Lynn Rosenberg & Sisi Soref Interviewed By Dr. Carl Moeller
Lynn and Sisi Soref highlight Israel College of the Bible's Women in Leadership program.
Carl Moeller, Executive Director of The Joshua Fund, interviews Sisi Soref and Lynn Rosenberg about how they are training women. In this interview, they highlight Israel College of the Bible's Women in Leadership program.
- Well, Sisi and Lynn, it's our privilege. You guys did the black and white thing very good here.
- Yeah, here we are.
- That's very good. But you all are part of this really interesting program, and I want to hear a little bit more of what this program is really all about, what it's called, and how it came about in the first place. So Sisi, why don't you start with that?
- So there was this vision in the college. There was a pastor's program that was going on where they gathered pastors from all over Israel, Arabs, Jews, for a special program for leadership. There was this plea from the women, why isn't there anything for us? So the vision of the college really was, of the leadership of the college was also to bless the women from all over the country. And that's how really the leadership program for women started, is they approached us and asked us to raise a program for those women, to answer the needs that they had in their already very, very busy ministry schedule or ministry life.
- So we're actually just there to come alongside them, train, encourage and see them really being loved and changed through the Word of God and through fellowship.
- And Lynn, maybe you can describe a little bit about what the program is and how you were, I mean, you were doing this during COVID as well, so just describe the program a little bit.
- Sure. Well, like Sisi said, our desire for these women was really to encourage them, not just to give them a lot of information and new tools, although that's a big, important part of what we wanted to do, but in Israel like has been said already on this stage, the congregations are very small. There's not a director of women's ministry, there's not a children's director. Usually, there's not a paid worship leader. There's the pastor. Sometimes even the pastor works another job because the congregation cannot support him financially. So it falls often to the wife of the pastor to be not only the director of women's ministry, director of children's ministry, to do counseling, to do premarital counseling, to host everybody all the time. And these are women who are, quite honestly, exhausted. And so our desire, out of Isaiah it says, "In the Lord, we should be a well-watered garden." In a dry and thirsty land, that we want believers to be a well-watered garden that provides, that can grow fruit, but you can't bear fruit if you yourself are sort of wilting on the vine. So our prayer as we met for several years before we started it, we just met together. We were neighbors, we shared a fence, Sisi and I, so it was easy to meet and pray often together. So the Lord helped us design a program. It's called a Certificate of Women's Ministry. It's a combination of some theological foundational things. We taught a course on women in the New Testament. What's the difference between how Jesus treated women than the culture that surrounded him? That was a beautiful time. We tackled a lot of the tough, theological questions about women. We come from 13 different churches, the women in our program, from a wide variety of backgrounds. The college is excellent at taking us to the Word of God and not getting caught in our theological backgrounds, but just how do you study God's Word together and see what is says in the Word. And it unifies, that kind of approach. We also have counseling courses. We've taught a course. My favorite course is not a very cheery title. It's called Women in Pain. It's a course we took at Western together. It's actually approaching issues that a woman might encounter in life that are painful, so the death of a child, the death of a spouse, divorce, eating disorders, the suicide of a family member, all kinds of things. It started off as one course. There's so many causes of pain in life that it became two semesters, so there's Women in Pain I and Women in Pain II. So how do we walk alongside? We're not trained counselors, but we met with people who are experts in each of these areas and brought them to the women. So we didn't do all the teaching. We taught some basic things, but then we brought in people who could really speak to those specific traumas, not only experts but people who'd already lived through them as a testimonial. My child died, and so this is how God got me through that. So how can we walk alongside women in our community and our congregation? So that's kind of a taste of what we're doing.
- No, that's great. Sisi, did you want to share some of those aspects of the program that are meaningful?
- So Lynn has shared about some of the courses we're teaching, which is just what we see is the program being as a pasture and allowing the women to come along for a particular time in their lives and enjoy a special pasture where they are fed and loved and refreshed. But one of the real highlights that we both really, really enjoy is actually the fellowship that we have together. What happened through COVID is that we did one semester, we taught a semester, and then COVID struck, and we lost the fellowship that we had of getting together on a weekly basis. And we felt really dry, we felt saddened. And then we decided to start visiting the women in their homes and just sharing, or even in small groups, and that's what we did. We traveled to the Galilee, we traveled to Jerusalem. We traveled all around and we met in small groups and individuals. And we were able to just really hear their hearts out and have time of fellowship and incredible meals because let me tell you, the Arab women, nobody else knows how to open their house and bless visitors. Yeah, so we had wonderful meals together, we had a Christmas celebration together, and we had just prayer times where they were blessing us and we would leave and feel really refreshed by the fellowship. So God really blessed us, and we kind of walked through COVID and through the hardships and struggles of COVID, but we felt that we gained something. And it wasn't that the program suffered, but it actually created more opportunities for us, and we became wiser, I think, knowing how to tackle difficult situations.
- That's one of the things. I was reading this past week some answers I had written up that Ari and Sisi had asked me to fill in, sort of an application, it was for a grant, and they asked the question, what are the five strengths of the Bible college? And one of them I said was that it's small enough and sensitive enough to be able to pivot easily when there's opportunity and challenge. And that's what happened during COVID. We just were able to be more personal, actually, and to be in people's homes. And if you know the Middle East, to come to someone's home is the best compliment you can give. Not even to invite them to your home, but to go to their home, you've honored them. So to be able to do that more and more than we ever planned was a great blessing of COVID.
- Yeah. Well, maybe you could describe some of the backgrounds. You mentioned 15 women in this current program. Maybe some of the backgrounds they come from, because you have both Messianic Jewish believing women, sometimes wives of pastors perhaps, and then Arab Christian women. What is that like? I mean, describe the backgrounds.
- Yeah, when we were wanting to invite people to participate in the program, Sisi and I traveled to different parts of the country and just gathered together groups of women to explain what we were hoping and what our prayer was. And we didn't plan, you know, we want half Arabs and half Jews or anything like that. We just made the invitation open. But in the end, we had 22 students, and half come from a Jewish background, half come from an Arab background, which is amazing to us. We do have six mother tongues represented in our students, six. So of course Hebrew and Arabic as the primary, but we have people from a Russian background. So if you can imagine, they're learning in Hebrew. They speak Russian in their hearts, but they're learning and studying from us in Hebrew and English, so they're having to be trilingual to be part of the program. But God has overcome all these things, taught us to be flexible, gracious, prayerful. So it's been really quite beautiful to see the variety. And I'll just say one other thing. I wondered on the first day of class, would all the Jewish Israelis sit on one side and all the Arab ladies sit on the other side, because they know each other. There's a lot of relationships. It's a very small country, so people know each other. But before we started the course, the program, we took them away to the Galilee on a retreat. And at that retreat, for three days many of them were meeting each other from these two sides for the first time. And the Lord often gives Sisi amazing ideas, and he gave her the idea to ask, I'll try not to cry, but one of our students lost their daughter in a terrorist bombing in a bus, and another one of our students, and she's an Israeli, a Jewish family, I mean they work in the Jewish world. Then one of our Arab students had just that week lost a beloved brother to a tragic motorcycle accident. So Sisi asked them privately would each of them be willing to share their story about what they were going through with the group. And they both agreed. And it was through that common human vulnerability of suffering, that it just broke down all the walls completely. I mean, we were all crying together, hugging one another, praying together, thanking God for taking us through valleys of darkness. So by the time we got to our first class, we were a family, we were a blend. Nobody was divided in any way. It was beautiful. Yeah, that's what God alone can do.
- Wow, amen. What a beautiful picture of the bridge and the both end nature of this kind of ministry, bring people into Jesus himself as our peace. He is the one. Sisi, you know, you were from a family, and many generations now, of believing in Yeshua Messiah. How has your unique perspective on this been part of this program, from a historic viewpoint of Messianic Jews?
- Well, my husband would probably have a better answer than me. I kind of flow with life, so sometimes I wake up and think, oh yeah, that's what we're doing, or oh yes, that's how it happened. But for me, just the time when I was born in Israel, there were recorded 200 Messianic believers in Israel, 200.
- The whole country.
- In the whole country.
- The year I was born is '68, so now we all know how old I am. It's okay, I feel great about my age. So for me to all of a sudden be serving in a capacity where we have all those women from all walks of life, and I grew up in Haifa. I'm a Haifa born. Someone in the crowd was saying how beautiful Haifa is. I didn't tell you, but I was born in Haifa, I was raised in Haifa. Beautiful city, and it's kind of dual.
- A mix.
- A mixed city where Arabs and Jews and all kinds of nationalities are at. So I grew up in a congregation where we had all of those nationalities, so I'm very comfortable. And we never had issues of politics or anything. We just had a lot of love and shared whatever oneness it is. So for me to just be able to be in such a blessed program where it's love, unity and oneness, that's really my passion and heart. And I think those three words have been on my heart for the past, I don't know, half a year, I've been more and more feeling the words of Christ, that he has one bride, it's one body, and he sees, when he looks, he sees one church. And I think that's what we are experiencing, is the beauty of love, oneness and unity being expressed and lived out in reality. We don't need to build reconciliation programs. We are living out reconciliation that Christ has bought for us, and we are living it in this program and in the college and what we are doing. So this is such a blessing.
- Question for you guys. The women in this program, you mentioned many of them come from very painful backgrounds. There's challenges, they're exhausted in some cases. What are some of the results that you've seen in just building this community in the class and the course that you're going through?
- Well, I think that any person that you speak to, if we all just stopped right now and took a moment to turn to the person next to us, that we all have very painful things that we've all gone through. So I don't think these women are unique in that way, but what is unique is the context that they live in, of course, and the responsibilities on their shoulders sometimes that are beyond what they can cope with. So one of the things that was a real joy for me this past semester, we'd been doing, like I said, two different counseling, basic counseling programs that we took them through. A program about your identity in Christ was very powerful. Sisi and I were able to get some training in a ministry that teaches about how do we look at our identity in Christ as the central thing about us? We're not a pastor's wife, even any wife. We're not a business woman, we're not a mother, but we are a daughter of the living God, and our identity is because who Christ has made us. And we're not an Arab or a Jew, we're a believer in Jesus. And so like Sisi said, you don't have to say all those other things if you just keep the focus on Jesus. And so we've seen beautiful healing really take place. One of the things we had them do was write down what are some lies that you have been believing? Ask the Lord to reveal to you what are some lies that you've been believing, that your identity is wrapped up in this, or if my children aren't doing well, then it's my fault. Someone said something to me once that I feel was so discouraging, that you're only as happy as your saddest child. And you know, that was a lie I believed, that I was only ever going to be as joyful as my saddest child was at any given moment. And while there is a truth in that as a mother, because you have such a pain when your children aren't doing well, and yet you can't walk in defeat. You have to have faith. You have to see God has a purpose for me even in this pain. So that's some of the lies they saw and really got freedom from was amazing, amazing to see.
- Amen, wow. That's exactly right. What a great insight in teaching, and that's so helpful that you were able to help the whole cohort kind of go through and learn something like that, their identity in Christ. You two have a unique friendship, and I would say partnership in this process. Where does this go from here for you guys? Where do you see the things happening in the future?
- Well, I think only God knows where this is gonna end, but we definitely have a passion to continue the program. We know that the ladies have told me, the Arab ladies have told me that they have decided they don't want to finish the program. They want to continue studying for many more years with us, so that we need to keep coming up with courses. So it's a lot of work though to teach one course as we have discovered. It's so much work, and sometimes it's just very stressful. But what we do see is having a bigger team that would help with carrying out ministry to the women and encouragement to the women. And we feel that really these friendships are gonna impact the next generations that are coming after them, because we are able to see already connections between all kinds of churches that never had connections really. So just the fact that there is a pastor's program for the men and for the women, we feel that the oneness is being really at the critical time right now also for the world to see that we love one another and that we live as brothers and sisters in Jesus.
- Amen, amen. How can we be praying for you guys?
- Well, I would ask prayer for, this is our, it was supposed to be a two year program. Because of COVID, it turned into a three year program, so now we're entering our final year. So we are just praying that in this year, in particular one of the courses we're doing is called Developing a Ministry to Women, where we want to encourage the women, okay, we've been looking at tools, looking at our own identity in Christ, learning some theological foundations, but what does this mean for my church, for my community? And how do I build a team? It's not all on me. How do I ask the Lord to bring women that I can disciple so that we can look at our congregation more fully, more prayerfully, more hopefully, and the community outside our walls? So we're just praying the Lord will make this year really, really special, that God will give these women new dreams, and that we'll just see this multiplication effect begin. And we need a lot of strength .
- Well, let's pray for you guys now. Would you join us in prayer while we pray for this amazing program? Father God, thank you that in your heart there is a special place for those that are in pain and under pressure, those that have felt isolated and insulated in their communities. And we pray for the women in this program, Lord, and we thank you so much for bringing Sisi and Lynn together to bring community and encouragement and upliftment and insight and leadership and discipleship tools into these women's lives so that they can be forces for good, for your kingdom in their homes and communities and churches. And in all of these things, Lord, we want to commit their needs to you. We want to commit to you the fact that this ministry to women will grow, and we trust you, Father, for your provision for the resources, the insight, the direction, and for the people to come and to see this program continue to grow and have an influence in this way. And we thank you for more women who are gonna become part of this program, as their hearts are stirred to come alongside other women and to be encouraged and to grow and to become the leaders in the spheres that you've given them. Lord, may it be so, and may your Word go out strongly for them, and may this special year ahead be one where those women not just are taught and trained and encouraged, but are sent out in joy, that are sent out to bring healing and hope to the land of Israel, to the communities that are there. And for all of these things, Lord, we want to thank you and praise your name. In the name of Yeshua, Jesus, the Messiah we pray, amen.
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