The Best Birthday Present
I had my water baptism in February 1982, and afterward I told all my relatives about my faith in Jesus. My sister Rachel reacted with the most anger as she blurted out: You are not a Jew any more. You betrayed our God and our people, and I want nothing more to do with you.”
As I got up to leave, I told Rachel: “Whatever you think, I did not betray our people, and I am still Jewish. Whatever you feel about me, I will love you and pray for you all my life.” When I got home, I got down on my knees and pleaded with God for my sister’s salvation.
Two months passed. Then my sister called me and said, “Elizabeth, I have got all new furniture in my apartment. Why don’t you come over and see it? You can sit down with me, and we’ll have a cup of coffee.”
I brought her a Bible, which she said she did not want to read. I told her, “It’s okay if you don’t want to read it, just leave it in your home. Perhaps some day you will want to read it, and then it will be here.” That day when I went home, I asked the Lord to bring somebody else into Rachel’s life—someone from whom she could hear God’s Word.
It didn’t happen right away, but eventually she met a pleasant young man and commented, “You are different from other men. Why is that?” His answer: “I read the Bible.”
I didn’t know about this conversation until later, but I could tell that Rachel had begun to read the Bible because when I would try to tell her something from God’s Word, she would jump ahead as though she knew the passage to which I referred.
I didn’t mention it, but finally, she told me she was reading the Bible with a friend. She asked for the address and phone number of the church I attended when I lived in Los Angeles. Occasionally she would attend Bible studies there, and the pastor would visit her now and then.
Many years passed, very difficult years for my sister Rachel as she moved from one place to another, suffering many hardships.
Last August, my sister called me from Los Angeles. It was the day after my birthday. She explained that her financial situation was particularly difficult this year and apologized that she had not sent a present in time for my birthday. I said to her: “It’s not too late. You still can make me a wonderful birthday present.” There was a moment of silence, and I said, “Would you open your heart today to our Lord Jesus Christ and ask Him to forgive your sins and set you free?”
To my very great joy, she replied, “I am ready to do this, but I don’t know how.”
I said, “We can do it together right on the spot, but you must realize what it means. If you ask for forgiveness through Jesus, you begin a new life. In that life it is important to obey His words: read the Bible every day, grow spiritually and tell others about what the Lord has done for you.” As a missionary with Jews for Jesus I have explained this to many, many Russian Jews—first in Los Angeles, then in Odessa, Moscow, and now in New York City. It is always a thrill when someone accepts the invitation, but I must admit, never quite so thrilling as when my own dear sister replied that she was ready to give her life to Jesus!
As we prayed together on the phone, I began weeping and couldn’t stop. Rachel asked me why I was crying. I said: “I have awaited this day for fourteen years. After all these years, the Lord has answered my prayers.”
The gift of my sister’s salvation came from God. This is not something my sister would do merely to please me because she knows how seriously I take my faith—and hers! Rachel (who is forty-nine years old) is now hoping to go to a Russian language Bible school so that she can learn more about Jesus Christ.
If you, dear reader, have prayed for the salvation of your relatives for a long time and still have not received an answer, please let me encourage you. Keep praying fervently! God hears you and will answer in His time.