Interview w/ Alyssa Ruddell
We love to see God raise up workers to carry out the work to which He has called us—and that’s why we’re so excited to have Alyssa Ruddell join our ministry! Alyssa’s love for Israel and the Jewish people brought her to The Friends of Israel, where she quickly jumped into many of our programs that energized her passion for ministry. Chris introduces Alyssa as our newest field representative and helps you get to know her on this week’s broadcast.
Before her appointment as a representative, Alyssa had already joined our Encounter experience with Jewish communities in the Northeast, worked in our Bridges and Equip internships, and traveled to Israel with us on our ORIGINS volunteer trip. These experiences and her servant’s heart have prepared her well as she ministers in Houston, Texas. Alyssa shares how she has already begun to serve and support the Jewish people in her community and to equip other young adults to do the same. Her passion is inspiring, and her insight will help you learn how you can be a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people too!
Visit foi.org/ruddell to learn more and support Alyssa’s ministry!
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. And I wonder, have you visited our website, foiradio.org? After this episode ends, visit us if you haven't been there. We have over eight years worth of programming on our site for you to listen to. Once again, that's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, this is one of my favorite episodes, FOI in Action, Friends of Israel in action. You know, we're not just a radio ministry and we're not just a magazine ministry with Israel My Glory, we actually have representatives serving the Jewish people all around the country, teaching the importance about Israel and the Jewish people biblically, and engaging with our Jewish friends to help them and to show support and love to them. And actually, we're going to have one of our newest representatives from Houston, Texas, her name's Alyssa Ruddell. She's going to talk about the ways that she got trained to become a representative with Friends of Israel and what she's doing now as she does ministry all throughout Houston.
Steve Conover: Before we get to that. In the news, as Passover quickly approaches, a matzah factory in Ukraine was under attack and survived a Russian strike as Ukrainian Jews prepared tons of matzah for the upcoming Seders. Security camera footage from inside the Dnipro bakery revealed a flash of orange light that shook the building, then everything went black as electricity went out.
Chris Katulka: Here's my take. Passover is all about celebrating God's liberation of the Israelites from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. Well, today, Ukrainian Jews are living under the oppressive and aggressive hand of Putin. So let's pray that this Passover God will not just liberate the Ukrainian Jews from the attacks from Russia, but all of Ukraine. And I'm also happy to announce that that matzah factory is still producing matzah even after the attacks.
Alyssa, welcome to the program. I'm so excited that you're with us, and I'm even more excited that God has called you to serve with The Friends of Israel. Can you share with our listening audience how God gave you a passion for Israel and the Jewish people, and how He called you to Friends of Israel as well?
Alyssa Ruddell: I'd be happy to, Chris. Thank you for having me. Growing up in a Christian home, I was blessed to have parents who valued scripture. We received Israel My Glory magazines over the years, and then as my dad was studying scripture, he recognized that the Jewish people were God's chosen and they had an important place in history both in the past and future. And his excitement over those promises made to Israel and the Jewish people was contagious to me. And we soon began having discussions about eschatology, the millennial kingdom, God's faithfulness, and more. And that's really where my spark for the Jewish people, that love in my heart began.
And this love grew when I went to Israel for the first time in 2019 with the university I was studying with. And a couple years passed as I continued my education, but that interest and heart for the Jewish people remained present. It was just more in the background since I was focusing on my education. But after a wild turn of events, God redirected my path to finishing my Bachelor's online, which allowed me the opportunity to participate in several of The Friends of Israel programs like Bridges, ORIGINS, Encounter, and the Equip internship. The Simmons were really immensely influential in helping connect me with these programs. But as I took each step, God continued to just confirm that this was the path He had for me and not just Jewish ministry, but ministry specifically with The Friends of Israel.
Chris Katulka: Can you go back? You talked about the fact that you and your dad would sit at the dinner table, and it sounds like you were talking about deep, biblical things. Like you said the word eschatology, which is the study of the end times or you'd study about God's faithfulness, what were those conversations like with your father? I never had that with my dad. We talked about the Philadelphia Eagles. We didn't talk much about eschatology. So, can you talk about how that impacted your life and even kind of guided you toward ministry?
Alyssa Ruddell: Absolutely, yes. Those conversations were very significant for me. We would just be talking about stuff we had read in scripture or different topics that were maybe controversial in this time. And being able to have someone to bounce those ideas off of and to go dig into scripture together was really helpful for me to kind of lay that foundation of taking the Bible at face value, that it can be trusted in all the craziness of this world. And so that really helped me just realize the Bible is true when it talks about Israel and because of that, then I want my life to be centered around what God values. And one of the things He values most is His chosen people.
Chris Katulka: Alyssa, you're a recent graduate of college, most parents want to see their kids go off and get a successful job with the degree that they earned. I'm interested to know, what did your parents think when you told them that you felt called to do ministry, especially ministry with Friends of Israel?
Alyssa Ruddell: They were very excited for me. I think that was their... I don't want to say their goal. Obviously, a parent's goal is just for their child to follow the Lord and go wherever that is, whether that's into the workforce or into ministry. But they were very excited that God had called me into this, and they were very supportive and consistently pray and support me in various ways. So I was super thankful and blessed to have that behind me going forward.
Chris Katulka: Before we go on to the next question here, I want to know too, what was it like when you would go before the board of Friends of Israel when you were going before the board to be approved to become a representative of our organization, which we're all very excited about? What were your feelings? Were you nervous? What were the feelings that you had in you, and how did you maybe calm those feelings as well?
Alyssa Ruddell: Yes, that's a great question. The application process was involved, and I really appreciate that about The Friends of Israel. So by the point I had gotten to the board, I had gone through several interview processes. And each one, there are nurse involved, you want to pass that next step. But because of all the things that God had specifically brought into place, He had put all these puzzle pieces together in such a unique way that I couldn't deny that this is what He had for me and so I trusted Him to open each door as He saw fit. And the board was great. They were so kind and encouraging, and it did feel like becoming part of a family, honestly. It was wonderful, and I appreciate so many people praying for me all along the way. So it was just a really blessed time of doing all of that.
Chris Katulka: Alyssa, before you served with Friends of Israel, before you went before the board and started filling out an application to serve with us, you actually participated in several of our Friends of Israel training programs. I want to talk about the FOI, The Friends of Israel Bridge's internship program. How did Bridges prepare you for serving with Friends of Israel?
Alyssa Ruddell: Oh, Bridges was incredibly foundational for me in pursuing Jewish ministry. I loved how it equipped me with the knowledge and the tools to apply that knowledge. It was a really unique combination that helped me. I know when I've spoken with other believers, we have this idea of the Jewish people, but that's primarily based in the New Testament. And we've had thousands of years of history and experiences that the Jewish people have gone through, and Bridges helped filled in those gaps, understanding the modern Jewish mindset, and Jewish culture, and all that they've experienced to help equip believers to know how to share the love of Christ with them, how to love them well and serve them better. So I really think I wouldn't be confident or prepared for what I'm doing today if I hadn't taken that first step and done Bridges. So I encourage everyone to just do it. It's just helpful whether you're going into full-time ministry or not. It's a great resource.
Chris Katulka: This is important because I'm glad that you said that. I was going to say, what would you say to somebody who might be interested? Because I always like to remind people, Bridges, our internship program is online. You can do the internship program where you live as long as you have a computer, and it's free, free, free, free, free. That's what I always tell people. It's a free internship program. What would you say to somebody that said, "You know what? I'm interested in learning more about Israel and the Jewish people and how I can minister to them in some way." What would you say about the Bridges program if someone was interested?
Alyssa Ruddell: Do it. It is so helpful. You cover all these topics in-depth, and I did it as a full-time college student so there were times where I didn't have a lot of time to invest. So I encourage people, if you're worried about the time commitment, just still do it because you're going to get so much out of it. You're going to walk away with a better understanding of how to love your Jewish neighbors, how to have conversations with them, how to be a blessing to them, understand where they're coming from. So there are all these really important things that you gained from it, and I think it's just a wonderful resource that everyone should take advantage of regardless of where they're at in life.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, I love that the Bridges program shows individuals like yourself, and I've gone through it as well, and I've seen that it not only trains you in understanding why Israel and the Jewish people matter biblically, you learn the biblical foundation for that, you also learn to understand why Israel, the modern state of Israel is important, the history of modern Israel, and then also how we can best build bridges between the church and the Jewish community to be a light of the Messiah to our Jewish friends in any way that we possibly can. So I always encourage people too, Alyssa, like you to join our free Bridges online internship.
But you also did another thing, which I just love, and something that's near and dear to my heart. You actually traveled to Israel to volunteer with our ORIGINS program. You were volunteering for and serving the Israeli people. Can you share how the ORIGINS volunteer trip to Israel impacted your life and maybe even your ministry today?
Alyssa Ruddell: Absolutely. Yes. That trip was incredible. So many individuals tell you before you go to Israel, it's going to change your life. And it does, and this trip did. But ORIGINS went a step further than just that. The way it combined tourism with that volunteer work was just beautiful and so amazing to have that focus of being a blessing to the Jewish people. I think for me, I was shocked by the response of the Jewish people as they were trying to figure out who we are and what we're doing. And they were just really shook and kind of astonished that this group of Gentiles from America who believe in Yeshua were traveling over there to serve them.
And we were doing small things. We were picking vegetables. We were sorting fruits. It wasn't anything to take a bow for. It was just small acts of service, and they really appreciate that. And seeing the Jewish people, they're hungry for love and they want support. So that really encouraged me in my ministry just to be present, be genuine, be available, and to serve. And I just fell in love with the people even more while I was over there. And so that was just another puzzle piece that God brought together to get me to where He's brought me here today.
Chris Katulka: And ORIGINS is our young-adult volunteer program to Israel, and you're a young adult. I'm interested in your thoughts, too, what it was like to partner with the local church that we have in Israel. What was that like? I don't know if you did that when you did your first trip with the college that you went with, but this one, you're kind of tied in with our local church in a city outside of Tel Aviv.
Alyssa Ruddell: Yes. I really love that element to the trip. We all still keep in contact. We had a Zoom call a couple weeks ago with everyone, so we still connect with them. And it was really encouraging just to hear their stories, and their testimonies, and to come alongside them and encourage them and be a blessing. I think we probably walked away more blessed and encouraged than we were able to give them. But that was a wonderful element of the trip. And yes, it was a big, big blessing for all of us. I know several of the team are looking forward to going back and still connecting with everyone.
Chris Katulka: Alyssa, before we take our break in a few seconds, can you share, how did ORIGINS help impact the ministry that you have today in Houston, Texas?
Alyssa Ruddell: Yes. I think recognizing the importance of serving first and foremost and building that relationship is essential when you go into these Jewish places and just showing up and being a genuine friend. And that's what I feel like we did on ORIGINS, and that's what I feel like I'm doing now.
Chris Katulka: Well, listen, we are speaking with Alyssa Ruddell, who is our brand new Friends of Israel field representative in Houston, Texas, a vital place to be doing ministry with The Friends of Israel. We're thankful that she's with us. We're going to have her back after our break here, but we're going to talk more about her ministry that's happening in Houston right now and really ways that you can partner with The Friends of Israel.
But before we do that, you've been hearing about all these amazing things that Alyssa has been doing with The Friends of Israel. I think they're amazing, our Bridges internship program, our ORIGINS young adult volunteer trip to Israel. She's also participated in our Encounter program where you get to come up to the northeast and encounter the Jewish community face-to-face by doing a Hasidic walking tour in Brooklyn, joining an Orthodox synagogue for a Shabbat and a Shabbat meal, and even serving the Jewish people in South Jersey. It's an amazing opportunity.
Hey, listen, if you want to participate and be a part of what Friends of Israel is doing, I want to encourage you to go to this website, foi.org/getinvolved. So if you want to get involved with Friends of Israel, then go to foi.org/getinvolved. We can train you to best minister to your Jewish friends. We can get you involved in ways that you can plug into Israel, and we can even get you connected to Jewish ministry right here in North America. Again, go to foi.org/getinvolved.
Alyssa, I'm so glad that you're with us. I'm so glad that we're able to talk about your new ministry. A lot of times when we have people for our FOI In Action segment for the radio program, they've been doing ministry for a very, very, very long time. But you know what? You're new to the ministry, but yet God has given you so many open doors in Houston to be able to share and connect with the Jewish community, to build bridges with the Jewish community even as a young adult. So first, let's talk about your ministry in Houston, Texas, and let's talk about this very important subject that is really important to me at least. How are you reaching young adults and teaching them about the importance of Israel and the Jewish people?
Alyssa Ruddell: Yes, that is so important. One of the aspects of my ministry is I take tables to different Christian universities, engage with these students about the significance of Israel and the importance of the Jewish people, and encouraging them to read their Bible, see what it says, and act on it, and then connect them with the ministry, things like Bridges, and ORIGINS, and encouraging them to engage with these opportunities that are free, free, free, free.
Chris Katulka: You got it, Alyssa.
Alyssa Ruddell: Yes. Being a college student, I knew how important it was to have those free resources. That's been a wonderful part of the ministry, is reaching out. I was at a college this past week and getting to connect with these people about that and encouraging them in that. And then I also, last fall, I took a group to the Houston Holocaust Museum. It was a real privilege for me to hear some of the students relate how their eyes were opened and during that time, and especially, them being high school and middle school students. That was really special for me to be able to coordinate that for them to be able for them to see all that the Jewish people have gone through and just give them an awareness, which I think is in becoming increasingly important as anti-Semitism is continually on the rise. And so those are just some of the ways that I tried to engage with these young people and encourage them to be a blessing to the Jewish people here in Houston.
Chris Katulka: Alyssa, a stat came out not long ago that says that young adult evangelicals are declining in support for Israel. Something like 33% of evangelical young adults don't support Israel. But the amazing thing is that 42%, they actually don't really have any thoughts about it whatsoever. As a young adult, do these stats intimidate you at all, or do they energize you?
Alyssa Ruddell: I think it's probably a mixture of both. Anything that is worth pursuing has its obstacles, but I've been encouraged by hearing all the different perspectives at universities. I've had people say, "Oh, I've never really thought about it. Tell me more." And then I've also had students come up and say, "You know, God's always had the Jewish people in my heart, and I just never knew what to do about it. Can you tell me what to do or share with me an opportunity?" So I've seen both sides of that spectrum, and so I'm just encouraged to know that God is continually at work, and I'm excited to be a part of continuing to change those stats as He can see fit to help encourage more people to support the Jewish people in Israel.
Chris Katulka: I always love that big block of people, that 42% of young adults that don't have a thought about it. That means we get to reach those 42% of young adults to teach them about the importance of Israel and the Jewish people biblically and that God loves them and has a plan for them. And that's why I'm thankful you're with Friends of Israel to help reach that 42%. But, Alyssa, you're not only reaching out to the young adults and the church to connect the truth of God's word to them about Israel and the Jewish people, but you're also reaching out to the Jewish community of Houston. Tell us about how you're building bridges and bringing hope to the Jewish community where you are.
Alyssa Ruddell: Absolutely. So some of the ways that I do that is I connect with the Jewish Community Center. I've taken a couple classes down there, and it's been a wonderful time for me to learn, be a student, but also to make these wonderful connections and relationships with several of the Jewish students there. And we've been able to get together outside of class. We've gotten lunch together. Or, this past week, I went with one of my friends from there to go see a film for the Jewish Film Festival at the Jewish Community Center. And that was just a great time of building that relationship and being a blessing to each other. And so that was wonderful.
And then I also volunteer with Jewish Family Services. I help them make Shabbat boxes, and holiday cards, deliver meals, and just help with events that come up. I have a really good relationship with a volunteer coordinator there, and I'm going to help her this coming week as she delivers Passover meals. And so that's been really great. I love, as they find out I'm a believer in Yeshua, that we can still have these relationships and have these conversations to where I can be an open resource to them, and I'm showing up as a friend to just serve and be available but they know who I am and what I do. I pray that, as time progresses, they will continue to ask those questions and come to fully understand that my love for them comes from Yeshua, the Messiah, and that He has even a greater love for them. And so I've just been so blessed to see how God has opened doors and guided this, and I'm so excited for it to keep growing as I continue on.
Chris Katulka: Alyssa, I talk with Christians a lot, and it's funny how they have a heart for Israel and the Jewish people but they feel a little intimidated about going to a synagogue, just to show up at a synagogue. They think they might not be welcomed or they feel as though they might be an outsider. I have my answer this to this question, but if a Christian came to you and said, "Man, I love the Jewish people and I've always wanted to go to a synagogue, but I just feel intimidated by going to one." What would you say to that person?
Alyssa Ruddell: Yes, I think that's an understandable feeling. I know many of us in Bridges felt that way, and that's part of why Bridges was really helpful for us because it gave us probably a more detailed answer than what I can give now. But you should still try to go. I know it was a real blessing for me to go to the Shabbat service on Encounter, and I would just say, "Go for it." I think it's appropriate, depending on the specialty, the area of Judaism you're going to go visit. Maybe reach out to the Rabbi and see if that's something that they're okay with. But definitely go and just show up because they're very welcoming and they do want to know who you are and build a relationship with you. So definitely pray about it and then see if you can go.
Chris Katulka: In my years of going to synagogues, and I've gone to a lot of them, I've never been turned away. I've always been welcomed with open arms, and acceptance, and kindness, just like it would be if a stranger showed up at our church and they walked through the door. We wouldn't say, "Who's this guy? Get him out of here." We would actually welcome them in and want them to feel a part of the family. I feel the same way about any synagogue I've ever gone to. Do you feel the same way with the synagogues that you visit, especially maybe in the Houston area?
Alyssa Ruddell: Yes, I think so. Especially the one primarily on Encounter, they invited us in, they wanted us to sit with them for lunch and hear our stories, and they were so welcoming. Just all the Jewish people in the synagogues have been so kind, and they really do just want friends, and they want to share a part of their life with them. So it's a really neat opportunity.
Chris Katulka: Well, Alyssa, you are new to Friends of Israel. You have gone through a lot of our programs. You went before the board. You are an official Friends of Israel representative in Houston, Texas. But, Alyssa, what would you say to someone who's listening right now and maybe they feel called to serve the Jewish people like you, maybe they feel called to support Israel like you? What would you say to that person that's listening right now?
Alyssa Ruddell: Oh, what a great question. I love this question so much. Even when students on college campuses will ask me this first, I would say that that desire, or that prompt, that calling even is a biblical one. I know when I was uncertain about the next steps I should take in my journey, I just kept remembering that being a blessing to the Jewish people is part of what God commands us to do. So pursuing that is good. God can open and close those doors as you take those next steps, but walking in that direction, I think, is very biblical. And so I would say definitely try that.
But you can support Israel and the Jewish people in so many different ways. And I know I might sound a little biased, but the programs like Bridges, and ORIGINS, and all these things that we've been talking about really did lay a foundation for me, and they also let me explore that possibility of doing this full-time and seeing what that would look like and having the resources available to begin that. So I would just encourage you to pray and then joyfully take that next step because God's going to lead you where He needs you to be. And I would say learning how to be a blessing to the Jewish people and to Israel and to know how to show the love of Christ with them is always a worthy pursuit. So I would say definitely just take the next step. See what God has.
Chris Katulka: Alyssa, it was so good to talk to you. Now, listen, if you're listening to Alyssa and you think, "Wow, what a wonderful, wonderful young lady, I'd love to pray for her. I'd love to support her in some way." I want to encourage you to check out her page, which is foi.org/ruddell, which is R-U-D-D-E-L-L. Again, that's foi.org/ruddell. There you can learn more about Alyssa and also find ways to pray for her and to support her financially as well in her endeavors as she serves with Friends of Israel. Alyssa, thanks so much for being with us. We really appreciate it.
Alyssa Ruddell: Well, thanks for having me.
Steve Conover: Thank you so much for joining us today. Our thanks to Alyssa Ruddell for being with us. Chris, if someone is interested in learning more about Alyssa's ministry or maybe even supporting her work, how would they do that?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, they can go to foi.org/ruddell, R-U-D-D-E-L-L. Again, that's Alyssa Ruddell at foi.org/ruddell. Also, if you're interested in wanting to get involved with Friends of Israel, you can go to foi.org/getinvolved. Also, next week, we're going to begin a four-part series on the book of Ezra. In fact, next week we're going to be looking specifically at an archeological find that will define Ezra and the beginning and give purpose to why God called Ezra and the Israelites back home.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, edited by Jeremy Strong, who also composed and performs our theme music. And I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, P.O. Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, P.O. Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. And I'll give you one last quick reminder to visit us 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.
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