A spiritual oasis for Israeli young adult believers in the midst of the pandemic

Lech L'cha (Photo courtesy)

The Hebrew phrase “Lech L’cha” means “go forth,” the words God spoke to Abraham to leave his home in Genesis 12:1, and there is a discipleship program by that name for Israeli young adults, age 18 and up.

Including a wide variety of activities, Lech L’cha is a 3-month discipleship program, held twice annually, which teaches and equips young believers to walk with Yeshua in their daily lives. Founded in 2003, it doesn’t belong to any particular congregation, but is an independent ministry with an overseeing board of representatives from various Israeli congregations.

Each run of the program usually has about a dozen participants, and includes in-depth teaching from Israeli pastors on Biblical topics and day-to-day matters, prayer and worship evenings as well as hiking and learning biblical stories in the places where they occurred.

The first month is devoted to the foundations of the faith, matters of the heart and personal relationship with God, while the second month is when they bring in the pastors and teachers from various parts of the country to teach in-depth insight to the scripture and basic theology. There are also practical teachings about time-management, finances, identifying and working on strengths and weaknesses, and other important life skills. The third month is devoted to reflections on how to translate what the students have learned into their daily life.

The young people who complete the program often share their testimony about a changed life, a deeper relationship with God, and a better understanding for his Word.

“I am different than I was before I started the program,” one graduate said, “because I now know more about how to build a relationship with God. I also understand how I can be an influence to those around me.” Another one said that he had overcome years of depression because of the program: “I feel that I am leaving Lech L’cha with a solid base, with lots of tools that have prepared me for the rest of the journey of growing in faith.”

“It’s amazing to see in how short time Yeshua can change us,” said another graduate. “I came to peace with issues in my life that I had dealt with for over six years on my own. During the program God showed me it was not in my hands. The moment I brought it all before the Lord, he did what I couldn’t do in my own strength. He fixed in two months what I couldn’t on my own in six years.”

“By the end of the program we love to send them out, knowing they will be well-rooted in both the land and their calling to be a light to the nations – and to their own people, as well,” says Shmuel Salway, the program director of Lech L’cha.

The spring program of 2020 was cut short two weeks before it was scheduled to end because of COVID-19. When it became clear that the pandemic was here to stay for the foreseeable future, Lech L’cha invited the participants to a reunion in June and a small graduation ceremony. They planned a worship event with 200 participants in July 2020, hoping the pandemic would be over. When that wasn’t the case, the event was livestreamed instead.

In October 2020, the fall program launched with 19 participants, despite the lockdown and the pandemic, this time with measures and protocols in place to follow the proper guidelines. There are already several young people expressing interest in the next program run, demonstrating that the pandemic has caused more young people than ever to want to clear their schedule and focus on going deep into God’s Word.

“After months of restrictions and lockdown due to COVID-19 it is a blessing to fellowship together, worship and study the word of God,” Salway wrote. “It feels like a spiritual oasis in the middle of the desert. God is working in the lives of the 19 participants (and the staff). There are already testimonies of God’s faithfulness. Thank you for all your prayers.”