Batting for Jesus: Baptist Village update

Last week Jewish Israel reported on an overt and growing missionary presence at the Baptist Village, in Petach Tikva, in anticipation of the Maccabiah 2009 baseball and softball games. According to church reports and bulletins, the Baptist Village grounds, as well as the staff and volunteers, were being prepared for “an incredibly unique ministry opportunity". Prayers were being offered with the hope that thousands of Jewish athletes and spectators of all ages would “notice the Love of Christ” via the Baptist Village volunteers and workers. And like 2005, a number of missionaries flew in from the United States in order to provide “hospitality services” for the 2009 games.

Jewish Israel investigated further and discovered that the manager of the Baptist fields, Jeff Chestnut, is a Bona fide missionary and the Elder of the All Nations Baptist Church of the Baptist Village. Dan Sered, the director of Jews for Jesus in Israel is the Pastor of that very same congregation.

Jeff Chestnut coached the Israel National Baseball Team of 10 to 12 year olds in 2003.

At this time Jewish Israel does not know whether or not Chestnut (or other Baptist Village staff) “witnessed” to Jewish youth during his time as coach of the team and manager of the Baptist fields. One report seems to indicate that Chestnut understood that proselytizing anyone under the age of 18 is illegal in Israel. However, The September 2008 bulletin of the LCJE (Lausanne Conference on Jewish Evangelism) claims that “50 children [Israeli] accepted the Lord at the Baptist Village” during summer camp.

Below are excerpts from two missionary sources which offer us a glimpse into the Gospel of Baseball according to Jeff Chestnut:

A 2005 Southern Baptist News Report from Israel:
“The Yarkon Sports Complex which is inside the Baptist Village will host the Men’s and Woman’s Softball games and the youth baseball games,” according to Yarkon manager Jeff Chestnut. Expanding upon the idea of a spiritual passage, Chestnut stresses “We use one very simple yet all encompassing motto, ‘We will use every available means to reach every available person at every available time.’”

The ministry potential for this summer’s event is “endless” according to the South Carolina native. “First and foremost, this will be the biggest Jewish athletic event ever to be held in Israel. Israel is expecting over 7000 participants in the coming games from all over the world. This will also be the biggest tourist attraction to take place in some time for Israel.”


Chestnut continues, “God is glorified when we lift him high in order that he receives the honor that is rightly his. Everything that has been achieved or accomplished at the Yarkon Sorts Complex belongs to him and him alone. At this time God is using baseball. softball, soccer and conditioning programs to open doors in order that the message can be communicated in a clear and concise manner.”

The Yarkon Sports Complex offers fitness consultation, sports clinics and programs, presently with an emphasis on baseball and softball. Chestnut, coach of the first Israeli baseball team to participate in the Maccabiah Games, says “We’re are expecting over 10,000 people worldwide to enter our gates with thanksgiving.”


Baptist Village and its Yarkon Sports Complex remain at a crossroads. This summer Chestnut, his staff and volunteers from all over the world pray that the thousands attending the games will make the passage from darkness to light.
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An October 11 2008 report from a missionary volunteer ("hikerdude") at Baptist Village

“…While the construction was going on baseball/softball clinics were also being conducted by other members of the team. This was another part of the mission, which was completed after the first three full days. Although we were not allowed to witness to the youth under the age of 18, relationships were established and built upon.

A few of us were invited to have dinner with important baseball officials in Israel. There was a Gospel presentation made by Jeff in the course of one of the meals, presenting Jesus/ Jeshua as the Messiah, using the Old Testament prophesies as proof. No decisions were made that evening, but seeds were definitely planted…

We all grew to love Eli, and our last night at the Baptist Village, he expressed an interest in learning more about the Bible. He met privately with Jeff for a while and then next morning we learned that Eli had accepted Jeshua, not only as the Messiah, but also as his Savior and Lord.

There were many highlights on this trip, but I know many shared my feeling that this was the highlight of the trip. Mission accomplished – another brother in the kingdom of God!

But the work here is not done. While many seeds were planted on this trip, there is still a harvest to take place in the future. Many more Israelis need a personal relationship with Christ. Please pray for
Eli that, like the sabras fruit, as he opens himself up to others he would disperse seeds which will lead to more Israeli Jews coming into God’s kingdom thru Jesus”.

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Conclusion:
Jewish Israel in no way wants to put a damper on the Maccabiah games nor discourage participation in a great event and sporting opportunity for Jewish athletes, and for Israel. However, we do feel that ground rules and guidelines must be established in order to ensure that those with an evangelizing agenda do not have access to our youth and other vulnerable sectors of Jewish and Israeli society. Those affiliated with the Baptist Village and the Southern Baptist Convention make no bones about their missionary intentions and aspirations. To promote the Maccabiah games as a missionary opportunity for targeting Jews is inappropriate, shameless and makes a mockery of the Jewish state.

Recommendation:
Jewish Israel understands that the facilities at the Yarkon Sports Complex of the Baptist Village are top quality and very well maintained. There must be a way to lease or rent the field, minus the missionary workers, for summer camps and events like the Maccabiah – although this too is problematic if the Baptist Village uses any proceeds to finance missionary activities. Perhaps the best solution would be for the Anglo-Israeli community to help finance a Jewish diamond at another venue, and for the government of Israel to adopt and enforce serious counter-missionary measures.


Jewish Israel would like to remind our members and visitors to our site to please direct your protests and suggestions on this issue to the following parties:
the Maccabiah: info@maccabiah.com
Limor Livnat, the Minister of Culture and Sport: llivnat@knesset.gov.il
Stas Misezhnikov, the Toursim Minister: smiseznikov@knesset.gov.il
the Ministry if the Interior: pniot@moin.gov.il
Contact The Israel Softball Association

See Original Post: Baptist Missionary Village makes Illegal Pitch at Maccabiah 2009

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