Interview: Ty Perry & Becky Meissner, Field Represtatives, Las Vegas, NV
One of our favorite Jewish holidays, Hanukkah, is coming up soon! Every year The Friends of Israel enjoys demonstrating love and support for the Jewish community by preparing Hanukkah baskets, which are filled with delicious foods from Israeli businesses. You can order them for yourselves as a Christmas or Hanukkah gift, but they’re especially touching when given as a way of showing appreciation for Jewish culture.
This week Chris speaks with Becky Meissner and Ty Perry, our field representatives serving in Las Vegas, Nevada. They serve their community in Las Vegas by hand-delivering these Hanukkah baskets to Jewish residents, sharing a message of God’s love through their selfless actions. On this program Ty and Becky explain what Hanukkah is, why it’s so special to Jewish people, and how it is affected by Christmas.
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today, I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. We have an exciting show for you today, but before Chris comes, I want to remind you to visit our website, foiradio.org. On our site, you will find trustworthy and accurate news on Israel and the Middle East. And while you're there, you can support our ministry by clicking on the donate button to help us continue teaching biblical truth about Israel and the Jewish people. Please visit us at foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, when I talk to people, when I travel around the country I speak in churches and conferences they know Israel My Glory magazine, or they'll know the Friends of Israel Today radio program. But the one thing that often people don't understand is that our organization, the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry is an organization that is seen and heard all around the world with ministers that we have, ministering in the Jewish community and speaking in various churches and it's a global ministry. And so that's why we like to take the time here to invest in sharing about these ministries that are going on around the world. And that's why today we have two representatives of ours, The Friends of Israel representatives, Ty Perry and Becky Meissner are going to be sharing about a unique ministry that we have here at The Friends of Israel called our Hanukkah Basket Ministry. I'm very excited about it.
But before we do that, listen, if you're driving in your car right now and you're thinking I got to get out of the car right now and I really want to listen to the Friends of Israel Today, or maybe you wish you could listen to the program at any time during the week. Well, we've got good news for you. We have a podcast. We have an online way for you to listen at any time during any hour of the day. You can listen on Apple, Spotify, Google, Tune In, Stitcher, the host of many other platforms. You can turn us on through your Alexa or Google player. We'd love to hear from you when it comes to our online listeners. Your ratings and comments actually help others find the Friends of Israel Today. So if you value our program, please be sure to let us know. And thanks for listening online.
Steve Conover: Chris, in the news, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to maintain French values of freedom, which protect the right to parody the prophet Muhammad. This after three churchgoers were murdered in France by Islamic terrorists in late October. Macron's statement caused an uproar among certain Muslim communities globally, especially in Jerusalem where hundreds of Muslims protested at the Temple Mount and burned French flags and pictures of President Macron.
Chris Katulka: Here's my take on this, Steve. The attack at Nice came during a major debate in France over the republication of the Mohammad cartoons by satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo. These Muslim refugees who come to Europe and what they do is they enter into a western society where free speech is valued, and yet they are willing to kill and even be killed over these caricatures of Mohammed. Well, what's most sad is, one of the men who was killed was a devoted church goer who spent much of his time feeding refugees. Please be sure to keep France in your prayers.
I am very excited to have Ty Perry and Becky Meissner on the phone today to talk about the ministry that they have in Las Vegas, Nevada, with the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, both of them are field ministries representatives for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, ministering to the Jewish community in Las Vegas. And we're going to talk about something exciting, something that's near and dear to my heart. It's the Hanukkah Basket Ministry. Ty and Becky, great to have you on the program.
Becky Meissner: Thanks, Chris.
Ty Perry: Thanks for having us.
Chris Katulka: Great. Ty, Becky, before you know it, we're going to be entering into the Christmas season. And as Christians all around the world kind of enter into this time of honoring the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, Jewish people will be entering into the Hanukkah season. So first of all, Ty, would you mind explaining what Hanukkah is? I think that would do our listeners well.
Ty Perry: Sure. Well, it's not a biblical holiday in the sense that it's not a festival that God commanded his people to observe, but it's still an important one. And you know, the Jewish people often have this tipi saying, they say that the way to summarize most of their holidays is by the phrase, "They tried to kill us. We won, let's eat." And that's pretty much what Hanukkah is. So it took place during the silent years, which were the 400 years between the close of the Old Testament and the events of the opening of the New. Alexander the great was the Greek General that went throughout the world trying to conquer it. And everywhere he went, he tried to spread Greek ideas called Hellenization. He died young, and years later, another man came on the scene named Antiochus the fourth. He referred to himself, actually, as Antiochus Epiphanes meaning Antiochus “God Manifest.” The Jewish people though, referred to them as Antiochus Epimanes, which means the Madman, because he was just, some of the things he did were just insane.
There's a lot of history involving him, but the most important thing for Hanukkah is that on his way back from a failed attack in Egypt in 168 BC, he comes through Judea and he unleashes his fury on the Jewish people. And he continues with Alexander the Great had done. Hellenizing, making Greek everything, and he wanted to do away with the indigenous customs and beliefs wherever he went. Today we call it colonization. And this was big trouble for the Jewish people because they had to decide if they were going to have fidelity to God or to man. And so Antiochus, he forbade them to circumcise their little boys. They couldn't celebrate their festivals. They couldn't read the scriptures. But then he also sets up alters to Zeus throughout the country and he sacrificed pigs on those altars because that was a very unclean animal to the Jews. And he was saying in effect, move over. This is the new reality.
So the final straw was on the 25th of the Jewish month, Kislev, 168 BC, Antiochus goes into the temple, he sets up an image of Zeus and he sacrifices a pig. This desecrates the temple. Now some of the Jewish people went along with this and they hellenized, they became Greek. But there were some led by a man named Judas Maccabeus. He was actually the son of the initial leader and he and his band of soldiers, they essentially launched guerrilla warfare on Antiochus' soldiers and his outposts. And when he and his men got to Jerusalem, they found the temple in ruins and they decided to cleanse it and to rededicate it back to the service of the Lord. And that was three years after the desecration of the temple on the 25th of Kislev, 165 BC, they rededicate it. And the legend is, and it's a legend. We don't know if it's true or not. But the legend is that there was not enough oil to put in the menorah in the temple. There's only enough for one day, but miraculously, the oil lasts for eight days, which is why they say the festival lasts eight days. And that's what the Jewish people have been celebrating ever since.
Chris Katulka: That was a phenomenal explanation of Hanukkah. Becky I'm interested, as Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah and they enter into this time of remembering how God preserved them during this time, I'm interested to know, do you think Jewish people often feel as though Christmas can over shadow Hanukkah for them in some way?
Becky Meissner: Well, I think especially here in the United States, I have friends, Jewish friends, that would say, yes. We start celebrating Christmas, I see Christmas stuff in the stores already as early as September. And so I think here, especially in the States, Christmas is just this overwhelmingly huge holiday that's celebrated. And so I'm a little bit guilty of this. I feel like I need to confess something. I never actually took down my Christmas tree from last year. I'm guilty, guilty as charged. But yes, I believe oftentimes Christmas can kind of overwhelm it and we don't see as much Hanukkah stuff in the stores or as much celebrated.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, I have a good friend here where we live and her husband is Jewish. She's not Jewish, but she sent out a Facebook message last year on social media. And she said, “Hey, everybody, don't forget about Hanukkah too.” And it's one of those things where Christmas can often, which rightfully so, it's the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, but also there's this beautiful celebration of Hanukkah, which we wouldn't have a Messiah, Jesus, if there wasn't for this moment that Ty just explained so perfectly, Hanukkah. And that's where this unique ministry that we have is so important because several years ago, the Friends of Israel started our Hanukkah Basket Ministry. A ministry where we as Christians here at the Friends of Israel stop and simply say to our Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah. Becky, Ty, you've assembled and delivered these baskets. Can you share, I'll start with you, Becky, can you share how these baskets, these Hanukkah baskets enhanced your ministry with the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry?
Becky Meissner: Sure. I think we see that the gift of giving in and of itself, it communicates love. And we think of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave.” Giving is something that transcends cultural boundaries. It transcends language barriers. I've been able to give back to the people that we don't even speak the same language, but it communicated love. And so I think that's really key in this Hanukkah Basket Ministry. It's really opened up doors.
Chris Katulka: Ty, how about you? How's the Hanukkah Basket Ministry that you've been able to participate in, helped your ministry in Las Vegas, in the Jewish community?
Ty Perry: Well, I think it's a good link with our Jewish friends and its opportunity to show that we care about them, like Becky said. Many Jewish people that I know when we first met them, they thought that Christians were at best apathetic towards Jewish people. They think that Christians are hostile to that. So when they get a Hanukkah gift basket from us, and a very high quality one, they're very nice, it makes them feel really good that someone cares about them and they're Christians. And inevitably they ask, why do you care? Why are you doing this? And so that's an opportunity for me to explain that as a Gentile follower of Jesus, I'm indebted to the Jewish people, because spiritually speaking, everything I have comes from them. So it's a great way to connect with people and to explain really what the reason is for the season for us.
Chris Katulka: For us here at The Friends of Israel, this is actually, I want to transition here for a moment because I want to invite our listeners right now, actually, as Ty and Becky are talking about the blessing of the Hanukkah Basket Ministry, I want to invite our listeners right now. You can actually participate in the Hanukkah Basket Ministry of the Friends of Israel by giving to it. You actually can help our team members, our members on the field, us here at the Friends of Israel, share the love of Jesus, the Messiah, with our Jewish friends during Hanukkah season, by helping purchase these Hanukkah baskets. And it's really an amazing thing because every year we kind of roll up our sleeves and we put together a Hanukkah gift baskets packed full of delicious food, and it's food from Israel.
And then what we do is after we pack them up, we hand deliver them with love to our Jewish friends all around the United States and Canada. And see, these are more than just baskets filled with really good food, really good Israeli food, as Ty was saying earlier. Each basket actually represents hope and it's an opportunity to comfort, encourage and bring joy to our Jewish friends who may feel isolated and alone.
So Steve, I'm going to ask how can our listeners get involved in our Hanukkah Basket Ministry?
Steve Conover: Yeah, Chris, we talk a lot about Genesis 12:3, that those who bless Israel will be blessed. And I've had the joy of delivering Hanukkah baskets, just like Ty and Becky and I experienced firsthand the blessing promised in Genesis. You can take part in blessing the Jewish people this Hanukkah season, when you financially support the Hanukkah Basket Ministry. Visit us at foiradio.org. That's FOIradio.org to learn more.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back everybody. We are with Ty Perry and Becky Meissner in Las Vegas. They are the Friends of Israel field representatives in the Las Vegas area ministering to the Jewish community in Las Vegas. And honestly, I wish I could just spend the entire time talking about all the amazing opportunities Ty and Becky have had. I read them all the time. I see them all the time, all the amazing opportunities that they have to minister in the Jewish community to show and share the love of Jesus, the Messiah with our Jewish friends. But we're kind of crunched on time here. We want to focus in on the Hanukkah Basket Ministry and what Ty and Becky do in Las Vegas with the Hanukkah Basket Ministry is always an encouragement to me because it's not just them putting together the Hanukkah baskets filled with Israeli goods and then delivering them. They actually do some really good work of involving others.
You know, I love when the local church is involved in Jewish ministry. I mean, when Paul wrote Romans 1:16 to the whole body of Christ, he was talking about the power of the gospel. And he said to the Jew first, and then the Greek. Jewish ministry is so vital. Becky and Ty, can you share how you engage the local church through the Hanukkah Basket Ministry to minister to the Jewish community. And Becky, I'll go with you first.
Becky Meissner: Yeah, I think the cool thing about these baskets is it's a lot like Ikea, there's some assembly required. So when it comes to you, you have the basket, you have the things that go in the basket, you have things to make it look pretty. You have these cards, special Hanukkah cards that are beautiful and you can sign and put a special message there to your Jewish friends. And so the cool thing about that is you can invite your small group, maybe a Bible study or those in your church family. And you can come together. We've had a whole assembly line laid out and it's been cool and just so much fun. And then even delivering and making deliveries together with people is so much more fun with other people. So it's really a great way to, as a church family, reach out to our Jewish neighbors.
Chris Katulka: Ty, I'm interested to know, as you guys incorporate the local church in your area to be involved in this ministry, as they're building baskets, as they're putting the Israeli goods in, as they're wrapping up everything for the cause of showing and sharing the love of Jesus to the Jewish community, a very large Jewish community in Las Vegas. I'm interested to know what some of the responses are from the local church that you get when you guys participate and there's some volunteer work that goes on there.
Ty Perry: Well, they're always happy to do it. I think Christians just by their new nature, they have the desire to help people. And what's interesting is that not only are these local churches able to help, but they kind of have to ask the question, why are we doing this? Of course, we want to show love to these people, but why specifically to the Jewish people. And so it gives us an opportunity to teach about Hanukkah and to explain that, if there wasn't a Hanukkah, we wouldn't have a Christmas because Hanukkah is a time when God preserved his people and 400 years later or so, I guess about a hundred years later comes the Messiah. So it's really neat to see them helping the Jewish people. And then also learning from the history of the Jewish people, more about the importance of Hanukkah to a believer in Jesus.
Chris Katulka: I totally agree with you. And that's why I want to ... when you get these baskets constructed, they're beautiful Hanukkah baskets. They are just full of Israeli goods. And so when you finally put them all together and you're driving and you finally arrive at your Jewish friend's house and you knock on the door. I'd love to hear from each one of you, and Ty, I'll start with you. What are some of the reactions that you get from the Jewish people when you deliver that Hanukkah basket to say Happy Hanukkah?
Ty Perry: Well, they're usually floored because they're very nice and they don't expect it. Even people who we've given to multiple years, they don't take it for granted that they're going to get one of those. And they're just very appreciative that we came to give those to them and the goods, but more importantly than the goods, the idea that there are some Christians who think about them during a very busy time in their own year.
Chris Katulka: How about you, Becky?
Becky Meissner: Yeah, I mean, overall, there's a spirit of thanksgiving and just really thankfulness that we're reaching out in this way. And I think of one dear sweet elderly lady, she's a Holocaust survivor from Russia and we don't speak the same language. She speaks Russian and a little bit of Hebrew. And I speak up a very little bit of Hebrew.
Chris Katulka: I've heard your Hebrew, Becky. I've heard your Hebrew. It's not bad. [laughs]
Becky Meissner: Falafel. Shalom. [laughs] But we got by because as I'm delivering with a friend, we show up at her front door step and she invites us in and her two little ankle biter dogs were defending her the whole time, but she wanted us to come in. "Come in, come in. Sit, sit. Visit with me." And she brought us coffee. She wanted the visitor, she wanted to talk or even just to communicate. And we just stumbled through actually using words. But the cool thing was, we were communicating love by bringing her the basket and just by even coming in, we knew she was communicating love by inviting us in. And she just so wanted that time together. And it just really opens up the words and so it's a beautiful thing.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. I have to share one, too. So first is my one friend who I talked about earlier in the program when she wrote out on Facebook, "Don't forget about Hanukkah." I said to my wife, I said, I'm going to go get them a Hanukkah basket because just to let them know we're thinking of them and I knocked on the door and she opened it and I just said, “Happy Hanukkah,” and she just stared at me and said, "Thank you. How did you know? What is this?" And I said, "I saw your post and we just want you to know that we love you and your family." And they were really floored by that experience, like you said. But the other one that always got me is I had delivered a Hanukkah basket to actually someone I didn't know at all, a Jewish friend of the organization, the Friends of Israel.
And so when I drove up, I knocked on the door and I could see the look on their face, like, who is this stranger? I've got all my kids in the car. And when I opened the door and I said, “Happy Hanukkah from the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry,” their face lit up, Ty and Becky. I mean, just with excitement, they didn't know me from Adam. I handed them their Hanukkah gift basket. And they said, "Come in, come in." And I said, "I don't know. I got all my kids in the car." They said, "Bring them in. We want to hang out. We want to talk." And it was just a great experience to build a new relationship with someone that I didn't know, they were friends of the organization, but I didn't know them personally. And so really, you can see how this ministry impacts the Jewish community. And that's why we really want to encourage and invite our listeners to be a part of this, our Hanukkah Basket Ministry.
Again, like Steve said earlier, you can go to FOIradio.org, and there you can find out ways that you can give specifically to the Hanukkah Basket Ministry. It's a fantastic way to say Happy Hanukkah to your Jewish friends and to minister to them through this opportunity. And again, as Ty said earlier, without Hanukkah, without this moment in history, it's really important to remember this. The Jewish people were ready to be annihilated. They were ready to either be annihilated or to assimilate into Greek culture. This was a moment of crisis for the Jewish people, but God in his grace and his providence, because of the promise that he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, preserved them. And because of that preservation there in Hanukkah, we have the ability for the Jewish people to be in the land so that when you open up the New Testament and you get to Matthew chapter one, and you get to Luke and you read the birth story of Jesus, the reason Jesus is in the land in Bethlehem, born of a Jewish mother, the reason for that is because God preserved his people back in Hanukkah.
And it's really important to remember too, Jesus himself in John chapter 10 celebrated Hanukkah. A great way to not only worship God by ministering to the Jewish people, but we can worship God for his providence and his sovereignty as he continues to minister to the Jewish people and to us. So Ty and Becky, I really want to thank you so much for taking the time to be a part of our ministry highlight episode of The Friends of Israel today. And I really hope that our listeners were blessed by the ministry that you have in Las Vegas. Thank you so much for being a part of it.
Ty Perry: Thank you, Chris.
Becky Meissner: Thank you, Chris.
Steve Conover: Thank you for joining us for the program today. Chris, where are we headed next week?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, we're going to be looking at different responses to Jesus's message in the gospels. There wasn't this monolithic thought within the Jewish community or the Roman empire when it came to Jesus. So we're going to spend the next three weeks looking at different responses to Jesus's gospel message that can be read about in the gospels. I think it's going to be a very enlightening three weeks.
Steve Conover: We look forward to it. We hope you join us then. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. And I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio PO Box 914 Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. And one last quick reminder, visit us at foiradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
Hanukkah Gift Basket Ministry
Every year at FOI, our team hand-delivers Hanukkah baskets to our Jewish friends. Each basket, filled with delicious Israeli food, represents hope and is also an opportunity to comfort, encourage, and bring joy to our Jewish friends who may feel isolated and alone. You can take part in blessing the Jewish people this Hanukkah season when you financially support the Hanukkah Gift Basket Ministry.
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The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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