Joy-Anna Duggar Forsyth and her husband Austin posted on Instagram Sunday morning to announce that they are returning to the U.S. after their trip to Israel. They’ve spent their time there with an evangelical group that describes its mission as circumventing Rabbis to teach the Jewish people that Jesus Christ was the Messiah.
The new season of Counting On opened with a wedding episode. Nineteen-year-old Joy Duggar said her vows with Austin Forsyth in front of family, friends, and television cameras. Then the couple took off on a honeymoon to undisclosed locations. The couple soon followed that up with a social media post indicating that they were in Switzerland, but not declaring whether their honeymoon would include any other stops.
Though Joy Duggar Forsyth’s post was vague, it wasn’t unexpected — the Duggar family has been careful with dates and locations over the past few years, in part to avoid gate-crashers at their events. Limiting the disclosure of Joy and Austin’s location is likely a safety precaution. Fans of the show expressed expectations that they would see where and how Joy and Austin Forsyth had spent their honeymoon in a later episode.
Last week, Joy and Austin published a photo on Instagram to announce that they were celebrating the one-month anniversary of their wedding in Israel. Their social media following questioned: had the Forsyth newlyweds extended their honeymoon trip this long? Had they visited other countries on the trip as well? Would TLC be filming this longer trip for the Duggar family’s reality show?
Sunday morning, though, as Joy and Austin prepared to return to the United States, their reality show, and setting up house together, they posted another selfie together. Joy’s exposed shoulders — something that has previously been considered outside the Duggar modesty standards, were not the only thing that grabbed attention in the post.
The hashtag and user tags referring to “One for Israel” also stood out.
This is an evangelical group that proselytizes to Jewish people in Israel by a few means. Though they say internet outreach is their best method, they’ve also been a part of mission trips. On their Facebook page this weekend, they announced that Joy and Austin Forsyth had joined them on one.
What’s Joy Duggar Forsyth doing during her time in Israel? Here’s how One for Israel describes their mission.
“…we are convinced that the best way to bless Israel is with Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ).
“However, today things have changed! We no longer have to bring spiritual messages via the rabbis, we can now go around them!
“This is also the first time in history someone is stepping out publicly against the Jewish Orthodox Rabbis, forcing Israel to deal with ‘the elephant in the synagogue:’ Yeshua (Jesus)!”
Some commenters on Joy and Austin’s social media recognized this and expressed distaste.
“They’re doing Jews for Jesus.”
However, Joy and Austin Forsyth aren’t the first members of the Duggar family to be criticized for trying to convert members of other religions to their specific view of Christianity. Jill Duggar Dillard and her husband Derick have been living part-time in Central America, where they’re evangelizing to a predominantly Catholic country, and Jeremy Vuolo, who married Jinger Duggar last year, horrified some viewers when he told the story of trying to evangelize to a Catholic woman even after she asked him and his team to leave.
On his Instagram posts, Jeremy now receives comments like the following.
“How about try converting those who have no faith or fallen from God instead of trying to distort the truth of Catholicism. You must not understand what this religion is about if you try in any way to persuade others to convert from it.
“You messed up big time hating on Catholics. I am so disappointed in you. I used to be the biggest fan and was so excited once you entered Jinger’s life, but because of your comments, I will no longer watch the show.”
It’s not just Catholics the Duggar family’s extended in-law relations work to convert, either. Jinger Duggar Vuolo’s father-in-law, Chuck Vuolo, was featured on Iron Sharpens Iron in February, talking about his mission to evangelize to Amish people.
Joy and Austin Forsyth are returning to the U.S., and it’s not yet clear whether their honeymoon or this mission trip will be featured on Counting On, though viewers may expect it since Jinger and Jeremy Vuolo’s was last season. However, the viewers have been making it clear over the past few months that not all of them are happy about the Duggar family’s commentary on other religious groups. It’s not yet clear how fans will feel about Joy Duggar Forsyth joining a trip to convert Jewish people in Israel.
[Featured Image by Austin and Joy Forsyth]