Transformation: Seeing to Believing

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You’ve heard it said before that seeing is believing. I wish it had been that easy for me.

When I was ten years old, my father and mother started following Christ. I saw an immediate transformation in their lives and in their marriage. I watched them become servants, helping other and rebuilding a healthy marriage along the way. My dad even went into full-time ministry.

But the change that took place in my parents’ hearts didn’t take place in mine. I saw their transformation, but questioned whether it was real.

When I was fourteen, we moved to Israel. That’s a tough age for any kid, but being in a new country compounded my challenges. I had a good life, but I was making poor decisions and didn’t choose the best friends. By age eighteen, I’d mastered the art of living a double-life. I knew how to act around Christians, but I was a completely different person around my friends.

When you turn eighteen in Israel and are Jewish, you’re required to do mandatory military service, so I became an active member of the Israeli Defense Force. I’d love to be able to say that this is where I turned my life around, but that’s not the case. This quickly became the hardest and darkest season of my life. I made more poor decisions than I care to remember, and wondered if I really believed in God or in the change He seemingly made in my parents. I didn’t think it was possible for the same change to take place in my life, especially with all the shame I carried from my past.

I first heard about HigherTrek in 2007, just before my military service ended. After two years of playing hide-and-seek with God, with no idea how to escape the double-life I was living, I knew I needed to decide if I was really serious about the faith in Christ that I professed at church.

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Chuck Wenger, the founder of HigherTrek, could tell I was hesitant. We met through what some may say was coincidence, but which I’m confident was God orchestrated. Chuck challenged me and told me that, if I was going to move forward in my faith, then I needed to be proactive. He invited me to a HigherTrek program, and encouraged me to read the Word and pray daily. After a bit of coaxing, I agreed to attend.

As I share this, I’m reminded that we can’t minimize the impact of Scripture or the value of prayer. Neither need to be profound; their strength and effectiveness is often in their consistency.

Before I went to HigherTrek, I realized I still doubted whether Jesus could really transform my life the way He did my parents.’ But by the time I arrived at HigherTrek, I felt safe and comfortable enough to confess my struggles to my “brothers” in the program. I found I was not alone, and that my issues were not unique.

I’d confessed my sins to God, but sharing about my personal struggles with other young men was a new experience. It set me free from years of compounded shame about my past. It did the same for all my HigherTrek brothers, but God didn’t stop there.  He showed me that He considered me worthy, and helped me understand that He wanted me, not what I did for Him.

While at HigherTrek God changed my heart. He allowed me to see His heart for the lost, and lit a fire in me to share the Gospel with others. I left with a desire to spend my life showing everyone I meet that they are lovable and valuable, because of Christ. Christ showed me that He considered me worth dying for, and I wanted to spread the same message.

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As I consider the work God started in my life through my parents’ and continued through my HigherTrek program, I feel led to share a reminder with you of the profound value you bring the world:

First, if you’re a parent, don’t underestimate the power of your witness. My heart did not change when my parents’ did, but their experience led me to ponder what it meant to have a relationship with Christ. Their decision to follow Christ led me to take the first step in my own faith, simply by forcing me to really think about God and His transformative power.

Second, if you love the Bible, be reminded not to be bashful about it! Chuck sent me a verse each day before HigherTrek, just because he cared. His willingness to share the Word with me had an invaluable impact on my life.

Third, if you’re in fellowship with others but still feel stagnant, be reminded that the Bible encourages us to share our struggles with fellow believers. It can feel scary, but don’t be afraid to be transparent about what you’re going through. We’re called to support each other. This happened to all of us at HigherTrek and it was life-changing.

Finally, if you’re reading this you’ve probably been supporting HigherTrek through prayer, finances, or both. I want to thank you greatly. I work as a guide at Nazareth Village in Israel, in the same hometown where Christ grew up. I interact daily with scores of people from all nationalities and backgrounds. Every day that I show up for “work,” I literally have an opportunity and a platform to share the Gospel, either helping strengthen the faith of believers or allowing the lost to hear the Good News. And it’s all because people like you helped light a small flame in my heart over a decade ago at HigherTrek.

Sometimes, I like to remind folks of Jesus’ words in John 20:29, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” I’ve seen Christ’s impact in my life, in the lives of my parents, and in the lives of numerous others. I feel called to share that impact with others, so they can experience Christ’s impact in their life as well.

I hope to see you sometime at Nazareth Village. I’m just one small example, but I know for a fact that many others around the world have taken ownership of their faith as direct result of their experience at HigherTrek. Your support of this ministry through prayer and finances demonstrates your willingness to answer Christ’s call. In doing so, you’re helping moving the Kingdom of God forward.

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-Yossi Dolinsky

Yossi Dolinsky lives in Nazareth, Israel with his wife Bella and Daughter Renana. He has degrees in Business, Sociology, and Digital Marketing, and currently works in Nazareth Village, where he serves as a guide, handles marketing activities, and daily shares the Gospel with visitors. Yossi also helps make disciples in his local church in Nazareth, where he serves as a deacon, worship leader, interpreter, and young adult leader.