Restorers of Zion Journal

The history of RZ and our "learning curve"
as the Lord guided us into
a unique approach to needy Israeli believers

Updated Oct. 2010


Servants Without a Face
Restorers had its beginning in 2003 as a grassroots movement without an office, a bank account or a public image.

We were simply serving - recommending to concerned foreign donors some places of legitimate need where their gifts could be applied effectively.  We would find an amuta (Israeli charity) that was willing to be the interface and pass the gift to the designated need. We matched over NIS 60,000 to verified needs among Jewish and Arab believers in the Land.

Several times, however, the amuta, after first agreeing on the recipient, would have "second thoughts" once the funds were transferred to them... We realized that to keep faith with the overseas donors, we would have to establish our own Amuta framework with the Israeli government.

Framework and Network
In 2004 Restorers became a registered Amuta.

Our first efforts went into establishing our Shamash Network, a unique on-site needs validation process that meets the most stringent standards of the US tax authorities for deductible contributions. Through this Network, all the donations distributed by Restorers were pre-screened as valid needs among believers who are known and accountable to local leadership.

Not all recipients were willing to fit into this framework.  But congregational leaders and foreign donors alike were delighted to have a reliable yet personal way to verify needs. We distributed around NIS 33,000 in aid.

We were also happy: the Shamash functioned as the direct contact with the needy, making the congregation the "provider" and allowing Restorers to remain in the background... an invisibility that allowed us to serve better.

Seeking "Fruit that Remains"
In 2005, Restorers continued to match needs and resources, refining our skills as both funds and requests increased.

That's when we began to notice that some needs which were labelled as "temporary" were in fact chronic.  While our gifts were going to truly needy believers, as a rule they were not bringing any lasting stability... not the Restoration the Lord had set as our goal.

We started moving toward giving larger gifts to fewer recipients, tailored more to the need itself than an arbitrary "cash amount".  We revisited some of the families and groups we had helped, and in some cases we gave additional donations.

Meanwhile, we began to see a slowdown in financial resources.  Individuals were donating faithfully from Europe and Israel, but North American funds had virtually stopped. (Our main US partnering organization was in the midst of an ongoing spiritual attack, and had ceased to function.)  We began to be more careful in choosing the recipients of these precious donations, and we distributed around NIS 25,000 to a handful of desperate situations.

Focused Giving for Permanent Improvement
In 2006, we saw the requests coming in from our Shamash Network were increasing, but most of the needs were still chronic.  Modest gifts to all who asked us might make them feel better (and make our statistics look good...) but we would not produce "fruit that remains".  We decided to let our funds accumulate so that we could do lasting good for a few families with a definable needs.

Meanwhile, we also started probing some of the requests, and discovered serious problems hidden beneath the surface... faulty spiritual foundations, fleshly attitudes and/or broken relationships.

We realized that true stability (or its lack) was not related to finances at all; their financial need was not the problem but one of the symptoms. 

The Believer's "Makeover": the Concept of "New Song"
In mid-2006, Restorers embarked on a unique project - a long-term commitment to permanently restore one "hopeless" situation in a comprehensive "makeover".

This is based on the multi-faceted improvement projects featured on reality TV, where a team of experts sweeps into a home to transform the family's living situation. But there the similarity ends:

Taking on this deep kind of commitment required dedication and faith from a team that extended beyond Restorers. We found such a team with Ot-U-Mofet, a unique ministry to widows.

Meetings with the "Ot" team resulted in a long-term commitment to "G". Restorers began by paying off all her back debt (NIS 7300) and discussing a multi-year recovery plan, eventually named Project "New Song".  The "Ot" team assessed the amount of financial support needed: NIS 7000/month, and committed to working with the widow to achieve sound spending habits, job stability - and most important, dependence on the Lord - as she moved toward self-sufficiency.

When she heard of our commitment, "G" was astonished at the news of this long-term help - and intensely grateful, giving all glory to the Lord. Relieved of the financial pressures, "G" invested her free mornings improving her Hebrew at an ulpan (a luxury she had neither time nor money for, until now). Free afternoons were spent repairing her relationships with the Lord and her daughter, and dealing with her bitterness against her "ex" (all neglected under the continual financial pressure).

As "New Song" continued into 2007, the reports started to come in from people in her congregation, who were amazed at the change in "G" (no one outside the leaders is aware of the project).  She had changed radically and permanently: from a bitter woman, who could not get along with anyone or hold a job for longer than a few days, to a giving, joyful lady who ministers even to strangers on the bus, praying for them and telling them of G-d's faithfulness.

The transformation in her had become so obvious we were satisfied that our investment was truly producing "fruit that remains".

Our donors stayed with us. For 18 months, we were able to support this family's needs. There were in fact months when we weren't sure we would be able to meet this monthly commitment... and sometimes the NIS 7000 arrived in pieces throughout the month that it was needed... but the Lord always come through with it - plus a little to cover our minimal operating expenses.

When "G" landed a good-paying job that she loved, she decided to exit the program.

Unique Offer, No Response

During the "New Song" project, we had no funds to meet any other request for help.  This curious "just enough" situation continued through the entire year of 2007, up to the very month that "G" left the program.

We got the impression that the Lord was adjusting our cash flow to take us out of the conventional donating mode altogether. From this experience, we also felt that He would supply the funding for other "makeovers", if we were to find more believers willing to submit to long-term restoration that combined financial recovery with counseling, self-examination and relationship repair.

As 2008 began, we watched for another family that we might serve with the "New Song" make-over model.

But as we began to offer this framework to those who approached us for help, we found a lack of interest among needy families and/or the congregational leaders.  They definitely wanted the long-term cash support... but as soon as they understood the accountability and other investments required, they cancelled their request, saying that they would rather turn to another organization.  Gradually the Shamash requests dwindled to almost nothing.

Nevertheless, we remain ready for another "New Song" candidate, if we should find another opportunity.

Support of Widows and Orphans

Most of 2009 was devoted to support of this remarkable ministry to widows and orphans. We distributed food coupons to families in need (with each family receiving sustained aid over a 6-month period), provided financial administration for "Ot" seminars, and helped to underwrite the writing of a book by "Ot" director Orna Greenman, which presents her "Woven With Gold" seminar in Hebrew.

We also began to work more closely with Road to Zion, our US funding partner that also organizes working tours of volunteers. Together we offered various kinds of help to the single mothers located by Ot-U-Mofet.

New Areas for Spiritual Service

As 2009 rolled over to 2010, we found the Lord pointing out areas of need in Israel not being covered by other ministries.

While many groups are effectively helping with financial needs, music ministry and organizing activities for youth, there is a lack of spiritual aid in specific areas. We were assigned by the Lord to focus on certain teaching topics, one-on-one discipleship, congregational issues, and relationship abuses, seeking scriptural answers for crippling problems in the Body. Some of the fruit is evident in our expanded menu of resources, while some is evident only in our personal contacts and home-group structure.

As the year draws to a close, we are closing down the "amuta" side of Restorers. Among other things, this move frees us of many beaurocratic restrictions and requirements set by the Israeli government, and allows us to continue our service with spiritual goals in view, rather than financial and organizational considerations.

We are continuing to direct financial aid, as the Lord wills, in partnership with Road to Zion. We will no longer handle earthly funds through the framework of Restorers; instead we hope to be a source of spiritual riches that will build up the Body of Messiah both in Israel and abroad.


Looking Before Leaping

Following are some requests that Restorers rejected, and why.

They demonstrate the need for donors to study projects in-depth before responding.

* Living in a dream world

    An Israeli congregation of 3rd-world immigrants heard about Restorers, and their leader wrote us an introductory letter, in which he listed needs totalling hundreds of thousands of shekels.  The congregants were living far beyond their means (for example, one family owed  NIS 5000 for a new computer, while living on a monthly income of NIS 2500).
    Tactful realism was needed here, so first we asked that a Shamash be chosen to represent the congregation - someone other than the leader (who headed this list).  Once that was done, we asked again for needs to be submitted.  This time, only one request came through: a valid one for a modest amount of aid, which we did answer.

    This congregation of around 20 families also sent Restorers a proposal for sponsoring the congregation itself: at a cost of some $600,000 (NIS 2.5 million) a year....  The proposal had been written by a well-endowed foreign group who designed a US-style megachurch program on paper, encouraged the Israelis to rent a large meeting place (at $1100 a month) and donated the rent for the first year.
    Soon after, the donors moved on to their next "successful church planting" effort - never noticing that these impoverished and largely unemployed Israelis would be unable to carry the lease they had signed... or that megachurch programs are not appropriate for Israel.  The solution for this congregation was not to continue this heavy dependency on foreign benefactors and foreign structures, but to scale their operations to fit both the culture and the economic means of the flock.
    It is taking some time for the leadership to accept that.  We hope to eventually interest these brothers in receiving group counseling on money management, for their congregational as well as personal finances.

* Loss of focus

    One congregation in the North had come up with a group proposal for a business and presented it to Restorers (we had suggested this initiative because of the many unemployed in the congregation, and the poor prospects of work in their location).
    It looked good - the planners had received expert guidance, and a few interested groups abroad had already pledged funding support.  Then the key entrepreneurs suddenly found employment and dropped out of the plan.
    We encouraged them to try for an alternate business idea.  Instead, they asked that the funding pledged for business development go toward something else: buying an organ for congregational worship.
    Knowing that the donors had wanted to help this group become self-supporting, and were trusting us to honor their wish, we gently refused.  We urged them to persevere in creating a viable business. Then the employed congregants could donate from their own funds to buy the instrument - as a healthy, self-supporting fellowship and a model for others in the Land.
    We are hoping to eventually receive a new business plan from the leaders.

* Spiritual uncleanness

    Another business plan was submitted to establish a health clinic using natural medicinal properties in essential oils and massage.  Some of the material was scientifically sound (yes, G-d has provided some tremendous benefits in natural plants and minerals), but because this field is so often a mixture of science, quackery and occult lore, we did some focused research on the unfamiliar aspects, which included a peculiar massage technique and reference books.
    We found that there were indeed occultic elements incorporated into the techniques that this believer was learning, as well as a history of unscriptural and illegal conduct by the founder of the essential oil company (who claims to be a Christian).
    As gently as possible we shared our findings, and we asked for a revised proposal that would eliminate the dubious areas.  We have not heard from the Israeli entrepreneur since then.

* Unsustainable plan

    A congregation in the South had several families whose mothers were not able to work full-time because of young children at home and the high cost of childcare after school. This created a chronic financial strain for the families, and the congregational leaders came up with an idea: establishing their own daycare center.
    They presented us with a business plan, which was creative and enthusiastic, but it was incomplete and the figures did not add up.  We asked them to complete it and fix the discrepencies.
    After a few revisions, one problem still remained: the operating expenses greatly outstripped the expected income.   The project would never be self-sustaining, and the planners were asking Restorers to subsidize it indefinitely at the rate of NIS 13,000 ($3000) per month or more. (This sum alone could sustain 3 or 4 of the families whose needs were supposed to be met by providing the childcare, so that they could go out and earn that amount!)
    We suggested several changes that cut expenses and made the project nearly self-supporting (with 10% of the original subsidy needed).  But the planners were unwilling to alter their original idea to that extent, and in the end they decided to seek funding from other sources.

Not all applicants are willing to receive good counsel, as you can see.
In those cases, we try to leave the door open for a potential change of heart,
but we make it clear that certain standards must be met before any donor funds are received.


 

Working with Restorers of Zion
is a prudent, productive and protected way
to invest in the Israeli Body of Messiah.

Join us now in whatever way you can, to meet needs among Israeli believers.

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