agree, and I have some other ones that also-

- Yeah, what's on your list?

- We haven't released. My list, I have, and take this well. A couple of them are not with you.

- Good.

- On the podcast. Number one on that list was when we heard Lynn's story. When Lynn gave her a testimony and, and how, you know, she, along with you, were part of the founding of the Joshua Fund, and really, you know, in so many of the important, crucial and significant aspects of the Joshua Fund work and your work with kings and princes and sultans and sheiks, Lynn's been right there, and to get that perspective from Lynn was, I think, really, really rich and rewarding.

- I agree.

- And then also to hear, I remember the podcast-

- But you know, Carl, I can't say that my wife's podcast was my favorite. It's true, but you know. I had to go with somebody else, but I'm glad that you said it.

- I wanted to make sure you were covered there, Joel. I wanted to make sure that we didn't go around, you know, and talk about our favorite episodes and not include your wife. So I want to make sure you were covered.

- [Joel] I appreciate it.

- But I also really enjoyed the podcast we did with Jonah and Lior from our humanitarian aid work in Israel, and so many of those stories, Jonah, as a young boy had the opportunity to participate in. And Lior, really has been sort of a driving force in our ability to reach into literally thousands of families across Israel to provide that humanitarian relief, that food aid that they need. Sometimes, we provide clothing as well and other things, and I was really moved. I was really moved, at points in that podcast, to just understand what God does in using the simple gift of love through humanitarian aid, to bless Israel and the neighboring countries, and that really blessed me. So.

- Yeah. Well, I think that's a good point, and I think that when we hear from the staff of what they're seeing on the ground, we hear a wonderful perspective, often, I'm giving kind of a global 30,000 foot, or if I dive in it's sometimes though I'm diving in and I'm taking our listeners into the most powerful and influential people in Israel, in the region, because they matter to God too, and what they do, what they decide affects everybody. But when we talk to our field staff, our ground staff, they're often dealing with the most powerless and poor people in society. Not always, but often because that's a large part of what we do, and this is God's heart, too, and it's important just like we say, it's not either/or, Jews, God loves Jews and he's not for the Arabs or, you know, no, that's not true. He's for both and, but it's also true, God does care for the powerless and the poor and the vulnerable and the widow and the orphan. And often, I mean, this is what Jesus and the apostles and the prophets all spoke of. In fact, we remembered, right, the famous Jerusalem Council where they give the blessing to Paul and say, this is how you should handle some of these controversial issues. But we also want you to remember, you gotta care for and remember the poor, that's important. But it's also important that leaders, at every level of society, governor, business, entertainment, whatever, these are people that God cares about, too. They don't need a bag of food or a bag of diapers or clothes. They don't have any material issues, but they have spiritual needs and they have other issues. And I think the Joshua Fund, in ways that we did not think of it, honestly, 15 years ago, when we started, God has been leading us in so many different sectors and strata in Israel and the region. And I did not see that coming when we started, but we should do more interviews with the staff. That's true, absolutely.

- Well, I think we will lean into that, and as I said, you know, some of the ways in which God has given us this year as a foundation is really helpful to set the stage for why those things matter and how those two different parts of the work that we do are very important. The work that you do with the political and social and religious leadership of these countries, speaking the truth in love to those folks that have the opportunities to create whole environments for people to live and work and move in, and then also working with the poor, working with those that have no power, have no power politically, but have the heart of God.

- Amen.

- I love being the hands and feet of Jesus. That's one of the biggest blessings that I get as the executive director of the Joshua Fund, to really see how the investments that people make in our ministry get lived out in ministry to pastors and poor people and both Arabs, Israelis, and those in the neighboring countries as well. Hey, I wanna take a quick break right now, Joel, and just give a couple of things that we're gonna take a quick break on, and when we come back, I want us to really look at what God did this year and how he's guiding us and directing us towards the future. So in a second, we'll come back and hit those things.

- Hi, this is Joel Rosenberg. If you've enjoyed this podcast, let us know. Go to joshuafund.com and use the Contact Us form to provide feedback. Likewise, if you'd like this podcast to continue, you can donate through our giving page and you can find that link in the upper right hand corner at joshuafund.com.

- Well, Joel, I am thrilled to say that 2021 was, while a crazy year on so many fronts, politically, socially, and even the, you know, amidst wars and pandemics, it was a very significant and positive year for the Joshua Fund. We saw so amazing, so many amazing measures of success and the way that God used this podcast and various other ways for people to get involved in the message in the ministry of the Joshua Fund, I'm just blown away. I know that some of the things that you've seen, have been part of that, as well. So, you know, look back a little bit on 2021, as we close out this year with this podcast, what are some of the highlights for the ministry year that you've seen?

- Yeah, well, let's start with, let's start by reminding our listeners that the Joshua Fund has several different components to it, right? So what you're tuned into, this podcast, is part of our educational mission. The question is, how do we help educate and mobilize the church around the world, certainly North America, but all over the world to understand the biblical basis of God's heart for Israel and her neighbors and our obligation, our responsibilities in Christ to bless and to minister and to encourage, first of all, our brothers and sisters in Christ in the epicenter, but also those who don't know the Lord yet and need to hear. How are they gonna believe if they haven't heard? How are they gonna hear if nobody tells them? How is somebody gonna tell them unless they're sent and how are they gonna be sent unless they're prayed for, recruited, trained, funded, and so forth. So education is a big part of this. And again, there are some, there are other wonderful brothers and sisters all over the world who do really get this stuff. And we've been having such a wonderful time partnering with them, ministering with them, but also, trying to figure out how can we equip them? How can we provide resources? The podcast is one of them, but one of the things that has really encouraged me, 'cause it's gone so far past my expectations is a couple of years ago when we hired a new director of education and communications, a great young guy, Chris Free, he kind of, as he began to learn what we do and in the more nuances, he had a good understanding from the outside. But once he got in, he sorta went into the vault, right, and he started saying, wow, we got, we got like thousands of hours of conference videos of really sharp, solid Bible teachers and great evangelicals. We have Arab believers, we have Jewish believers, we have believers from all over the planet that we've done epicenter conferences in the Philippines. We've done them in Germany, we've done them in Jerusalem, we've done them all over the United States. He goes, a lot of this material is sort of collecting dust as it were, in the vault, but, or my wife might say the vault from New Jersey, but anyway. You probably, too, Carl. But this material is evergreen, right? Yeah, some of it has to do with the actual event in that town, in that city, at that time. But a lot of these are important concepts. How can we, you know, dust it off and cut it up and get it out there in short form video online? Just a couple of things. So we've had 230,000 hours of video watched now by Chris and his colleagues sort of going, what are the gems here? Let's cut it up and make it digestible, but let's get it out there. That's 6.8 million views. Some of these are of conference clips from 5, 10, 15 years ago, almost. And to think of people watching more than, well, almost a quarter of a million hours worth of this material in 5, 6, 7 minute bites tells me something, and it tells me that there is much deeper hunger for solid Bible teaching and explanation of what's going on. Not just the moments to moment, what's going on in Iran, what's going on with it? You know, sometimes, I've spent so much time on that that Chris came along and reminded me some of the basic teachings that you've already done, in your mind, you've already covered that, but it's new to a lot of people. So that's just, I think an area in our educational ministry that I didn't know we would see that level of success. I was for him doing it, but I just didn't see that kind of response.

- You know, it's amazing. We've had a growth on many, many fronts on this kinda thing. We're seeing the growth, you've you mentioned it about the videos, and of course, the podcast we talked about earlier. You know, we've seen more and more people signing up for our newsletters and participating with us financially, who've stepped into the gap over the last year. We had over 20% more households.

- Wow.

- Growth in numbers of donors. I don't know if anybody-

- 20% at any time in a ministry is good, but in a pandemic, it's kind of surprising.

- It's crazy, and I really believe that people have come out of the woodwork as we've been able to expose more of them to some of the material that's there, who've really said, yes, I want to align my heart with what God is doing through the Joshua Fund, and in the epicenter, you know, many, many of us in the US don't have the opportunity. I know myself, it's been a real struggle. I have not yet been able to go to Israel over this last year, and over the last year, I think a lot of people said, hey, we can't go, but we wanna give, and we wanna stand with people who are doing the work that you guys are doing.

- Right, and you always have to adapt our motto, which is learn, pray, give, and go. And now, it's sort of like, learn, pray, give, and learn, pray, give. Like, going is not an option at the moment.

- It's not necessarily an option right now. But giving and that, over the last year, we had, I mean, maybe you didn't even know this number, but over the last 12 months, we had an increase of over 1.1 million dollars given to the Joshua Fund over the prior 12 months. Now, honestly, Joel, in the midst of a pandemic, I would never have expected the generosity of God's people to be so remarkably demonstrated, and I believe it's because God is doing something remarkable with and through the Joshua Fund and through the work that you know, he's called you to do, making this more known. I know, I wanna talk about some of the actual ministry things that we've done in Israel and in the neighboring countries, but those are some big wins that I see, evidence of what God is doing.

- And I think in an interesting way, it may be tied to the pandemic. Okay, so we're living through an actual biblical contraction, okay, right? Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24, Luke 21, also in Mark 13, birth pangs, right? Well, what are the signs that you're getting closer to the return of Christ and the end of days, right? And one of them in Luke 21 is plagues, right? You're gonna to have just horrific diseases rampaging across the world. This is a contraction, right? And with every contraction then comes a release. But this contraction, which is, we've had minor releases, and then we go like, Israel has, we went through four lockdowns and we would lock down and then we'd have the contraction, then we'd release, and every time you've tried to schedule your trips to come see us and be part of it, in the release moments, but no sooner have you booked and a new contraction comes.

- That's exactly right.

- And God cutting off the ability for evangelicals to step into the land, I think is having a corresponding effect, with people saying, listen, the strategy that God, God, not us, but God gave the Joshua Fund is the right one, which is how do we fund, encourage and strengthen national believers, right, people who live in the country, not that we're opposed to the work of missions, but strengthening national believers, pastors and ministry leaders is critical in every country because local people are chosen by God to reach their people, right? And the entire strategy of the Joshua Fund is how do we strengthen and fund as well as pray for and encourage the local church? And now we see proof that the strategy was always right, but it's proof when nobody can get in, who's a foreigner. Like I'm a citizen, Lynn is a citizen. Lior is a citizen, Jonah's a citizen. So we can live there and we can leave and we can come back. We have our own hoops to jump through in terms of government, you know, testing and vaccinations and all those issues. But you can come, and this is, it's suddenly, you and I cut our teeth on a project in college of taking Bibles and doing evangelism in the former Soviet Union, a country that was officially closed to the gospel, but was just beginning to open in 1986, when we went. And you, for nine years, led a ministry called Open Doors. You were the North American branch of the Brother Andrew Ministry, which was entirely based on how do you minister to people in countries that you mostly can't send a missionary, you can't go in, maybe you can visit, but you can't really, how do you strengthen the local believers? Well, suddenly, because of COVID, the entire world is a closed country.

- Yes, that's right.

- Now they open and close and open and close, but the point is, we are at a moment where if you're not running a ministry that's investing in local believers, you're stuck because your entire model is based on sending foreigners into a land that you pretty much can't do right now. Now we hope it will reopen, but every time we hope, we're Lucy and the football at this point. We just keep landing on our backs.

- Lucy and the football is great. I actually feel that way, directly, you know, when we were talking yesterday earlier about going this time around, and now this newest lockdown has come about because of these variants and various other things, and I do believe that God is using this in unique ways. You know, one wind that I want to highlight for our listeners is that we've adapted what we used to do in person for all of those local pastors, over two thirds to three quarters of all the leadership of Messianic congregations in Israel and the West Bank would come once a year to a conference that we would run in Israel called Preach the Word. And we did this for Messianic congregations, and we did it for Arabic congregations in the West Bank areas, and these conferences were remarkable times of encouragement and blessing and teaching, but of course, with COVID, we were not able to do that the last two years. And this past year, we were able to produce a series of remarkable videos for use in the same groups. Now it doesn't take place at a beautiful hotel giving people a refreshing weekend, but it is still a blessing to be able to give tools to the very people that we care most about, and I consider it a win to be able to deliver these evergreen teaching videos of expository teaching, and also, you know, the expositional seminars that we do to train pastors in how to teach the Word effectively. That ministry of the Joshua Fund, Preach the Word, has not stopped, even though we've had to change the means and methods that we use to get it done. And I consider the virtual development of the Preach the Word material a real win for the Joshua Fund. We're gonna use that material for years to come, even when we get a chance to redo these conferences in person again.

- Yeah, that's a great point, Carl. I think that's a good one to spend, to camp out on for a few more moments. The Preach the Word/Shepherd the Flock retreats that we've done over 10 years now. This is the 10th year, have been very encouraging. First of all, it wasn't our idea. We were asked 11 years ago, I guess, by some pastors, hey, you know, would you guys ever consider pulling people together and just having a time of worship and prayer and fellowship, but also teaching the Word? And we're in an environment where we don't have to teach. We can come with our wives and be taught, be refreshed. We don't have to do anything, we just have to be there. We're like, well, sure. Now it was staggering to be asked that because it seemed like, it would've been presumptuous if we thought, well, why don't we come teach you? You know, I just seem like, not so much, but you know, Israel is a different culture, right? Obviously, and the Palestinian authority is a very different culture than other communities like in Asia or Africa where if a top leader says, hey, we're gonna invite people to come, come listen to these people from the outside, there's a great level of respect and even deference, perhaps. If you telling Israeli or a Palestinian, hey, we're coming to teach you, like good luck. You know? So, but that level of trust of doing it and keeping it apolitical, we're not talking about the land in terms of the divisions. We're not talking about Netanyahu or Yasser Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas, or any of these other issues, which I talk about in another context, maybe. This was a very healthy environment. And again, we weren't foisting expository preaching on anybody, but it's been a teaching style and a learning style that we have benefited from enormously. So the first year just going through the book of Titus, right, it's only three chapters, but just going through it verse by verse, chapter by chapter, not only was it encouraging, it was about leadership, right, but it's also was an approach to studying and teaching the Word of God that is not that common, actually in Israel. And then the next year, we just went through James, right. James, written by the brother of Jesus, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, with so much wisdom, just verse by verse, chapter by chapter, let's just go through it, and walk through it. What does the text say? We did 1 Thessalonians, and now, we've been on this seemingly never ending series on Acts. Well, we'll just do two or maybe three chapters a year, and we're six years in now. And of course, we look at the life of Paul. He was literally locked down. You know, we say, oh, locked down. Well, we're not literally in chains, though it feels that way sometimes. But what great, healthy stories, right, from the Word of God, principles that we have been blessed by and that we hear so many, we get so many emails and personal conversations of pastors and ministry leaders and their wives who say, this is just refreshing. Thank you. Like, we feel like you're here to serve us, not to lead us, but to serve us, and we appreciate it. We know people, right, well, you haven't met some of them yet, but who tell us, we mark that conference date, that retreat date on our calendars, like it's Christmas, like we were counting down. So now for the last two years, not to be able to do it has been disappointing, but as you say, the technology and the team that God has assembled has allowed us, each of the teachers, myself included, to record those messages and sort of bonus material, like discussions that we have about specific topics and the responses we're getting are really encouraging. But I do hope, I do pray, and I ask people to pray in 2022, that the Lord would lift this thing and we could meet because, you know, fellowship is so central to the biblical model and God's heart for us. We're relational people, and we're also starving for the opportunity to be together.

- Yeah. I mean, I couldn't agree more. I'm starving to meet some of the friends that I've made over this year, mostly know me as a Zoom box.

- That's right.

- On their screen, and that's it. You know, another win that I really want our listeners to understand and we mentioned it before, is the humanitarian aid team or our Amutah, the nonprofit we have in Israel, has grown this year. I mean, we have seen, we've grown our staff, we've added a new assistant director there, who's somewhat familiar to you.

- Near and dear to my heart, yes, my third son, Jonah. I recuse myself from that conversation, by the way. For the record.

- You did indeed.

- But-

- You did indeed.

- I'm glad that he was hired.

- I think our listeners will be pleased to know that Jonah has served in the IDF and he is a man of remarkable skill, just got married, and his wife is also really familiar and very much ingrained in the Joshua Fund ethos of blessing Israel and the neighbors. She's worked on the West Bank. She's fluent in Arabic. Of course, Jonah's fluent in Hebrew and they're both fluent in English, and I think Cassandra is also fluent in Spanish.

- She is, yeah.

- Which is a remarkable thing, as well.

- Cuban background.

- Yeah, yeah, no, she's-

- Amazing.

- We just spent the Thanksgiving holiday with her and her mom and her brother, and of course, Jonah, and the rest of our family out in Denver with my folks, and it was just such a lovely, you know, fusing of these families. And we didn't know when they were starting to come together, as God brought them in a courtship that they were also then gonna be able to, we didn't even know that they were going to live in Israel, like, you know, Jonah for awhile, because of the Army, we just thought, maybe I need a break, you know? But his heart for serving the people and serving the church and serving the needy in Israel has been really, a wonderful process to watch him grow in the Lord and in his own maturity. And Cassandra is a godsend. We told her, we were praying for you. We just didn't know it was you, but we've been bringing away other people, if God, you know, just Lord, just put the right woman in Jonah's path, and vice versa. And so, yeah. When you see your kids walking in truth, right, just like the apostle John, you just rejoice. It's such a joy, yeah.

- No greater joy, no greater joy.

- But the impact we're having with the humanitarian relief, you know, I'm not sure if our listeners realize, because of COVID, for all the other restrictions, our team was, they were considered essential workers, so they didn't get locked down at all. They were the freest people in the entire nation of Israel, able to drive vans or trucks worth of food, and, you know, these delivery make these deliveries and help the local churches, congregations, continue their monthly caring for the poor and needy and the vulnerable not only without missing a step, but also it being more urgent than ever. Like, you know, if you're a shut-in, or let's say you're a young single mother, or maybe you're a widow, a war widow, because of terror or war, and you're trying to hold down a job, but raise a few kids and, and your job gets shut down, maybe you were in the tourism business, maybe you worked at a restaurant and now nobody's coming, or they can't even open. What are you supposed to do? And the fear factor starts rising. You know, we've talked about this, Carl, I don't know if we did it on the podcast, but I think that any of our listeners who have a good income or some significant savings, or a job that's not affected by COVID is having a very different emotional reaction to the last two years than someone who has no margin of error, probably is living in some debt and has a job that got shut down or eliminated entirely because of COVID, that's a scary place to live. And it means a ministry like this all the more, how can we help? And I think your heart for, we already are caring for some 25, 2600 families in Israel, but yes, I think your heart to see that grow is important.

- Yeah, no question. I look at what, you know, what we've seen God do in our humanitarian aid work is remarkable beyond whatever we're doing in our daily lives. I mean, most people don't realize that we have 21 distribution centers throughout 41 towns and reach all over Israel and the West Bank. And, you know, it's remarkable as well, is that over 20,000 families last year received some form of our assistance on the humanitarian aid work. I mean, it's a really beautiful, beautiful way that God is using the Joshua Fund to expand the kingdom. Now we're very careful-

- Just to be clear, just to be clear, I want people to hear those numbers. 21 different distribution centers, 21. What does that mean? Those are all church congregations, either Messianic and evangelical Jewish or evangelical Arab or a combo platter, it depends on the congregation. So we don't have our own, mostly, you know, we don't distribute the food directly. We provide local congregations that have been vetted that we form partnerships with, we provide and enable them so they and their volunteers can be the hands and feet of Yeshua, of Jesus, caring for, in the local language, with their local neighbors. Nobody knows the Joshua Fund brand, the Joshua Fund logo is not on the bags, it's not on our trucks, why? 'Cause we're not trying to distract. We're the funders, we purchase the stuff, we supply it to the local 21 different congregations, but they're doing the work.

- Great point. Great point.

- And you're right. Some of these congregations are ministering in multiple towns and villages in their area. So you mentioned, I think 40 or 41 different communities are being served. That's just an interesting thought, right? Now, it's not nearly enough, right? There's many more, there's an enormous need. Poverty is growing and rising because of the COVID situation, but I just thought it was important to slow down for a second and just have people hear that. And two numbers you also use and I use, I think we were doing, caring for about 2,600 families a month, roughly, but there are occasions like on a Passover celebration or a Hanukkah celebration, by the way, happy Hanukkah as we're celebrating-

- Happy Hanukkah!

- This week, or at least the week we're recording, and that, there are families that receive a special care and packages at holiday seasons. So I think you mentioned there was over 25,000 families total that have received some sort of care, and let's add one more. Tell people about what's happening in the pro-life ministry with young moms.

- Sure. Well, we have a partner that we work with in Israel, who literally serves expectant single mothers who have a crisis pregnancy, not only with helping them through the trauma and counseling them through that experience, but also-

- To keep the baby.

- Taking care of them-

- Some of them-

- To keep the baby. Yeah, to keep the baby, and they stand with those women and their babies for the next year, and we partner with them to provide resources about $15-1800 a year's worth of material help to that mother and her baby for that year, to provide them, you know, the basics of diapers and formula and various other things, as well as the encouragement to keep their child. I think it's a remarkable dimension of our humanitarian work, to recognize that humanity begins in the womb and life is there, and we get a chance to stand with this incredibly important work that's going on in Israel. I consider that a big win this year.

- Yeah. Sadly, abortion is not even a political football in Israel. There's really not a major pro-life movement there. Every girl who serves in the Israeli army gets two free abortions because they just sort of expect everybody to be sleeping around and to need this. And so, even though there's not a political movement to push back at that, you know, it's not a political decision.

- It's God's heart.

- It's Psalm 139, where God says, you know, David says, "You knit me together in my mother's womb. "You knew every day before it began, "like you care about me and, "and you cared about me before I came out of the womb," that heart, that biblical heart of caring for mothers in need and those babies that are being knit together so beautifully, so wondrously, that's a biblical calling. And while we don't seem to have any ability to affect the political culture, we are standing with those moms and those babies. and that is, I agree, I think that is one of the most precious things. We don't talk about that much, maybe we should share more about in the year ahead, maybe do a program on that entirely, because it's so, I don't think most evangelicals who love Israel realize that Israel's so liberal in this area.

- So liberal.

- That they just, they don't seem to care about these babies, and therefore we have to.

- And we do, at the Joshua Fund. Yeah, no, we do at the Joshua Fund. We stand alongside that organization and our partners, they're doing that great work. You know, I did want us to also talk about another part of our work, the neighbors, the neighboring countries. We call them the neighbors, you know, love your neighbors. And we love our neighbors and what God has enabled the Joshua Fund to do last year, again, during a time of COVID is extremely remarkable. And I just want to thank you, Joel, for having the vision right at the beginning of the Joshua Fund, that we were not just gonna be about Israel, but we were also gonna be like Jesus, and be concerned about the neighboring countries, those that represent the five countries surrounding Israel. Many people would refer to them as enemies, but we know that God's heart for those countries is huge. And we've been able to do some really neat things this past year.

- Yeah, and you know, what's interesting about that, Carl, in just chatting with the team that runs that side of things, which, you know, I don't wanna get into some of the operations details are very sensitive, but it's a different team. They have to operate different because if they were known to be connected to Joshua Fund or Joel and Lynn Rosenberg, you know, it wouldn't be good for them. But I would say that what's interesting is, even though COVID has been so bad in the region, somehow in God's sovereignty, that team that we love so much and we fund and encourage and help weren't blocked from any country. Now Syria's still so catastrophic, chaotic. It's, the Arabic word is , chaos. You can't go into Syria as somebody from the outside, but we fund, I think we fund 80 pastors and ministry leaders in Syria. Now we can't go see them, but some of them can come out to a neighboring Arab country and we can minister to them, and if I recall from some of the email correspondence that you and I have been having with that team, just thinking about they got, I think, every other country, they got to go and minister. I think one of the countries that was just at the end of, tail end of 2020, but, but God did not block those doors. And so, as hard as it has been for you and for our other North American team not being able to come into Israel, the startup nation, the high tech nation, whatever, these other countries have allowed our teams to come in and minister, minister to women, too, not just pastors themselves, but to Muslims who come to faith in Christ and trying to figure out their way, but also, retreat specifically for women, that was not something that we were able to do at the beginning of the Joshua Fund 15 years ago, because we didn't have a woman on staff at that time, on the neighbors staff, who could go in, and God has beautifully enabled that in recent years, and we're seeing just the consistency of those team members just being able to do a great job and it's so, so encouraging.

- Yeah, it's absolutely amazing, Joel. As you know, we did a women's conference this year for the first time to encourage, equip and bring many women from a Muslim background to a situation, to a place where they could be encouraged. And I tell you, while we have to be extremely secure in our conversation around this, it is one of the most beautiful and remarkable things that God is doing in this area. I won't even tell anyone where that conference was or with whom it was, but it is remarkable to share with people that God is moving. He's doing something in these countries that we would not believe it, as the prophet Habakkuk said, "If we were even told and shown it with our own eyes."

- I agree, and I think, and it's just important to underscore that yes, generally speaking, men shouldn't be doing direct ministry with women. Jesus did, but Jesus is the Messiah. He's the Son of God. We're not worrying about him falling into sexual sin, something, so, okay, that's... But look at the women that followed Jesus, that were disciples, they didn't become apostles, but they were definitely disciples. They're the ones that didn't run away when Jesus went to the cross, they're the ones that came to the empty tomb or to the tomb, to weep, to mourn the loss. Many of these women in the gospels, the text tells us, provided for their own travel and ministry out of their own means. They had enough resources financially to enable them to travel, and they obviously had the support of their husbands, or they were widows in cases or single. But that's, we look at the life of, the richness of ministry among women in the gospels and the book of Acts, and we have to realize that often women are much more open to the gospel message and wanting to be faithful followers, and sometimes they have more time. They're also much more relational, generally speaking, than men, generally speaking. And so if you don't have a balanced ministry where you're equipping and strengthening and encouraging the women, you're really missing God's big picture.

- It's an opportunity.

- And a healthy, godly woman becomes a great asset to her family, whether they know the Lord or whether they don't yet.

- Well, I would encourage any of our listeners to check out some of the archives of stories we have on the Joshua Fund website to reflect that very thing. You know, where women have taken the gospel to their family, or, you know, bring the opportunity to connect with their family in a unique way. You know, this is something I'd also want to share with our listeners about the neighbors' work. You know, we talk about humanitarian aid and we can't do humanitarian aid in the same way that we do in Israel in these countries. But we've been able to stand with some partners who've been able to help rebuild Lebanon after such a devastating explosion over a year ago now, but all of this year, we've been standing with partners there in that country to help rebuild and to encourage and equip people who are really desperate for hope in the midst of those crises. And we see the gospel going forward in very powerful ways in these countries, and as you mentioned, you know, we'd love to share more in detail, but security prevents us from giving more than just an overview on those things.

- Security and unfortunately, time, but this has been a great podcast to wind up this year, and I just want to tell people, listen, God is on the move, and I hope you're hearing in some of these just little snippets that you're getting a picture of how encouraged we are that even in a region that is so, been so beset with war and trauma and persecution and genocide, just a few years ago, in several of the countries we minister in, Syria and Iraq, for example, to see the implosion of modern Lebanon, to see the troubles throughout the region, to see that is painful, but to see God moving, to see the church responding in love and kindness and compassion, and in the power of the Holy Spirit in these dark places, seeing people listening to the gospel, maybe they don't always say yes yet, but they're listening. More Muslims, more Jewish people are listening and asking questions about the gospel message, about the identity of Jesus, whether he's the Messiah, the Christ that was promised in the scriptures or not, that's amazing. And then the numbers of Muslims and Jews that are coming to faith are encouraging. The number of people that are attending church and hungry, look, it's encouraging, and I don't think, I think one of the reasons the podcast is finding this audience of two and a half million plus is because it's hard to find people who talk about this stuff and who know it, who are living it, and I wanna thank you all who are listening first for being a subscriber and a listener to the podcast. If you're not a subscriber, please subscribe, but also those who are financially contributing to the Joshua Fund, because everything we're talking about, unfortunately, it's not free, and the needs are growing. Therefore, the expenses are growing, and then we see opportunities of ways to bless and encourage and strengthen and minister that we can't yet do because we don't have the resources, and that's where the million dollar increase this year. But I wanna thank you. I wanna thank you for praying. I wanna thank you, well, for learning and praying and giving and I'm sorry that you can't go, but that's sovereign, that's God, that's not us. We would take you if we could, but we can't yet. But I wanna encourage you to pray about maybe a really significant end of the year gift, if you can. Look, many of you are struggling, too. We get it. We're not trying to be, pressure you. We're just talking about opportunity and we're excited, and we're excited about people who have given more this year than they could in the past. It's wonderful. Maybe they've got a job this year and last year they didn't, or just feeling, my sense of trust in the Joshua Fund is growing and yeah, I'd like to help more. I see the opportunity. Whatever your situation is, we're grateful, whether you're at the learning point or the praying point, if you're able to give, that's wonderful. And we'd appreciate it because we're excited by what God's doing, and the people on the ground have very limited resources. We outside, mostly North America, but certainly, in Asia and other places have resources, disposable resources, resources beyond what we need to just subsist. And so just, we ask you to pray about that, and consider a year end gift. Carl, I also wanna just wrap, 'cause I have to go give this speech, but I wanna wrap by, and I'll give you the last word, of course, but I wanna thank you, because in your about 18 months on the job now, as executive director, you're doing a great job, you've really gotten to know the team. You've really gotten to understand both the ethos, the values that run this ministry, the core values, but also the challenges, and they are legion. So you didn't come in during a slow period where nothing was cooking and on top of everything, you had this idea for doing a podcast for us to say, how can we share more of what we are seeing, of what we know to be true with people all over the world? And so, that's, to me, at a moment of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and Christmas, I wanna say thank you and God bless you. Just as Jesus came into the world, some 2,000 years ago, into what world? He came into Bethlehem, which is now the West Bank. It's now the Palestinian authority. I teased some of my Orthodox Jewish friends. Listen, you guys gave away Bethlehem to the Palestinians. There aren't any Jews that live there. If the Messiah has not come by now, you've got troubles. Go read Micah chapter 5, my friend. So just saying, you know, #justsaying. But Jesus is coming back and he's not coming back to Bethlehem. He's coming back to Jerusalem. We don't know when. We're not those type of people that are like, ooh, it's gonna be tomorrow. But how can we make sure that everyone in that part of the world has at least heard the good news that Christ not only saves us from our sins and gives us eternal life, but is there as our friend, as our encourager, as our protector in a very tough world, a very dark time? We don't wanna live alone, and we don't wanna live with regrets from the past. We want the Lord to heal us and to forgive us, and to give us protection amidst the, to shelter us amidst the storms of life that are pretty intense right now. Okay, maybe the storm is a little quieter today than it was yesterday, but tomorrow, you know, it could get much worse, and the Bible says it will get worse at some point. So thank you, Carl. You are helping us navigate during a very challenging time and I just wanna say thank you.

- Well, thank you, Joel, and I think, on behalf of our listeners, we all wanna thank you for providing just such an educational experience, such a guided tour, if you will, of God's work in the Middle East through the Joshua Fund. And so appreciate your passion, your heart, and your insight into these situations, and again, thank you for a great year, first year of this podcast. It's been fun, it's been amazing. I cannot wait to start podcasting next year. We already have a number of these things that are already out there. We're ready to launch. I just wanna get, encourage everyone who's listening to join us on this journey again next year for this podcast, "Inside the Epicenter" with Joel Rosenberg. It's a ministry of the Joshua Fund, and I wanna say, for all of you listening, if you'd like to learn more about the Joshua Fund, go to our website at joshuafund.com, and there, you'll hear much more about what we're doing in the Middle East, what God is doing through us, in the Middle East, to bless Israel, and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, and how you can participate in the healing work we're doing in this critical region. And I wanna just say, as well, as the executive director, as Joel has mentioned, this is a crucial time of the year for us financially. This is absolutely the time when we get a chance to ask you to stand with us, to give to the work that you've heard about, and that you prayed about for this ministry. Your gift of 50, 100, or whatever you can give, either on a monthly or a one-time basis will make an incredible difference in the lives of thousands and thousands of people in Israel and the neighboring countries. You know, there's not too many organizations that I know of that I've had the experience of working alongside that care about both Israel and the neighboring countries. And if that's you, if you care about those people that Jesus loves, then join us, walk with us, stand with us, and give and pray. Maybe one day, like Joel said, go. But on behalf of all of our team at the Joshua Fund, for Joel Rosenberg and Lynn Rosenberg, our founders, and for the many, many thousands of volunteers and partners that we have in the epicenter, I wanna wish all of you a very, very merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, as Joel mentioned, and a blessed new year in 2022. May we trust God more in next year than we ever done so before, and may we see him turn our prayers and our hopes and our dreams into reality, as blessings for Israel and the neighboring countries. Again, for all of you who are listening, if you wanna find out more about what we're doing, you can always check the show notes, and again, for all of us at the Joshua Fund, I wanna thank you. God bless you. This is Carl Moeller for "Inside the Epicenter" with Joel Rosenberg.

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