I Am a Seventh-day Adventist Pastor in Israel. This Is My Story

A local church minister shares his challenges and joys as he serves during the war.

Israel Field, and Adventist Review
I Am a Seventh-day Adventist Pastor in Israel. This Is My Story
Photo: [Dance60]

We live in perilous times. There’s no doubt about that. You can hardly find safe places anywhere in the world anymore. Everywhere one goes, crime, violence, and insecurity abound. But the Middle East stands out as an area where instability is even greater.

My wife and I are immigrants to Israel, where we have been serving the Lord for six years.* Even though over time it is possible to get used to living with terrorist attacks, the truth is that nothing prepares you to face a war.

After the October 7 Hamas attacks, where more than 1,200 Israelis lost their lives, the sense of insecurity among residents in Israel has increased exponentially. The population lives in a constant state of alert. Thousands of alarms have been activated since the start of the war. Every time an alarm goes off, it means missiles have been fired at Israel and our lives may be in danger. It means we need to run and find a missile shelter. Depending on where we are, we have between 15 seconds to 1 minute to get to safety. No one feels safe anymore. Sources indicate that requests for gun permits in Israel have increased by 600 percent since the Hamas attacks on October 7.

People want to feel safe. They want to defend themselves in the event of an attack, and they want to defend their own. This kind of stress is also causing physical discomfort. A church member reported that since the beginning of the war, because of her nerves, she has developed a severe stomach pain.

Many respond to these stressors by spending much of their time consuming news about the war. Many spend hours in front of the TV, gathering more information about what is happening and what could happen — but that attitude only increases stress and a sense of anxiety. How do you shepherd the flock in times like these?

We have at least one Adventist family that lives in Ashkelon, just 9 miles (15 kilometers) from the Gaza Strip, a city hit hard by Hamas rockets. Many nights, they have had to flee their apartment and sleep in the missile shelter, which is usually underground. For them, even taking their dog for a walk has become a real danger.

My wife and I were looking forward to visiting them. We waited for the attacks to subside so we could travel to see them. As the day approached, we saw on the news that a missile hit Highway 4, which connects Tel Aviv with Ashkelon. We decided to wait a little longer. When we were finally able to visit them, it was very gratifying to be able to pray with them and hug them. In times of war, our only weapon of defense is prayer.

Faith in God’s promises has been our encouragement and hope. Our greatest mission in these times has been to instill encouragement in our brothers and sisters. The situation is very challenging. Some church members have decided to leave Israel, for fear that the war will only get worse. Many citizens have left cities near Gaza, seeking refuge in the center of the country. But many of our church members remain in their homes. There are obstacles that have prevented them from moving elsewhere.

A church member, who works as an anesthesiologist at the Ashkelon hospital, told us when we visited him that a missile hit a building very close to his. Other missiles have also hit the hospital where he works. He has witnessed how Psalm 91 has literally been fulfilled in his own life. “God has protected us many times, from visible dangers, as well as from dangers that we never even realized,” he told us with amazement and gratitude to God.

Wars have the power to make us shudder; but they also have the power to make us feel how much we need God and depend on Him.

The war has led many to return to church. And it is at a time like this, when we feel so vulnerable and so insufficient, that we find ourselves longing to turn to someone much stronger and more powerful than we are. It is then that we turn to our Almighty God.

As a church, we have held vigils, fasts, and of course, prayer sessions. We have followed the Bible’s counsel: “Work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare” (Jer. 29:7-8, NLT).

We have not stopped praying for the Lord to grant us peace. We have not stopped praying for the families of the victims. And we have not stopped praying that those who were kidnapped will be able to return to their families. Wars always bring a lot of suffering. And our message is one of peace and hope. But the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not just doing spiritual work. It has also thrown itself into the physical work of serving others.

The youth, through the Pathfinder Clubs, have been caring for hundreds of children who have been evacuated from their cities because they are too close to danger zones. Other church members have been working to provide support and serve the soldiers, with nutritious food and rest.

Our mission is to serve others. And the war is giving us the opportunity to reach out to people who are unfamiliar with our church; they ask us who we are and why we’re doing what we’re doing. These are clear opportunities that we have not missed to witness and break down prejudices that many have against the church.

Many have asked us, “What are you still doing there? Why don’t you get sent back on a humanitarian flight?” But the truth is that a shepherd cannot go away and leave his sheep to their fate.

Morally, we don’t feel it’s right to take a flight and seek our safety when most of our church members are still in the country. If, at any time, the war and our exposure to danger intensifies or increases significantly, the church will know how to enact the necessary mechanisms to take care of its workers. But the most important thing is that, as long as we serve the Lord, He is the one who cares for us.

Our hope is not in the Iron Dome, Israel’s anti-missile system. Nor is our hope in the tactical capabilities of Israel’s powerful army. Our hope is in the Lord. He is the one who cares for and guards His people. He is our one true refuge. We don’t know if this war is going to turn into a world war. But we know that this war, and its associated rumors of war, are a powerful indication of greater things to come and a brighter future. That’s our hope and that’s our message.


*Personal information withheld for safety reasons.

Israel Field, and Adventist Review