ICEJ Envision 2024 Solidarity Tour collage

When Words Aren’t Enough – Envision Conference and Solidarity Tour

By: John Vedder, ICEJ USA Church Relations Coordinator

The USA Branch of the ICEJ sent 13 pastors and leaders to Israel to attend the Envision Conference and Solidarity Tour from January 29–February 1. The purpose of this trip was to stand in support of the nation of Israel in this unprecedented time and to see firsthand the atrocities of October 7. While it is true that pictures are worth a thousand words, they are incapable of transmitting the complete story and weight of certain situations. This tour was one of those times. We had to see for ourselves. But it was also important time to simply show up for our friends in Israel.

On Tuesday, January 30, on our first full day of travel, we went to Southern Israel, close to the Gazan border, to visit communities attacked on October 7. We stood face to face with 1,200 blown up, burnt out, and brutally attacked vehicles from that dark day. The cars we saw were just a portion of the 3,500 destroyed throughout the horrific events of October 7, stacked in just one of three fields just like it. It’s impossible to describe the heaviness we felt as we contemplated the horrors that had taken place.

We then visited the community of Kibbutz Nir Oz. We walked through homes that had also been blown up and burnt to the ground. Bullet holes were still visible around door handles that Hamas terrorists, who blasted their way into the homes of innocent families, left behind. We listened to the firsthand account of a resident who survived the attack, who told us the name of each family living in those homes on October 7. Out of around 400 residents, over 120 were either murdered or taken hostage. What was once a thriving community was now ashes and rubble.

Our final stop for the day was a barbecue lunch for another community nearby, where we served a group of IDF soldiers. It was our opportunity to eat with them and let them know we have been praying for them and are standing with them back in each of our countries.

The following day, we received world-class teachings and visited the Knesset, where we heard briefings from top Israeli leaders. We listened to one mother tell of the last time she and her husband saw their son before Hamas kidnapped him. He was one of the young adults at the Nova festival.

On the final day, we drove to northern Israel, close to the border with Lebanon, to visit two bomb shelters that the ICEJ refurbished. These bomb shelters are quite literally saving lives as Hezbollah rains rockets down on this area.

It is difficult to put into words the emotions and heaviness of our experience in Israel. What I can say is that every Israeli we spoke to thanked us for coming. In a situation like this, when we have few words of comfort to offer, we must simply show up—we must be present. A hug and a handshake are physical actions that say, “We love you and are praying for you.”

The images and memories of these four short days in Israel will live forever in my mind. October 7 was one of the darkest days in the history of Israel. While many Israelis might not call themselves religious or believers in God, many are lifting their voices to the God of their ancestors—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They are asking for His protection over their soldiers and pleading that He would intervene to let their people go.

I believe God is using this tragedy to draw His people into a relationship with Him. Let us join them in prayer. Let us join them in showing love. And let us join them in practical support of solidarity as they go through the most difficult days since the rebirth of their nation in 1948.

Now is the time. I cannot be silent—and I pray you will not be either.

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