‘God almost made us do it’ – Asia Messianic Forum begins despite organizers’ reluctance
The 2017 Asia Messianic Forum (AMF), a forum “dedicated to bring Messianic Jewish leaders to Asia to teach and fellowship with us,” was held this past August in Taiwan and featured prominent Israeli Messianic speakers such as Joseph Shulam, Eitan Shishkoff, Guy Cohen and Daniel Stern.
The forum hosted 900 participants from 10 different countries with workshops and teachings based on the theme, Generation to Generation, Coastlands Arise. The fifth biannual conference promoting unity between “Jewish and Asian brothers” was the collaborative effort of Christian organizations located in Japan, Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, India and Indonesia.
“The Asia Messianic Forum was a great success,” wrote Shulam, a founder of Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry, one of the first non-profit organizations of Jewish disciples of Yeshua in Israel. “Our dear brothers in Taiwan went out of their way to make us comfortable. They organized a fantastic festival of worship, culture, good teaching and a wonderful reception for the Israeli brothers who were the main teachers in this three and a half days of festivities.”
But this now well-established, biannual outpouring of Asian love and support for Israel almost did not happen. As Shoji Ishiida, whose family works with A Bridge Between Zion and Japan (BZJ), told KNI, the conference began in 2009, “by chance.”
“In 2008, we tried to invite three speakers — Eitan Shishkoff, Peter Tsukahira, and Joseph Shulam — to make presentations in Japan at different times, but it did not work out. But the three agreed to come together at some time in the future to make a bigger conference. Though it seemed like a great idea, Pastor Naoji Ishiida, CEO of BZJ, thought it would be too burdensome for an organization as small as ours to attempt to conduct a major conference. So Pastor Naoji said that he would consult the church elders, hoping that they would oppose the idea because of typical Japanese conservatism regarding new things.
“Surprisingly, they approved the plan and directed Pastor Naoji to start organizing it. Naoji now speaks of the elders’ decision as a miracle, the work of the Holy Spirit. The Asia Messianic Forum began not as a result of man’s vision but in spite of his reluctance. Pastor Naoji had envisioned separate gatherings, easy-to-organize and host. But God almost made him do it on a larger scale. In that moment, he better understood the biblical concept of calling. Those who stand for God, rather than themselves, stand up for His assignments.”
The Asia Messianic Forum began not as a result of man’s vision but in spite of his reluctance.
The following year, in 2009, the first Asia Messianic Forum was held in Japan. BZJ had no connection then with other like-minded churches in Asia — those that “shared the same love and prayer for Israel and Messianic Jews in Israel.”
Despite the name, Asia Forum, only Japanese believers were expected to attend. But this notion soon changed too. At the last moment, BZJ received queries of interest from Korea, Singapore and Thailand. Ultimately, with the cooperation of more than 100 churches, the 2009 forum became a big, blessed event.”
In 2011, in cooperation with Israel Ministries Network, a Korean organization including many Israel-loving organizations, the second Asia Messianic Forum was held both in Japan and Seoul, Korea. Christians from six Asian countries gathered again to worship and study together under the guidance of Messianic leaders from Israel.
The third Asia Messianic Forum was held in Singapore in 2013 with 800 participants from 22 countries all over the world, not only Asia. In 2015, 450 participants from 10 countries attended the forum in Manila.
The meaning and intent of the Asia Messianic Forum have evolved. Having begun as a joint-forum of Asian countries to study scripture and learn from Israeli Messianic leaders, the forum leaders “began to understand that the biannual forum also provides Asian countries with an opportunity to unite with Israel and Israelis regardless of past history or contemporary political tension.
In 2015, 70 years after the end of World War II, the organizers of the Asia Messianic Forum helped sponsor a joint trip to Japan which included study and prayer trips to Nagasaki and Hiroshima and a tour with local pastors intent upon reconciliation and the healing of Japan.
The next AMF will be held in Bangkok in 2019.
“It will be very interesting,” said Shoji, “because, though previous venues for the forum typically host numerous Israeli travelers, Bangkok and Thailand are host to even more Israeli backpackers.”
Thailand, for example, has long been a popular destination for young Israelis who have completed their IDF service. There is a high level of interest in Israel among Christians in Thailand who want to evangelize Israelis “in a soft way.”
“The growth of Christianity today depends heavily on Christian revival in the third world,” Shoji told KNI. While historical anti-Semitism is largely non-existent in Asian countries, it is difficult “for Asian Christians to love and pray for Israel because, for us, Jews and Israel are something distant… The Asia Messianic Forum is a key to opening the eyes of Asian believers toward Israel.”
Also of interest: Bridging Between the Israeli Messianic Community and Japan (KNI, 2015)
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Cliff Keller lives in Jerusalem, Israel with his wife, Marcia after making Aliyah in the spring of 2011 from the United States. His most recent novel is a work of historical biblical fiction entitled The Lion or The Lamb: Samson Ruth and Salvation. Cliff also blogs at Standing by the Gate and has a writing website, goodStories.