Discerning the times: finding your place in Israel’s struggles and global issues
Representatives from the ICEJ will be speaking at a seminar at Grace in Community Church (11269 Broadway, Alden) called “Discerning the Times,” from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 28.
“What we do is give the audience a unique and rare glimpse at history, and where we are today in light of history,” said Susan Michael, US director of the ICEJ. “A lot of our Christian audience is not as aware of our relationship to Jewish people, so a lot of it is life-impacting, as they come to understand how the church historically treated Jewish people. We are looking to honor our Jewish roots and people, and treat them with mutual respect, even though we have differences.”
Pastor Mark Sterlace of Grace in Community Church understands the importance of knowing and embracing the people of Israel. Sterlace believes in the importance of enlightenment and encouragement for his parishioners, which is why he invited the ICEJ to visit his congregation; in fact, this will be the first seminar ever to be hosted at Grace in Community. Sterlace sees the necessity of learning from the history of anti-Semitism and the skewed view of Israel, which has existed for far too long. Israel has also endured confrontations with the predominantly Islamic religion of the Middle East.
“We have a Biblical mandate to be able to discern the times, the seasons of our culture,” Sterlace said. “This would be the best way to expose our congregation, to be made aware of things that are happening in the Middle East. We believe Christians should be the most informed and most educated people on the planet. If we can instill a Biblical worldview, we will not only have better Christians, but better citizens and better people.”
The ICEJ has influence in 80 nations, and hosts seminars across the globe. Alden is one of their stops this year. According to Michael, it is the ICEJ’s first visit to New York State, ever.
“We’re seeing events and details all over our TV screens and radios, so people are aware that persecutions are happening in the Middle East, and people are saying, ‘What can I do?” Sterlace said. “We’re living in rural America, in Alden. We can pray for our brothers and sisters. We need to have education about what Israel is going through – then we will know how to support.”
Israel is surrounded by non-democratic nations, who have been pretty verbal about destroying Israel. The United States has supported Israel for the last 50 years, and considered the nation to be both an ally and friend.
Over the last 100 years, Christianity has evolved from self-contained in local, small churches with families, to branching out on a global level. The world is indeed getting smaller, and issues that are big on the other side of the globe are now touching people of the Western Hemisphere. Did you know that one out of every three people in Israel is on or below the poverty line?
“As a pastor, I think the Bible is very clear that Israel is the apple of God’s eye,” Sterlace said. “Israel is a timetable for all the things that have happened in our world.”
An 18-year-old young woman from the Alden area will be going to Israel for a mission trip in July for 10 days. Grace in Community Church has supported her, and she has spoken to the Grace congregation. She will come back and give a report upon her return. She is going on this journey through the Ebenezer Ministry in Lancaster, which brings Jewish people back to Israel.
Sterlace and his wife, who have been busy raising seven children, have finally been able to start planning a trip to Israel for next March.
“It’s been a very difficult thing for us to get away together,” Sterlace said. “We feel it will be very enriching for us as a couple.”
Sterlace has been on seven mission trips himself – to Africa, India, Venezuela, and Guatemala. He invited people from all over the Western New York area to come to the ICEJ seminar, targeting 50 churches. He expects between 100 and 150 people to attend.
“Israel, being a Biblical dynamic in the world, their struggle to be independent is something we need to know,” Sterlace said. “To hear from people who have been to Israel, and what it’s cost Israel to become a nation and maintain their independence.”
Sterlace brings his focus on unity and partnership to work for him in his life in Alden. He regularly meets with another pastor from a church on Two Rod Road, to collaborate and touch base with what’s going on in each of their congregations.
“A very strong component of our heart of ministry is to be able to work together,” Sterlace said. “We have a strong heart for bringing unity to the churches.”