Little by little, over the past few decades but growing more and more over the past few years, a community of activists in the Christian-Jewish engagement space has developed, with people reaching out to each other to promote fraternity and humanitarian projects in and between the Christian and Jewish communities.
In 2020, the organization I run, Root Source, together with friends at Israel365, initiated Bridgebuilders: Top Activists in Christian-Jewish Engagement, honoring seventy of these trailblazers.
In this monthly column, we will focus on one of these leaders and share an interview with her or him, hearing how they got to where they are today, learning about some of their projects, and thinking about what God is doing with regard to Jewish-Christian relations.
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This month’s bridgebuilders: Ray and Sharon Sanders from Christian Friends of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel
What is the main focus of your activities today?
Clearing away the stones put there by 2000 years of Christian anti-Semitism on the Highway to Zion (Isaiah 57:14); comforting Israel during worldwide anti-Semitism, (Isaiah 40:1); teaching the nations, especially Christians, never to separate from Israel (Isaiah 46:3); blessing Israel in every way we can to represent true Christianity in ways they have never seen before (Genesis 12:3); and loving unconditionally.
How long have you been doing that?
Since December 1985
What are some of the successful related programs or projects that you have done this year and in past years?
Assisted over 1/4 million Russian immigrants when they returned to Israel.
Visited and helped thousands of Holocaust survivors in over 50 cities in Israel, assisted victims of terror in Sderot for years and communities that came under attack during fires and conflict, supply some 25 IDF army bases with needs they have that are not covered by government help, assisting the Ethiopian community this year with a start-up program to learn a trade to earn a living, now launching a new International Prayer Initiative to encourage nations around the world to pray for the nation of Israel, teaching on International webinars about Israel and the Church, writing on subjects for Israel that the Church will never teach about, declaring the truth from Zion on our Israel News Insights, and three prayer bulletins and this year have begun helping the Chernobyl Jewish victims in the Land, planning on working with Judea-Samaria communities and continue with aliyah assistance. There is more, but these are the key issues.
How did you get to where you are today?
Rolling up our sleeves and going to work nonstop since December 1985 I don’t think we’ve ever stopped for long, and God willing, we do not plan to do so. God has been with us all along and we started with us two…..and built our staff to 50 people until a few years ago…and now Corona……
What is your “testimony”?
We were both professionals in our careers; Ray earned a degree in Agricultural and Dairy Science from the University of Ames, Iowa, and I worked for lawyers and judges in the Law and Justice Center; all my work was mostly in the legal area. At the height of our careers and a beautiful home on the lake in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, God strongly spoke to both of our hearts to give it all up and to step out of our comfort zone, and we went to Christ for the nation’s Bible College in Dallas, Texas, and prepared to come to Israel. Upon entering Israel in December 1985, CFI was born. It is our life call; we have lived in Israel longer than in the US.
What do you think God is doing with regard to Jewish-Christian relations?
I truly believe God wants Christians to come to grips with their terrible history towards the Jewish people; their Hall of Shame does not represent what we stand for. What kind of friend does what the “Church” did to the Jewish people and still does? I hope to get Christians from all over the earth to repent through my teaching and sharing what God’s Word (the Torah and the Brit Hadashah) says about these types of actions towards God’s people. I am hoping many will raise their hands and say “I will!”. The enormous damage done must be dealt with. Also, one of the dearest friends I ever made on this earth was a rabbi who taught me so much and worked with me for 18 years. He told me before his passing “Sharon, you educate-educate-educate”. This is my biggest challenge and greatest goal for Israel right now. I am teaching others how to relate to Jewish people properly, and I hope that we will one day be walking on the Highway to Zion together. When we stand before God Almighty, as Christians, I hope to say “We did all we could… to stand with Your Chosen People”. Building true trust and friendship is not easy because many in the “church” do not understand how to do so. Our love and our friendship have always been unconditional, and they shall remain so until we see Israel take up the spiritual mantle she is destined to carry in the future.