After spending the first two weeks of our time in Israel in Jerusalem we were due to head to Bethlehem for a week. However God had other plans…
Part way through our 2nd week in Jerusalem, due to a variety of factors including praying a lot about it, talking things through with our leaders back in New Zealand, and security alerts from various countries embassy’s at that time, we decided it wasn’t the right time to take our team to Bethlehem. This gave us around 4 days to decide where we should take our team the following week, what we should do and where we should stay. Again after praying and talking about it late into the night we felt we would head to Tel Aviv for the week and see what God was doing, and had for us there. So with only a couple of ideas about what we could do in Tel Aviv, we booked some accommodation and headed there as a team ready to be led by the Holy Spirit and do whatever He had for us. (We were so grateful for everyone’s prayers as we felt a lot of peace in the stress.)
It turned out to be one of our favourite weeks of outreach.
We started the first day in Tel Aviv by going on a prayer walk through the city. We wanted to get an idea of what Tel Aviv was like, pray for the people there, see what was going on, and see if there was anything God wanted to show us/speak to us about. We spent some time praying altogether asking God what he had for us as a team there. One of the things we had noticed on our way to our ‘gathering spot’ was a big strip club at the end of the road near where we were staying and a couple of us wondered if God had something for us to do there. We prayed together and felt God tell us several things one of which was one of the students getting the word ‘Colisuem’. As we walked back to our accommodation past the strip club, we noticed the back entrance door had the word ‘Coliseum’. So we felt to go ahead with praying and making a plan for some time there. It opened at 11pm every evening so we decided we would head down there at 10pm one evening and start praying. Praying for the people who worked there, both the girls and the other members of staff, from security to bar staff, and also praying for anyone who was planning on coming there for the ‘entertainment’ that evening. Then as 11pm approached we would split into 3 teams. One team would keep praying around the building, another team would sit outside the club and worship. We wanted to change the spiritual atmosphere in that place by lifting up the name of Jesus there and declaring His love and sovereignty. Meanwhile the 3rd team would try and start some conversations with anyone who was coming into the club, girls arriving for work and men arriving for ‘entertainment’.
At around 10:30pm some of the girls who work at the club started arriving. During the afternoon we’d bought some flowers to give to the girls who worked there, individual flowers in a bouquet. With little encouraging notes, and Bible verses attached to each written in hebrew and russian(in our research we’d found the industry to have russian girls involved) to let the girls know they are loved and not forgotten. Some of our team were able to give the flowers and talk with the girls to let them know they are valued and so much more than just objects for men to pay to look at, to show that people were interested in them and valued them for who they are and not what they could get from them. After the girls had finished arriving, the club opened and the men started arriving. The ‘talking team’ were able to engage the men in conversation as well and have some really good conversations about why they were there and what they thought about the way women were portrayed and treated in the club and ask some thought provoking/challenging questions. We even had the opportunity to chat for quite a while with the security guards on the door of the club. At first we were worried they would try and get rid of us and stop us hanging around the club, but they were actually pretty talkative and interested in what we were doing. After a few hours there we called it a night and headed back to our apartment.
A few days later some of the group went again, essentially doing the same thing. It seemed to have a big impact, especially on the girls who were working at the club. Each girl we talked to this time seemed so happy that we came again, and kept hugging the girls from our team and saying how much they appreciated it. It was also very exciting for one of our students to meet a girl that she had dreamt about back in New Zealand, right there at the strip club. Same name and hair! She was able to have a good conversation with her and reach out to her and start the beginnings of a relationship which she’s hoping to continue.
It’s amazing to see how a relatively small act such as turning up for someone and giving them a small gift and a smile, can make a huge difference to someone. I guess we all want to know we are thought about and loved, and their’s nothing greater than letting people, who rarely experience real love that God loves them. It was an amazing opportunity to bring light, truth and hope to a place full of darkness, lies and despair.
We did a whole load of other things during our week in Tel Aviv. From prayer walks, spiritual treasure hunting, working with a homeless ministry, preparing food and feeding homeless people, picking up hundreds and hundreds of cards advertising prostitution from the streets(which lead to a lot of good conversations about why we were doing what we were doing), and being led by the Spirit each day to have conversations, and pray with all sorts of people we came across during the day. So many more stories but they’ll have to be shared another time.
This was a big week for us all to learn more about listening to the Holy Spirit and walking more in line with Him.