A nice Jewish girl’s ordeal with Jews for Jesus,” the advertisement proclaimed. The event at a Southern California temple was promoted by an anti-missionary group whose purpose is to keep Jews for Jesus and other ministries like ours from bringing the gospel to our Jewish people. The anti-missionaries use various scare tactics. Special events like the one at the temple represent just one of the ways they try to keep Jewish people from hearing the truth about Messiah Jesus.
Ellen, the featured speaker, was the latest anti-missionary weapon against the cause of Jewish evangelism. Raised in a wealthy, liberal Jewish home, Ellen had begun to ask questions about God. After exploring a few synagogue and church services, Ellen was invited to a Jews for Jesus Bible study in New York City. Soon after that she made a commitment to Jesus. Her story seemed genuine and powerful, and it appeared that God had worked undeniably in her life. She claimed that she had never smiled before she was a believer, and that suddenly Jesus was the reason for her joy.
Soon Ellen wanted to serve the Lord full-time. She applied and was accepted onto the staff of Jews for Jesus and was sent to our Los Angeles branch for training. There she and I established a two-year friendship. In fact, Ellen was my best friend, or so I thought. We spent a great deal of time together, and I got to know her very well.
Ellen enjoyed sharing the gospel so much that she witnessed to nonbelievers wherever she went, even in her free time. I remember one time she had worn a Jews for Jesus T-shirt to a movie in a local mall. As we waited in line, an elderly Jewish woman tapped Ellen’s shoulder and said, “Can I ask you a question?”
We thought surely she had seen Ellen’s T-shirt and wanted to ask what it meant. We exchanged brief glances, signaling our mutual hope that we were about to enter a conversation about the gospel, but the woman merely asked, “When does the next movie start?” Ellen and I burst into laughter as we realized the woman hadn’t even noticed the T-shirt. Yet our mirth was mixed with disappointment that we were not going to have an opportunity to share Jesus with that elderly lady.
As that anecdote indicates, Ellen was enthusiastic about the work she claimed she was “called” to do. Yet she had her struggles, which she shared with me and with many other friends of our work. Ellen had been disinherited from her family. She no longer had the Mercedes, the money or the credit cards she was so accustomed to enjoying. But worst of all, she no longer had the approval of her parents.
Ellen needed approval. She worked hard, perhaps too hard, to gain the esteem of her supervisors and peers. One day Ellen went home for vacation—home to her family and friends. We had planned a special dinner at the airport for the evening she returned, but the dinner never happened. What Ellen didn’t know when she left to visit her family was that her mother had a “deprogrammer” standing by at a nearby hotel. (A deprogrammer is one who assumes a person has been “programmed” to a certain belief through mind control. The deprogrammer’s goal is to get that individual to renounce his or her belief.)
Ellen went to visit her family as a believer in Jesus, almost three years old in the Lord. She walked out as a different person. Today she has no hope, and she admits that she does not know where she will spend eternity. She has become a spokesperson for a group that spends its time and energy creating fear in the hearts of our people—fear that prevents them from even asking if Jesus just might be the Messiah of Israel.
It seems that Ellen has become an enemy of the cross. How could she turn away from the hope that once put a smile on her face? Perhaps we can only understand by looking at the life of Demas, who once ministered enthusiastically with the Apostle Paul. But there was a change in Demas’ life, as Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:10: “…Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica.…” It seems that Ellen, too, has exchanged her faith and her hope for her family’s inheritance.
On the evening I heard Ellen speak she received a round of applause because she had returned to Judaism—the rabbinic Judaism that values tradition more than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the traditional Judaism that opposes the Judaism of the Scriptures. It is still my hope that Ellen will come back to the family of God, to her Messiah and our loving Heavenly Father who awaits her with open arms.