ICEJ hosts impactful conference for its global leadersPublished on: 16.5.2023
By: Annaliese Johnson
Last week, the ICEJ welcomed many of our national directors and other global representatives to Jerusalem for our annual International Leadership Conference (ILC). There was great anticipation as some 30 leaders from 18 nations arrived in person and another 130 delegates from 50 nations joined us online. The global gathering took place while Israel was weathering a five-day rocket war with an Iranian-backed terror militia in Gaza, so it gave those attending in person a better sense of what Israelis face during such times of tension and conflict.
This year’s ILC gathering featured Bible teachings, current affairs briefings, ministry updates, and fellowship with other representatives, plus a special bus excursion to interesting sites in the Jerusalem hills in lieu of a planned outing near the Gaza border, which had been declared a closed military zone.
Throughout the conference, the attendees were encouraged by the messages and ministry reports. ICEJ President Dr. Jürgen Bühler welcomed the delegates by drawing from Judges 5:2, which describes how the Lord was pleased when the leaders of Israel led and the people willingly offered themselves in pursuing God’s purposes. He added that when his predecessor Malcolm Hedding started the ILC meetings two decades ago, the main purpose was to equip our global network of leaders from the Word of God, and that aim is now more important than ever.
One main theme running through the conference sessions was that God still reigns today among the nations. Dr. Mojmir Kallus, Vice President for International Affairs, recalled the founding of the Christian Embassy in 1980 after the last 13 national embassies left Jerusalem for Tel Aviv, and added that expectations are now rising in the city as more nations are coming back to Jerusalem, including the United States, Guatemala, Honduras and Kosovo. From the ends of the earth, ICEJ-Fiji National Director Mikaele Mudreilagi and staff member Fine Ditoka also eagerly updated the gathering about the Fijian government’s intended plans to open an embassy in Jerusalem.
Another key topic was God’s love for the people of Israel, and for believers worldwide. ICEJ Board Chairman Ingolf Ellßel urged our global representatives to heed the words of Jesus in John 13:34 to love one another as He loved His disciples. He explained that this commandment means we are first called to build close relationships within our movement.
On a similar note, Rania Sayegh, an Arab Christian who heads a prayer house in Nazareth, spoke about how Jesus gave her a love for His Jewish family and a burden to pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on Israel and on the nations of the earth.
In the final evening session, seven candidates were given certificates for completing the ICEJ leadership course, including representatives from Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hong Kong, Serbia and Uzbekistan. Aleksandar from Serbia passionately shared the biblical principles behind Christian Zionism and encouraged everyone to have a love for all the peoples in the Land of Israel, whether Jewish, Arab, Druze or Bedouin.
The ILC culminated with a fascinating excursion to the Jerusalem hills, where delegates were briefed on the security situation, toured the site of a popular Bible story, visited both a youth camp and a mental hospital in the Jerusalem Forest, and learned more about the renewed cooperation between ICEJ and the Jewish National Fund (JNF).
The bus tour started in Nes Harim, where JNF has a youth camp for special-needs children and immigrant families who require extra support upon arrival in Israel. At this camp, teams of educators make the place a home for children who are blind, deaf, or have other disabilities. The forested hills and wooden cabins give campers a real sense of being back in nature.
The next stop was the JNF’s British Park, where the biblical site of Tel Azeka is located. The group first received a security briefing from Yoav Limor on the Gaza conflict off in the distant background. A veteran military reporter now with Channel 12 TV news, Limor explained how the Gazan people are kept in a future-less environment by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. “In each round of fighting, these Iranian proxy militias shoot rockets toward Israel seeking to indiscriminately kill as many civilians as possible, while the IDF aims to take away as many assets as possible from the enemy to prevent future attacks and allow Israeli communities to enjoy quiet for as long as possible,” he explained.
The security briefing had added significance in that it was delivered on the slopes of Tel Azeka, an ancient hilltop fortress overlooking the Elah Valley where David slew Goliath, as recounted in 1 Samuel 17.
The day tour ended with a visit to the Eitanim Psychiatric Hospital and then the nearby Scrolls of Fire monument. The surrounding area is home to a beautiful forest planted by the JNF in the Jerusalem hills where patients regularly can go out in the fresh air as part of their treatment. But the mental health center recently was engulfed by an out-of-control wildfire that swept through the surrounding forests two years ago. The courageous staff had to evacuate some 145 patients at the last minute by private cars because the flames were too dangerous even for the IDF helicopters sent to airlift them out. Thankfully, the hospital campus was miraculously untouched, and the patients and staff were able to return to the center within a few days.
As the ILC gathering drew to a close, delegates wished each other well and chattered about the impact the conference had on them. Referencing the motivational messages from various speakers, one national director exclaimed this was the best ICEJ leadership conference he has experienced in ten years. Other attendees felt a strong attachment to the forests and locations connected to the ICEJ’s revived partnership with JNF.
In his final remarks to the conference, Dr Bühler proclaimed from Psalm 97:1 that, “The Lord reigns. Let the earth rejoice!”