The annual Jerusalem Encounter conference, which brings believers from around the world to encounter the land and people of Israel, took place this week at the Pavilion under threat of demonstrations by an Orthodox Jewish extremist group.
The conference, sponsored by the Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries (FIRM), was preceded by a tour of Israel for 300 leaders and young adults from abroad.
“We love seeing Christians, who have never been connected to Israel, fall in love with this land and this people and develop life-long relationships with believers in the land,” Michael Mistretta, chief operating officer of FIRM, told KNI.
The purpose of the tour and conference is to make connections between believers from abroad and local believers.
“Our hope is for specifically leaders and young adults to come experience, to walk where Jesus walked and also to engage with local pastors, local ministry leaders and maybe even find some trusted ministry leaders in Israel they may want to get involved with over the long term, partner with them going forward, and just have those divine connections,” Mistretta said.
This year, FIRM set up more than 200 individual meetings between the visitors from overseas and local leaders, paired according to mutual interests.
During the tour, the 300 participants took to the streets of Tiberias to clean the city and remove trash. They were greeted by the mayor and the story aired on a few local news stations.
FIRM offered three tour tracks including one for church groups, another for pastors and leaders and a third “adventure tour” for young adults which included hiking and rappelling.
The tour culminated in the two-day conference with 700 people in attendance, including 200 locals. The theme, Every Tribe, was well represented by the diverse attendance from overseas including participants from India, Togo, South Africa, Venezuela, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and more.
The conference was held in the Clal Buiding which has been the site of many protests. Just two weeks ago, dozens of Orthodox Jews from an organization called Lehava, protested outside a Messianic concert. The same organization staged a small protest at the 2017 Encounter conference and filed a permit to protest again on Thursday.
“Two years ago we kept them at bay with worship and praise and that’s how we feel like we should respond,” Mistretta said. “We believe worship conquers all. This is a spiritual battle. We aren’t just fighting flesh and blood.”
FIRM hired extra security in the event of another protest.
Worship sessions featured Israeli and international artists such as Aaron Shust, Birgitta Lundvall, Joshua Aaron and the Tel Aviv-based band MIQEDEM. Speakers included Wayne Hilsden, founder of FIRM, Chad Veach and Robert Madu. Veach is the pastor of Zoe Church in Los Angeles, a Hillsongs branch. Madu is an evangelist and serves on the teaching team at Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas, his childhood church.
Follow the conference or catch replays @FIRM on Instagram or at Jerusalem Encounter Live.