Heroes of the Holocaust: Dom Bruno, monk and protector of 400 Jewish Children (part 1)By: C4i

Slight and bespectacled, everyone knew Dom Bruno. He was the monk who would bicycle through the countryside whenever he was homesick. The book-smart priest who could rattle historical trivia off the top of his head like he was lecturing from a textbook.  An unassuming and considerate man who always had time to listen to your problems, who could always offer a wise word of advice or a soothing consolation. What they didn’t know was underneath this seemingly sedate man’s chest beat the heart of a lion, courageous and fierce. The secret protector of hundreds of children, driven by purpose and faith.

Dom Burno, born Henri Reynders, enjoyed a completely unexceptional childhood. The fifth of nine children born into a comfortably upper middle-class family, nobody was surprised by when the quiet and reflective Henri decided to become a monk. He was considered by everyone who knew him as a devout and intellectual man, with a sharp mind and a keen interest in classical Greek and Latin studies, so it seemed like a natural fit. He took his vows in Rome at the age of 22 and led the monastic lifestyle of study and contemplation. 

In 1928 he was ordained as a Priest  and sent to Leuven where he took his new name and continued his studies. Dom Bruno spent the following years carving out a place for himself in the community and finishing a Doctorate in Theology. It was the quiet, ordinary life of a priest he always wanted. One that would never be the same after the German Invasion of Poland in 1939.

Dom Bruno was called to service as a chaplain in the mobilized Belgium military. But his service didn’t last long. In May of 1940, Belgium was invaded and the small nation was unable to meaningfully resist the Nazi war machine as it stampeded through its borders and cities. Dom Bruno suffered a leg injury in the fighting and was rolled up by occupying forces, spending six months in a PoW camp. But even here he stayed true to himself and his devotion to Christ, ministering to other prisoners and providing hope for the future and faith in Christ. 

After Belgium’s surrender, many PoWs were allowed to return home and indeed Dom Bruno returned to his abbey. But everywhere he looked he saw signs of a growing and insidious evil. In 1938 he had visited Germany as part of a lecture series to young German Catholics and the brutality of the Nazi’s anti-Jewish policies shocked him to his core. He saw the propaganda posters, heard the political messages over the radio, all vilifying the Jewish people. He witnessed first-hand the bitter fruits of these efforts when he saw a group of German thugs accost and beat an elderly Jewish woman for no reason other than her ethnicity. He knew exactly what the Nazis were and what it meant to be under their occupation, and he began to plan.

It was a very delicate position for a man used to calm and serenity. Dom Bruno began to make forays within the Belgium Resistance, a dangerous game riddled with double agents reporting to the Gestapo and the ever present threat of being turned in by a collaborator. But still he got the word out and made contact with resistance members. He used his position in the Church to help conceal and shelter the vulnerable. Not just Jews either, one of his first acts as an active resistance member was to help ferry downed Allied airmen to safety, hopscotching from one Church to the next to get out of the country.

In 1942 as the Nazi’s extermination policies went into high gear, Dom Bruno also stepped up to respond to the crisis. He arranged to be transferred as a chaplain to a home for the blind in a small village. The manager of the home and the majority of its residents were secretly Jews. It was here that he began his rescue efforts in earnest.

Realizing that it was only a matter of time before the true nature of the blind home was discovered, Dom Bruno worked tirelessly to secure the safety of its residents. Some were quietly sent to other Abbeys and Churches, other were secreted away to rural homes, given new identities as members of other families. Chief among his concerns were the children, innocent, blameless, and terrifyingly vulnerable. He used every connection he had built from his time as a priest, a lecturer, and a monk to find places for the children to hide. Any friend he ever had, any sympathetic acquaintance he could think of, a fellow man of the cloth he could convince, wherever he thought the children would be safe. He even sent some to his own mother and brother’s house, placing his own family in direct danger to safeguard Jewish children.

This was the beginning of the network Dom Bruno established. One that would grow into one of the most successful Jewish rescue operations during the war. Find out more in part 2.


Churches of Israel: Church of Dominus FlevitBy: C4i

A church doesn’t need to be large to be grand. As the Church of Dominus Flevit demonstrates, small buildings can contain a whole lot of spiritual power.

Situated on the Western Slope of the Mount of Olives, the church is named and designed after a specific incident described in the Bible following Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem during the original Palm Sunday. On that glorious day,  Jesus rode into town with worshippers throwing their own clothing as well as palm leaves on the ground in front of him in a display of worship and respect. "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” But after his arrival though, Jesus at the Mount of Olives looked down at the city. Rather than celebrate his arrival or the reception he received, Jesus was overcome and wept. 

In what outwardly appeared to be a moment of triumph, Jesus knew that it was temporary. As he gazed out to the city, he could see what the future held for it as plainly as you or I might see a sunset. He knew ruin and conflict would befall the city as described in the Gospel of Luke. 

"The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” – Luke 19:43-44

Hence the name "Church of Dominus Flevit” Latin for "the Lord Wept.” More than the name though, this moment is built into the very design of the Church with its unique teardrop shape. An intentional design by architect Antonio Barluzzi (who designed many churches in the Holy Land) who wanted the building to cry out with emotion the same way Jesus cried with compassion for His people. Inside, the  four corners of the dome each contain four vials. These vials are a nod to antiquity when carrying tears in a vial was a symbol of grief and remembrance. The vials here symbolize the tears Jesus himself shed overlooking the city.

And what a view the church offers. The window behind the altar of the church provides a panoramic view of the city where you can see both the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as well as many other buildings of importance. It is an incredible perspective, to think that Jesus would have seen several of the same buildings and exactly what the future held for them, a future we live in now.

While the church itself was built in 1955, the site it occupies is ancient. In fact, there was a previous church built in the same location by the Byzantines in the 5th century. It was destroyed, but when excavating to build the new Church, several discoveries and artifacts were unearthed. The most striking of which is an ancient floor mosaic which has been restored and is now displayed in the Church. 

There are many churches you could say are more magnificent or grand than the Church of Dominus Flevit in Israel. But grandeur extends to more than physical design or size. Once you understand the significance of the Church’s location, design, and history, the spiritual impact of this tiny Church is massive. 


Preparing yourself to hike the Jesus Trail By: C4i

The Jesus Trail is a 65 kilometer direct connection to the life of Christ. It is a pilgrimage that has the faithful re-trace the steps of Jesus’ ministry. To travel where he traveled, how he traveled – by foot.

It is an incredible experience. Visit Zippori where Jesus learned Joseph’s trade as a carpenter. Make your way through the Old City, bustling with life and activity now just as it was in Jesus’ day. Finally, make your way to the Mount of Olives where Jesus wept and contemplated things beyond our limited human scope. It is a powerful way to bring the Word to life and really ground His ministry to the here and now.

While it is a powerful experience, it is also an arduous one. If you are thinking of making the hike (or any of Israel’s other amazing hiking experiences) you need to be prepared.

Make sure you’re healthy enough for the hike

By sport hiking standards, the Jesus Trail is not exceptionally difficult. There are plenty of stops along the way including cheap cafes and bed and breakfasts where one can take a break, get something to eat and drink, and rest for the remaining journey. The 65km distance usually takes 3-4 days to cover. But while a hiking enthusiast might think 65kms with plenty of stops sounds relaxed, it’s a very different experience for those of us with health conditions, infirmities, or who just don’t normally encounter that level of exertion!

Before you take on this hike, make sure to get plenty of practice. You don’t want to come all the way to the trail, walk for one day, and discover you’ve blown out your quads and can’t even move when you wake up! You’ll also want to be smart about any health concerns you might have. Walking 3 or 4 days in the Israeli sun is no small undertaking and it should be done with caution.

Bring the right gear, but pack smart

If you’re going to walk 65km, please do it in good quality socks and hiking boots! This is one of those areas where it definitely pays to invest in yourself. Nothing will ruin your trip faster than aching, blistering feet that have been sliding around in loose, scratchy socks and poorly fitted shoes. Make sure you bring the right footgear (moisture wicking socks, comfy and well-fitted boots) before trying to tackle this challenge!

You’ll want to consider the rest of your gear as well. A wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, changes of clothes, and of course water. Even with plentiful stops along the way, you don’t want to get caught out on a trail in the hot sun with no way to replenish yourself. You don’t want to weigh yourself down with too big of a pack, but you should always make room for water.

Depending on the season, you may want to pack a rain poncho or tarp. Hiking poles can also be helpful. You might also consider emergency gear such as a help whistle and flashlight just in case something goes wrong, and you get off course or get stuck out after dark. And of course, I recommend bringing a camera and notebook to document your journey!

Plan your trip

The two hiking seasons in Israel are fall and spring. Nobody wants to go hiking in the summer sun, it’s way too hot. Fall and Spring both bring their own advantages. The fall is drier, but the scenery isn’t quite as nice while the Spring brings showers, but also lush blooming flora. 

Scout the trail and make note of the various stops, motels, and bed and breakfasts along the way. Make reservations, bring the appropriate amount of money for the trip, and know your options if you come to a location that is closed, full, or just not usable for some reason. Thankfully, on the Jesus Trail, you’re never too far from civilization, so in a worse case scenario you can always call a cab and get a ride.

Prepare spiritually

Get the most out of your hike by preparing yourself spiritually. There are so many key locations you’ll visit while retracing Jesus’ steps - places like the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Cana where Jesus famously turned water into wine, and the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus held the Sermon on the Mount. Reread the gospels of the Apostles before you visit, look into the history of these locations, study up so you can fully appreciate what they mean when you stand before them.

As Christians, traveling to Israel always involves a lot of spiritual reflection, but it is something else entirely to actually travel as Jesus traveled and retrace his ministry. Be prepared to contemplate on what you see and feel and listen for God’s voice as you absorb the experience.


Churches of Israel: St. James CathedralBy: C4i

Israel is home to some of the worlds most beautiful churches, chapels, and temples. From landmarks like the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to historic ruins like Megiddo, there is no shortage of skyline defining treasures and well-known tourist sites. But Israel’s historic marvels don’t end with what you have already seen in movies and documentaries, there is beauty tucked away in every corner of the country. 

One of these nooks is the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. There you’ll find one of the most ornately decorated churches in the world, the breathtaking St. James Cathedral.

The church itself is located in the larger St. James Convert, a sprawling compound home to thousands. A living, breathing, spiritual community. A city within the city where nuns, priests, children, teachers, and other people live and work and grow, all under the impressive shadow of the Cathedral, a densely packed center of spiritual pride and wonder that anchors the community. 

The cathedral is one of Israel’s only fully surviving Crusader-era churches and it shows that history. Built with impressively tall stone walls and turreted roofs, the cathedral looks like a castle. An ancient structure built to last. But as impressive as its exterior is, the true splendor of St. James Cathedral lies within.
Inside the halls of the church is an unbelievable collection of gilded altars, fine metalwork arches and decorations, and works of art. The effect is dizzying, a truly awe-inspiring sight to behold. The main ceiling is a vaulted dome containing hanging art including chandeliers, lamps, and many, many intricately painted ceramic eggs. 

The floors are covered in Kütahya handmade painted tiles. Each and every one of these delicate pieces of ceramic is itself a work of art, nestled together to create incredible murals. This is without mentioning every bronze engraving, handmade piece of pottery, and carved wood decoration that festoons every inch of the church. Flickering light plays off every polished surface. The church is not wired for electricity, meaning all this astounding work must be appreciated by sun and lamplight, creating a magical and changing effect as morning breaks, filling the church with golden light, brightens as the day develops, and as twilight falls gives way to candles and lamps. "Elaborate” does not do it justice.

This is joyous worship. An artistic devotion to God created by innumerable hands over hundreds of years. A collective work one can contemplate on and appreciate more and more as each small detail, each carved line and careful brushstroke stand out to the observer. 

But the cathedral isn’t just an artistic masterstroke, it is also a place of deeply relevant history. The church is dedicated to two martyred saints, St. James the Great and St. James the Less. Both towering figures of Christian history, one of the Jesus’ first apostles and a relative of Jesus. St. James the Great was beheaded by Harrod and the church is believed to be the site of his martyrdom. Indeed, the most important shrine in the church, the Chapel of St James the Great, is said to be the very spot he was killed. The head is buried in the Shrine, a chilling reminder of the persecution early Christians faced in the middle of a celebration of worship.

Access to the compound and the Cathedral is tightly controlled. Remember, this is not just a historic site, but a community. This is a working church, not a museum, and a working community of real people living their lives. As such, visitors to the compound must be accompanied by an Armenian guide. So, if you want to explore, you’ll need to plan ahead. Fortunately, the cathedral itself is open to the public at specific times without the need for an escort, as are a few other museums and libraries in the compound. 


Heroes of the holocaust: The love of Sofia KritikouBy: C4i

In these blogs we’ve detailed many stories of boldness and heroism. From housewives becoming spies, to teenagers fighting with the Resistance, there are many stories of exceptional acts of bravery. But it’s important to remember that perhaps the bravest act of all is to love without exception or thought of repayment. To love like Christ.

That was the kind of love that moved through Sofia Kritikou. Sofia was a humble woman of modest means. A single mother raising her daughter Agapi on her own, Sofia worked as a house cleaner and maid in Athens to support her small family. In September of 1943, the German army occupied Athens and the world she lived in began to change.

Immediately after the Nazis took over, the persecution of the Jewish population began. War time shortages put everyone into hard straights, so when rumors that extra rations  would be distributed at the central synagogue, people took the bait. This included the Kazansky family. The women of the family went to temple to see if they could secure some extra food for their children, only to find soldiers waiting for them. They were taken by the Nazis to Auschwitz and later murdered.
Devastated, the father, David Kazansky, took his remaining family and blindly fled. He had an older son, the 18-year-old Tsvi, a teenaged daughter, Liana, and the 8-year-old baby of the family, Jeny. David secured some false identity cards that claimed the family was Greek and hit the road, desperate to stay a step ahead of the Gestapo.

They meandered through the country, staying with relatives, friends, and acquaintances for short periods of time. It was a tough life. David was trying to pay his way with these families they were staying with, and the children were constantly being uprooted, never knowing where they would be sleeping next. He needed to restore some semblance of security and safety to their lives.

That’s when a friend got him in touch with Sofia. She was known as a hard-working and compassionate woman. The kind of person who put action to her words and cared for her fellow man. Despite her own precarious position as a single working mother, she didn’t hesitate when she was approached to help the Kazanskys. 

At first she thought she was just offering room to a family down on their luck. Sofia welcomed them with open arms. But soon the real plight of their situation was understood. But such was Sofia’s compassion and love that even with the knowledge that they were in fact a Jewish family, and all the terrors that could bring upon her and her own daughter, she couldn’t turn them away.

David’s work took him away from the family regularly, doing whatever he could to support this makeshift homestead. Tsvi, the son, eventually left to join the Resistance, visiting now and then while doing what he could to support fellow local Jews and men and women of conscience resisting Nazi rule. The girls, Liana and Jeny, stayed home and started becoming like daughters to Sofia and sisters to Agapi. 

They weathered it out together, a family united by perseverance and love in the face of oppression and hatred. For the entire rest of the war the family stayed with Sofia, skirting suspicion and dodging the eye of the gestapo. It wasn’t easy, they were impoverished, food was scarce, and Sophia worked from sun up to sun down every day walking miles to the homes she cleaned, but they made it work.
After the war, the family went their separate ways. David and Liana stayed in Greece, while Tsvi and Jeny decided they needed a change and moved to Israel to start new lives. But love brought this family together once and it would do it again. In 1964, Tsvi went to visit Sofia when he met Agapi again. Now a grown woman, they fell in love with each other. They married. Agapi converted to Judaism and together they moved to Israel, taking Sofia with them. Bonds of love tying them together forever. 
- Photo from Yad Vashem

Sofia lived in Israel till the age of 100, an honored mother and grandmother. A fairytale ending that was only possible because Sofia extended an open hand to the needy, because she risked herself to love like Christ. If you’re looking for a powerful example of how living in Christ should look, you’ve found it in Sofia.


Israeli history reaches for the heavens with Israeli astronautBy: C4i

- Photo by Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority
Israel is a land of history. It seems like not a month goes by without a story of some new artifact, some piece of history, being discovered. Israel is unique among the nations in that it has been the focal point for so many historic and important events, and also has a climate that lends itself towards preservation. 

But soon, one of these artifacts will be traveling to a very different environment and will make new history in the process. Eytan Stibbe will be accompanying the January Space X launch, breaking the orbit with a piece of Israeli history on his person.

Stibbe will be the second Israeli to go into space. Scheduled to launch off the planet and join the International Space Station as part of the SpaceX program, Eytan won’t be going alone. He’ll be taking a small, but important piece of history with him, a 1,900 year-old Jewish coin.

Stibbe became familiar with the coin, a recent discovery from the Judean Desert, after a visit with the Israel Antiquities Authority Dead Sea Scrolls lab in Jerusalem. It was a visit looking at Israeli history, the sheer breadth and scope of Israel’s story and place in the world’s development. It included private viewing of ancient scroll fragments, biblical texts found in Judean caves, and other rare and wonderous archaeological finds. One of those finds was that coin.

The coin is a recent discovery. Found in what is (distressingly) called the Cave of Horror in the Judean Desert. The cave gets its name from the original excavators who explored it, they were horrified to find the ancient skeletal remains of over 40 people in the cave, victims of the Bar Kokhba revolt nearly 2000 years ago. However, the cave also contained several significant historical discoveries, including a Greek translation of the Book of the Twelve and new scroll fragments of the Books of Zechariah and Nahum as well as several other unique artifacts. Heartbreak and triumphs side by side, very much the pattern of Israel’s history.

The coin has symbolic value for Stibbe. "I saw the coin, minted with the palm tree and vine leaf, that for me represent the connection to the land, the love of the country, and the desire of the population of Israel in those years for independence.” Stibbe hopes to take this philosophy and spirit with him to the stars. 

Stibbe will be joining Space X on a "tourist” flight, but he is no stranger to the sky. A former Israeli air force pilot, Stibbe distinguished himself in the service. During the 1982 Lebanon War Stibbe flew combat sorties into enemy territory and personally shot down five Syrian aircraft. This record makes him an actual "Ace Pilot” in the strictest sense of the term.

A bittersweet loss hangs over Stibbe’s upcoming flight. During his military service Stibbe served under another Israeli hero, Ilan Ramon, also known as Israel’s first astronaut. Ramon was a distinguished airman himself who was tragically lost in the Columbia disaster in 2003. Stibbe has since been an active force in the Ramon Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to the memory of Ramon. His January flight will be made in honor of Ramon and his family.

It's a heavy responsibility. Stibbe is not only carrying national pride and history into space, but the emotional weight of his lost friend and national icon. But what better place to free yourself of such a burden than in the weightlessness of space. 


The Christian act of HospitalityBy: C4i

When I was young, I was always intrigued by a verse from Hebrews. "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” It was something my mother used to reference when she’d give money to strangers in a parking lot. When she’d offer to watch over other kids for the day when their parents needed an emergency babysitter. When (despite my pleading) she would give oft neglected children across the street some of our leftover KFC, a delicacy we only ordered on birthdays, and I was heartbroken to part with. 

But even as a child it struck me as odd. The idea of angels in disguise, testing us to see if we are living up to our virtues. It’s a curious thought and one that will make you see outstretched hands in a different light. It’s certainly motivating to think that we could be being observed in the act, that an angel could be watching us as we make the mental calculation to spare some change or open our door. I always admired my mother for keeping that kind of mindset, for always being willing to help because, like she’d smile and say, "you never know.” 

But really, God has no need for angels to test us and report their observations to Him. He sees what we’re doing and what is in our hearts at all times, he already knows when we live up to the standards He asks us to and when we disappoint. And what is the difference to God between giving to an angel and giving to another one of his children? Do we believe He would value charity given to an angel more than He would value a helping hand extended to a needy child or a lonely soul? I don’t think so. 

While that verse is helpful for clarifying God’s expectations for us, it doesn’t really change anything if it is taken literally or not. There is no difference whether we’re talking to an angel, a small child, or a wandering drunk, our commitment to that person is the same. God wants us to love our neighbors no matter who they are or where they come from and show them hospitality. 

But what does hospitality mean exactly? In the times when Hebrews was written, hospitality served a very different function in society. Secularly, hospitality and etiquette was a defining social structure that maintained the freedom of travel and commerce in society. Between Christians though, it meant something more.

When the Church was young and persecuted, hospitality also meant survival. When preachers might have to travel far and wide by foot, either voluntarily as part of their mission or involuntarily to stay ahead of those opposed to the message of Christ. These wanderers hit the uncertain road with nothing but faith to guide them. They didn’t have the ability to make arrangements or "send ahead” for a room and meal at their destination. Frequently, they were not even sure what their destination was. They were dependent on open doors and hearths, on a seat at the table for a meal, on fellow brothers and sisters understanding their struggle and sharing what they had. A beautiful sentiment.

In our day and age, it is a very different thing to be a Christian. We are blessed to be free to worship without fear, and Christians as a group have flourished and thrived in North America. We don’t have wandering prophets making their way to our city with nothing be the sandals on their feet and the good book in hand. We don’t have fellow brothers and sisters in Christ dodging centurions and looking for a safe place to stay. We have safety, security, and prosperity.

Does that mean our responsibility is the same as those early Christians? Not at all. I would argue it’s far greater. God asks us to dig even more deeply and give even more freely.

Loving a brother in need, a social equal with the same beliefs as you, is easy. You have common ground to start from. There is the knowledge that you could wind up in the same position just as easily someday. The favor you do today comes with the understanding that it might be someday repaid to you.
How much more difficult is it to love the stranger. The person who is different from you, that you seem to share little common ground with on the surface. Someone who would be incapable of repaying you in the same way if the situation was somehow reversed. When we can embrace that person with an open hand and no expectations, that is when we can show real, Christ-like hospitality.

And if our ancient fellow Christians were expected to open their doors and share the last of their loaves and oil with a stranger who wandered in off the dusty road, what are we expected to share when we live in relative prosperity? We’re to give openly, without hesitation, without calculation. When someone asks for a hand, our first response shouldn’t be to think of what we can give without really missing it, but rather, we should be figuring out what they need and making sure they get it. 

As we celebrate this Christmas, a season of giving, let’s be inspired to show real hospitality. Reflect the generosity of Christ in your own life and give to those you don’t know, to the people you don’t understand or recognize. Whether or not they are angels in disguise doesn’t matter, they are God’s children just like us, and he wants us to love them like we love the brother or sister sitting next to us in Church. 



Dear Friends of C4i and Israel:

Traveling these days is full of challenges. Two staff members and I recently returned from an 8-day visit to Israel, where we toured the charities we support in the Holy Land. We also received four COVID tests along the way: one before departure, another upon arrival in Tel Aviv, yet another within 72 hours of leaving Israel, and finally, a random airport test for two of us upon landing home after a 12-hour transatlantic flight. Thankfully, all tests were negative even though we had been all over Israel, staying in various hotels, meeting many people, etc. 

This latest project tour, our first in more than two years because of the pandemic, was timely for several reasons, not least of which was the opportunity to assess current needs in light of the damage done to the Israeli economy, especially the tourism and hospitality sectors. While many are suffering hardships caused by a prolonged pandemic with no end in sight, charity officials and staff shared over and over again how C4i’s support has enabled them to continue helping the less fortunate.

Take, for example, Meir Panim’s facility in Dimona, located in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. C4i has funded the annual cost of meals for this facility for several years now; however, we discovered that, because the facility is not on local transit routes, some seniors, including Holocaust survivors, can’t take advantage of the facility’s meals and social programs. We hope to meet this need by providing a golf-cart type vehicle that will allow people to be brought to the facility or receive meals delivered to their homes.

Tents of Mercy in Haifa is one of two new charities C4i added this year. The staff shared how an old vehicle, in constant need of repair, is hampering their efforts to deliver essentials to those in need in the greater Haifa area, a northern coastal city with a mixed Arab-Jewish population and many new immigrants. Thanks to your consistent and generous support, we hope to transfer the funds for a replacement van early in 2022.

We also had the opportunity to visit Adi Negev – Nahalat Eran (formerly Aleh), a facility for special children and young adults with learning disabilities established by Major General (Res) Doron Almog when he couldn’t find adequate care for his son, Eran. Doron has devoted the rest of his life to caring for those who can’t care for themselves. His state-of-the-art desert facility, in Ofakim, is a model of what is possible when someone lovingly cares about others with special needs. 

For many years now, C4i has provided the necessary funds for the individual diets and nutrition required by children in Adi Negev-Nahalat Eran’s high dependency unit; because most can’t swallow, these children receive food via gastro tubes in their abdomens. Doron was there to meet us and express his appreciation for our steadily increasing financial support over the many years we have supported his efforts. Here are excerpts from a letter we received from him upon our return home:

Dear John, Heather, and Jennifer:

I want to deeply thank you for your visit today and your ongoing support year after year for our beloved disabled children and residents.
ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran with the support of you - C4i - is expanding and growing rapidly. We see the new rehabilitation hospital sprouting up before our eyes and anticipate the opening, scheduled for this year. Our research center has caught the attention of doctors and academics throughout the world and many have shown a keen interest in our research and its efficient progress…
Nearly a year ago we marked the 14 anniversary of the passing of our dear beloved son Eran. Nothing at ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran would have come to be if not for him. His spirit continues to be felt throughout the entire village, encouraging us to move forward for the benefit of those like him, the most fragile members of our society.
Thank you again for your kindness John, Heather & Jennifer. With your kind help, we will keep moving forward, making the world a better place. We are waiting for you here in Israel, and I can’t wait to tour you at ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran next year.
With much love to you,

I urge you to watch Doron’s testimony of how his son, Eran, changed his life – and continues changing the world. There is no more eloquent way to conclude this last letter update for 2021 other than to say that your generosity is now part of this beautiful story.
In Messiah’s service.

Rev. Dr. John Tweedie


Malham cave - The world’s longest salt caveBy: C4i

Imagine a crystalline mountain. A secret underground world made of some of the most delicate and intricate natural formations ever viewed by man. A sprawling network of subterranean tunnels and shafts that seem to extend forever. That place is a reality – The Malham Salt Cave of Mount Sodom.

Extending more than 10 entire kilometers underground, recent surveys have confirmed that the Malham Salt cave is the largest salt cave of its kind in the world. While the cave has been a center of interest for geologists and cave explorers for years, it is only thanks to modern technology and an international alliance of brave spelunkers that we now know exactly how impressive they really are.

It’s taken a long time to get here. Malham was discovered by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Cave Research Center in the 1980s. At this point, exploration was limited, even rudimentary. Researchers mapped the caves using tape measures and compasses, hand tools and old school techniques. It was a valiant effort made under difficult conditions, but the caves went mostly unmapped and unknown. 

Flash forward to 2019, and things are much different. The CRCenter joined with the Israel Cave Explorers Club to finally tackle the unimaginably huge task of mapping and fully exploring the Malham Salt Cave. Soon they were joined by the Sofia Speleo Club of cave mappers from Bulgaria and over 80 individual spelunking volunteers from across the world including the UK, Germany, and the Czech Republic. Armed with the latest in technological tools - including laser measurements, ruggedized laptops to survive the conditions, and the latest in climbing and safety gear.

Even with these advantages the work is slow and dangerous. Over the 10-day expedition in 2019, cavers crawled through 10-hour and longer days, slowly making their way over sharp rock formations, under salt stalactites, across icy channels, and through tight squeezes. All of this in a labyrinth of layered passages, tunnels, and plateaus that crisscross and overlap each other. A maze of salt, sheer falls, and narrow chokepoints that would send a chill up even the most experienced cavers spine.

Salt caves are totally unique phenomenon.  They are rare geological miracles that only exist in the few places in the world that can support them. They need dry and arid locations with a low sea level. Of course, that makes the area around the Dead Sea practically an ideal spot. Most salt caves are tiny, there are only a handful which can boast more than half a mile in length. Size is what makes Malham such an incredible marvel. It’s not just the biggest in the world, it’s the biggest by an order of magnitude.

Visitors to the cave are greeted by a large salt pillar near the opening affectionately referred to as "Lot’s Wife.” A large portion of the interior of the cave is covered in a fine layer of dust and sand that wafts in from the desert and settles over every surface. Deeper in though, the amber color recedes, and a pure crystalline white becomes dominant. 

Slabs of salt jut out at incredible angles within the deepest regions of the cave system. Stalactites and pillars made of razor-sharp crystals dangle from the ceiling and burst from the ground in unpredictable and beautiful ways. One area that is particularly dense with hanging white crystals has been nicknamed "the wedding hall” by cavers, a sort of naturally forming gala room fit for the most regal of ceremonies. 

Exploring the deepest recesses of the caves is a task for only serious professionals. However, the ICEC does run guided tours through the opening areas of the cave system that are still incredibly majestic. The Malham Salt Caves are a natural wonder that needs to be seen to be believed!


Keeping a prayer journal for a deeper walk with GodBy: C4i

Prayer is one of the most fundamental aspects of Christian life. It is our direct line of communication with God and our primary way of building a spiritual relationship with Him. 

It can also be a lot harder than people think!

Prayer should always be intentional and focused. It should be a meditative and reflective process where you examine your heart and ask God for guidance and forgiveness. Where you express appreciation for what He has given you and give thanks for His blessings. But all too often, it becomes a mindless routine. A jumble of words you mumble to yourself before falling asleep, or a rote list of requests like you were reciting a grocery list. Not exactly the reflective and meditative ideal.

One way to avoid this and add more intentionality, reflection, and spiritual investment to your prayer life is to create a prayer journal. 

What is a prayer journal?

Very simply, a prayer journal is exactly what it sounds like, a small notebook where you write out your prayers. More broadly however it’s a way to focus your conversations with God and be able to see how He moves in your life. It’s a way to add structure and perspective to your inner-thoughts and a way to see your walk with God take shape and grow over time.

Ironically, you’ll find by writing down your prayers, you’ll prevent them from slipping into that "laundry list” routine so many find themselves in!

Why should you keep one?

Keeping a prayer journal is helpful for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it helps you concentrate. When you are writing you need to be thoughtful and present – two qualities that go out the window if you’re just going through the motions with a very routine pre-dinner or before bed prayer. 

More long-term though, a prayer journal also helps you see how God is answering your prayers. Even the most faithful among us can be get frustrated. When life is hard and things seem dead set against us, it can be frustrating to pray to God and feel like He is not listening. But He is, I guarantee it. He is always moving in your life in ways great and small, ways you may not understand or even notice in the moment. But by keeping a prayer journal where you record what you are praying for, what you are grateful for, and what is going on in your life, it is easier to see those patterns. Over time you will be able to look back and see how He has answered your prayers (even if they were not specifically the answers you were looking for in the moment).

Lastly, it will make you more attentive in your prayers. When you can read over what you’ve prayed for in black and white, certain trends and behaviors stand out. Are you praying for other people or just yourself? Do you regularly ask God to help you with some personal struggle or failing but never have any details on how you’re trying to make that change in your life? These things will jump out after you’ve been journaling for a few months. It’s a way to help make yourself a more thoughtful and responsible Christian.

What do you need to get started?

A notepad, a pen, and 10 minutes to yourself. That’s it.

Seriously, a prayer journal is an intensely personal thing and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. All you need is a blank page to pour out your heart to God onto. Whatever the specifics of that are, or however that looks and works, is up to you and you alone.

Sure, there are plenty of different prayer journal templates and designs out there. There are some you can buy and some you can print off for free. Some prayer journals are broken up by prayer topic (prayers for family, prayers for illness, prayers for financial struggles, and so on). Some have prompts on every page, questions like "What am I grateful for today?” Or "what am I struggling with?” that can help guide your thoughts and entries. Other types of journals use a standard format like examining a bible verse every day. I know some artists who draw in theirs! 

Any of these ideas or templates can be wonderful tools. If you respond to that kind of structure or if any of those ideas seem fun, then I encourage you to seek those kinds of templates out. But if that kind of thing sounds overwhelming or difficult to keep up with, there is no need to make it complicated if you don’t want to. 

Personally, I like to keep things loose. Sometimes I’ll write directly to God as if I am praying to Him through the page. Other times I’ll write about something I saw or read that moved me and examine why it had the impact on me it did. Sometimes I’ll reflect on my flaws or the disappointments of the day, the worries that keep me up at night. Whatever is moving me at the time. The only bit of standardization I stick to is to always make sure I include the date of every entry. I find being able to look back day after day, and track where I was mentally and spiritually, very comforting.

How does it work?

The process couldn’t be simpler, just find a few minutes a day where you can focus and write about your prayers, your concerns, and what you are grateful for. The two most important things are consistency and reflection.

First, a prayer journal needs to become habit. You should try and make sure you write an entry every day, especially when you are just starting to really cement it as a daily activity. It’s not the end of the world if you miss a day or two every now and then. But being able to see the patterns in your prayers, thoughts, and how you are hearing God’s answers throughout your life is where a prayer journal really earns its value. 

Which brings us to reflection. You need to occasionally re-read what you’ve written. You don’t need to have a set schedule for this, just make sure it’s something you occasionally check in on. When you have a moment some lazy evening a few months down the line, read over what you wrote in the first few pages of your journal. Reflect on those prayers, what you were asking for, how you were asking, and think about what has happened since then.

By keeping up with your prayer journal and occasionally re-reading it, you’ll have a much more dynamic, open, and honest conversation with God. 


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