July 14, 2017
All The Way From Israel
Shalom and love to you all from us in an Israeli heatwave! Yes the summer is here in all its glory! Letitia is now almost in the third trimester, and feeling much better… the pregnancy hasn’t been easy as we’ve struggled through extended morning sickness and other health issues. But we are so thankful and excited to become new parents! Thank you for keeping us in your prayers. Thank you for faithfully and sacrificially supporting us financially, we couldn’t be here without you. Thank you for enabling us to follow the LORD’s leading. As we try to prepare to become parents, it means so much to us to know that we are not alone. We are looking forward to introducing you to Baby Bergen soon!
Speaking of not being alone, in the small congregation we are a part of there have been five babies born in the past ten months. Needless to say we have gotten a lot of good advice, local recommendations, and help. We have also connected with a team of great midwives – so we are really enjoying this time of learning and preparing for our new arrival. Some of you know this already, but just before we embarked on this journey to Israel, Letitia suffered through a miscarriage. With our first child we were taken to the highest heights and the lowest lows of life. Over the past year here in Israel the LORD has taken us through a time of healing and learning, and blessed us with another one of his precious children.
The last time we wrote it was during the Feast of Passover. Just over a month ago we celebrated the second of the spring feasts - Shavuot - or as it is know in English – Pentecost. Shavuot is celebrated by the Jewish people as the time when the LORD made the covenant with them at Mount Sinai. To celebrate, Jews will stay up all night reading and studying the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. We celebrated by joining our congregation in a surprise party for our pastor and his wife. It was an evening full of remembering and praising the LORD for a faithful pastor of 20 years. Our pastor, Ofer Amitai, grew up in Israel in a Jewish home, and became a believer in Jesus while travelling in India after serving in the Israeli army. He has an incredible gift of teaching, and has given his life to teach his fellow Jews about their Messiah.
A week before Shavuot, we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem. The celebration was kicked off by a spectacular light show on Jerusalem’s Old City walls. Tens of thousands of Jerusalemites crowed the streets just outside the Jaffa Gate. Beautiful speeches and music about Jerusalem’s history were accompanied by dazzling lights. The highlight of the night was when hundreds of synchronized drones flew high above the crowds in perfect harmony projecting images in the night sky like colourful constellations.
As part of the 50th anniversary, Bridges for Peace helped to coordinate hundreds of celebrations around the world. Letitia was busy designing advertisements and articles about Jerusalem to help get the word out, and all sorts of resources that people could use to host a party.
But the highlight of the past few months was being able to host Thomas and Cara - Stefan’s brother and sister-in-law. They had a month with us, but it wasn’t enough. For the first week they were here they treated us to a road trip through Jordan. We spent the first day in Wadi Rum, a massive desert of red sand surrounded by ornate sandstone mountains. Then we visited the ancient city of Petra, hidden away deep in the desert mountains of Jordan. Petra was the capital of an ancient nomadic tribal people called the Nabataeans. Later it became part of the Roman Empire, but was then lost to the West for centuries and its memory faded into legend. Finally in 1812 it was rediscovered by a Swiss explorer. Petra is a city like no other. The only entrance is through a narrow kilometre long gorge. At the end, the winding road opens up to a large clearing where massive tombs have been intricately carved into the mountain cliffs. The sight is breathtaking and beyond words. After two days in Petra we made our way up north to a mountain fortress built by Herod the Great. Tradition holds that this was the fortress where John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded, not far from the Jordan River. Then we visited Mount Nebo where the LORD showed Moses the Promised Land, but was not allowed to enter it. That night we stayed with friends of Stefan’s parents from Brazil, Peter and Margit Heinrichs. Peter was unfortunately on a business trip to Brazil, but Margit showed us great hospitality at their little apartment in the capital city of Amman. Margit works as the principal of an international school in Amman, and Peter works to help the over one million refugees from the Syrian conflict that are living in camps all over Jordan. Staying there was an oasis, and we were inspired and encouraged by their heart for the people in Jordan. The final day in Jordan was spent at Jerash, the ruins of a large ancient Roman city. We were awestruck by the huge structures still standing there. The two largest and most impressive were the temples to Zeus and Artemis, still largely in tacked. Seeing the monumental size and design of these temples impressed on all of us the power that the Roman gods had on the people of that time. This truly brought new light on the struggle that Paul and the early Christians faced when they confronted the gods of their time.
Work & Life
But the last few months haven’t just been fun and games… Stefan has just completed his first series of audits, this time from the other side! Ironically the external auditor of Bridges for Peace is the international accounting firm KPMG, the same firm where Stefan worked as an auditor for three and a half years to get his Chartered Accountant designation. However in Israel there is a lot of government regulation around not-for-profit organizations. Because of the financial size of Bridges for Peace, we are also required by Israeli law to hire an internal auditor. So the last few months have been very busy ones for Stefan. On top of audits, Stefan has also been tasked with improving the systems that the BFP Human Resources department is currently using.
In our last update we told you how the LORD has continued to answer our prayers to open up new doors for us to serve here in Israel. In March, Stefan was asked to volunteer as the Finance Chair of the board of the CMJ international school in Jerusalem. Since then he has been involved in finalizing the school’s budget for next year, looking into possible investments, and awarding bursaries to families that can’t afford the private Christian education.
(CMJ International School Graduation)
But with all the meetings and numbers, it can be easy to lose sight of the reason we are here. Although we are both working at our desk most of the time, sometimes we are able to join a Bridges for Peace outreach. When we get to deliver food to Holocaust survivors in their homes and share stories, it reminds us of why we are here.
(Hosting friends from Canada)
With all our love,
Stefan & Letitia Bergen
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