Israel (MNN) — Another failed attempt at a ceasefire occurred yesterday morning in the Gaza strip.
Egypt presented a ceasefire plan for Israel and Hamas yesterday morning. After six hours of a one-sided agreement, Israel again began firing upon the Gaza strip from which rocket attacks reportedly never stopped.
Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs says, “They are responding with a very strong show that they will protect themselves, that they will stand up for themselves.”
The violence has quickly resembled the conflicts in Gaza of 2012, and according to CNN, the death toll this time round is higher.
The American public may be tempted to turn away from this “old news.” However, the situation is a little more tense this time.
While the conflicts continue to grow on the coast, Israel faces increased threats from the east. Read more about that here.
Nettleton explains, “As ISIS grows in territory and power, it certainly is a threat against Israel. I think there’s no doubt that the leadership of ISIS has a hatred for Israel that they would like to literally push Israel off the map.”
Meanwhile, the United States has to figure out whether or not they should continue to support Israel, and to what degree. Most Americans believe we should stay out of conflict, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll.
Regardless of what America’s decision is, and regardless of who feels sympathetic for whom, Nettleton reminds us that Christians should be concerned about the situation.
Why? It is a time when needs run deeper than food, water, and shelter.
He says, “I think anytime there is upheaval and fear, there’s an opportunity to spread the Gospel. When people are dying, the people around them are asking questions about eternity, they’re asking questions about what happens after we die. Those are opportunities for witnessing; those are opportunities for ministry.”
Even before this recent upsurge in violence, Christian ministry in Israel was a dangerous task.
Christian ministries already at work in Israel now have a difficult decision to make.
“Christians are forced, in some cases, to choose whether to stay and try to be a lighthouse, try to be a witness for Christ, or to flee,” Nettleton says.
Voice of the Martyrs partners with nationals to minister in Israel.
“They want to stay,” Nettleton says. “They want to be a witness. At the same time they want to make wise choices. They want to protect their families and their children. And so they wrestle with, ‘How do we respond to this situation? What do we do here? Lord, help us to know what Your will is for us.'”
Whether you’re talking politics or not, there are quite a few people who aren’t really sure what is happening in the Middle East. Either that, or they don’t care.
Nettleton says, “One of the real challenges that Americans face is: we’re often times very ignorant about what’s happening around the world.
“As I watch the news, sometimes I’m very frustrated that the news is more worried about what’s happening with Angelina Jolie and her children than what’s happening with people in other countries who are dying every day.”
Part of the problem is that a lot of Americans don’t take the time to educate themselves with global concerns. When events are happening thousands of miles away, it’s too easy to dismiss them. We have our own problems to worry about, right?
“As Christians,” Nettleton says, “hopefully we have less of that because hopefully we’re involved, we’re connected with what God’s doing around the world, we’re aware, and hopefully we’re passionate about it.
“Hopefully we want to know what’s happening with the Church in different countries. We want to know what our brothers and sisters are doing for the Kingdom, but also what they’re enduring because they’re being a part of the Kingdom.”
In other words, Christians should be more than just bystanders.
According to another study done by PEW Research Centers, 10% of Americans don’t care about politics. These 10% are considered bystanders.
PEW defines them as people who “are not registered to vote, say they seldom or never vote, and do not follow government and public affairs most of the time.”
That means 1 in 10 Americans don’t care enough to act in matters locally or globally. Is it too much to guess that if they’re not willing to act, they’re probably not even paying attention?
A large portion of this group, 38%, are ages 18-29. That age group encompasses college-age American citizens–future leaders of America.
Nettleton has had opportunities to speak on college campuses. He says he urges them to go on missions trips telling them, “Go get your feet wet in another culture.”
Most people go to college with the end goal of getting a degree that will allow them to get a good job. But if they’re not globally concerned before they complete their education, why would that change after they settle into a good job, get married, and are comfortable?
Nettleton thinks mission trips could be the key for this edification, the key to inspiring a passion in God’s people for God’s people around the world.
He says, “Everyone’s not going to be called to be a missionary. But when you come back, your eyes are going to be more opened. Your prayers are going to be enriched for what God is doing around the world, and your life is going to be changed. Your heart is going to be changed.”
Nettleton explains that people who have expanded their worldview understand better how to pray for their brothers and sisters and how to represent them.
No longer is that newspaper article boring. It’s about a place they visited, a people they met. Suddenly global issues become personal, meaningful.
It doesn’t matter if you live in America. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is that these attacks began. It does matter what you, as an individual, are going to do about it. It’s about what you are doing to follow God’s call to the Great Commission whether you stay at home or travel the world.
So what can you do? It’s not as hard as you may think.
“The first thing to do to get involved is to pray. I think particularly as we think about the situation in Israel, as we think about the situation with ISIS, that’s probably the most significant thing that we can do right now. Simply go to the throne and say, ‘Lord, we don’t know what’s best in this situation, but we need You to work.'”
Nettleton continues to say these prayers must be a significant commitment to those who pray them. He asks also that you pray for God to encourage, protect, and strengthen Christians in Israel and that He would give them opportunities to share the hope of Christ.
VOM works with partners in the area to reach Arabic speakers and Palestinians. They connect with Christians facing persecution, providing them help that only fellow Christians can. If you would like to contribute to that work financially, it’s as easy as following this link.