Wayne & Anne Hilsden – getting to know them
Getting to know our speaker for Conference 2019
Ann and I are blessed beyond words. We’ve been married for almost 43 years. All four of our sons serve the Lord - and they’ve given us 6 awesome grandkids!
I often say to people: “We moved to Israel so long ago that the Dead Sea was still only sick”. Some say Israel “devours its inhabitants.” (Ezekiel 36:13). Well, against all the odds we’re still alive and well and enjoying perhaps our best season serving in the Land.
It was in 1981 that Ann and I received our call to Israel. While we were on a short vacation north of Toronto, we attended a church on a Sunday morning. The senior pastor, Jim Cantelon, spotted us invited us home for dinner after the service. Over dinner, Jim told us that he was about to resign as pastor and move to Israel. On a recent visit to the Middle East, Jim sensed the Lord was saying to begin a ministry in Israel. He got the idea to start a kibbutz volunteer program for Canadian young adults. So, he went and spoke to some Israeli government officials about his idea. Their response was overwhelmingly positive. They told him that such a program would not likely succeed if he tried to run it from Canada. He and his family would need to move to Israel. Shockingly, they also added that he might want to consider starting a congregation in Jerusalem and that they would provide a clergy visa.
While Jim Cantelon was telling us this ‘crazy’ story, he stopped and said to Ann and me: “When it’s time to start the congregation would you come and help us?”
Though we had never been to Israel before, a seed of love for the Jewish people was planted in our hearts. This soon led to a “spy out the land” trip to Israel. Yes, we saw giants, but we returned to Canada with a good report.
Eventually, this led to our move to Israel in August 1983, and together with the Cantelons planted King of Kings Community in Jerusalem.
Over the years the Lord revealed what should be our three main tasks:
- planting congregations
- training people for ministry,
- promoting unity and cooperation among the believers in Israel
Soon, King of Kings Community would go on to become a mother giving birth to several other daughter congregations.
On the training for ministry front, our ministry team planted King of Kings College,” now known as Israel College of the Bible. Within five years we passed the baton to the Israeli leadership. More than 2,000 Israelis (including Jews and Arabs) have received ministry training since the College began.
Miraculously, the Lord enabled King of Kings to purchase many properties in and around a downtown Jerusalem shopping centre. One of those properties was once Jerusalem’s largest movie theatre. We were able to re-create the theatre, and it is now the Pavilion Worship and Conference Center. Although it serves as the main worship venue for King of Kings Community, it also hosts citywide and nationwide gatherings for the wider body of believers. This is in line with our vision to help promote unity and cooperation. In addition to the Pavilion, we were able to purchase several other smaller auditoriums and multipurpose facilities, including the Jerusalem Prayer Tower on the top floor of the adjacent 17-story office building. Today, a dozen or more congregations utilise our various spaces for their main worship gatherings.
Another expression of our passion for unity and cooperation has been the establishment of the Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries (FIRM). To launch FIRM, it was important that I find a successor to head up King of Kings, and in 2016 Chad Holland began to serve as the senior pastor. While Ann and I continue to serve on the pastoral team, much our time is devoted to FIRM.
More than 60 ministries belong to FIRM, including CMJ. FIRM not only helps develop relationships between the member ministries but also encourages partnerships between its members and the Church around the world.
FIRM hosts a tour and conference each June called the Jerusalem Encounter which is attended by more than 1,000 people. Throughout the year FIRM hosts the Jerusalem Praise Experience and other special events to engage international Christians with what God is doing in Israel today.
Throughout our ministry, Ann has been involved in helping to raise up songwriters, musicians and worship leaders in the Land. Ann has produced many albums together with our son Jamie, along with a local music committee and have helped to discover and publish branded worship songs, as well as producing live recordings from the Pavilion. Songs from these productions have been heard and seen by tens of millions of people on YouTube.