Linda Craft/Tikvah Team
The Lord uses faithful believers to accomplish great things, and this week’s guest provides a great example of this fact. Linda Craft has served with The Friends of Israel for more than 20 years alongside her husband, Jonathan, moving from Illinois to Las Vegas—and recently back to Illinois—to carry out the Lord’s work. She speaks with Chris this week to discuss her multifaceted career in ministry that has touched the lives of many Christians and Jewish people alike.
After years of dedicated volunteer work in Las Vegas, Linda is using her experience in her new position as the volunteer coordinator for FOI’s Tikvah Team, a global volunteer network of believers who learn how to serve and bless the Jewish people in their own communities. Enjoy this engaging interview with Linda, and find out how you can join the Tikvah team and turn your love for God and the Jewish people into action!
Learn more about the first step of becoming part of our Tikvah Team— Visit foi.org/bridges today!
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. Have you visited our website, foiradio.org? After this episode ends, visit us at foiradio.org. There we have over eight years worth of programming for you to enjoy. Again, that's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: If you're a frequent listener to the Friends of Israel Today, it's always a great reminder to let you know the Friends of Israel is not just a radio ministry, and it's not just a magazine ministry with Israel My Glory. We actually have people serving with Friends of Israel all around the world. And that's why today we're going to have our Friends of Israel Ministry highlight episode, where we're going to highlight one of the workers that are serving with the Friends of Israel. And today, Linda Craft is going to join us and she's going to be talking about a new program that we have. A volunteer program called the Tikvah Team. I hope that you stick around.
Steve Conover: But first in the news, the Jerusalem Post reports Egyptian President El-Sisi, and Jordan's King Abdullah affirmed their full support for Palestinian President Abbas, and vow to adhere to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. Which demands that the Arab states would normalize the relations with Israel only after a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Chris Katulka: Well, here's my take, Steve. El-Sisi and Abdullah should have spoken up before the Abraham Accords were ratified, and the United States moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Arab states are making peace with Israel because the Palestinians have consistently said no to peace. If El-Sisi and Abdullah were serious, they should have encouraged Abbas to go to the negotiating table. But we know that will never happen.
Chris Katulka: Well everybody, I am so thankful to have Linda Craft with us today to talk about a very important ministry that's just launched with the Friends of Israel. It's called the Tikvah Team. And so Linda, it's great to have you on the program. Thanks for joining us.
Linda Craft: Great to be here.
Chris Katulka: Hey, Linda, you and your husband Jonathan have served with Friends of Israel for more than 20 years. My first question before we get to Tikvah Team is, what made you and Jonathan take a leap of faith to serve with the Friends of Israel more than 20 years ago?
Linda Craft: Well, it was definitely a leap, Chris, trust me. We were living and working secular jobs in our hometown of Freeport, Illinois. We were serving in our home church, and it seemed like one or the other of us was always on the mission board. Planning missions conferences, communicating with the churches' missionaries. And every year during that mission conference, we would feel called the full-time service. And every year, we wouldn't say no. We just didn't do anything. And it wasn't until our early forties that we realized by not responding at all, we were actually saying no to God. So that year during the missions conference, the invitation to commit to full-time service, we finally said yes and responded to the invitation.
And I'm telling you that, when we did step out of that pew that night, it was actually the biggest step. The biggest step of faith that we had to make through this whole journey was that commitment. Once we had committed, we started falling into place, including the people group God was calling us to. Jewish ministry had never, ever, ever been on our radar ever.
Chris Katulka: Really?
Linda Craft: Yes. But through much prayer and amazing circumstances, that's where God led us.
Chris Katulka: And then you went and got trained by the Friends of Israel in our program that used to run, the Institute of Jewish Studies. And that gave you one year of training with the Friends of Israel. Is that right?
Linda Craft: Yes, that is correct.
Chris Katulka: All right. So when you started ministering full-time with Friends of Israel, you took another step of faith and you moved from Illinois of all places to Las Vegas. Why Vegas? What made you and Jonathan go in that direction to go West?
Linda Craft: That is a good question. We told Friends of Israel, we'd go wherever they wanted us to serve. And at the time they were looking for workers in the West. So FOI's West Coast director took us to start exploring different cities in California with high Jewish populations. We were in San Jose, the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles. And nothing seemed to fit, nothing felt right. But on the last day of our scheduled tour, he suggested we try Las Vegas. And we all kind of smiled, but went anyway. And from the moment we drove into that town, we knew. We knew that was where God wanted us to serve. And later we found out that at the time, Las Vegas had the fastest growing population in the United States, and the fastest growing Jewish population.
Chris Katulka: That's amazing. And you made yourself at home in Las Vegas pretty quickly. Can you share what kind of ministry you and Jonathan had that you were doing while you were in Las Vegas? Because I know that I met you while you were there in 2004 for the first time in Las Vegas, and you guys had a thriving ministry already.
Linda Craft: Well, I'll tell you, we really didn't know how to start, but we started hanging out at Einstein's Bagels and Jewish delis. We figured that's where we're going to start. We're going to find Jewish people there. And you know what? In those restaurants, they had community calendars, and we could see what was going on in the Jewish community. So we started attending those events, and soon we were meeting Jewish people. We started volunteering at Jewish Family Services and the Holocaust Resource Center. And then as we saw the need, and the welcome from the Jewish community toward Christians who really cared, we started thinking about ways to multiply ourselves, our ministry.
Prior to joining FOI, John and I had been youth leaders in our church and had led various missions trips. So it gave us the idea to have summer teen ministry teams come to Las Vegas and help us volunteer in the community. So from 2003 to 2012, we hosted eight of these summer teens, and trained 200 young people in Jewish ministry. They opened so many doors of opportunity, we couldn't possibly go through all of them. So that prompted the idea for the G’sherim internship program.
Chris Katulka: What does G’sherim mean? That's an interesting Hebrew word.
Linda Craft: G’sherim is the Hebrew word for “bridges”. Yeah, G’sherim was the nine-month internship program that we had here. Six young adults in Las Vegas with us for nine months, living and working with us. Much of the work they did during that nine months was volunteer work. And we could keep six other people busy with volunteer work in Las Vegas during that time. We ended up having three teams, 15 workers serving with us between 2014 and 2017. And I'm so happy to say that four of them are now full-time workers with Friends of Israel. That was exciting.
Chris Katulka: So you were able to grow a team of people, volunteers that were coming from all around the United States to Las Vegas to learn from you and Jonathan how to do ministry, and how to engage in the Jewish community. And from that you were able to raise up young adults to do amazing work. And through that we were able to raise up new workers for Friends of Israel as well that are now ministering. And of course, in Las Vegas and in Michigan. I'm interested to know, Linda, what was it that made you want to minister and to raise up a young adult with Friends of Israel. That seemed to be a passion for you and Jonathan, can you share about that?
Linda Craft: Well, when we were volunteering at the Holocaust Resource Center, they were always concerned about the next generation not even believing there was a Holocaust. And so we thought it was very important for young adults to have that experience of actually meeting Holocaust survivors. That was a big one. But another thing was, we wanted to raise a team to replace us in Las Vegas. We're always growing older, and so we wanted to have someone there at that place that could continue the ministries that we'd started.
Chris Katulka: And I would say that it's been successful for you. In the years that you invested, it sounds like you all came right into Las Vegas to automatically replace yourselves, and you did do that. Not only did you train several hundred people, but then you were able to raise up individuals that would fill your place. And recently you and your husband Jonathan, moved back to Illinois and you replaced yourself. Becky Meisner, who you helped train, is currently serving in Las Vegas. And you and Jonathan are starting a new journey back in Illinois. How's it going in Illinois? And tell us about some of the opportunities that you feel like God's given you, because it just happened a few months ago.
Linda Craft: Yeah, it's slow-going in Illinois and we have to remember that it was slow-going when we started in Las Vegas. We wanted to jump in here and just pick up where we left off, and it doesn't quite happen like that. But we have had some opportunities to... John has gone to the Illinois Holocaust Museum and he's hoping to become a volunteer there. We have a congregation, Beth Shalom about eight miles from us, and we're looking at volunteer work for him there. We've met with some pastors. We're a lot closer to some of our supporting church and churches, and we're trying to engage them in becoming a part of their ministry by joining us here for little short-term trips. So yeah, things are going, and it's exciting to be here.
Chris Katulka: You're taking one leap of faith to another leap of faith. Now listen, we're speaking with Linda Craft, who is our official FOI volunteer coordinator. And that's what we want to talk about next is that Linda has been serving with her husband for more than 20 years in Las Vegas doing ministry with Friends of Israel, but recently God has called her to a new work with Friends of Israel. They continue to serve in their local Jewish community in Illinois. But God has called Linda to a new work that is a vital work that's growing in North America, and really globally as well. So when we come back, we're going to talk about how all this work that God's been doing with Linda and Jonathan in Las Vegas, helping raise up hundreds of young adults to do volunteer work, to do ministry has prepared her for this next stage in her ministry. You're going to want to stick around.
Steve Conover: Hey Chris, did you know that August is Make-A-Will month?
Chris Katulka: You know Steve, actually, believe it or not, I did. And that's why it's so important to make time to consider your future planning, especially since it's so easy to put it off until another day.
Steve Conover: I agree, Chris. And it's why it excites me that the Friends of Israel has partnered with Free Will to enable you to write your legal will for free. In as little as 20 minutes online, you can create an estate plan to protect your assets, support the people and organizations that you love, and have the opportunity to include a legacy gift in your plans.
Chris Katulka: When we were planning out our will for the Katulka family, I wish I would've known about Free Will. And so we hope that you'll join us on Make a Will month. To get started on writing your legal free will go to foi.org/yourfreewill. Again, that's foi.org/yourfreewill.
Welcome back everyone. We're speaking to Linda Craft. Linda and her husband Jonathan have been serving with Friends of Israel for more than 20 years. And Linda and her husband recently moved from Las Vegas to Illinois, and Linda has endeavored to take on a new opportunity that came her way. And that was to serve as FOI's official volunteer coordinator. Linda, after two decades of serving with FOI in Las Vegas, you and your husband have taken on this new opportunity to raise up volunteers with Friends of Israel through our Tikvah Team. So tell us, number one, how's that going? And number two, I'm sure people are wondering what in the world is a Tikvah? What's a Tikvah Team? Can you share about that?
Linda Craft: Yes. At the moment, we have 28 Tikvah Team volunteers scattered, as you said, throughout the United States and Canada. And there's two international volunteers, one in Germany and one in Austria. My job is to help find them volunteer opportunities, instruct them, supply them with the material they need, answer their questions, and just come alongside them as they reach Jewish people in their own communities. Tikvah is the Hebrew word for hope. Hope in the biblical sense is much different than the way we use the word in our everyday speech. Like, "Okay, I'm a Cubs fan and I hope the Cubs win the World Series." Now, if you know anything about baseball, and anything at all about the Cubs, that's like a one chance out of every a hundred years.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, we have record of that as well.
Linda Craft: We do. So that kind of hope is more of a wish with a whole lot of doubt connected to it. In biblical terms, however, the word hope is more of an eager anticipation of good things to come. And good things are certainly happening with the Tikvah Team.
Chris Katulka: So the Tikvah volunteer team literally means if someone hears Tikvah Team, FOI's official volunteer team. It's actually called the Hope Team. That's what we're talking about here. We want to be conduits of hope to our Jewish friends all throughout the world, and I guess that's really what Tikvah Team means, is that right?
Linda Craft: Yes. Exactly.
Chris Katulka: Linda, since February 2023, our Tikvah Team has been volunteering. Can you share with some of our listeners some of the ministry our volunteers have been doing for the past six to seven months? I mean, they haven't been doing ministry for that long, but the amount of ministry has just been amazing.
Linda Craft: Yes and so varied. They do such different things that it is, it's amazing. We have a volunteer in Virginia who started going to a nearby Jewish community center. She simply started helping elderly Jewish people play bingo, and soon began forming relationships. She was even asked to be the bingo caller. It's huge, if you've never played Bingo, to be the caller is big. But even bigger, she was asked to join a Mahjong group. And the Jewish ladies offered to teach her how to play. That also is something that really doesn't happen too often. But through these relationships, she's had opportunities to be a witness and share the gospel. People come to her, Jewish people at the community center and ask her how they should deal with certain things in their life. And it's just amazing the opportunities that she gets there.
Then we have a volunteer in Minnesota. She's a wife and a homeschooling mom of two young children, who through volunteering has become friends with a local rabbi and his wife. Her family has been invited to the rabbi's house for several special Jewish holiday events, giving her such a great opportunity to share her faith. And also involving her kids in the ministry, and that too has been amazing.
And then in New Jersey, this is the funnest one, I think. Funnest. We have a volunteer who uses her professional skills to give elderly Jewish ladies a free massage, and has been able to share the whole gospel with several of them. I don't know about you, Chris, but if someone's giving me a free massage, I don't care what faith I am, I'd be happy to listen to them talk about Jesus. And they listen to her, and she talks about everything with them. So I mean, it's crazy what's happening out there. It's good crazy.
Chris Katulka: And the best part too, about our volunteers is that they're eager to also not only get involved in their local Jewish community to show love and support to Israel and the Jewish people, but they also want to promote the Friends of Israel in their local church as well. Many have put out Israel, My Glory magazines. Many have requested signups and people have signed up for the magazine. They've been able to share about the work that they're doing as Tikvah Team volunteers in their local church. Which helps raise awareness about the importance of Israel and the Jewish people from the scriptures. And they're doing this right in their small groups, their Bible studies, their Sunday schools.
All of it is important, because not only are we investing in supporting Israel and the Jewish people biblically, by volunteering. But also by training our Tikvah Team, our Hope team, to go into their local church to help promote the Friends of Israel and the work that we've been doing since 1938. Linda, maybe somebody's listening right now and they'd say, "I'd love to be a volunteer with Friends of Israel." What does someone need to do to join the Tikvah Team?
Linda Craft: 15 volunteers are graduates of Friends of Israel's Bridges program. Remember Gsharim means bridges, now I'm calling this Bridges so it just continues to flow, the internships. Bridges is FOI's free online nine-week internship program. It's flexible enough to fit into almost anybody's schedule. The classes are informative, they're interesting, they're interactive. And they educate and they equip our volunteers for service. And it's an amazing program. And it's free.
Chris Katulka: And it's free. I always tell people Bridges is free, free, free. And all you got to do is go to foi.org/bridges and there you can register. We run Bridges three times a year. It's a nine-week online training program. And once you become a graduate and you receive your certificate, you are eligible to become a Tikvah Team volunteer. Trained by the Friends of Israel to engage in your local Jewish community, and to also promote the Friends of Israel right in your local church. Hey, Linda, I want to thank you so much for how you've been motivating, organizing, and encouraging our Tikvah team volunteers that are serving all around the world to engage in their local Jewish community and their local church as well. I want to thank you for the ministry that you're doing. And for more than 20 years of ministry with Friends of Israel. Thank you for joining me today.
Linda Craft: Thank you, Chris.
Steve Conover: Israel, on the verge of becoming a state, a teenage Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the holy land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel, My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collected writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the Life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: Israel is constantly being attacked by bloodthirsty people who seek to annihilate us, but no power on Earth can stand against God. Recently I was stationed in Samaria in the Army, and one day we went to a restaurant in Shechem.
And inside were several Arabs. When they began to say things against us, I responded in Arabic, "As long as you continue to follow after darkness, you will remain blind. Having Russia on your side will not help you. You are not strong enough to fight the battle." Soon more Arabs entered the restaurant, all likewise confident in themselves. I said, "You can see how many people you have and how many people we have. This fact alone should show you how weak you are." One replied, "That does not make sense. We have so many people and you have so few." I answered, "We're small in quantity, but we are great in quality. Your past experiences and wars against us should prove that to you." "What is your secret?" One asked. I replied, "As a soldier, I cannot disclose military secrets. But as a believer, I can tell you the secret is to fear God and follow only Him, then you will no longer hate Israel."
We pray to Allah and to his prophet Muhammad. I said, "There is only one God. We do not pray to our prophets. They're no longer alive and they cannot help us. We must open our hearts to God. He is merciful and ready to help us when we pray to Him." I opened my Bible and read first in Hebrew to the Israeli soldiers and then in Arabic. The Arabs were surprised, but then they realized I believe in the Lord Jesus as my Savior. When they understood this, our conversation changed, and they and the Israeli soldiers wanted to know how I had come to believe in the Lord.
I explained, "I was not born a soldier. I was born as a human being. As all of us were, a creature of God. Today, I am a soldier. Tomorrow I will be a private citizen again. But even as soldiers, we are not made of iron. We need His help. Without Him, we can do nothing. This is why I lift up my eyes to the Lord in heaven. He has forgiven my sins, cleansed me through His blood and wrote my name in the Book of Life. Because I have received Him as my savior, I can speak to you as friends even though you hate me. The Lord has taught us to love our enemies and to pray for them. I serve in the army because I'm an Israeli citizen, and I serve the Lord because I belong to Him."
I can truly say they were sorry to see me leave. After this, we had to leave the restaurant. I can truly say they were sorry to see me leave. I am happy I have the opportunity to tell them what the Lord can do for us, and how He can make Arabs and Jewish people friends.
Steve Conover: Thank you so much for joining us for this edition of The Friends of Israel Today. Also, thanks to Linda Craft for coming on the program to talk about our volunteer network. If you would like to learn more, visit foi.org/bridges. Again, that's foi.org/bridges. Chris, where are we headed next week?
Chris Katulka: Yeah. We have another special guest next week, we're going to have Shmuel Bowman. And Shmuel is the Executive Director of Operation Life Shield, providing bomb shelters in strategic locations in Israel to help save Israeli lives. And he's going to talk about the work that he's doing.
Steve Conover: We hope you join us then. 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. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. 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. I'll give you one last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org. Again, that's 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.
Apples of Gold: I Can Speak to You as Friends
While Zvi was serving in the army in Samaria, he went with a group of soldiers to eat lunch. When they entered the restaurant, a group of Arabs started harassing the soldiers. Their boasts of their powerful army did not deter Zvi; in fact, they helped him begin a conversation about the true source of Israel’s survival and victory. Hear how Zvi was able to turn a potentially stressful situation into a divine appointment for both the Arabs and Israeli soldiers. Be encouraged!
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
Your gifts help us to continue proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.