“Comfort My People”: Sharing God’s Love & Caring for Israel’s Poor
Story by Stephen Apple
Photos courtesy of the Shepherd’s Light
The Shepherd’s Light is a nonprofit charity founded by Stephen and Patricia Apple. On the ground in Israel, the Apples work to reach the nation with the Good News of Jesus the Messiah and to care for its poor by providing food, medical assistance, lodging, and warming supplies. The Apples have started two Calvary Chapel plants as well. The ministry has continued during the recent bombing campaign in May. For more information, go to shepherdslight.com.
Moving slowly is not an option when the rockets are falling. Over the past 17 years, we’ve experienced that danger many times. Tel Aviv has been hit several times in the past. The sights and sounds of the sirens and explosions cannot easily be forgotten.
In the Lebanon War of 2006, we brought much needed food and supplies to hundreds of people trapped in bomb shelters in Kiryat Shmona in the north of Israel. Over 4,000 katyusha rockets were launched against Israel from the mountains of Lebanon by terrorist militias indiscriminately targeting Israeli citizens at that time. Explosions destroyed structures and mangled automobiles as we delivered the much-needed supplies under cover of darkness from a friend’s packed van to the underground shelters in the basements of the old buildings where people, and their children, were huddled in fear. The bomb shelters in the old buildings are usually cold, filthy, and rat-infested. Mothers laid their tiny infants on the cold concrete floors to attend to their needs. It was too dangerous for the people to leave the shelters to retrieve things from their apartments. Mere seconds count in these circumstances.
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God. Isaiah 40:1
But the recent attack in May 2021 was very different. Now, the longer-range, advanced rockets were reaching into the middle of Israel—into the Tel Aviv metroplex where nearly 40% of the Jewish people live. The potential for large numbers of casualties existed. Israelis knew this time was different. You could see it in their faces. You could hear it in their voices. The Jewish people are not typically emotional under adverse conditions. They simply put on a face of resolve and determine to somehow go forward. But this was not a typical attack. Over 4,600 rockets were launched against God’s chosen people.
The Shepherd’s Light has donated the funds to build and place one of 13 bomb shelters for citizens of Ashkelon, Israel. The city was one of the most heavily hit in the latest barrage of rockets shot into Israel in May. This photo shows their partners in Israel placing one of the shelters.
From Panic to Peace
Recently from the U.S., my wife, Pat, was on the telephone with a Jewish believer friend of ours as the rockets were striking Tel Aviv. The young lady is typically strong—Israelis are resilient and tough. But this was not a typical trial. One rocket had just exploded near her apartment, and now the sirens were sounding for another incoming rocket. She was rushing down the stairs to seek whatever shelter could be had in the middle of the building near the stairwell on the ground floor. In her building there was no bomb shelter, and Israelis know that the ground floor area would be the next best place to be if the building took a direct hit. As she frantically ran down the stairs (many apartment buildings have no elevator), my wife could hear the panic in her voice.
The young lady’s tone suddenly shifted from panic to resolve as Pat heard her repeatedly saying to herself the verse from Isaiah 54:17a, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper … No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” Pat prayed for God’s peace to comfort her. Suddenly our friend’s tone of voice completely changed. Where panic was shouting only seconds earlier, now a joy and peace somehow covered her. The lady said she didn’t understand what had just happened, but that suddenly she just knew that God was there with her and that He would keep her. The experience changed her life. Now she had a testimony that could help others as well.
Families take refuge in one of the newly sponsored bomb shelters in Ashkelon. Stephen Apple of the Shepherd’s Light shared that bomb shelters in old buildings, where many huddle in fear, are usually cold, filthy, and rat-infested.
Funding a Bomb Shelter
To the south of Tel Aviv, a little city named Ashkelon was receiving a huge number of rocket attacks. It was closer to the Gaza area where the rockets were coming from, and it was a target for the terrorists. Bomb shelters were a critical need in Ashkelon, and people without one were at risk. The Shepherd’s Light was able to sponsor and place one of 13 emergency concrete bomb shelters in the city. The cost of each shelter was $13,000, but the Lord had just provided almost exactly that much—right as the conflict began. Now, for some families, there will be a place to take refuge. The pictures show what these shelters look like and how families survive inside of them.
Ministry in Israel
When my wife and I began this journey in 2004, we were a simple missionary couple who wanted to share God’s love with the Jewish people and care for Israel’s poor. But now, our non-profit, the Shepherd’s Light, has two Calvary Chapel church plants with several ministries. Israeli Bible-teaching pastors have been ordained and are teaching through God’s Word. Israeli believers are caring for one another and growing in Christ. And a large team of fellow volunteers travel back and forth to Israel to strengthen and encourage to the believers there.
Three years ago, we started an online church that is reaching into Israel in English combined with Hebrew, one of the most exciting things that God is doing. And people around the world are also tuning in for the weekly teaching, verse-by-verse, through the Bible. In fact, we’ve had several Israelis give their lives to the Lord in the last few weeks alone.
We know the Israeli believers. They’re our friends. We’ve known many of them for years. When we’re stateside talking to them on the phone, we envision their faces. We sense their feelings from their words and tone. In situations such as this, we try to help them remember that the Holy Spirt is there with them. We pray for them continually—that God’s peace would surround them and give them hope.
Right: Shepherd’s Light not only shares the Good News of Jesus the Messiah with Israeli citizens—it meets the practical needs of the poor and homeless as well. The ministry has provided monthly groceries to this elderly homeless lady from Tel Aviv.
Drawing Israelis to the Lord
Meanwhile, our ongoing work with the poorest of the inner city continues. In south Tel Aviv, large numbers of homeless struggle to survive on the streets and in the alleyways. There is no social safety net for them, and the dangers and exposure are no respecters of age or gender. We continue to do what we can with critical medical care for their wounds and infections, with food, and the very important blankets to warm them at night as they sleep on the sidewalks and in the parks. In all we do, we bring the life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our purpose remains the same: sharing God’s love and caring for Israel’s poor.
The Israeli believer above who sensed God’s Presence during the bombing is not an isolated example. These stories are being multiplied in the lives of other Jewish believers, and they are shining as lights in the darkness to those who are desperate for hope. In our Israeli church plants in Tel Aviv and Haifa, in the street ministries to the poorest of the poor, and in our weekly online church services into Israel, the Word of God is being taught. As the Scriptures state, So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). God is reaching into hearts and revealing His love. On the ground in Israel, and through the local and online churches, Israelis are coming to the Lord.
Left: Stephen and Patricia Apple of the Shepherd’s Light first came to Israel in 2004 as “a simple missionary couple” to share God’s love with the Jewish people and care for the poor. Now, there are two Calvary Chapel plants and several more ministries.
From Famine to Flood
In 1 Kings 18, the Bible tells the story of a severe famine in the land where the prophet Elijah was. There had been no rain for a very long time. Grass could not grow; livestock was dying from lack of food. But Elijah then prayed for rain. Time after time he looked, but no rain clouds were in the sky. Then, a very tiny cloud appeared in the distance. It was a mere spot on the vast expanse of the hot, cloudless sky. But Elijah sensed God was bringing an answer to his prayers. He told others to go quickly lest the coming flood of rains would trap them. Soon, that tiny cloud had turned into a sky full of dark rain clouds, and a downpour of epic proportions swept over the land.
In the same way, the small beginnings of the Gospel in the land of Israel are modest now. But God has sent His Word. Hearts are changing. We’d better get a big umbrella!
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
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