TBM is sending volunteers to Israel each month to develop capacity alongside the nation’s Emergency Volunteer Project in the event of future needs for disaster relief. In May, a group of Texas pastors and spouses became the newest kosher-trained TBM volunteers.
“These Texas church leaders were already involved in TBM’s broader ministries, but they wanted to experience what we were doing in the special effort in Israel,” said John-Travis Smith, TBM associate executive director.
In a disaster or emergency, TBM volunteers would serve both Jews and non-Jews, and kosher food preparation is required for the Jewish segment of the population. This requires special training.
“Learning some of the primary differences in the context of kosher food was fascinating,” said Rolando Aguirre, associate pastor of teaching and Spanish language ministries at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas. “Also, having a rabbi on site to supervise our work was a remarkable experience.”
During the food preparation training, TBM volunteers each month serve groups of Israelis as practice for a time when they might someday need to serve people in deep suffering. Those being served are not disaster victims, but they are Israelis. And other Israelis from that country’s Emergency Volunteer Project work alongside the Americans, creating a genuine cross-cultural experience for everyone.
“We were one with our Jewish friends … in the line of service,” Aguirre said. He found it especially meaningful when the people being served greeted the servers with,“Shalom,” the Jewish greeting meaning “peace.”
Kevin Walker, executive pastor at Southcliff Church in Fort Worth, noted the “amazing partnership between TBM and EVP. Although TBM has had a worldwide reach for some time, just to know that TBM volunteers have the opportunity to impact the people of Israel when they have need … is a real blessing.”
The trip included time for visiting some biblical sites, but Smith said the volunteers were willing to sacrifice some touring time to go back and feed some more because it was more rewarding than the time spent on themselves.
“While it was interesting to see where Jesus had done ministry in the past,” Smith said, “our group realized that there was ministry to be done all around us now. We could be part of feeding and ministering to the needs of the people in the same place that Jesus did so long ago.”
Food preparation is challenging. “It is not easy work, but it is not complicated either,” Smith said. The pastor/spouse group “saw that any able-bodied person with a good attitude could do the work.”
TBM volunteers seek to meet both physical and spiritual needs. In other countries, such as Israel, volunteers must use care in how they approach the spiritual side of their work.
“As a pastor, I wanted to stop and share the Gospel” with people, Aguirre said. Instead, he focused on “planting a seed and being the hands and feet of Jesus to them in a very tangible way” – through service.
The Dallas pastor noted that saying “shalom” or “God bless you,” could suffice in connecting the Gospel to the serving of a meal. “The Spirit will bear the fruit of this unique experience.”
The monthly Israel teams for 2023 are already filled, except for the September group, and there are 2024 slots still available, Smith said. If you would like to know more about becoming a volunteer in Israel, check out the web page https://www.tbmtx.org/israel.