When Tel Aviv-born Shani Sorko-Ram Ferguson was a teenager, she sometimes spent summers with a family in Chicago. “They had this home that was open for music and young people,” Shani told Kehila News. “I really clicked with that group and hoped that when I grew up I could do the same thing, provide a place for young people to grow and blossom.”
Now married and a mother of five, Shani and her husband, Kobi, are doing that and more. Their ministry, Yeshua Israel, through its Israel Worship Initiative, is working to restore “the ancient call of the Levites.”
“We believe, as prophesied, the nations will come to Israel to experience the unique sound and spirit of worship that Israel has been called to share with the world.”
We believe, as prophesied, the nations will come to Israel to experience the unique sound and spirit of worship that Israel has been called to share with the world.
The Fergusons, both accomplished musicians, refined their vision for the Worship Initiative by asking themselves what they would have most liked made available to them as they began their journeys; among the most important, they decided, were affordable recording, musical resources, well-wishers, encouragement and leads.
Much of their wish-list has become a reality. Their ministry has begun to offer affordable recording to both established and aspiring Israeli psalmists at two studios in Israel. The reality sprang from a series of providential events.
Several years ago while in Eilat for a week, Shani and Kobi met longtime friends Eli and Vanessa Chopinsky Ben Moshe. Talk turned naturally to music, worship and “getting stuff out” and they agreed that, despite dramatic growth in the body, very few songs were available to Israeli congregations for worship.
“We were still singing songs from the 70s,” Shani said. “It almost seemed that people back then came to Israel—a lot of them were very talented—and they wrote these beautiful songs and the music just kind of stayed there. The music was so good and so theologically beautiful, congregations just stayed where they were because the musicians came to the country with exceptional skills, but the ones born and raised here have a harder time becoming as skilled.
“The idea we explored with Eli and Vanessa was to create a special space in Israel where those skilled in the arts could make new worship music. We wanted to remove hurdles that stood in their way of creating art that glorifies God because, I think, cultures are defined by their art. People do not necessarily put a huge emphasis on art but they are still very much defined by it. Popular emphasis may be, ‘make sure you know your math, get a good job, make sure you know your whatever… But a culture’s art is what endures.
“We wanted to see how we could make new worship art happen with Eli, so we rounded up funding for him to be able to pursue it full-time.”
The result was impressive. “I genuinely felt a click the day we officially linked hands with Eli, who works from a studio in Haifa, to make the Ashira project happen,” Shani said, describing Ashira as their get-the-music-out-for-free-to-the-congregations effort. “We prayed, let’s do this, and I felt a click in the spirit like we had officially crossed over something. A few months afterward, Eli started full-time. In addition to the studio in Haifa, which allows us to work with Israeli artists living in the north, we found an incredible space for rent in Jerusalem that was already set up as a recording studio with everything we needed.
“The owner had planned to rent it out as office space but we were like, ‘Just leave it. Don’t touch a thing.’ The studio is just beautiful. You walk in and you want to create. I felt like the Lord saw what we had done with Ashira and our finding this perfect studio was His way of saying thank you. ‘You’ve captured my heart, now I’m going to expand your tents.’ So we found a way to purchase all the equipment in that space and have added to our resources one of the best recording studios in Israel.
“The idea is to produce as much quality worship music as possible. We want to offer the musicians we work with a family environment—other musicians with whom they can work and bond—to expand their experiences while also creating a great environment to include unbelieving musicians.”
Yeshua Israel’s studio in Jerusalem has been open for a year. Between both studios, the Israel Worship Initiative has worked with dozens of artists and recorded even more songs encompassing a variety of musical styles.The Initiatives’ biggest current hurdles?
“We would like to establish a full-time recording team,” Shani said. “It will not only create better unity, energy and spirit, but production will be more budget-friendly once we assemble a team and get a firmer handle on costs. As children of Messianic pioneers in the land, we’ve seen firsthand how families can sometimes suffer in the name of the ministry. It’s important to us as we build a team that we build healthy families alongside them. It’s often slower going but, in the long run, the approach will bear more fruit and the body will be healthier for it.”
“We feel we have a calling to influence worldwide worship. Our voices are louder as a community than as individual artists; we’re hoping to provide for others what wasn’t available to us when we began. Just as God never changes and His gifts and callings are without repentance, God’s calling for Israel has never changed. Israel is still called to inspire the world.”
Well-wishers can support the Yeshua Israel Worship Initiative by visiting their website.
Visit the Fellowship of Artists FaceBook page.
This article appeared online at Kehila News Israel in substantially the same form and is reproduced here with permission.
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