Ten Ways that Jews for Jesus Summer Witnessing Campaigns Have Changed
1. Tract bags: Our tract bags in the ’70s consisted of old army surplus shoulder bags. These could hold about 800 tracts—5 bundles of 100 tracts straight across, and then 3 more tightly wedged in sideways. You could always tell they were full by the way the shoulder strap cut into you—an unintentional added incentive to pass out as many tracts as quickly as possible! Some bags were army green, some were yellow, made from a burlap-like material. They showed dirt easily and grew holey before long (not holy, but ridden with holes).
Sometime in the ’80s we designed our own tract bags. Made of luggagequality nylon, they are dark blue with Jews for Jesus” printed in white letters, adding to the visibility of our gospel statement. These easily hold 1000 broadside tracts, as well as a small bottle of water, pocket Bible, snack, etc. In addition to the padded shoulder strap (which is adjustable) they fasten around the waist to take some of the pressure off the shoulder and back.
2. Stewards: Campaigners used to rotate responsibilities such as laundry, packing tract bags, etc. Again, sometime in the ’80s we began recruiting volunteer stewards who take care of filling tract bags and doing laundry, as well as preparing, serving and cleaning up after meals. Not only that, but stewards pray for the campaigners, send them out on each sortie (tract-passing expedition) with a smile and greet them after each sortie with “high fives” and words of encouragement. What a blessing!!! (P.S. We are always looking for stewards—are you interested for next summer, or for a Behold Your God campaign later this year?)
3. Chaplains: From the very start we tried to maintain spiritual health during the campaigns. We always had times of singing and sharing around the dinner table about what God had done each day, as well as daily Scripture memorization. Nowadays we also have chaplains to minister to the campaigners during a corporate time of worship each day, as well as being available for special prayer on an individual basis.
4. Proposal statement: For many years we simply handed out tracts during campaign, got into conversations when possible and went for many years sowing much seed but rarely reaping a harvest. In the summer of 1988 Moishe woke up in the middle of the night and wrote down what has become known as our “proposal statement”: a stepby- step way of talking to those who are interested in knowing God’s plan of salvation. The proposal statement gives people an opportunity to pray with the campaigner to receive Christ, and every year we see many respond positively.
5. Contact cards: Campaigners used to resort to whatever scrap of paper they could find to write down names and addresses of people who wanted more information, even the back of discarded broadsides! Then for a while we used blank three by five cards and finally, we went to pre-printed cards that prompt the campaigner to ask for the inquirer’s contact information, including e-mail addresses—which did not even exist when we began these summer campaigns!
6. Contact sorties: During the first campaigns, we focused on handing out as many tracts as possible, and meeting people who were willing to receive more information in the mail was a bonus. As time went by we discovered that nonrush hour sorties (lunch time or night time) were times when we could typically hand out fewer tracts, but engage in more conversations with people who had time to chat. Focusing on these conversations, and working toward receiving names and addresses of those who would be willing to hear more became known as “contact sorties.”
7. Opposition: Threats of physical violence and pranks such as pouring paint on our literature characterized our early opposition. However, the fact that we felt responsible to press charges against criminal behavior—along with the reality that harassing us often made us the object of attention and sympathy—gave some of our more sophisticated opponents pause.
While campaigners do at times face that type of harassment (particularly in Russia and Ukraine), the more common means of opposition is that of “counter-leafleting,” whereby antimissionaries try to dissuade people from taking our literature, offering their own perspective instead of, or in addition to, the pamphlets we distribute.
8. Cities: For many years, “New York City” and “Summer Witnessing Campaign” always went together. New York was the focus of every summer campaign. Now we have summer campaigns (though not necessarily annually as in New York) in many cities such as London, Paris, Toronto, St. Petersburg and Moscow. In addition, Operation Behold Your God has taken the “summer” out of summer witnessing campaigns. In order to reach every city where there are 25,000 or more Jewish people within five years, we are conducting campaigns throughout the year and in every season.
9. Participants: For many years, all our campaigners were staff and volunteers from the United States. But in 1985 we began planning for Israeli believers to come to New York City to experience this all-out evangelistic effort. Many were excited about evangelistic possibilities and brought their enthusiasm home. Today we have people of many nationalities participating in our summer campaigns. The diversity is especially helpful in urban centers like New York and London, where there is an international mix of people needing to hear the gospel in their own language.
10. Attire: From the beginning, we did our best to identify ourselves as Jews for Jesus when street witnessing. Our opposition has always accused us of being deceptive, and we have always done our best to let people know exactly who we are. Our Jews for Jesus T-shirts proclaim who we are, so people who don’t want to talk to us can easily avoid us, and so those who do want to talk to us can easily find us in a crowd. Those Jews for Jesus T-shirts have remained an important part of our witnessing campaigns, but whereas the statement remains the same, we have experimented with a variety of styles. (See our pictorial history of Jews for Jesus T-shirts in the PDF version of this newsletter.)
Three Ways that Jews for Jesus Summer Witnessing Campaigns have stayed the same:
- We are still committed to raising the gospel banner out on the streets, though it is still unpopular and uncomfortable to do so.
2. We are still amazed at how God comes through when we serve Him in ways that are beyond our comfort zone.
- We still have friends like you to thank for making these campaigns possible through your prayers and support! Thank you for standing with us!