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September 2016

The Greatest of These is Love


Chuck Kopp, Chairman of Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation, retired at the end of May from his position as Senior Pastor of Narkis St. Congregation in Jerusalem after 24 years.  Charles Martin Kopp was born in Barranquilla, Colombia on May 14, 1948, the same day that the State of Israel was birthed.  Chuck first came to Israel in 1959 on a six month ministry trip with his parents and sister.  At the age of 18, Chuck moved to Israel in 1966 and has lived here ever since, marrying Liz and together raising seven children.  Besides pastoring, Chuck has headed his family’s Cornerstone Ministries and helped lead the Evangelical Alliance of Israel (EAI) during the last three decades.   

This is an abridgment of a sermon given by his son, Danny Kopp, at Chuck Kopp’s retirement service on June 4, 2016.

My Dad has always been his own harshest critic.  I can’t count the number of times Dad had delivered the sermon and then on a Saturday evening, the family would sit around the dinner table, often with guests present, and brutally pick apart the bits we liked and the parts we didn’t, like vultures over freshly fallen prey.  As he subjected himself to this wrenching exercise, he’d also ask for constructive criticism.  That did sometimes soften the blows.  After all, what use is there in tearing down if you can’t at least suggest a positive alternative.

He taught us no one was above reproach. He doesn’t so much say that in words, but growing up, there was no higher authority than Dad and if he was open to criticism, no one was immune. Of course, we liked to practice our ritual of picking apart each and every aspect of church, including when other people spoke as well. But Dad is much quicker to come to other people’s defense and even play the devil’s advocate for people he might disagree with, just to make sure they’ve had a fair hearing. And in this he taught us empathy. Again, not in a word, not as a rule necessarily, but in practice.

Empathy is a close cousin of curiosity, and this is another quality my Dad has in droves. He is deeply inquisitive about the world, about history, and about people.  He has not just an intellectual curiosity—which he certainly has—but a personal interest in the biographical details of people’s lives. This is important, because when it came to being a pastor and tending to people’s needs, Dad put less stock in providing formulaic solutions to problems than in simply being available to people.

Hundreds and hundreds of people have come through our home over my lifetime for all kinds of reasons, sometimes just as dinner guests and sometimes to stay for days or weeks or months at a time. My memories of dinnertimes with those people are of my Dad asking so many questions of our guests’ background, country, languages, politics, religious beliefs, family relations, that if you didn’t know any better, you’d think they were being interrogated. God help you if you come from somewhere interesting where they speak an obscure language, because my Dad would pull out the maps and his famous book that records the first few verses in the book of John in every single language and dialect that the New Testament has been translated into.

The point is, Dad has always genuinely been interested in people, their stories and their lives, and not in using every opportunity to show off about the wonderful job he does as a pastor or as a head of this or that organization. In fact, to this day, he has told frustratingly little about his childhood and other parts of his past that we are in the dark about. Dad doesn’t do a good job selling himself.  After I worked for a public relations firm in Washington DC, and I saw the various methods, from the mildly manipulative to the grotesquely devious that nearly every entity ultimately employs, be they a commercial company, a government ministry, or a church, I came to value all the more my Dad’s failure at self-promotion.

Another close relative of empathy and curiosity is humility. Humility comes in many forms, and anyone who knows my Dad knows he likes to collaborate and defer to others if it will help the cause. He is always looking to widen the circle, even if it costs him his seat. Obviously, the fact that this pulpit has such a variety of different speakers in it almost every single Shabbat, is a result of that deference and spirit of cooperation. But it comes from a recognition that there is no monopoly on the truth. That sounds like a good thing to say, right? “We don’t know everything” – who wouldn’t be able to sign on to that?  But it includes a recognition that the truth looks different from different perspectives; that others may have aspects of the truth that I don’t; that what I know may be incorrect in parts, or incomplete. Paul said that – “For we know in part… (I Cor 13:9).”

You know, preparing for this talk, I was trying to think of anecdotes that would epitomize my Dad as a pastor from my perspective. And the thing I kept coming back to, the thing I appreciate now most, more than anything else, was our longwinded arguments that at their apex could last well into the middle of the night, even if there was school the next day. It almost didn’t matter what the subject was—theological, political, a combination of the two – it was always absolutely critical that they be resolved. It was also a bit of a sport. Indeed, some kids watch sports with their dads, I watched Popolitika with my Dad (which for those who don’t watch Israeli TV, Popolitika is a political talk show that sometimes resembles a wrestling match more than a dialogue).  

We talked a lot about faith. And ironically, at times when I was in a crisis of faith, among the most comforting, liberating things he could say was, “I don’t know.”  Just that, “I don’t know.”  The thing is, I think that, like most of us, I’d had the notion drilled into me that whatever problem you have, God will always provide an answer. And the corollary to that, was that if you haven’t received an answer from God, you might not be praying hard, or long, or correctly enough; or there might even be something wrong with your life hindering clear communication from God. For my Dad, who from my perspective as a teenager had reached the pinnacle, in so many ways, spiritually, to confide that perfection was unattainable, was an immense consolation and a relief.  Perfection is unattainable—that’s obvious. Let me rephrase that.  “There will be times when you will look for God and you won’t find him, and that’s okay. There will be times when you seek a resolution to your problem and you will not receive a satisfactory answer, and that’s okay.”

And it’s okay because our faith is founded not on magical experiences. Even if they occur, those are merely icing on the cake. Paul says we only know “in part” and that “for now we see in a mirror, dimly”. And that’s okay. “Where there is knowledge, it will vanish”. But what is the one thing that never fails? Love. Not hippie, feel-good, spiritual ecstasy stuff. This is how Paul describes love. He has a list, but listen to his first descriptor: “Love suffers long…and is kind.”  Suffers long!  That’s my Dad.  He suffered whiny, difficult teenagers.  I understand his marriage was rough the first few years.  I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

But here’s the rest, “love does not envy; love does not parade itself”. Does not parade itself? How are people supposed to know your ministry is doing well unless you advertise it and parade well?

Love “is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity.”  These are all passive; things that love does not do. Again, the unobvious wisdom and power that can come in a concession—like admitting, “I don’t know.”

And what are the positive, pro-active aspects of this love Paul is talking about? Well, he says, “I can be the most eloquent, dynamic, charismatic and persuasive speaker you’ve ever heard, but without love it’s all just noise. And I could tell you exactly when a future War of Armageddon is going to take place, when Jesus is coming back; I could have a successful healing ministry like Chuck’s father, E. Paul Kopp, but without love I would be absolutely useless. I could also have an amazing charity organization in which I die in a heroic attempt to deliver aid to refugees in Syria, but without love I am essentially a big fat zero.”

On the other hand, love “rejoices in the truth.”  You know, that partial, dimly lit truth that, just as often, resides with others.  So basically, when all else has failed, you fall back on a love that stands up, and despite everything, “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Dad is the seventh generation in a line of ministers, pastors, and evangelists. And I know he may have measured himself at times against his father’s—my grandfather’s—legacy as an evangelist who travelled all over the world, or that of my great-grandfather who pastored a hugely successful church and produced a Christian radio program for years in Los Angeles. But my grandfather also left his family for months at a time and it was often difficult to have a conversation with him that did not somehow return to the subject of his healing ministry. I have some fundamental questions about his decisions regarding family and ministry and priorities. But as for my Dad, I think he mostly got those priorities right, and most importantly I don’t have a doubt in my mind that he loves his family.

In the city of Jerusalem which is full of sounding brass and clanging cymbals, it is my entirely subjective and biased assessment that my Dad helped foster a loving environment at Narkis Street Congregation similar to my family’s. I think here at Narkis, we might not have all the answers or do everything right, but we like a good argument and we accept you as you are.  “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”.


9-11's Long Shadow on Today's "Terrorism"


As the World Trade Center Towers in New York City fell on September 11th fifteen years ago as a result of Islamic extremist attacks, those of us still living then knew the world had suddenly entered a new era of fear.  While the annals of history have always been scribbled in the blood of millions who have died in war, 9-11 has proven to be a portent of the 21st century’s slippery struggle with an elusive enemy.  We now live in a world where our adversaries are as close and as far away as the internet, and those who seek to hurt us could be our neighbors.  No country is immune to this ever-present fear of terrorism.

A Los Angeles Times article has noted the increase in death worldwide from terrorism:

“Over time, terrorism has become deadlier, and the rise in violent extremism since 2000 has been staggering: a ninefold increase in deaths from 3,329 to 32,685 in 2014, according to the Global Terrorism Database compiled by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, based at the University of Maryland.” 

This same study noted that terrorist attacks occurred in almost 100 countries in 2015, though the majority of attacks were only in five countries—Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria.  In the earlier article, the Los Angeles Times compiled all terrorist attacks during the month of April 2016, which resulted in 858 deaths and 1,385 injured in 27 countries, in order to paint a picture of what “terrorism” looks like on a global scale.  ISIS was responsible for 395 of the dead.

The article goes on to detail some of the origins of the current terror groups,

“The Taliban began as a group of religious students fed up with corruption and lawlessness in Afghanistan. The Shabab grew out of the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia, which in 2006 chased out clan warlords who had been tearing the country apart for decades. Islamic State germinated in a U.S.-run prison in Iraq in the 2000s. Boko Haram started in 2003 as a tiny group of ethnic Kanuri fighters opposed to Nigeria’s corrupt elite and set up on a base the group called Afghanistan.”

“There's no one factor that has led to such a rise in violent extremism in the Middle East and the spread of the violent ideology across the world, but there is one characteristic: failed or failing states and persistent conflict and terrible governance,” said Patrick Skinner, a former CIA case officer and director of special projects at the Soufan Group, a New York-based security and risk analysis company.

The majority of killings in April were carried out by groups aiming to impose fundamentalist Islamic law.

As seen in the article quoted above, there has been a curious response of omission or deflection from certain spheres when broaching the connection between radical Islam and terror.  Apparently, now, even mentioning the word “terrorist” has become taboo for some because of its strong connotations.  For example, in the recent bombings in New York City, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was calling the attacks “terrorist”, New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, called the bombing “an intentional act” and “a very bad incident” as if it were a juvenile prank gone wrong.  This initial circumspect response from de Blasio stood out against the backdrop of pressure cooker bombs which were found at the New York crime scene.  These homemade bombs were well-known as being used by other Islamist terrorists, such as the Boston Marathon bombers, created from a blueprint posted on an al Qaeda-linked online magazine. 

The irony is last weekend's Islamist attack occurred in the very city that bares deep scars as a result of such extremist ideology.  And despite that, defining terrorism has been, and continues to be, a political exercise.   Fifteen years later, Osama Bin Laden's Islamic fundamentalist ideas still live on, as seen in the diary of Ahmad Rahami, last weekend's "terrorist," whether we want to admit it or not.


The Refugee Opportunity


This past week the UN held a first-ever summit on the 65.3 million refugees and migrants in the world.  During this conference hosted in New York City, President Obama met with leaders of Jordan, Mexico, Sweden, Germany, Canada and Ethiopia, along with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in hopes of gaining $3 billion in pledges for the refugee work.  Obama also met with 51 U.S. CEO’s, including Facebook, Twitter, MasterCard, and others, receiving $650 million in pledged refugee support from them as well. 

This staggering sum of 65.3 million displaced peoples is the most since World War 2.  They include 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million migrants.  Of the 21.3 million refugees during 2015, the top three countries bleeding its citizens were Syria (4.9-6.1 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), and Somalia (1.1 million).  Of those Syrian refugees, it is estimated Turkey has 2.7 million, Lebanon 1.5 million, and Jordan 1.2 million.

In addition, more refugees and migrants are dying this year as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea in overcrowded, dilapidated crafts on their way from Africa to Europe.  At least three thousand have perished so far in 2016, already surpassing 2015’s total.  This past week, a boat carrying around 600 migrants capsized off the coast of Egypt with many confirmed dead.

As well, this past week, an overcrowded refugee camp in Greece was set on fire on the isle of Lesbos, as the European Union continues to grapple with the refugee conundrum.  Greece shelters over 60,000 refugees barred from entering Europe since the closure of borders last year.  According to the Greek government, there are more than 13,000 refugees on five islands in facilities built to house fewer than 8,000.

With regard to the United States’ response to the refugee crisis, a recent article from Voice of America noted,

Historically, the U.S. has run a generous refugee resettlement program. In 1980, the country admitted more than 230,000 refugees, and through most of the following two decades, the number remained well above 100,000 a year, according to State Department data.

“Every president has brought a considerable number of refugees, so this is nothing new,” said Lavinia Limon, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Committee on Refugees and Immigrants, a large refugee resettlement agency based outside Washington. “The president that brought the most refugees every year was President George Herbert Walker Bush. After that was President [Ronald] Reagan and President [Jimmy] Carter.”

But the number of annual refugee admissions has slipped under 100,000 in the 15 years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as the U.S. briefly stopped admitting refugees from countries with an al-Qaida presence and put in place tighter screening procedures.

FBI Director James Comey has commented that the current refugee screening procedures of the United States can take up to two years for each refugee and is one of the most rigorous in the world.  Despite the United States’ reticence (see Texas recently) to receive Middle Eastern refugees, they accepted 10,801 from Syria last year.  Of those 10,801 Syrian refugees only 56 were Christians.  Even though Christians make up 10% of the Syrian refugees, the United States’ Syrian refugee total was shockingly only one half of one percent Christian.


Charity Report: Your Gifts Helped these Ministries, Individuals, and Families during Summer 2016

In the face of this ongoing refugee challenge, JCF continues its outreach with the Nazarene Church in Jordan in aiding Syrian and Iraqi refugees who have fled their homes because of the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS.  Recently, a JCF patron and Wheaton alumnus contributed $700 for the flights of a Syrian couple immigrating to France where they joined their daughter who had already immigrated.  The couple was originally from the Syrian city of Homs and had been attending the Nazarene Church in Jordan during their displacement.  JCF also has funded an after-school program for 60 Iraqi refugee children in Madaba, Jordan that will run from September till December.  The $2000 cost will cover daily transportation to the church, snacks, and small gifts for games.

JCF gave $1,371 towards school tuition for Christian Arab children living in the West Bank.

Jack is a divorced single Israeli father of two boys, 5 and 2 years old. His ex-wife lives in a different city and is receiving psychological treatment. Recently, both boys moved in with their dad because their mother was not able to provide proper care for them. The father is taking good care of his children but has had to miss work a lot and has since lost his job. The family is now living off of social security. The father would like to find a new job that would allow him to be with his children when they are not in daycare. JCF is helping cover his debt to the daycare ($287).

JCF gave $511 towards rent of two struggling Israelis who were in danger of being evicted.

The Lone Individuals is an Israeli support group for those with no family.  The ten members from the ages of forty to fifty meet regularly for support and social interaction.  JCF gave $355 towards their annual trip which often is their only chance to leave the city and visit new places.

Sammy, an Israeli father, has three children from his first marriage and one child with his second wife who suffers from ALS.  His wife is confined to a wheelchair and requires help at all times. The family hires two caregivers. His three children from his first marriage, ages 6, 7 and 12, were living with their mother until recently. Because of deterioration in her mental health, the children have moved in with their father and his new family. The father is a musician and has had trouble finding work recently, so the family is currently only supported by the second wife’s disability benefits. JCF is helping cover some basic expenses for the family ($541).

Brenda is a Christian Arab teenage girl living in the West Bank who wants to be a doctor but her family is not able to cover the full tuition for school.  JCF gave $1,000 towards her university tuition.

Orli is an Israeli mother who currently lives in her mother’s house with her two children, ages 3 and 12. She owes money for a business that failed. Her father who has a drug addiction and her brother who just got out of jail also live in the home. She was working with a social worker to get out of debt and had a job, but she lost her job after a recent car accident. JCF is helping cover the cost of her first month’s rent for a separate apartment.

Anis and Nawal Barhoum, directors of House of Light which is supported monthly by JCF, recently spoke at Narkis St. Congregation in Jerusalem sharing about their work among Israeli prisons and ex-prisoners.  Listen to their message, here.

News in Israel and the Middle East

  • This week Israel ran a countrywide National Home Front Drill where all schools, homes, and businesses entered bomb shelters and secure rooms in preparation for future attacks.  The IDF’s Home Front Command has released information in preparation for a worst case scenario, where Israel could be attacked simultaneously by Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and even Iran.  It has been ten years now since the Second Lebanon War when Hezbollah indiscriminately rained down 4,000 rockets on Israel during the summer of 2006 and 44 Israeli civilians were killed along with more than 1,000 wounded.
  • Israel Signs $38 Billion Military Aid Package with the United States.  Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice has called it a signal of Washington’s “unshakable commitment” to the security of the Jewish state.  The ten year agreement is seen by some U.S. congressmen as an infringement on congressional control of federal spending.  These legislators, including Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, John McCain and Ted Cruz, are also seeking to overturn provisions in the new agreement which restrict Israel’s usage of the funds. More.
  • A new Netflix short documentary premiered last week, The White Helmets, which portrays a Syrian volunteer force, whose members risk their lives to save their fellow countrymen and women after bombings and attacks in the midst of Syria’s civil war. More.
  • King David’s Olive Pits?  Artifacts from Khirbet Qeiyafa, which dates back 3,000 years to the dawn of the Kingdom of Judah, go on display at Bible Lands Museum for the first time.  More.
  • Disinterring the Philistines.  The first ever discovery of a Philistine cemetery at ancient Ashkelon may reveal the origins and disappearance of Israel’s biblical enemies. More.
  • Rare High Priest’s stone weight from Second Temple period found in Jerusalem.  More.
  • The Jewish High Holy days will begin at sunset on October 2nd with Rosh haShanah, the Jewish New Year, and end with Yom Kippur at sunset on October 12thMore.

JCF News: Annika Kopp and Roberto Torres wed

Annika Kopp wed Roberto Torres on September 4th at Yad HaShmona, in the Judean Hills of Israel.  Annika, daughter of JCF Chairman, Chuck Kopp, and wife, Liz, has worked for the Jerusalem bureau of the Christian Broadcasting Network News (CBN) during recent years and has now moved to the Virginia Beach area to join her husband who works as a multimedia producer for CBN.  For photos from the wedding, here.

Biblical Language Center's Summer Biblical Hebrew Course Successfully Finishes

The Biblical Language Center (BLC) ran a four week Beginners Biblical Hebrew course this past July at Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem.  Sharon Alley and Niek Arentsen led the class of fourteen students coming from Canada/Trinidad and Tobago, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Nigeria, South Africa, China, and the United States.  Classroom time was fun and interactive, with instruction and activities all conducted in Biblical Hebrew.  For more information about 2017’s beginners and intermediate course, here.

Randall Buth Leads Global Push for New Hebrew Training School for Bible Translators

Randall Buth, founder and director of the Biblical Language Center (BLC), is now assisting the 4.2.20 Foundation’s current goal to dramatically accelerate the training of Hebrew translators, checkers & consultants around the world.  Randall will be founding and directing 4.2.20’s School of Biblical Hebrew which will begin in the summer of 2017.  More, here.

Prayer Requests

  • Peace and Security in Israel and the West Bank.  There has been a rise in attacks and arrests.
  • Iraqi and Syrian refugees who are seeking safety and refuge.  Continue to pray and seek what each one of us is called to do.  Also pray for Christians who are persecuted and fleeing from those dangerous areas of the world.
  • Anis and Nawal Barhoum, as the House of Light continues to reach out to prisoners in Israel.
  • Ask for Courage in place of Fear.  Let us seek courage in our relationships with everyone we meet so that God’s love will direct our choices—what we say, how we react, and what we do in the name of Jesus.
There are approximately twelve needy and very lonely Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem who have been receiving loving care and companionship from an aid organization with whom we partner.   These Survivors receive monthly checks to support them economically and receive regular volunteer visitors, which is also very important to them.  A very nice program was begun to link boys from a local institution for disadvantaged children and youth, to some of these Holocaust Survivors.  This has greatly benefited both the teenage boys and the elderly survivors.
Loneliness is a huge problem to people who have lost all their family and often their spouse.  Visiting some of these Jerusalem Survivors regularly ourselves, we know how important this program is which supplies both financial and emotional support.  
The donations of JCF have been used in part with help to maintain the ongoing expense of supporting these survivors in Jerusalem with monthly help in form of coupons for food items.  The other part has been used to cover maintenance problems in their homes. For example, when our staff visited a 90 year old Survivor, her small, modest apartment was quite dark owing to a broken slatted shutter which could not be raised and had been like this for more than a week.   Having received the gift from JCF, we were in a position to immediately arrange its replacement.  One of hermost  terrible memories is from her home town of Yasi in Romania where she suffered terribly from violence and terror.  She lost most of her family and witnessed people being pulled out of their homes and killed.  She finds it very difficult to talk about those memories. She is suffering from many health problems, does not have children, and lost her husband many years ago.  Visits from Christians like us mean the world to her.