I hail from West Islip, New York. Yes, you pronounce it like "I slip"—and we've heard all the jokes about falling down! Whoever named the town must have had a sense of humor because there are also the towns of East Islip, Central Islip and Islip Terrace as well. Both my parents are Jewish; my mother was from an Orthodox home, and my father was also raised with a very strong Jewish identity. They raised me as a Reform (more liberal) Jew, but there were two things I always knew; one, we were Jewish and two, we didn't believe in Jesus. Nevertheless, my best friend Janet was a Christian and because my mom thought so highly of her, I was allowed to participate in anything Janet did, including attending church with her from time to time. I distinctly remember sitting in church thinking to myself, "Nope, I can't believe in this because I am Jewish!"
I was saved in July 1990. I was living in Dallas, Texas, pursuing a career in country music … yes, that's right, country music. I was two days away from a big country music competition and I began to feel this horrible performance anxiety coming over me. I had experienced a severe bout of it the year before and felt that I could not stand to go through that again. Countless people had tried to share the gospel with me countless times and I had never felt any interest in the gospel. At least I never thought I was interested, but somehow or another it must have sunk in, and it all came to the surface that Sunday afternoon.
I was in my van and as I felt that anxiety starting to well up within me, I cried out, "Dear God, I cannot go into another performance like this again. I need a transformation now. Please let the Spirit of Christ fill my heart." No sooner had I gotten the words out than I was drenched in the most incredible peace; I never thought I'd feel fear again. Three days later was the competition. All day long I felt a battle going on; part of the time I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit; part of the time, well, the anxiety was back in full force. So I cried out to God again, "Dear God, please just kill off this other thing, and just let me feel your peace." And in a split second I knew I was in the presence of the Lord. In that second, He showed me my selfishness; I saw that I would do anything, say anything, promise anything to get what I needed and when I didn't think I needed it anymore, I would forget where it came from. There were no visions, no voices, just this huge opportunity to decide that I would be true to Christ. And I took it.
I came to serve with the ministry of Jews for Jesus after phoning the New York office. I was looking for a messianic congregation to visit while visiting family in New York, so I looked up Jews for Jesus figuring they could recommend a congregation to me. I mentioned in passing that I was a musician. The person I spoke to asked if it would be alright to give my name to the Jews for Jesus Headquarters office in San Francisco. The Minister-at-Large office contacted me and next thing I knew, I was filling out an application to serve with The Liberated Wailing Wall! I began my tour with them in 1992, and served as the team's music director.
It was quite an adventure living on a bus for 18 months. How like God to use my performance anxiety to bring me to Jesus—and then to put me on an evangelistic team where I would be performing Jewish Gospel music every night!
Serving with The Liberated Wailing Wall was a real growing experience for me, filled with challenges and yet a contentment in my work that I had not known before. After the tour, I moved back to New York and joined the local Jews for Jesus Singers team (later I led the team and also led worship for the Jews for Jesus Friday night chapel services from the fall of 1995 to the spring of 1997). Then I had the opportunity to go on another tour, this time on my own, performing a variety of music, both Jewish Gospel and Contemporary Christian. I traveled the country from August of 1997 to December of 1998 and sang in about 400 churches. During that time I saw more than 100 people come to faith in Christ, and more than 200 others rededicate their lives to Him.
I sensed that God was calling me to continue in full time ministry with Jews for Jesus, and here I am in New York City as a missionary trainee! I think one of the most important lessons I have learned through my ministry experiences thus far is the importance of being (appropriately) vulnerable so that through our weakness, others might see the greatness of our Lord.