Have you ever stood before a sunset that was so magnificent, so majestic, so vivid, that when you attempted to describe it there were simply no words powerful enough to reproduce what your eyes had beheld? That is exactly how I feel when considering the events of this past weekend. I don’t believe my vocabulary contains the needed words to articulate what I was so blessed to take part in. The B’ney Yosef North American Summit is a potential game changer; there is simply no better way to state that.
Two hundred people, most of which consider themselves to be Ephraimites (by and large, Christians, who identify as part of Israel in the nations), gathered together from all over North America to define an identity and a common purpose. That goal did not fall short.
It began on Friday night the 4th of March, exactly 40 weeks after the first B’ney Yosef meeting in Ariel, Israel held last May. Daniel Holdings and Cindy Wyant acted as MC’s and they handed it off first to Al McCarn who had been acting as interim executive director since the plenary meeting in Nashville just over 6 weeks ago. His key-note address was crisp, to the point, and it set the tone, reminding us all that this event was not intended to be a finish line, but rather a place to start. The evening gathering brought out three speakers any of which could have captured the evening had it not been for the fact that they all spoke on the same night. The first was Batya Wootten, a forerunner in her own right (along with her husband Angus) in terms of sharing insights as related to the restoration of all of Israel. Batya has not spoken publicly for a couple of years due to some health issues but that absence did not affect her ability to communicate her thoughts. In fact, she almost seemed to be storing up a great speech that she unleashed at this Summit. Funny at times, Batya seemed centered most on the work God is now doing in causing us to be drawn to the idea of bringing peace to our house before reaching out to anyone else. The next speaker was Hanoch Young, the co-founder of United 2 Restore. Hanoch was, well, Hanoch. He was funny, engaging, but also when needed, quite serious. The weight of the evening was not lost on Hanoch, as he recalled his walk with Ephraimites that now spans over 20 years. The final speaker(s) was a dynamic duo of sorts, Ephraim and Rimona Frank. The couple, responsible for planning the May meeting in Israel, shared their views on the direction and potential before us while taking a few fun shots at their friend Hanoch. The evening could not have gone better.
Shabbat brought about a number of activities including a time of praise and worship. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Lenny and Varda as well as Steve Manning and those who joined him on many incredible moments of praise. After the music, Mark Webb stood with the 7 other newly appointed elders and shared the qualifications of the elders, how they were vetted, giving us all a better understanding as to why these men (and their wives) are a fine and stable face of B’ney Yosef as we move forward. Next came a Torah teaching by Mike Clayton. Mike’s style brings joy to those he speaks to as he is able to mix depth of knowledge with the right amount of humor. His topic, “Don’t get stuck between the golden calf of your past and the Shekinah Glory filling the completed Temple,” was appreciated by all who attended. Mike was followed by David Altman who put together a web of verses that dealt with proper structure in relation to godly government and being able to see the face of God through a properly run government structure. Barry Philips closed the day session with an assembly-wide hands on practice dealing with personal and corporate boundaries. This was an important practice as it dealt with authority and our need to respect personal boundaries. In a movement so geared toward making others adhere to our own views and practices, this was a refreshing approach to this problem.
Saturday evening began with yours truly speaking on much of what had already been said, that what we are doing is not the finish line and that like any growing group of people, we need to not overly define ourselves so that God can tweak us as we walk. I then read the Articles of Declaration fielding some questions afterward on various aspects of the document. The document is intended to be a foundation, a place to start, something to rally around so that we might promote peace and stability within our house. We then broke for dinner only to come back and affirm the Articles. Now accepted, they will act as a standard for B’ney Yosef North America, a list of principles that should offer consistency in how we interact with others.
Sunday by far was the most emotional day. The signing of the Articles by the elders, the newly appointed executive members, as well as those who worked on the Articles was more or less an impromptu event. Unsure how to even go about this signing at first, it came off as the most meaningful part of the weekend (to me), that is, until the next event. As soon as the last signer penned his signature, Hanoch Young came forward and sang haTikvah, the national anthem of Israel. Singing acapella, Hanoch’s emotional rendition of the song did not leave a dry eye in the house.
It needs to be mentioned that every moment of the Summit, from before the first attendee got there until the time the last one left, was recorded via video and still shots by Ty Towriss, owner of NLX Broadcast Design. He and a team of volunteers conducted interviews, took still shots for a “Faces of Ephraim” promotional campaign, and so much more. I am not sure they slept, I am also not sure they know how much their efforts are appreciated. But their work will, when it is completed, take these events out to those who couldn’t be there with us.
The weight of what was being done over the weekend fell heavy on all who were present. Every speech, every song, every prayer, seemed to reveal the historic nature of this gathering. The obvious question that follows is, “What’s next?” Well, aside from additional gatherings like the one coming up in Israel in October, the focus is now aimed at promoting peace to our own house first knowing that if we cannot get along with ourselves, we certainly can’t be expected to get along with anyone else. This will all take time, but through prayer and patience, great things are on the horizon. We can be a difference maker, a game changer… but we must first begin to think like a nation and act like an extended community. What happened in Tampa this last weekend was special, but it will become a meaningless memory if we don’t follow it up with action. If we take the spirit of unity and peace with us and out to all we come in contact with, the chaos in our own house will eventually subside, and at some point we will indeed be able to stand next to Judah as a brother. I eagerly wait for that day!