A community of Israeli believers in Ashdod has inspired us this season with their passionate work for the sake of the Gospel. We want to share with you a testimony of what God has been doing in that city. Come, join us on a visit to the Mediterranean coast of Israel!
Have you been to Ashdod?
Many who travel to Israel tend to skip places that do not have an elaborate biblical or political history. In that sense, Ashdod is a humble place that the Bible mentions only a handful of times. But what if I told you that it has really earned its spot on the map?
Did you know that in Biblical times the Ark of the Covenant was in this coastal city? The Philistines captured Ark and placed it in their pagan temple in Ashdod. What the Philistines didn’t realize though is that the God of Israel is a real and holy God. So, the Philistine idols kept falling facedown just from being near God’s Ark!
There is only one instance when the city of Ashdod is mentioned in the New Testament (in Greek it was called Azotus). In contrast with the pagan Philistines, in this New Testament passage we meet a person who loved God. In fact, he loved the Messiah so much that everyone he came across ended up loving God, too!
It was Philip the Evangelist. On his way out of Jerusalem, Philip shared the good news of Jesus with an Ethiopian eunuch. The two had such an engaging conversation that by the end of their journey, the eunuch requested that Philip baptizes him! Immediately after that, Philip was found in Ashdod, where he started making disciples along the coast all the way up to Caesarea.
A City with the Good News
These stories remind us that the presence of the Lord is powerful and life-changing. And the exciting part is, Ashdod is experiencing the wonder of God’s love still today!
Yakov, a young resident of the city, served in the Israel Defense Forces just like all his peers. His tenure however was not an easy one. Yakov served during a time of conflict and witnessed some tough scenes as a young soldier.
After his faithful service, Yakov thought the hardest part was behind him. However, some three years later the memories returned and started to torment him. He started having nightmares about the things he saw. And it became overwhelming.
He began searching for help and God reached him in a unique way. Yakov’s nephew was dealing with a serious sickness and some local Messianic Jews reached out to help him. For the first time Yakov met Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus). He was intrigued and very open to conversation.
Yakov’s life changed completely when he found the Messiah. His heart and mind centered around the Gospel and unexpectedly, he started to experience healing. The spirit of God was restoring his soul and dealing with the past trauma. Soon enough Yakov realized that his experiences no longer weigh him down.
God is Working in Ashdod
Yakov saw miraculous physical healing in his family and now received a miracle of his own. By God’s grace and with the care of fellow believers, Yakov experienced inner healing and his mental and spiritual health were restored. Today, Yakov and his family are part of the Beit Hallel congregation, a community that introduced him to his Messiah.
Beit Hallel in Ashdod did not give in to the discouragement of lockdowns and restrictions. Pastor Israel Pochtar admits that it was a difficult year. “But the joy of the Lord and His presence have been very sweet, and they carried us through,” he recently shared with FIRM.
The leaders at Beit Hallel love sharing the Gospel and gladly collaborate with other ministries. They are better and more effective together, pastor Pochtar believes.
“God has been inspiring us to be creative and win souls for the Kingdom. So, it’s been a beautiful season in many ways,” said pastor Pochtar. And he immediately added, quoting prophet Isaiah: “Rise and shine, because the glory of God is shining over you!”
This article originally appeared on FIRM, May 13, 2021, and reposted with permission.