Sunday evening, in a hotel in northern Jerusalem, 40 participants of the Evangelical Foursquare Women in Ministry Leadership Experiential Mission to Israel gathered in a room to donate blood to Israel. The atmosphere was akin to that of excited children in an amusement park.
“I’ve never seen people this excited to donate blood before,” said one of the medics who was overseeing the donation. “Everyone is so excited to donate blood, it is really amazing to see.”
The group consisted of Evangelical Christian women leaders from across the globe, such as pastors, teachers, therapists, youth and community leaders. One of the trip’s organizers, Marion Ingegneri, emphasized the experiential aspect of the trip. “We don’t simply want to come on another tour,” she said. “We came to pray, study, and grasp the culture of Israel.”
While a strong sense of humor permeated the room, members of the trip lined up excitedly to donate blood. After hearing a translation of the instruction sheet and blood donation form, they hurriedly filled out the sheets in an effort to be first in line.
Marion explained the group’s eagerness: “Everyone wants to give something in the style of an ayin yaffa, a good eye, a new phrase we just learned. To feel that we can give our blood to help others in the land where Jesus gave his blood to help us is something that is very special. Those of us who are sadly not able to donate blood due to health reasons came prepared to donate money instead.”
The event was sponsored by the Heart to Heart organization which supports Israel’s blood supply. One of the unique aspects of Heart to Heart is that it allows anyone, regardless of health, to donate to Israel’s blood supply. For those individuals who are not allowed to donate blood due to health or other reasons, they can support Israel by giving a virtual blood donation.
“Israel has given so much to the world. This is our way to give back and to leave part of myself here in Israel”, said Lallah, a Pastor from Maryland.
Jessica, a Pastor from Columbus Ohio and a divisional superintendent, characterized her experience as “very exciting.”
“I feel great joy in being able to give this gift to Israel in this way,” Jessica explained. “To be part of an answer to a prayer is a real gift. We have all prayed for Israel and I am deeply moved that I can help be an answer to someone else’s prayer now.”
Some of the participants mentioned that in the past, they had prayed that at some point in their lives they would be able to help Israel through blood donations.
Lorelle, a Pastor from Australia, related that she had at one time received a blood transfusion together with her brother. “It saved my life and my brother’s. Now I can help save someone else,” she said. “Blood is the source of life, both physically and spiritually. We hold Israel dear in our hearts and we can now fulfill the spirit of giving.”
A sense of fulfillment was not the only thing that the participants were taking back with them. The group, who focused upon the experiential elements in their trip, also received a new understanding from their experience.
The group spent the Sabbath with Jewish families around Jerusalem before meeting with a local pastor and getting a feel for the local Christian community. “The Shabbat experience was a highlight as we felt that we were really able to connect to the local population. It made the whole experience more alive for us,” said one of the participants.
Marion explained that the whole point of the trip was to become part of the story. “We slowed down the tour, spent more time at each place, to understand what really happened in each location. We want to understand the story of each place we visit and to be part of it if we can.”
Monica, a therapist from Charlotte, North Carolina, said that the trip helped her have a much bigger worldview. “The blood donation made me a bit nervous, but I feel that it enriches the whole trip. Israel faces so much conflict and tension, and we are all tense for Israel when we are home. Knowing that our blood is here to help, makes a difference for us personally,” she said.
“The trip, the blood donation, seeing the diversity of the worshipers at the wall, all the different sects of Judaism that exist, then immediately going through the Arab quarter and hearing the history of the attacks that happened there, the stories, it has changed everything. I now read the Bible differently. I see the tension here now, I feel it,” she added.
When asked about what she thinks of the magic mix that Israelis have that allows them to live in a constant state of tension and yet be considered one of the happiest populaces in the world, Monica quickly responded; “The Sabbath. The Sabbath helps to focus on the deeper life issues and spirituality that is all around. It replenishes the soul, and the rest of the world is missing out. In America we tend to focus on material issues, money, the stuff on the surface.The Sabbath allows those who observe it to feel connected on a much deeper level.”
Jonathan Feldstein, Director of Heart of Hear, said; “We planned the event almost a year ago. The group made changes in their itinerary but this event was sacrosanct. They were so dedicated to this event because they felt very strongly about donating blood in Israel. Blood is a very holy thing for Christians. It has a tremendous amount of meaning. Unfortunately, not everyone can come on one of these trips and donate blood here. It is a big financial cost for a trip. That is where Heart to Heart comes in. We enable anyone from around the world to be able to donate a virtual blood donation from the comfort of their living room. It may not seem like a lot, but it is incredibly helpful here and it saves lives.”
Feldstein said that other groups are now becoming more interested and involved with donating blood while visiting Israel.
“It’s becoming the next big tourist event! We have a number of groups coming between now and May, all of whom are donating blood, and a very large organization coming next year in the spring that is planning a huge donation. It may even be the biggest single donation ever,” Feldstein said.