Dear Fields of Wheat friend,
Can I be personal with you?
My own experience at our recent summer camp for Israeli teens caught me by surprise. I didn’t expect the youth to respond so tenderly, so deeply. I didn’t expect to plunge into the turbulent waters of heavy moral issues. And I didn’t expect the level of honesty, repentance, and healing that took place.
It will be hard to put into words all that happened during this summer camp. But I must try, because you deserve to know what a difference your prayers and financial support are making.
All-Time High Attendance and Immediate Openness to God
To quickly recap, the Katzir/Harvest camp was held from August 14-18. A weekend of team preparation preceded the camp. Nearly 40 small group leaders and logistics personnel volunteered their entire week to serve 107 teens. This was by far the biggest event in our 22 year history. Many more registered than we had room for, so we are trusting the Lord to know how we can expand to meet this exciting hunger among young Israeli believers.
God showed up right away. It normally takes a day or two to reach a level of openness and vulnerability, to see teens actively respond to the worship and teaching. But already during our first evening meeting, teens were responding earnestly—asking for prayer, crying, repenting.
It’s no secret that today’s teens are dealing with issues of sexuality, gender identity, and same sex attraction. In prayer before the camp, we felt the need to address these sensitive areas in order to equip the young people to live for God in a media-saturated world.
Facing the Challenge of Social-Media Driven Sexual Confusion
A mature, experienced pastor on our senior staff spoke about the issues of same sex attraction and the LGBTQ movement. He asked the young people many questions, appropriately drawing them into a biblical perspective. Following this session, when at times you could hear the proverbial pin drop, we broke into separate groups of men and women. In this way there would be openness in a safe setting. We encouraged them to ask questions about anything, including dating, sex, and overcoming pornography.
A panel of adult men—Katzir leaders—shared our testimonies of temptation, struggle, and ultimately—wholeness. It’s surprising, amazing really, to see that whenever we are vulnerable and real as leaders, the teens respond with a level of honesty and openness that is normally hard to achieve otherwise. Praise God, this is what happened. Many teens expressed their appreciation for this question and answer time, as awkward as they may have felt at moments. While the subject matter is extremely sensitive – these sessions help them to face the very real issues teens are dealing with on a daily basis. You simply cannot talk about equipping a generation to walk with God and be laborers for the harvest while ignoring these challenging topics.
Many of our teens are confused on these issues. They are indoctrinated by the educational system and by their friends to question what the word of God says. As a result, many are not sure where they stand. We must bring truth and clarity, but also relate with compassion, telling stories of victory to give them hope for the future. As the camp unfolded, we saw God working in their hearts. Through the messages and discussions they gained clarity and fresh confidence in their faith.
God’s Work in my own Heart
God’s deep work was not only among the youth. Throughout the camp, I was deeply touched in ways I can’t describe. I heard several stories of teens who had been sexually assaulted or harassed. They had been ignored by leaders, congregations, and even family members. My heart was being especially broken for how poorly our young sisters in the faith have been treated.
This reality hit me directly when we had to expel a young man for entirely inappropriate remarks he made to a couple to girls. This grieved me. The boy missed the whole point of our equipping. But that unfortunate event brought clarity into my heart. It was the first time we had such a case happen at our camps. It made it clear to me that as we move forward, we cannot stand by doing nothing when these things happen. We must call it out, speak truth, repent, apologize, and take decisive action.
On the final night, I was scheduled to give the message. My heart was burdened. I didn’t know how I could speak to the teens feeling this way. I prayed for hours. All I knew was that I needed to give them an invitation to know and experience the love of Yeshua for themselves, directly. I desperately wanted them to know that He was knocking on the doors of their heart. I also knew that I could not speak until I openly repented as a man to the women in our camp. So, before speaking, I repented to the young women for how they have been mistreated by men in the body of Messiah, how we have taken lightly their pain, and how we have ignored their pleas for help. Congregations, youth groups, and even bible camps have at times become places where women don’t feel safe.
I wanted them to know that to God (and to us in Katzir) this is unacceptable. Katzir will not be a place where women feel unsafe. In our camps, women will be believed and supported, even if they have a complaint about a leader. I urged the young men who had taken this issue lightly or had made jokes about it to repent and understand how serious this issue is before the Lord. (I heard afterwards from several guys that it was a wakeup call for them and they had never seen this issue that way).
Young Hearts Opening to Yeshua
I then spoke about what the Lord put on my heart, and invited them to make a decision—to receive Yeshua into their heart. More than 30 teens stood up and came forward to make that decision, either for the first time, or as a rededication (if they’d not been truly walking with Him). It was an incredible response, and something none of us could have caused by our own strength or ability. God was doing heart surgery, moving throughout the whole room.
On the last day of the camp, I spent much of the day in tears. Something was still happening to me, and during the worship, as I was about to close the worship, we were singing the word “Yeshua,” and suddenly the Holy Spirit came down and I began to weep on my knees. Teens were also aware of the Lord’s presence. Some were on their knees weeping. Others with their hands raised in the air.
Everyone in the room (remember, we’re talking about over 100 teenagers) continued singing His name for another 20 minutes or so. God was touching these young people in the depths of their hearts. And what was happening to me? I believe I was feeling the burden of the Lord for the pain many of these teens are carrying. I still don’t fully understand what the Lord was doing.
Over the next two hours, as we were trying to wrap up the camp, I came up to say something on the microphone many times. But each time I began to cry and had to ask another leader to step in for me. I’m still praying and processing what it all means for me personally. I have never experienced anything like that.
Please pray that the fruit from this camp will endure in these young lives. There were several teens we referred to professional counseling. Please pray for them to experience freedom and healing as a result of the things the Lord exposed and brought to the surface during the camp. One of the cases was a HUGE breakthrough. A young person who’d been reluctant to get help, agreed. We are now praying for her heart to turn fully to Yeshua. Beloved, we want to do more than talk about the painful things. We want to invite God in, to bring healing and full restoration of their hearts and souls.
I close with this request: Please pray for our team. Our leadership team came away from the camp exhausted emotionally, yet enormously grateful and encouraged by the fruit they witnessed. I can’t say enough about how gifted and amazing the team is that the Lord put together for Katzir. Our camps would not be the same without them. Please pray, as they continue in their places of daily work, study, and ministry, that the Lord would renew them body, soul, and spirit.
Thank you for taking the time to read these extensive personal reflections.
We love you and count it a privilege to serve Israel’s youth side by side.
Joel Jelski and the Fields of Wheat team.
P.S. Here are only a few of the dynamic testimonies from the camp:
- M – On the outside everyone thought I was happy and positive, but on the inside I wasn’t. I was struggling with depression and in crisis on the inside. During the camp I shared with my parents about my struggle and felt very relieved. I also gave my life to the Lord during the camp.
- H – After the season of Covid, I have been struggling with social anxiety. I wasn’t able to talk openly with people, and conversation was hard for me. The theme of the camp and the different workshops on social media really helped me. During the camp I cried out to the Lord. I felt a big breakthrough and that the Lord put me on a new path.
- Y – I struggled with anxiety, and I was always comparing myself to other girls. During the camp at the beginning I felt I was in a very dark place and alone. As the camp went on I poured out my heart to the Lord, and I felt his presence and nearness. I felt His peace over me. I gave my life to the Lord and decided to get baptized after the camp.