Bishop Paul Lanier: Rejoicing in 40 Years of Serving God and His People
Join host Yael Eckstein as she welcomes back to the podcast Bishop Paul Lanier, Chairman of the Board for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, to help her launch The Fellowship’s 40th Anniversary year. Bishop Lanier shares his insights on how The Fellowship for 40 years has been able to respond to the most desperate human crisis and needs — including the ongoing conflict in Ukraine — with immediacy and compassion. Bishop Lanier talks about the profound effect that being involved with The Fellowship has had on him personally and invites us all to become involved in this critical humanitarian and lifesaving work. Start your new year off with this inspirational discussion that may just change your life as well!
For Bishop Paul Lanier, pastor of Hope Community Church in Winston Salem, North Carolina, it began in the middle of the night nearly 13 years ago when he turned on the TV and watched a Jewish Orthodox Rabbi from somewhere deep in Ukraine, visiting a Holocaust survivor who was crying out in such desperate need.
“It was just overwhelming to me to see what seemed to be such incalculable and innumerable needs of that one person. And I remember thinking what is sitting down with that one person doing? How is that really helping someone?” Bishop Lanier recalls. “And he’s talking about feeling the cold, and he’s talking about smelling the stench, and at some level, he had to be thinking about what difference is he making? But for that woman right there — and for me — it made a world of difference.”
That rabbi was Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory, whose vision back in 1983 was to form an alliance, a bridge-building organization of Christians and Jews, who – based on the common ground they shared – would work together to answer God’s call in Genesis 12:3 to bless His people, Israel.
Since that time, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has raised nearly $2 billion to help Jewish people in need around the globe. The organization, now run by the Rabbi’s daughter, Yael Eckstein, has become the leading ministry blessing Israel and the Jewish people with on-the-ground humanitarian aid and lifesaving care.
After that late-night encounter, Bishop Lanier began donating to the organization personally, and later recruited his church to join him. Since that time, Bishop Lanier and his congregation have donated $1.8 million to bring more than 4,200 Jewish souls back to their biblical homeland, Israel. He joined the Board five years ago and became its Chairman in 2019.
In a very real sense, Bishop Lanier has come full circle, having recently returned from Ukraine, bringing comfort and lifesaving aid to the people suffering from the impact of the ongoing conflict there. It was the second trip Bishop Lanier made to the region, having gone to the border in Moldova at the start of the war to help Ukrainian Jews flee the region and start a new life in Israel.
“That situation felt so different in that last week when I was there. The people weren’t going anywhere. We were not there to help them escape to Israel. We were there to bring them clothing and food and sustenance and meds and whatever was needed,” Bishop Lanier said. “We’re here to be part of your reality and to let you know that you are not alone.”
It is this ability to bring compassion and care and change to hurting people in desperate situations — whether it’s in Ukraine or Israel — that has had the greatest impact on Bishop Lanier’s life, and which he invites others to join in as well.
“When our Fellowship family donates $25 for a food box, or whatever it is they give, they may not think what they are doing is changing the world. But it is certainly changing the world for somebody,” Bishop Lanier told Yael. “Their world will never be the same because of you.”