Ima’s Goodies, founded by Renee Shmuel in 2014, is a ministry of kindness that aims to show the love of God through the delivery of home-baked cakes, muffins and other goodies to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers on their bases.
“It is important that our soldiers know that Messianic Jews and Christians both here and abroad love them and are praying for them,” Renee TElls KNI.
The idea for the ministry came when three Israeli Jewish boys were kidnapped by Palestinians and murdered on June 12, 2014 in Hebron in the West Bank. During this period rockets from Gaza were also slamming into Israel. it was a tense time and the country was on high alert. Renee felt it was necessary to do something to help.
“The boys had disappeared and my nephew, who was serving in the military down South, was among those trying to find them,” Renee recalls. “I had already been badgering him to tell me what he and the soldiers on his base needed, and finally he said: ‘We have lots of regular food, but we don’t have things to snack on at night when we are guarding.’”
Renee continues: “We live up north, near Haifa, and I decided that if I was going to drive down South with things for my nephew’s unit, I might was well load up the car and deliver snacks to soldiers along the way, as well.”
And so Ima’s Goodies was born. Ima is mother in Hebrew.
From that first trip on, Renee has sought out army bases and battalions – even off the beaten track.
“I just follow the road,” Renee explains. “Once I found a whole tank battalion on a very hot day. Dust was blowing everywhere too. I remember I waited for the dust to settle for a moment, then opened my trunk and called out to them: ‘Come and get cold drinks!’
“Whenever I hand things out to the soldiers, I tell them: ‘these are from Messianic Jews in Israel and Christians here and from abroad. We love you and are praying for you.” Renee reflects: “I take Yeshua’s Presence out and if there is anyone I can talk to about Him, I do.”
Renee affirms: “This work can lead to amazing conversations about the Lord. Some of the soldiers ask me: ‘What is a Messianic Jew?’ and I can tell them they are Jews who believe that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah.’ I tell them that Yeshua is described in Isaiah 53.” She adds: “When you go out with a cake, cookies and muffins it opens up the door to conversations. And no one has ever become angry or rude to me about it.”
Married to Gidon Shmuel, an Israeli Messianic Jewish believer and deacon at Haifa’s Kehilat HaCarmel congregation, Renee is a Christian who moved to Israel from New Mexico 35 years ago. While also working for the Carmel congregation itself, in hospitality among other things, Renee does the baking for Ima’s Goodies in her own kitchen.
Ima’s Goodies home-baked goods are ‘parve’ – having neither meat nor dairy ingredients – so as to comply with kosher requirements that soldiers might have.
“I do sometimes buy things from the store when I think I might not have enough, but I give out home-baked treats,” Renee explains. “The soldiers like to have things their moms made them, and I think they all enjoy it when they have something from home.”
Renee goes out on delivery once a week. While she does most of the baking herself, with the support of her husband and children, volunteers are welcome to join her and set a date to come and help.
“People call and ask if they can help, and they come from various places. I remember that once two girls from France, whom I did not know, came over to bake. One girl was from a Messianic family, but the other was secular,” Renee recalls. “They just found out about the ministry and called to ask if they could help because of the soldiers. We baked a lot that day and it was great!”
Assistance is also welcomed from those with computer skills and other talents. For more information visit the “get involved” page on her website. Finances going forward are needed and donations may be made here.
“I love doing this,” Renee concludes. “I am just myself, and I go out in obedience to God. I am always making sure the soldiers know there are Messianic Jews and Christians who love them, support them and pray for them.”