November 29, 2016

What Real Freedom Looks Like

Post by Brittany Tedesco

I watched the footage, and it was pretty shocking. Our Development Director was visiting a native ministry we assist in Israel. He and several others drove down a street in Tel Aviv, notorious for the drug addicted homeless people who inhabit it. Emaciated figures stumbled down sidewalks. One man stuck a needle into another man's arm, not even trying to hide it. Sunken faces stared at the camera through the car windows.

Israeli missionary ministering to a drug addict.
Ministering to a drug addict on the streets of Tel Aviv, Israel

Dante described what he imagined hell to be like in his famous "Inferno." In the poem, the gates of hell are inscribed with the words, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."

That street in Tel Aviv is hell on earth. But Hope hasn't abandoned the people who wander it.

Like a light beam from heaven, the native missionaries we assist swoop down and rescue those people. Literally, they drive a van into that place and offer to take the addicts, the alcoholics, the prostitutes, and the homeless to a refuge for a second chance at life.

Throughout the past 12 years, this ministry has helped thousands of such people through their 16 rehabilitation centers. More than 400 former addicts are now church members, 100 are missionaries, 12 are pastors, and 30 graduated from Bible institutes.

Last year, due to the generosity of one Christian Aid Mission supporter, they opened a café for the homeless, where they can receive free meals, clothing, and personal care items, along with spiritual and emotional support. In less than one year, approximately 2,000 people have visited the café. Ten are completing the ministry's rehabilitation program, seven accepted Christ as Savior, and two are in Bible school.

While Israel's evangelical population is dismally low, at around 0.3%, this ministry is winning souls with their unconventional strategy. In fact, most of the ministry's home churches were established by former druggies, who are now "living stones" in God's Kingdom.

Homeless people eating in a café.
Café for the homeless in Tel Aviv

Some people could look at that street in Tel Aviv and ask "Where is God?"...and why would He allow this hellish place to exist?

The short answer is: sin corrupts. It affects, not just you, but those around you. It has a ripple effect; it spreads death and destruction. Those in positions of authority have the power to exponentially affect others with their sin.

But when the gospel of Jesus Christ breaks through, it elevates people's status—it brings them dignity by freeing them from sin's chains.

"And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free," Christ said (John 8:32 NIV).

While on earth, Jesus made it clear that He came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18-19). As His Body, we're called to do the same thing.

Consider this report from a ministry we assist in Turkey that is helping Syrian refugees:

"Just last week I read in the Turkish news that some Turkish policemen raided a night club. Within one hour, 56 Syrian prostitutes were arrested. They have run from the fighting in Syria, but are letting men destroy their souls and their bodies just to get a little money. We were grateful that none of the women came from the areas that we supplied with food and the gospel message. So your generosity is affecting both their physical needs and their honor."

Turkish missionaries distributing supplies to Syrian refugees.
Christian Aid Mission-assisted ministry in Turkey helps Syrian refugees

The gospel brings dignity; your gifts bring the gospel to those in need of hope.

The report continued:

"One of those dear women, who had prostituted herself to survive, came to visit our church. To care for her 15-year-old daughter and pay the rent, she had to prostitute herself against her will. When some men tried to prostitute her daughter, both of them ran to the church for protection. For months, the ladies in our church helped her out—giving her rent money and food, and inviting her to the Bible studies. They showed God's love for her and did everything to let her know how much God loved her. It was a MIRACLE, as this lady accepted Christ after four months. Then a month ago, we found work for her at a restaurant as the dish washer, so she no longer needs our financial help."

Christian Aid Mission helps indigenous ministries around the world, specifically in areas of poverty...where the effects of sin are a little more obvious than in areas where people are prospering.

With your support, these ministries start income-generating projects, vocational training or literacy centers, and rehabilitation programs as ways to offer freedom to people who've known only oppression.

Because of its Islamic culture, Egypt is a place where women are highly oppressed. We assist an indigenous ministry there that offers what they refer to as "Life Schools" for those who lack the most basic life skills, such as reading and writing.

Egyptian women in front of whiteboard.
Learning life skills at a "Life School" in Egypt

Maria, a 48-year-old widow with four children, told this ministry that she attended one of their Life Schools because, "I was dreaming of learning to read and write, and do not want to feel less than the educated people." She continued: "Before joining the class, I didn't even know how to hold a pencil...but now I can read and write my full name. The last time I was at the bank, the officer brought me the ink to use the seal, but I told him I would sign. I signed all the papers and he was very surprised. I felt happy and very proud of myself."

Every item in our Christmas catalog pertains to freedom. Whether you give a gift toward food, blankets, an income-generating project, or rescuing a child from human trafficking—you are freeing someone from something. Hunger. Cold. Poverty. Slavery. In essence, the effects of sin (their own or someone else's).

Jesus Christ does not promise His followers fabulous wealth or even a life of ease, but He does promise to free us from the chains of sin and death.

"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life" (Romans 6:22 NIV).

Thank you for helping us offer freedom and life to those still in darkness, and build God's Kingdom with the "living stones" of redeemed souls.