Impactful. Unifying. Hilarious. Informative. Positive. Inspiring. Healing. These are just some of the words that come to mind when I think of the recent B’ney Yosef North America (BYNA) Summit that was held February 12th -14th in Mesa, AZ.
The Summit kicked off in a most unique way, giving weight to a well known word, protocol. Among those who attended this gathering were members of the Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh tribes (better known in English as the Pima and Maricopa tribes), indigenous peoples of the American south-west. A time of mutual blessing was offered, gifts were exchanged as a sign of respect for one another, and new friends were most certainly made.
When it was time for the speakers, Al McCarn, executive director of BYNA, had the first slot. Al gave a talk on protocol and also something of a “State of BYNA” address, which by the way, is good (but I will come back to that). Al was followed that evening by BYNA elder and House of Aaron leader, John Conrad, who spoke on giving a good report. John laid out a great case on why speaking the words of life and blessing rather than death and cursing are, in part, what should set us apart from the world around us. The next morning brought about a most unique brother, Dr. Suuqiina of Indigenous Messengers. Dr. Suuqiina blended humor (gut wrenching at times) with what Batya Wooten might call, “Deep theology on a business card.” When you wiped away the tears from laughing, you would hear a one or two line theological point that really left you thinking. The afternoon speaker came to us from the Netherlands, Iris Bouwman. Iris, who leads Judah and Ephraim Ministries with long time friend Janny Holster, shared unique insights pertaining to the gathering of all of Israel, how Benjamin is the bridge, and she also shared pictures and stories from her travels around the world. That night, Hanoch Young (United 2 Restore) shared personal insights and observations as related to the many congregations he has visited in the last 3 ½ years. In many cases his experiences among Ephraimites have been positive, but that has not always the case. Hanoch’s talk was preceded by what may have been the funniest skit of the Parable of the Prodigal Son ever done. And somehow, in the 20 minutes of more gut wrenching laughter, the point was made that Ephraim, the Prodigal Son, has had a pride issue he needs, we need, to address.
The final morning brought us another talk by John Conrad, the singing of Israel’s national anthem (HaTikvah) and a closing prayer by Mark Webb, an elder in both BYNA and Congregation Living Messiah in Mesa. As one would expect, parting from old and new friends alike was difficult.
What stood out to me?
After each session there were round table discussions where all attendees broke up into groups of 8 and addressed various questions that were provided by a group leader, usually a BYNA elder. The general theme of the discussion was centered on who BYNA is and what BYNA might look like as we continue on the path ahead. I believe each person was able to contribute their own observations and understandings to their groups, but for me personally, there was one main repeating picture that kept resurfacing in my mind, namely, the kind of individual it takes to have ten men coming to you because they believe the LORD is with you.
Zechariah 8:23 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”(NKJV)
“Grasp the sleeve” is probably better translated, “seize the corner.” It is fairly well accepted that this is the fringes, the tzitziot, the same that was grabbed on Yeshua in Matthew 9:20. However, when it comes to this Jewish man in Zech. 8:23, there has to be more than just the fringes that drew 10 men to him. The fringes are a sign of God’s will, His instructions or Law, but anyone can wear an article of clothing, there has to be more. What about this man was special? What was it that those ten men “heard” about him that they knew that the LORD was with him? We can surmise that this man was walking the walk, speaking life not death, bearing a good report about those he encounters. But I think in every way he must have been a reflection of the one he served. Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17 that all we do in word or deed should be done, “in the name of,” Yeshua. To do something in the name of another means doing it in a manner consistent with his character, in a way that adds to his reputation, or is done in his authority or power. What Paul is saying is that everything we do should reflect the one we serve. The world around us should actually hear the Lord in our words and see him in our deeds and if they don’t, we are not operating in his name.
I believe the essence of the Jewish man in Zech. 8:23 is that he is operating in the name, reflecting the character of the one he serves. And in my view, how much of an impact BYNA can have is directly tied to how well each of us as Ephraimites can also reflect the one we serve. If we each can speak life and not death, be edifying and not strife filled, bless rather than curse, and above all… exude the fruits of the Spirit of God in everything we say and do – then we will begin to see lives changed on a scale we have only dreamt about. Beyond what I just shared, the difference between the Jewish man in that verse and anyone else is that he leads a set-apart (holy) life and has the inner peace to handle it. Moreover, he is humble… he knows it isn’t about him, it is about the one he serves and everything he says and does testifies to that. The ten men KNEW the Lord was with him!
The state of BYNA is good but there is still a lot of work to do. And most of it is hinged on us better resembling the Jewish man of Zech. 8:23. How much impact we have, how unifying we are, what effect we have on those around us… all intrinsically tied to to the idea that the increasingly dark world around us can and will only get darker, unless we allow the light of God to shine brightly in everything we say and do.
>> Check out the BYNA website in the coming weeks as all the talks and events will be offered for sale on digital download.
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