Israeli non-governmental organization, FIRM, serves a network of almost 70 ministries and organizations in Israel with a heart for Israel and for the Gospel.
The NGO has already raised over $10 million worldwide, funds to help provide survivors with emergency shelter, food, and supplies in the wake of the deadly Hamas attack on Oct. 7.
FIRM, the Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries hosted a group from Dec. 1 -8 of believers who came “to serve and share the love of Jesus in practical ways to those hurting in Israel.”
“We believe that when someone you love is hurting, you show up for them,” said Michael Mistretta, CEO of FIRM, who is now preparing for the next group of volunteers to serve with FIRM's Hope and Healing 'Road to Recovery' campaign at the end of January 2024.
While the Swords of Iron War in Gaza continues after more than two months since the surprise invasion and brutal attack by Hamas terrorists and their accomplices, FIRM describes the lingering effects on its website: “Hearts and homes have been broken, fear of an unknown future hangs over an already traumatized nation. There are many practical needs."
In addition to the brutal killing of Israelis, terrorists kidnapped some 240 people to Gaza as hostages. At the time of this writing, more than 100 hostages have been released, but about 138 are still being held captive, including several women and children and elderly men.
Mistretta, who led the delegation, told ALL ISRAEL NEWS: “We’re witnessing this wave of Christians who are coming to Israel, even in a time of war, not just to tour, but to serve the people of Israel – to show up in person and say, ‘Israel, we’re with you. We want to stand with you in your time of need."
“These Christians came to say, ‘We love you, Israel.’”
The delegation included representatives from various nations, including the United Kingdom, Moldova, Ireland, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Portugal, Singapore, Kenya and the United States.
Most participants were Evangelical Christians, while some were from other denominations, as well as the Catholic Church, with ages ranging from 13 to 93. According to Mistretta, this was the largest Christian delegation to visit Israel since the war began.
In addition to volunteering to help the communities impacted negatively by the war, tour members traveled throughout the country.
The delegation also hosted a ‘Fun Day’ for about 400 children from displaced families who live in Israel’s northern border communities and other areas that are currently under bombardment by Hezbollah terror forces.
Some of Israel’s northern residents have been temporarily living in the Golan at Kibbutz Afik and Midreshet HaGolan, the guest house and educational touring site, where they’ve planted crops, flowers and sweet potatoes.
In a concentrated effort to provide displaced families with needed food, some 15,000 grocery boxes have been distributed across 10 distribution centers throughout the country, enough provision for 50,000 displaced individuals. Moreover, 60,000 hot kosher meals have been served to soldiers and displaced families.
In addition, FIRM has provided 2,200 ceramic bullet-proof vests, 1,700 helmets for military reserve units, tactical gear, and essential supplies for first responders.
Rebuilding homes that were destroyed by Hamas paramilitary terrorists Oct. 7 is one of FIRM’s primary goals and it has been joining together local and foreign believers with the area’s residents, including cities and settlements to resettle lands, replant crops, and conduct essential construction, and community restoration.
Helping to restore lives means offering ongoing support to bereaved families, those in need of financial assistance, and organizing recovery retreats for businesses and families.
FIRM has also been offering long-term care for some residents of the hardest-hit communities by providing trauma therapy, counseling with licensed professionals and personalized care.
Day 5 of the tour fell on Israel's “National Serve Day," a day set aside for serving communities affected by the Oct. 7 attack. Volunteers met at Dorot and Ein HaBsor, two of the communities located near the Gaza Envelope.
The Gaza Envelope lies along the Gaza border, some 22 miles from the nearest settlements that were overrun by Hamas on Oct. 7. Local Messianic believer volunteers joined with 75 members of the FIRM delegation, to help with harvesting and planting crops and cleaning and repairing damaged homes. Altogether, an estimated 216 volunteers participated.
FIRM has partnered with hotels across Israel to provide shelter and support for displaced families, accommodating around 1,500 individuals, including over 400 children, in seven locations.
“The Jewish people feel alone in the world like they don’t have many friends,” Mistretta said. “It is one thing when Jewish families come and serve and another thing when non-Jews come and serve – not just in good times but hard times.”
Mistretta’s wife Vanessa told ALL ISRAEL NEWS that FIRM also hosted a group of bishops from East Africa who came to offer spiritual support.
The ‘Hope and Healing’ group was contacted about three weeks before the tour began. The group of bishops decided to come at its own expense to help and serve the victims of the worst terrorist attack in Israeli history.
They came from ten countries and, in Vanessa’s words “wowed” everyone they met, including the mayor of the northern border community of Afik and the residents who are serving to defend their city. They delivered kevlar vests and volunteered their time to restore the buildings on the kibbutz.
“They have truly come to serve and love and help others,” Vanessa said.
On Day 7 of the tour, the group was at an IDF military base in the south, preparing breakfast for soldiers who were about to enter the Gaza Strip. When asked if they had been affected by the ongoing rocket attacks, Vanessa described the group having to take shelter in public safety rooms. She said their prayers attracted the attention of others who were in the shelter, which gave them an opportunity to begin sharing about their faith and why they were in Israel.
Vanessa says that the Hope and Healing tour group has proven to be a real morale booster. The last night of the tour which was also the first night of Hanukkah, was devoted to the Jerusalem worship conference, “Gather the Nations with Israel” featuring Joshua Aaron, the praise group Solu and Nizar Francis.
Mistretta said FIRM plans to run a similar trip at the end of January 2024 and that the ministry hopes to have hundreds of volunteers join in the efforts.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.