A popular international Messianic newspaper, The Messianic Times, published an article this month about Mishkahn David. You can subscribe to the newspaper at www.messianictimes.com. The text of the article is pasted below...
Camping in the woods for week during Sukkot? Baking your own Passover matzah? Crafting your own shofar for Rosh Hashanah? Building uncut stone altars? Definitely not your typical Messianic congregation! As for Messianic Rabbi Peter Oliveira and the hundred or so families that make up Mishkahn David, this is exactly how they like it.
Peter is well acquainted with the unusual. He was born in Lisbon, Portugal, then raised in Angola, Africa until he was thirteen; a descendant of Jews from both countries who had to turn away from Judaism to escape death and imprisonment.
Considering that Messianic congregations are located all over the globe, it's not surprising to find a few that are outside the norm. This four year-old congregation in Burrillville, Rhode Island, is decidedly atypical. Take the average weekly service. It starts at 10:45 am on Saturdays and runs until 'the Spirit of God is finished,' explains Peter. 'There's lots of praise, worship and dancing. Services have sometimes lasted to 6:30 pm, but an average session lets out at 3:00, maybe 3:30 in the afternoon. "I always remind everyone that those who are free are free indeed (quoting John 8:36), free to come and free to go.' Peter laughs. 'I tell people if the service is too long, then you should have left a long time ago!'
Obviously, Mishkahn David ('Tabernacle of David') is not a formal setting. Even the location has an unconventional story. When Peter started this free-spirited, lively congregation, he felt very strongly they would never have to worry about paying rent or a mortgage. Toward that end, he spent time praying and walking around an old building that he thought would fit their needs. One day, the owner approached him. 'I didn't know who he was, or how he got my name,' Peter recalls, 'but he handed me the key, told me to be faithful, and that he would be back in a year.'
The congregation outgrew the space in just nine months. Without a place to meet, the assembly of about 80 cheerfully held services in the park all summer long. Rain or shine. Then Peter's friend, Pastor Charles Cabral, freely offered his sanctuary at Living Hope Assembly of God to Mishkahn David, to be used on Saturdays when the building would be empty. 'Allowing us to use their space for three years was a wonderful blessing.'
Peter readily shares more of Mishkahn David's uncommon background. 'Several months ago, I felt the Lord speak to my heart and tell me that we would be in a new house of worship by Shavuot (Pentecost), our four-year anniversary. I went to Pastor Charles, thanked him for the time we were there, and told him in two months we would be leaving, without knowing where we would be going.'
Peter then got a phone call from Brian, a pastor he hardly knew, who said, 'This is going to sound strange to you, but the Lord told me to give you a key. Not just any key, but the master key. Anything that is mine is yours.' He was offering Peter access to a huge facility on any day of the week, carte blanche. But Peter asked about him about a smaller church they owned. Brian was hesitant. 'We want to bless you guys, so I don't think it would be right for you. We can't grow any 'fruit' there. There is a crushing spirit in that building.' Undaunted, Peter replied, 'That's okay, because I am going to take care of the root, and the fruit will take care of itself.'
While they were speaking, a phone call came from someone who gave a prophetic word: 'Man has toiled on the ground without result, but the Lord is sending good seed at this hour.' After receiving confirmation that Mishkahn David was supposed to accept the offer, Brian began to share the building's history.
About 25 years ago, this church was led by a pastor who loved Israel and put a mezuzah on the doorpost. Paul Wilbur was invited to a conference they held and began to march around, blowing the shofar and proclaiming its use for God's glory and Israel. A huge revival ensued, attended by 4,000 people. But when that pastor left, the anointing apparently left with him. Nobody could get anything started there again. Brian explains, 'They attempted to rent it out, hold prayer meetings, they even tried fasting. But everything just fell apart.' Peter shares, 'I guess it just needed someone to come take care of the roots.'
He believes the area holds a special significance in giving Jewish people freedom, as Rhode Island was the site of Touro Synagogue, the first one in the United States, built in 1763. From the time they acquired the new meeting space until Shavuot, when they began to hold services, the congregation built seven altars along Rhode Island's coastline.
Each week before Shabbat services, anybody who wanted to join in the construction was required to bring three uncut stones. Each altar consists of two to three hundred stones piled up a couple of feet high. 'Amazingly, each one contains rocks brought back from Israel, the Mount of Olives, Megiddo, and Damascus, different places Yeshua walked,' Peter marvels. At each site, he relays, 'We prayed and repented for the sins of the area so we can reclaim it for the Lord.'
Their history of unconventional behavior brings up the question of any persecution or resistance. But Peter professes that the congregation has had none at all. However, he recalls the day when he was walking into a restaurant and a man bumped into him. When he saw Peter's kippah and tzitzit, he extended his arm in a Nazi salute, and shouted 'Sieg Heil!' Peter immediately hugged the man, and said, 'Shalom. I want to bless you and your family.' The man was dumbfounded.
And blessing is something Mishkahn David loves to do. The congregation supports an orphan and a widow in Israel, and takes teams to churches every week to teach about the Biblical Feasts. 'People are blown away when we show them how to find the Messiah beautifully hidden in the Old Testament. It's not just a 'knowledge' experience but a spiritual one. People often weep, even asking for forgiveness for believing in Replacement Theology. Afterwards, we minister in prayer.' They are looking forward to acquiring portable recording equipment so these special teachings can be taped and distributed to a wider audience.
This observant congregation reads the weekly Torah portion as a basis for the message. But that may be as predictable as it gets, because Mishkahn David even handles tithing in a unique fashion. A simple wooden box is presented during the worship where people offer whatever they feel led to give. The gifts have ranged from food, to bicycles, to lumber. 'When you trust in the Lord and don't have a mortgage, why worry'.