Where were you that morning, Sarah?
Tian Jie, enjoying the wheat fields a few days earlier (as not many pictures were taken on that intense morning)
How can I express the depth and density of what God had taken us into that morning? We decided to extend our stay in Jordan for one more day, as we all felt the purpose of our coming had not yet been completed.
Chinese Song and Travail
It started early that morning, with a deep and painful travail that Tian Jie was going through. The day before she heard for the first time of the pain the Arab people carry concerning the re-establishment of Israel. In the middle of the night God started showing her both sides and she started weeping. Her agony was so deep, that at a certain point she locked herself in the bathroom in order to not wake up her room mates. Around that same time, Rania dreamed about Tian Jie, who could not connect with her own son. There was some conflict between them, and Tian Jie could not find the way into his heart.
As our day progressed, these two events became our backdrop in prayer. I write this post with the outcome in mind, rather than describing what was spoken and prayed – line by line or in chronological order.
During breakfast, while allowing the expansive valleys and curved hills outside the porch to enlarge our hearts, Tian Jie all of a sudden hushed us. She ran to one corner and tried to listen carefully.
The gorgeous curves and hills of Gilead
“It’s a Chinese song,” she whispered and pointed to a spot in the horizon, “a very famous one.” Yes, there was obviously something in Chinese down there in the valley. We were lodging in a country side, with no building around us for miles. Where did the song come from? Who speaks Chinese in rural Jordan?
The song is about two lovers who conceived out of wedlock. The lad’s mother, a wealthy lady, did not want that simple girl to partake in the family’s rich inheritance. So she kidnapped the baby and made her son marry someone else. The biological mother looked for her baby for years. Eventually her longing turned into insanity. When the baby boy grew up, he studied medicine. One day, in one of the hospitals he worked at, he recognized his biological mom. She did not. He tried to break into her delusion but did not succeed – until he started singing a song they had sung together when he was about 4 years old: “a Mama is the best thing in the world, a child who has his mom is so treasured, sheltered in his mother’s arms, what an abundance of joy.”
It worked. The mother gradually snapped out of the land of illusion, where she had lived for decades, into reality. The voice of her own son, crying for her bosom, had brought about her healing.
Which Child Is Looking For His Mama?
Surprisingly, the song matched Rania’s dream. It was easy to see the strands of a tapestry that were being woven before our eyes. In light of the identity shift that had taken place the night before at the Jabok river, we knew that God was talking about a lost child, who was crying for his mama, and about a mother who had lost her right mind. A mother who was bereaved and grief-stricken for decades, and who will be healed when she hears the voice of her lost child and realizes how much he needed her.
We left the breakfast table, huddled into one of the cabins and started praying. Gradually God’s thoughts unfolded before us, until we hit a major root – maybe even the root – that the wound consists of.
Putting all these insights together, we realized that the spiritual and mental aspect of the Jordan rift-wound was birthed through rejection and partiality. Ishmael was rejected by Sarah, by Abraham and even by God (Gen. 21:12; Mal. 1:2-3). Good heavens, how devastating must that be! Add to that the rejection of Esau’s right as the first born, Rebekah’s preferring of Jacob and Isaac favoring Esau.
Back To The Chinese Boy
The story of the Chinese child opened a well within me. It connected in my spirit with Ishmael’s abandonment to to the merciless desert (Gen. 21:14-16). Tears started flooding, as for the first time I thought of young Ishmael, rejected by the adults he must have looked up to. It pierced my heart.
“The expulsion of Ishmael and his mother” by Gustave Dore
Yes, I know that Ishmael had become a threat to the promise, and was probably bullying Isaac (Gen. 21:9-10), but at that moment I was just a mama. “Why send him to the desert alone?” I agonized. “Why didn’t Sarah and Abraham send a servant with them, some camels, a donkey, and more food? Why did they send them to their death?”
“There Was No Room For Us At The Table”
Priscilla grew up in a Jordanian family, and from a young age was taught to love and bless Israel. Connecting that morning with the pain that the Arabs carry towards the Jewish nation was not easy for her, but it hit her powerfully, as she realized how much anger and enmity the Arab nations carry in their core identity.
“There is no place for us in the house,” Priscilla echoed the mindset of her own people. She shared with raw and deep pain how they never felt wanted: “Only now, that you need us, you remember to invite us?”
In that moment, it was as if the magnet of God’s heart had drawn us together with a force field we could no longer resist. We embraced, and clung to each other for dear life. We all continued to pray – but more than talking to God through that prayer, we were searching for the source of water that could quench an ancient thirst.
A Mangled Trunk
I saw Israel as a tree trunk that had cut out some of its branches, unaware that it was wounding itself. “As a mother,” I prayed, “I want to open the scar so that each branch can find its place again. It should not be a mangled tree, but a nurtured and nourished one.”
“For so long we have not been allowed there,” Priscilla wept. “Now you are asking us to come in. Earlier, there was enmity. I could feel it so strong. But now… there is a mother tone in you. One that has been fine tuned by the Lord. The sound of your heart cry went deep into a place in my spirit and soul that has never been comforted before. But today it has been. You are a mom, Orna.”
“I’m so sorry that it was not offered earlier, Priscilla,” I responded, and tried to explain: “Our bosom was a place of jealousy, enmity, insanity. It was either you or us. Father, create a bosom of safety and unity. Welcome, Jordan. Welcome, children of Ishmael and Esau, welcome to the table. Not as wood choppers or water cleaners, but as lost children.”
It was a sobering moment to realize that the descendants of Ishmael and Esau, even of Lot, wanted to be welcomed and desired. Not because we needed them, but because we missed them! Not just for the sake of our own sanity, but because they have a part in the Kingdom.
“Forgive us, Father, for all the children we had sent to the desert,” I begged. “We did not give Hagar enough water and bread, and she had to watch her son die. Forgive us for not wanting to bless them, Lord, and for driving them into madness.”
Israel needs the milk and the balsam of the nations in order to be restored. The nations need the sap, the vitamins and minerals that are restored in the soil of this specific land. These essentials can only get to the nations through the trunk. And the trunk cannot produce it on its own or outside the Land of promise. Only here it can absorb and drink all the needed ingredients, and then feed the nations who attach themselves to it. When a nation opposes the connection of the Jews to their Land, it cuts itself off from the very life it needs. Without the land we are a rootless trunk, an insane creature. In the land our sanity is restored, our roots go deep and the branches who choose to join us are well fed.
“Israel, open your arms”
“I open what is blocked, wounded and hollow,” I declared, “in that ancient, dry wrinkled up tree. Open up your bosom! Open your arms and reach out to those who you have perceived as your enemies. Old tree, look up and set your face to the Son. Drink from the soil of promise, and get all the light, water and minerals you need. Arabs, Jordanians, the Far East and the Far West – come and together let’s create something glorious. Otherwise we are but a pathetic trunk and you are rootless branches.”
I Have So Many Questions to Sarah
“Where were you that morning, Sarah, when Abraham sent away your maid with her son? Did you stay in bed? Did you cover with the blanket your head? Did you go to the kitchen and made fresh bread?
“What did you see in Abraham’s eyes when you looked at him for the first time, after he sent Hagar and Ishmael away? Did you talk about it at all? Did he ever listen to you again? Did he ever forgive you? Did he have any hearing left?
“What changed in you? Did your heart stay exactly the same, or did something turn rigid? After all, you wanted Ishmael as a son for yourself (Gen. 16:2). Until Isaac was born, you raised Ishmael up to inherit from you. Can a woman send her son to die in the desert and totally forget him? You were the one who pushed Hagar into Abraham’s bosom. And you were most likely there when she gave birth.
“Bring me into your heart, Sarah”, I keep asking as I run all kinds of imaginary conversations with her. “Help me understand you, forgive you, forgive through you.”
“If not for Ishmael’s sake, then what about Isaac?” I beg the Sarah that lives inside my heart. “I have a strong feeling that your precious baby adored his older brother,” I try to reason with her. “What did you tell Isaac when he woke up in the morning and found that his playmate was gone for good? Or maybe he was wide awake when the dramatic abandonment took place? Did he hear the screaming and heart-breaking cries of Ishmael? Did that scar your baby Sarah, the next time Isaac tried to find comfort in your bosom and saw a new harshness in your loving eyes?”
What About Abraham?
When I think about that awful day, I cannot find an echo to the patriarch’s soul and heart. I guess I’m not supposed to. I should probably leave that for men with the heart of an Abraham. As this mother’s heart towards the nations is being birthed in me, I am connecting not only with my personal identity as a daughter and a mom; I am trying to connect with older voices – those of bareness (Gen. 16:2), laughter and surprise (18:12) and fear. Of a mind-blowing promise and the responsibility to see it fulfilled.
I’m wondering what will happen to Sarah – to the Jewish nation, when we start listening to the voice of Ishmael, calling us back. Longing for a wholehearted embrace.
What will happen to Ishmael when he realizes he has a place around the table? That Mama Sarah regrets having sent him into the desert? That her heart was wounded too on that morning, even though she was the one who had cast them out?
And what would that do to God’s heart? To the wounded rift that had torn His chest?
And you… our precious Ruths, who have been following these posts so faithfully, how would that affect your prayers on behalf of our insane region? Please take another look at the picture of the wounded rift. Now check your hearts – on which bank do you feel most comfortable? Are you able to step off that bank, walk into the bleeding wound, and start watering it with your tears? Are you able to mingle them with some healing Balm – with scriptural promises that speak of healing for this pain-filled land and our surroundings?
Most Christians tend to stand on one bank of the rift or the other.
During this journey we chose to stay inside it, inside the wound,
and to the best of our ability align with God’s heart for both sides.
After all, this rift is right inside His heart
This article originally appeared on Ot OoMofet Ministries, August 30, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Orna, born and raised in Israel, is a lover of books, and especially The Book. She is fascinated with the Hebrew language and with the God who created the world through the mere expression of Hebrew words. In 2003 she established Ot OoMofet Ministries (Hebrew for “A sign and Example”), whose main focus is turning stories of brokenness and hardships into stories of victory. Besides ministering to the broken hearted in Israel, she now teaches worldwide about the widowhood of Israel, the role the church plays in its restoration and on a variety of other subjects.
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My friend is being deported from Israel for belief in Yeshua
Illustrative image (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
My friend is being deported. Her offense? Belief in Yeshua. Are we living under a dictatorship? Communism? Oligarchy? No, no, and no. We’re living in the only democracy in the Middle East that actually touts its religious freedom, and yet my friend’s faith has deemed her an enemy of the state.
She is a Messianic Jew, a dangerous label for any citizen and especially for any prospective citizen of Israel. How many more cases? How many more interrogations? How many more deportations before we say enough is enough? It’s not enough to whisper in the shadows, strategizing how to get in under the radar, hoping the Authorities don’t ask us the Yeshua question.
It is time to stand up to the Ministry of Interior and expose its discriminatory acts. I’ve had too many friends, too many family members, too many of us mistreated and persecuted, so I’m not keeping silent any longer.
They say the law is against us, but is it? The Law of Return affords citizenship to any Jewish person or person with a Jewish grandparent, except for those who have converted to a new religion and, therefore, have renounced their Jewish identity.
What Messianic Jew that professes they are Jewish and can prove their Jewish lineage has renounced their Jewish identity? Messianic Jews serve honorably in the IDF, are a part of the Israeli workforce, and pour their time and talents into Israeli society.
The fate of the holocaust is etched into our history and now we face a new wave of anti-semitism; yet we are barred from our homeland, barred from what is supposed to be a safe haven for our people. What would Moses do? What would the Apostle Paul do? What would Yeshua do?
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God” 2 Tim. 1:7-8.
Let us “learn to do right, seek justice, defend the oppressed” Is. 1:17.
It’s time to gather, time to speak up, time to unabashedly and unashamedly demand justice, demand our right to live in the Land.
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Encounter on the street
Illustrative photo - Street poster of Rabbi Schneerson (Photo: Adam Jones/Wikimedia Commons)
Today I was approached by a smiling young orthodox Chabadnik in black who offered me a picture of the Messiah- Rav Schneerson.
I told him in Hebrew, “He’s not the Messiah. Why don’t you let the poor old gentleman who’s been dead for decades rest in peace?”
But he pleasantly insisted him to be the Messiah.
So I replied, “Maybe Yeshu is the Messiah, as he rose from the dead and in no grave anywhere.”
“No,” said he, “he can’t be the Messiah because he did not keep the mitzvot.”
“Oh yes he did, tsitsit and all.”
“No,” he insisted, “It says so in the Gemara, which is the best book in the world.”
“You better check again,” said I, to which he claimed he already did. So I said, “Better check one more time. Maybe in our Prophets, like Isaiah who told us ‘all we like sheep have gone astray’.”
Then he said very nicely, “I feel sorry for you,” and I answered, “And I feel sorry for you. Which is a good start, if we as Jews feel sorry for each other, that may be the beginning of love.”
He smiled and so did I as I patted him on the shoulder and said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Amen,” he answered, and we parted amicably.
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.
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In the footsteps of the first congregation in Israel
Ten days after Yeshua’s ascension into Heaven, on the Feast of Shavuot also known as Pentecost, His followers gathered in one place in Jerusalem.
Right then and there they received the Holy Spirit and history was changed forever.
Not long after this supernatural event the first community of believers was established in the Holy City.
Yeshua’s disciples were united first and foremost by their God-given mission and vision.
However, the end of chapter 2 in the Book of Acts lays out some defining aspects of how they led their lives.
The passage demonstrates that congregational life was not centered on a weekly meeting, but it functioned more like a family, whose members took part in each other’s lives, serving one another in love.
This standard has been adopted to be the foundation of the Ahavat Yeshua congregation in modern day Jerusalem,
Gathering regularly for worship and prayer, the members of the congregation are concerned also about deepening their relationships, to share struggles and victories, and to study the Word together.
The Ahavat Yeshua (Love of Jesus) congregation was founded on the Feast of Shavuot in 2006, in pursuit of God’s presence and the manifestation of signs and wonders that would soften hard hearts and draw Israelis in to be able to recognize that Yeshua as their Messiah.
Local leaders and founders of the congregation, Asher and Betty Intrater together with Eddie and Jackie Santoro became the first pastors.
Following the pattern of Acts 2, they see the role of the congregation to be ushering Yeshua’s return to reign in Jerusalem by fostering, in unity, an indigenous revival.
Like that first Jerusalem congregation two thousand years ago, Ahavat Yeshua brings together Jews from Israel and the nations, as well as many non-Jews who have come to Jerusalem from around the world and regularly attend the congregation.
The community’s name was chosen to reflect the heart of their ministry – to see Yeshua’s love increasingly manifested as the congregation grows in members and maturity.
Twelve years later, the congregation continues to stand for the simple and direct sharing of the gospel, training disciples, and building altars of prayer and small groups.
It strives to be a base for apostolic and prophetic ministry in the land of Israel.
Learn More: ahavatyeshuajerusalem.org
This article originally appeared on FIRM and is reposted with permission.
FIRM (Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries) is a global fellowship of Biblically-grounded believers committed to cultivating Messiah-centered relationships that bless the inhabitants of Israel—Jews, Arabs, and others—and the Jewish community around the world.
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Over 1000 Japanese believers gather to hear Bible teaching from a Jewish Perspective
Tokyo: full day program with 580 attendees
There is a vibrant body of believers in Japan who are studying the Bible from the Jewish perspective and have a love for the Jewish people and Israel! They are associated with Harvest Time Ministries and recently, around 1,100 of them attended the 9th Harvest Time Ministries Second Coming of Messiah Conference held in Osaka(Oct. 31), Nagoya(Nov. 1) and Tokyo(Nov. 3) to learn from Messianic Rabbi Larry Feldman and his wife, Fran.
A Japanese Pastor Meets an American Messianic Jewish Scholar in the Philippines
In 1989 Pastor Kenichi Nakagawa, the founder and leader of Harvest Time Ministries, met Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, the founder of Ariel Ministries, at a conference in the Philippines. This was a turning point in Pastor Nakagawa’s ministry. He comprehended that Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s teaching of the Bible from the Jewish perspective was the approach he must learn and share with the Japanese people so he dedicated himself to relearning how to teach the Bible and laid out the philosophy and principles that have since guided Harvest Time Ministries.
Philosophy of Harvest Time Ministries
We teach and comprehend the Bible from the Jewish perspective. Based on a thorough understanding of the time, culture, and context, we interpret the Bible using the literal grammatical-historical method.
There is a huge gap in time, culture, and geography between the Bible’s authors and us. The meaning of something that would have been easily understood by those living at the time of writing is now difficult for us in the 21st century to comprehend. For that reason it is essential for us to learn the historical background of the Bible.
Further, since the Bible was written in the context of Jewish culture it is necessary to have knowledge about the manners, customs and languages of that time.
Why is Harvest Time Ministries so passionate about teaching the Bible?
Harvest Time Ministries believes in the power of the Word and understands Japanese culture. There is a long history of the gospel being proclaimed in Japan with the percentage of Christians remaining stuck at around 1% of the population. This should not be interpreted to mean that Japanese will not accept the message of the Bible. There are some countries which have a national passion for singing. There are some countries where people love to do community activities. The approach to evangelism is determined by the characteristics of the people.
So, what do Japanese love to do? Japanese love to study! This is a characteristic of Japanese culture. In this context, Harvest Time Ministries approaches the Bible straightforwardly and focuses on seriously studying all aspects of it with the belief that understanding the Bible will bring about a true spiritual awakening to Japan.
Connecting Japanese Believers with the Messianic Community #1
Harvest Time Ministries has forged a strong relationship with Ariel Ministries and in 2001 began a major activity called the Fruchtenbaum Seminar. Each seminar was 2 days long with Dr. Fruchtenbaum teaching and Pastor Nakagawa interpreting and elaborating. Every year around 450 people attended.
Over the course of 15 years attendees learned about the following themes:
|2016||What is Dispensationalism?|
|2015||The Climax of Eschatology|
|2014||The Rapture, Great Tribulation, and Destiny of the Jewish People|
|2013||What the Bible teaches about the Millennium Kingdom|
|2012||What the Bible teaches about life after death|
|2011||What the Bible teaches about salvation|
|2010||Angelology, Satanology, Demonology|
|2009||Eschatology and Israel: A Study of Romans 9-11|
|2008||God’s Program of Salvation for Mankind|
|2007||Messianic Prophecies in the Old Testament|
|2005||The Life of Messiah from the Jewish Perspective|
|2003||John’s Book of Revelation|
|2002||The Eight Covenants of the Bible|
|2001||The Historical Unfolding of the Abrahamic Covenant|
Connecting Japanese Believers with the Messianic Community #2:
Harvest Time Ministries Second Coming of Messiah Conference
In 2010 a second major activity, the Harvest Time Ministries Second Coming of Messiah Conference was started to support the faith of Japanese believers who are anticipating Messiah’s return. Its aims are to ignite a spiritual awakening in Japan, to connect with the Messianic community and pray for the salvation of the Jewish people and to prepare for the Second Coming of Messiah.
The conference has had a distinguished list of speakers from the Messianic community addressing the following topics:
|The time of the salvation of the Jewish people is near – now, the prophecies of the Bible are being fulfilled one by one before our eyes-|
|8||2017||Eitan Bar||Jewish evangelism in the Internet age|
|7||2016||Irving Salzman||An Orthodox Jew who met Messiah shares his views about eschatology|
|6||2015||Mottel Baleston||From the Garden of Eden to the new heaven and new earth|
|A Jew and an Arab who know Christ|
|The gospel revealed in the 5 books of Moses|
|Kanzo Uchimura’s ministry concerning the Second Coming of Messiah and today’s Messianic Jewish movement|
|2||2011||Noam Hendren||Satan’s strategy and God’s grace|
|1||2010||Noam Hendren||God’s plan of salvation for the world|
9th Harvest Time Ministries Second Coming of Messiah Conference
This year’s invited speakers were Messianic Rabbi Larry Feldman of Chosen People Ministries, who is currently serving Shuvah Yisrael congregation in Irvine, California and the President of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America and his wife, Fran.
Fran Feldman opened the conference by sharing her testimony of growing up in a Jewish home and how first her brothers, then her mother and finally she and her father came to faith in Messiah Yeshua. Hiroshi Nakagawa of Harvest Time Ministries USA interpreted for her. Her story resonated with many of Japanese believers who are also 1st generation believers in their family.
Rabbi Feldman spoke on:
- Presenting G-d’s Plan For Israel From the Jewish Scriptures (Tanach),
- G-d’s Promises to Israel, Presenting Messiah From The Jewish Scriptures (Tanach), and
- A Biblical Basis for Jewish Evangelism
Rabbi Feldman says this about their experience:
This was the first time that Fran and I came to Japan and we were not sure what to expect but were very surprised and blessed by the entire trip. To begin with the ministry was wonderful. The three meetings in Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo were very well attended. The worship was godly and spiritual. Samuel Kan’s music and singing was uplifting and encouraging. People were very receptive and diligent in their desire to learn the Scriptures. The Spirit of God truly seems to bring us all together and overcome any cultural differences. The whole trip was just a complete joy and blessing to my wife and myself. I look forward in the future to the ministry in Japan.
Views of the Participants
After the program, many participants wrote their impressions. These are some of the reasons people attended and are interested in Jewish evangelism.
- The 900+ messages on Harvest Time Ministries’ Message Station Internet site are interesting. Harvest Time Website: https://harvesttime.tv/
- Harvest Time Ministries teaches the Bible using the literal grammatical-historical method and from the Jewish perspective.
- Went on the Harvest Time Ministries’ Holy Land Tour and met Messianic Jewish believers in Israel.
- Had an experience with a Christian organization like Bridges for Peace
- Church prays for the salvation of Israel
- Interested in eschatology
Two responses highlight the need for and the fruit of Harvest Time Ministries connecting Japanese believers with the Messianic community through bringing teachers to Japan and going to Israel:
- Up until now I have not had a very good impression of Jews. My impression came from what I heard about the Palestinian problem and Jews being focused on wealth. This prevented me from loving them. But, I felt through experiencing today’s conference that God has given me an opportunity to repent. I personally know several Jews and will now pray for their salvation and happiness.
- I first learned about Jewish evangelism when I started listening to Pastor Nakagawa’s messages. Before hearing about it I had absolutely no interest in the Jewish people. Now I consider them to be precious. I pray from my heart for the salvation of the Jewish people. I have attended every Second Coming of Messiah Conference. Since I came to believe in the second coming of Messiah I live each day with a feeling of peace.
“White for the Harvest”
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.”
For the past 20 years Harvest Time Ministries has been inviting distinguished Messianic Bible teachers to Japan to give Japanese believers a first-hand experience of the Bible being a Jewish book and to have Messianic teachers get a first-hand experience of the support Japanese believers have for the Jewish people and Israel. It is appropriate to conclude this article with a word from Pastor Nakagawa about his experience doing this ministry and his expectations for the future.
The average Japanese considers the Bible to be a sacred book of a Western religion that is difficult to understand. But, once I started teaching people how to read the Bible from the Jewish perspective I saw more and more people understanding it.
Our ministry began with the vision: Bible Study will ignite a Spiritual Awakening in Japan. We now see this vision steadily being realized. A spiritual awakening in Japan is underway! We pray and ask for your prayers for the season of Messiah to come to Japan.
Daniel Eichhorst has lived in Japan for 35 years. He is currently teaching English at Tohoku University in Sendai. In 2015 he and his wife were baptized by Pastor Nakagawa and they are active in Harvest Time Ministries. They traveled to Israel with Pastor Nakagawa on the Harvest Time Ministries Holy Land Tour in 2016. They have also attended Ariel Ministries’ Camp Shoshanah in Keeseville, NY two times.