B’ney Yosef Awakening in North Texas
Are we living in the time of the end that humanity has anticipated for millennia? It seems so, at least according to the wars and rumors of war and all the other signs students of prophecy have expected. Yet it is also the time of the beginning. In Messiah Yeshua’s discourse recorded in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 He spoke of these things as birth pangs. What is being born? Isaiah helps us understand:
Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons. “Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord. “Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?” says your God. (Isaiah 66:8-9 NASB)
Isaiah and Yeshua speak of the birth, or rebirth, of the nation of Israel, YHVH’s chosen people through whom He will work redemption for all nations. Part of that nation has already come into being: the Jewish part known as the State of Israel, which is the restored House of Judah. What the world is awaiting now is the restoration of the rest of the nation: the non-Jewish tribes of the House of Joseph, also called the House of Ephraim, who have had no national existence since the Assyrian Empire annihilated the Northern Kingdom of Israel over 2,700 years ago. And yet Scripture addresses the rebirth of Ephraim and their reunification with Judah more than any other prophetic topic. The Almighty Himself even stakes His own Name and reputation on fulfilling this mighty act (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; 9:5-6; Jeremiah 16:14-21, 32:41-42; Ezekiel 36:22-32). The “time of the end” therefore must really be a “time of the beginning” as these children of Joseph (in Hebrew, b’ney Yosef) awaken to their identity and begin to come together as a nation once again.
That is precisely what is happening before our eyes in the “Torah Awakening” that has brought so many Christians to an understanding of their identity as Israelites grafted into the nation through the atoning work of Messiah Yeshua. A major expression of that identity occurred over the weekend of December 4-6, 2015 as about 100 followers of Yeshua gathered in Denton, Texas, for the B’ney Yosef Region 35 Conference. The initial concept of this conference was to carry forward the momentum of the First B’ney Yosef National Congress which took place in Israel late in May 2015. The Denton Conference would bring the message and spirit of the Congress to the emerging Ephraimite community in the central part of the United States (the Interstate 35 Corridor, hence the name “Region 35”).
From its inception in the first week of October to its conclusion two months later, the Region 35 Conference was not so much an initiative, but an act of faithful obedience in walking through the doors the Father had opened. Organizers Larry Ferguson, Al McCarn, and Akpene Torku could not have done this otherwise! Starting from scratch with no funding, organization, or spare time from their regular jobs, they were continuously amazed at the help, resources, and encouragement that poured forth from many quarters – some of them quite unexpected. Even the venue for the conference was something of a miracle: the Tally Retreat Center at Camp Copass in Denton is booked nearly every weekend during this time of the year, but it was available for this conference even though B’ney Yosef Region 35 did not have the means to reserve it until the last week of October. Within one month, registrations for participants from 12 states and from Mexico confirmed the anticipated interest and enthusiasm for this prophetic work.
As the conference concept took shape, it became clear that this was to be more than merely a Hebrew Roots/Two House event. The great majority of conference participants were Torah-keeping Hebrew Roots believers, but there was a significant presence and contribution by Christian brethren. Many good things took place during the event, and many more good things will come out of it.
Everyone at the Region 35 Conference was blessed considerably by the fellowship, the presentations, and by the anointed music of Kerry Alexander and ministry in dance by Colene Stovall. We were blessed as well by the presence of Mike Clayton and Eddie Chumney, two ministry leaders who have labored faithfully over the years. Although they did not have formal places on the schedule, they freely contributed their wisdom and experience to the proceedings. Roeh Billy Washburn of Shearit Yisrael Congregation in Poteet, Texas, led a Torah service on Shabbat, including a reading and midrash (teaching) from Genesis 37, the account of Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery in Egypt. This opening chapter of the Torah portion Vayeshev (He continued living) was in itself a significant confirmation of the timing of the conference. As much of the Jewish and Messianic world studied this account of Joseph’s travail on that Shabbat, the B’ney Yosef Region 35 Conference convened in recognition of the House of Joseph’s imminent return from exile in the nations and reconnection with the House of Judah in the restoration of the whole Commonwealth of Israel.
If, as we believe, the prophesied restoration of all Israel is now in progress, then helping believers in Yeshua understand their Israelite identity is an essential part of that process. Another important part of that process is repentance and reconciliation with other parts of the Body of Messiah, particularly our Christian and Messianic Jewish brethren. That message of reconciliation was at the forefront of everything that happened at the conference, beginning with Al McCarn’s address on Friday evening. He observed that the divisions within Jacob’s family in Genesis 37-40 bear a strong resemblance to the situation facing the people of God today. The theme continued on Saturday with a message from Pastor James Sterling of Christ’s Community Fellowship in Wichita Falls, Texas. He helped us understand the Christian perception of this movement, explaining that we do have biblical understanding that the church needs, but that since the average Christian does not have a frame of reference for Messianic or Hebraic teaching, it is hard for them to receive what we say – especially if the message is delivered in a way that seems condescending and arrogant. His remarks, as difficult as they were to deliver, were exactly what we needed to hear, and they were received in a spirit of humility.
Pastor Sterling, along with David Altman of the Alliance of Redeemed Israel and Dr. Benny Shadwick of Ruth’s Choice Ministries, were the panelists in a lively discussion over the topic of how Christian, Hebrew Roots, and Messianic Jewish believers can work together. Their answers to questions from the conference participants revealed many common understandings, but also much room for improvement. The improvement begins with a sincere desire to reach out, and a humble, loving attitude that permits brethren of differing perspectives to push through all manner of offenses.
The Hebrew Roots heart of the conference was reflected in two key presentations. The first was Al’s presentation, Finding Israelite Identity in the New Covenant, which not only defined the scriptural basis of our Israelite identity, but also offered an explanation of the Gospel of the Kingdom. On Sunday, David gave us a presentation on the state of this movement and on the steps to take in the near future. He anticipates sending out official notice very soon for the B’ney Yosef North American Summit to be held near Orlando, Florida, in March 2016.
Although everyone was blessed, the full impact of the conference is yet to be determined. Participants were exhorted to go home and begin to communicate with fellow believers in their areas in the interest of establishing the grassroots basis of a North American B’ney Yosef network. This network will feed into the North American Summit in Orlando and the Second B’ney Yosef National Congress in Israel in October 2016. It is as yet unclear exactly how B’ney Yosef Region 35 will function in this North American initiative, but it is safe to say that Region 35 will have a significant role to play. As the Ephraimite Awakening accelerates, Region 35 likely will subdivide into more manageable elements, but it is still too early to say how that will develop. The Denton Conference has laid a solid foundation for this future work. To share that foundation with those who may be interested, there are plans to make the conference proceedings available in DVD and CD format early in 2016. Look for details on the B’ney Yosef Region 35 website, or send email to email@example.com to be added to the mailing list.
There is something more to report along these lines. Before leaving Denton at the conclusion of the conference, several participants discussed the next steps in preparing for the Orlando Summit. Al, Akpene, and David took the lead on this project, and within days had brought Mike Clayton, Tzefanyah Pappas, and Pete Rambo into the planning circle. Tzefanyah and his wife had returned from the Congress in Israel with a vision for communicating the spirit of the Congress through monthly gatherings in North Georgia called the B’ney Yosef National Shabbat Initiative. Pete and his wife drew inspiration from that initiative and hosted the first National Shabbat gathering in South Carolina on the same weekend as the Region 35 Conference. Pete has also written extensively about the restoration of the whole House of Israel on his blog Natsab (Here I stand).
This planning team has recognized an emerging consensus among Messianic and Hebrew roots believers to begin setting aside points of division and seek a place of “echad-ness” (unity) within the central tenets of our faith, namely Torah observance and faith in Yeshua. Moving forward with that consensus is the intent of the Orlando Summit. However, interest in the meeting has overwhelmed the initial intent of holding a small working meeting of about 70 delegates. Clearly the Orlando Summit must be a much larger event, and there is a need to prepare an organized plan to present to those who attend it. In recognition of this, the planning team is preparing a meeting in mid-January at a central location in the Southeast for a working group called the B’ney Yosef North America Plenary Committee.
Those invited to take part in the Plenary Committee include a cross-section of US and Canadian brethren who are looking expectantly for the consolation of Israel and the redemption of Jerusalem. They include a number of recognized Torah teachers, several B’ney Yosef Congress delegates, and others who have labored faithfully and quietly for many years in anticipation of this time to coalesce a highly decentralized movement into a nation-building enterprise. The goals of the Plenary Meeting include drafting a Vision Statement and Mission Statement for B’ney Yosef North America, as well as assembling committees for communication, finance, strategic prayer, education, and national leadership development. Those committees will facilitate planning of a constructive agenda for the expanded Orlando Summit of 250 attendees.
As occurred with the Region 35 Conference in Denton, confirmation of the timing for the Plenary Committee gathering is happening nearly every day. Not only are the prophetic events of the end of this age continuing to accelerate, but there is much encouraging news of Jewish initiatives taking similar steps toward the gathering of Ephraim. These developments intensify the urgency of finding a unified voice for the awakening Ephraimites of B’ney Yosef so that we may navigate a perplexing sea of social and political waters with our brother Judah. This is more than an organizational effort; it is the initial stages of a national spiritual dance that has been impossible since the division of Israel nearly 3,000 years ago.
What does it mean? Commentary from HN News editor. Why is this Ephraimite Regional Congress significant? It is HUGE….Think back to Theodore Herzl, who carried the vision in the 1890s for the nation of Israel to be REBORN. In 1897, at considerable expense, he organized and held the first Zionist Congress in Basel Switzerland and in 1898 he began a series of diplomatic initiatives to build support for a Jewish nation. The purpose of these meetings was to cast the vision of Israel the nation being reborn, and to create an arena/forum where Jews from around the world could gather to talk about, plan and strategize how this nation might be “reborn”; how the promised land might be reclaimed as a safe place for Jews from around the world to reside in safety.
He wrote a book, Der Judenstaat, and in the book, he concludes:
Therefore I believe that a wondrous generation of Jews will spring into existence. The Maccabeans will rise again. Let me repeat once more my opening words: The Jews who wish for a State will have it. We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and die peacefully in our own homes. The world will be freed by our liberty, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there to accomplish for our own welfare, will react powerfully and beneficially for the good of humanity.
Sadly, though Herzl carried this vision and cast the vision forth, Herzl never got to see the vision become reality; he died in 1904, BEFORE the nation was reborn on May 14, 1948.
I believe that these Ephraimite Congresses that we are seeing today, I believe that they are similar to the Zionist Congresses that Theodor Herzl organized. This is the dream, the wish and the desire of the people of the house of Joseph….the seed and the descendants of Joseph…we wish to return home to the land of Israel. We are the northern kingdom of peoples, we are the 10 tribers, we were scattered to all the nations of the earth, we are awakening and remembering who we are, we are returning to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we are returning to the torah, and we want to COME HOME!
This vision is developed in Al McCarn’s book, Give Me a Place Where I May Dwell: An Ephraimite Affirmation
May our brothers and sisters from the house of Judah take notice; the scattered and dry bones that lay on the field that Ezekiel saw and prophesied to, the scriptures tell us who those bones are:
Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the WHOLE house of Israel.” Ezekiel 37:11
That means all twelve tribes….The reunited kingdom….The people and descendants of Joseph are beginning to awaken, to come together, and they are meeting together in these Ephraimite Congresses because they (we) carry a hope….a hope that ONE DAY SOON, we will be reunited with the House of Judah and, as we make teshuva, as we come together in brokenness and in humility, our hope and prayer is that one day, brother Judah will invite us to return HOME to ISRAEL!
This article was originally published as a Hebrew Nation News Alert, December 29,2015.