Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, and we’re honoring the survivors and remembering the lives lost during this unspeakable tragedy. Our church has a heart for the Jewish people and even has a ministry for Holocaust survivors.
Often ignored by society, many survivors are left alone with troubling thoughts of the past. In 2016, Gateway Pastors Greg Stone and Paul Rupert set out to change that.
For both pastors the Holocaust hits close to home. Pastor Greg’s family suffered during the Holocaust, and Pastor Paul’s family hid Jewish families in Hungary during World War II. Knowing the unspeakable pain Holocaust survivors have experienced and God’s heart for the Jewish people, both pastors felt moved to action.
“They have experienced the worst hell this world has ever given anyone,” says Pastor Greg. “How can we let them leave this world without ever experiencing the love of Yeshua?”
Gateway already had a good relationship with the leaders of Reach Initiative International (RII), a ministry for Holocaust survivors in Israel and Belarus, and a partnership was born in 2017. This plan quickly grew to include other ministries in Israel, including Beit Hallel Israel, a ministry focused on preaching the gospel to Jewish people. These relationships led to designing a special Gateway ministry trip to see the Holy Land and meet with survivors.
Showing love to survivors by simply listening to their stories—stories they have often never shared—has been one of the most meaningful moments on these trips. One woman shared she had spent the first two years of her life in a concentration camp. Another survivor said the Nazis once asked him, “Should we kill your parents or your sister?” Being able to share these stories helps survivors know they are loved and not forgotten. And in the process, both the storyteller and the listener are forever changed.
The trips have sparked lasting friendships between Holocaust survivors and Gateway members—many of whom continue making the trip to Israel each year not only to see the places where Jesus once walked but also to minister to His people.