OPENING ACTIVITY: My Extended Family
Ask students to think about how many people in their life right now are not blood relatives, but they are like family because of the close, loving relationship you have with those people. Explain briefly why those people are like family to you.
OPENING STORY: [Make copies or read aloud to the class]
Jewish Couple Gives $5 Million to Help Christian Mission in Africa
Mark Gerson, a Jewish businessman from New York, is helping Christian medical missionaries care for some of Africa’s poorest.
In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), Gerson described it as “an honor and a privilege” to work with these Christian missionaries, calling them “sacred people.”
He went on to explain that “the Bible tells us 36 times, more than it tells us anything else, to love the stranger.” Gerson and his wife, who is a rabbi, eventually concluded that the most effective way to love strangers in need was to “support the Christian medical missionaries who are providing care to the poor in Africa.”
They have since given generously to Christian missionary hospitals that also serve as training centers for African healthcare workers. In Burundi, where the Gersons are helping build a hospital and train Christian medical staff, half of the population have no access to drinkable water, and 70 percent of the nation lives below the poverty line. With their support, the Christian hospitals are able to care for tens of thousands of people.
“The average person lives on less than a dollar a day,” Dr. Jason Fader, one of the Christian missionaries working in Burundi, told CBN. “I can’t really fathom how to live on less than a dollar a day, and yet that is what the majority of the people in this country do.”
In Israel, Christian missionaries are considered a threat to the Jewish nation. For most Israelis, they stir memories of forced conversions and material incentives used by missionaries for generations to convert Jews to Christianity. Orthodox and anti-missionary groups are always on the lookout to warn the public about any Christian activity in the Jewish state. They view the Christians’ so-called “good works” as just another coverup to preach the Gospel and convince Jews to believe in Jesus.
For this traditional Jewish couple to generously support a church’s efforts is surprising, and at least for some, could mean a step towards a new appreciation of the Christian mission.
Ask your students to form small groups to discuss their answers to these questions.
- Why is it rare for people from one religion to help those in another?
- How can interfaith cooperation help build bridges instead of animosity between religious groups?
- Should we accept any help or cooperation from people who don’t believe in Jesus at all? Explain your answer.