As I recap in my mind the events of last week, I feel that once again First Fruits of Zion’s annual Shavu’ot conference was a smashing success.
This year the conference began on Sunday morning and was kicked off with a Shacharit service and praise and worship from Troy Mitchell. Boaz Michael then addressed the sold-out crowd with his lecture “Out of Zion.” This stirring and inspiring lecture set the tone for the entire week.
At the end of the lecture, Boaz introduced Vine of David’s most recent release The Two Ways: The Rediscovered Teachings of the Twelve Jewish Apostles to the Gentiles. This Messianic Jewish commentary on the Didache would be the foundation on which the entire conference was based. While my lectures introduced some of the material from the book itself, the other First Fruits of Zion teachers drew from material in the Didache and explored important issues that needed to be addressed in the body of Messiah from a Messianic Jewish interpretation. D. Thomas Lancaster taught about the importance of the sayings of Yeshua in the life of a disciple, biblical authority, and the Messianic Era. Boaz Michael spoke about the importance of Jerusalem and Zionism. Ryan Lambert shared his thoughts on charity and hospitality, and Aaron Eby taught us about prayer, faith and works, and Jewish responsibility to Torah and tradition. While each lecture was unique in and of itself, together they formed a cohesive whole with a focus on the coming kingdom and choosing the way of life today.
On Tuesday morning all the FFOZ Friends gathered early for the Friends Breakfast. Boaz Michael spoke about some of the exciting opportunities that are on the horizon for First Fruits of Zion after which each of the directors from the numerous departments at FFOZ gave updates on various projects. Lunch on Tuesday was a cookout fundraiser for Camp Tzadi scholarships. As usual, our constituents were exceedingly generous and we raised a significant amount of money to help send Messianic Jewish and Gentile young people from across the globe to Camp Tzadi.
For the second year in a row, along with the adult track, there was a 12-21 track, as well as several classes for younger children. The 12-21 track was entitled “The Two Roads” and the students studied Didache chapters 1 through 6. They also had an evening cookout with a volleyball game and a bowling outing.
Tuesday night we collectively entered into Shavu’ot with evening prayers and a late meal. Then the younger people along with those young at heart began a marathon all-night study that culminated with a 5 AM Shacharit Torah service. The rest of the attendees choose to get a good night’s sleep and convened at the more reasonable hour of 10 AM to receive the Torah.
While the folks who stayed up all night enjoyed themselves and had some bragging rights about attending a sunrise service, those who were at the later Shacharit service were treated with another inspiring lecture from Boaz Michael on the struggles of Zionism. Having Boaz and his family implanted in the land of Israel has been invaluable to First Fruits of Zion and has given him a perspective that you just can’t get anywhere else in the world.
Sitting in my office I can’t help but have a smile on my face as I recall this year’s conference. In a lot of ways it is like a family reunion that just keeps getting better and better each year. I am blessed and humbled to be a part of an organization like First Fruits of Zion, and I pray that HaShem gives us many more years of these conferences.