Arkansas Evangelist Rallies Support for Israel
Burdened for Israel at a young age, evangelist Akaya Kitchen started a nonprofit that supports the ministry of messianic Jews and has sent thousands of dollars to their aid since the October 2023 attacks.Editor’s Note: This story is part of a new story series called “I AM AG”. This series will feature articles on men and women who are using their God-given gifts and talents to share the love of Jesus in extraordinary ways. To nominate someone for an “I AM AG” spotlight, please email [email protected]
When war broke out in Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, Assemblies of God evangelist Akaya Kitchen sprang into action.
Born and raised in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Kitchen grew up in the church and recalls her parents giving her a strong foundation of faith throughout her childhood.
“Though my parents weren’t perfect, they each taught me something valuable that shaped my adult life,” she says.
Homeschooled for most of her primary and secondary education, Kitchen attended school for a period of time during her second-grade year.
“While I was attending school, my mom would incentivize me to tell other kids on the playground about Jesus during my recess,” she states.
Even when peers did not respond well to her witness, she remembers feeling that the Lord was pleased with her, and she loved that feeling. Kitchen states that this push towards preaching from her mother in her early years was what moved her heart towards evangelism.
Her father, who she describes as a man of “very few words,” fostered a compassion in Kitchen towards Israel and the Jewish people.
“Because he didn’t say much, when my father spoke, you listened,” she says. “So when he talked about God’s chosen people and the importance of Israel, I knew it was something to take seriously.”
While attending the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Kitchen was one of 40 college students who were selected to go on an all-expense paid trip to Israel. On the last day of her trip, she met a gentleman in her hotel lobby who was a messianic rabbi. The rabbi invited Kitchen to attend their Shabbat service, an experience that would deepen her affection for Israel.
“I was blown away at the passion and freedom with which they worshipped Jesus,” states Kitchen. “To see a group of messianic Jews worshipping Jesus like that in Israel was so special.”
Additionally, Kitchen’s spirit was stirred when the rabbi told Kitchen that the church was raising money to build a coffee shop in Tel Aviv.
“I flew home the next day with an even larger burden for Israel,” she states.
A few months later, Kitchen woke up and felt God telling her that He had called her to “lift up Zion.” She knew deep in her heart that she needed to connect Christians in the United States with the people of Israel and to help evangelize the Jewish people.
Answering the call of the Lord, in 2014 Kitchen started a non-profit called Lifting Up Zion.
According to Kitchen, less than 1% of Jews believe in Jesus, a number that has more than tripled in the last two decades. Sharing with Christians around the country what the Lord is doing in Israel and about the thriving group of messianic Jews who are passionate about evangelism is the core of Lifting Up Zion’s mission.
The organization also encourages people to pray for Israel and its inhabitants and helps fund messianic ministries in Israel, a group that is often omitted from receiving aid and other funds designated for Jewish organizations due to their belief in the full gospel.
“We pray for peace and protection,” she says, “and we try to help them see that God has not forgotten them and He wants to save them.”
Dwayne Maynard, lead pastor of TAG church in Little Rock, Arkansas, has served as a board member for Lifting Up Zion since its incorporation.
“The whole concept is partnering with messianic Jews to support the work of the church and its ministry in Israel,” he says. This concept, he states, reflects the practice of Paul in the New Testament, who would receive a collection from the saints and send the monies back to Israel as a blessing.
When Israel was victimized by a terrorist attack late last year, Kitchen knew that Lifting Up Zion needed to help in whatever way it could.
Upon hearing of the attack, Kitchen sent a call to action to everyone on her email list and to all of her newsletter subscribers asking for donations to aid Israel.
“We started receiving donations from all over and within a few months we had sent almost $20,000 to cities in Israel,” she says. “These funds went to humanitarian aid to help displaced people, to pop-up schools for children to continue their education during the war, and to ministries who were sharing the love of Jesus to soldiers fighting on the front lines.”
Kitchen and her husband of nine years, Lee, continue to serve Lifting Up Zion and the Assemblies of God as ordained ministers and evangelists. Together, they hope to bring the gospel to Jews who have yet to know the saving grace of Jesus and the salvation He brings through His death and resurrection. Kitchen has also published her first book, God’s Word Is Like…, which she hopes will help children understand the importance and significance of the Bible in their lives.