Pain is something I know intimately—three years ago I was assaulted.” The wisp of a woman in the hospital bed gasped in shock. Then as pain stabbed her, she clutched her abdomen. She finally caught her breath and asked me what happened.
I’d just finished my sixth BYG campaign with Jews for Jesus (in Ft. Lauderdale) and was staying an extra week to followup with contacts we’d made. During the campaign I’d met Kevin—a Gentile believer—at the Las Olas Art Festival while I was broadsiding (handing out tracts). He begged me to come visit his Jewish girlfriend, Amy, who was dying of pancreatic cancer, because “she needs to know Jesus.” So on Friday, March 10, at 2:30 P.M., I nervously arranged to see Amy, who’d been told she had two weeks to live.
Hospital workers said Amy was in a deep sleep and not likely to wake up soon, but Kevin and I found her sitting upright, her eyes bright and mind lucid. “I just woke up!” she announced. “Who’s this?”
“This is Karen. She’s with Jews for Jesus and I wanted her to meet you.”
Amy told me about friends from years past who were believers (one was Jewish!). Sharp pain soon had her doubled over and she called the nurse. “I’m so sorry,” she apologized, “I’ve got to have medication.”
“It’s all right. I can come back another time.” But Amy shook her head no about my leaving and, while the nurse administered the I.V., I shared my story of God’s work through the pain in my own life.
Her spiritual hunger was evident as we discussed God’s promises and purpose for the Jewish people, and His fulfilled work in Yeshua HaMashiach as the perfect sacrifice, atoning for sin. When I finished reading Isaiah 53:4-6, Amy said, “That’s Jesus!” She grabbed the piece of paper I held in my hands, and re-read the verses I’d written out for her.
Then it was time to go so I rose to leave. “Thank you so much for coming!” Amy exclaimed. “Please come visit me another time.” And with sparkling eyes she handed me a tiny box of chocolates. “I can’t eat these here and you’ve been so helpful!” She gave me a hug with tears running down her cheeks.
I handed her a Gospel of John, picked up my purse and—in walked an Orthodox Jewish man, yarmulka and all, with his daughter.
“Hello, Ralph! Hi, Rachel!” Amy greeted them, then turned to me. “These are my Orthodox brother and niece I told you about. And gesturing, “this is my friend Karen from Jews for Jesus!”
I smiled and nodded, and prepared to leave. But then in walked Amy’s sister, Kathy. Introductions past, Kathy said, “So why do you, as a Jewish person, believe in Jesus?” I briefly explained, then turned to go. Amy’s hand stopped me.
“What do you think about this, Kathy?” she queried, reading, “But your sins have separated you from your God…” (Isaiah 59:1-2). “I think it makes sense.”
“But—” fifteen-year-old Rachel, fresh from Hebrew school, interjected. “My rabbi says that the Messiah was to come from the line of David and he was to bring peace. Where’s the peace?”
“You’re absolutely right!” I told Rachel, who glowed in response. I went on to explain things from the Scriptures.
Kathy scrunched up her nose and rubbed her chin. “You know, I’m really not religious or anything, but you really believe this, and it sounds logical. Maybe I should talk to my best friend’s son who is going to a Baptist seminary.”
Amy grabbed Rachel’s hand. “Listen to this!” Reading through Isaiah 53:4-6, she asked, “Who is that talking about?”
Ralph (who had been occupied on his cell phone) snapped the phone shut. Rachel sucked in her breath sharply, realizing what she just uttered. “B-but you can’t be Jewish and believe in Jesus.”
“But the first disciples were all Jewish!” Amy was sounding like a missionary. “And—aren’t I right, Karen? The New Testament is really a Jewish book.” I nodded. I looked at the clock: 4:23 P.M. “Oh my!” I needed to get back to Ft. Lauderdale by 5 P.M.
Amy reached over and grabbed my hand. “Thank you so much! PLEASE come again before you leave for Kansas.” She pressed her cell number into my palm, “I like you and I want to talk.”
As I walked out the door, she began reading John chapter one to her family. Rachel poked her head around the corner. “Thank you!” she whispered. “It was really nice to meet you.” She waved goodbye.
Three days later, Holly Meyer (one of our branch missionaries) and I went back to visit. On the highway, we gave Kevin a “heads up” call. He sounded panicked. “I really don’t think you should come again. She’s really not open. Her brother brought the rabbi over on Sunday to visit and they were there for hours. Now Amy says that she shouldn’t abandon her family during her final time here so she’s thinking she should embrace her Jewishness.” I thanked him for sharing, hung up, and continued down the road.
Barely inside the hospital, we ran into Kevin. Red-faced, he demanded, “Why did you come? Amy does not want to see you.”
Blinking back tears of disappointment, I tried to answer Kevin. This only made him more upset. Holly came to the rescue, suggesting I write Amy a goodbye card.
While Amy lay on her deathbed upstairs, Kevin and I wandered into the lobby.
“Amy’s family is mad at me and I’ve got to keep the peace,” he declared. “If I push the issue, I lose the relationship.”
“Listen,” I pleaded, “would you rather lose Amy for a couple of weeks or lose her for eternity? You are now the only person in contact with Amy who knows Jesus. You know that Jesus is the only way to be set free from sin. You know He is the only way to eternal life. If you don’t talk to her about Him, you are robbing Amy of the last chance she may ever have to know her Messiah.”
I do not know what Kevin finally decided.
As Holly and I walked back to the van, a pain I’d never felt before gripped me: sometimes we aren’t just missionaries to Jews; we’re missionaries to Christians.