The BYG* Pic
*Behold Your God.
Those of you who have been around long enough will remember that we announced a list of BYG cities where we planned, by God’s grace, to have outreaches. We have two cities remaining, Lyon, France and New York City. We have reported on most of the campaigns, primarily through our e-publication, RealTime, which allowed us to give the news in a more timely fashion. (If you don’t receive RealTime and would like to, please sign up online at www.jewsforjesus.org/realtime. In the comments box, please put “add me to Real Time.”)
One city from that original list that we have not reported on is Tehran. Avi Snyder, director of our European work has sent the following to help you understand our efforts there.
Tehran stared at us as one of the most challenging cities on our roster of “Behold Your God” campaigns. We wrestled with getting accurate information concerning the Jewish population; our figures sprawled from 5,000 to 30,000 for all of Iran, with the largest concentration of Jewish people in Tehran itself. We decided to go forward on the basis of the larger estimate and see what doors the Lord might open for us.
Of course we wondered, “How should we proceed? What should we do?” We are dedicated to making the Messiahship of Jesus “an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide.” Even in places like Israel, Russia and Ukraine, Jews for Jesus missionaries proclaim the gospel in a direct and open manner. But Tehran challenged us to consider how far we could get with our high-profile methods, and it required us to consider what else we might need—or be able—to do.
In addition to mustering prayer support, we believed that the key to effective evangelism within the country hinged upon finding two groups of people: first, Iranian believers who would stand with us before, during and after the campaign despite the risks and, second, a core or a “caseload” of Jewish contacts with whom we could share the Good News.
Leonid Vasserman and Maxim Ammossov, two members of our staff in the former USSR, volunteered to plan and execute the in-country work. Even though they’re Jewish, the fact that their passports are from Russia and Ukraine made it possible for them to make trips into the country. This they did, hoping to meet with pastors, missions leaders, and lay Christians—all to the end of setting up the infrastructure that we would need. On one particular trip, Maxim and Leonid even decided to “risk” some open street evangelism. They visited a number of shops that were owned or run by Jewish people. Through an interpreter, they identified themselves as Jews for Jesus, and shared the gospel with the few who were willing to listen to what they had to say.
From the “outside,” a group of us developed a year’s worth of evangelistic programs in cooperation with our friends at Trans World Radio. Our co-workers in Ukraine established and managed a Jews for Jesus website in Farsi (Persian), thanks to the help of friends from a local Iranian church. But despite these and other measures, we saw little return.
Sadly, the web site and radio broadcasts yielded no contacts for follow-up. We know that the Word of God never returns void and we hope someday to see fruit from these labors. However, in terms of preparation for a campaign, we were unable to assemble a caseload of Jewish contacts who wanted to hear more about Jesus. And while we met some wonderful believers, we were unable to build the necessary infrastructure.
Leonid and Maxim’s final probe trip to Tehran confirmed what we’d begun to suspect—that the number of Jewish people living in Tehran (indeed, throughout the whole country) was much lower than what we’d originally thought. This meant that whatever we might do, it would not be under the banner of a BYG campaign—BYG cities are those with a population of 25,000 Jewish people or more.
That does not mean that Tehran is “out of sight and out of mind.” Recent anti-Semitic statements from the president of Iran threaten to make the situation even more tenuous for Jewish people in Tehran. This is a time to be praying for their safety AND for their salvation. But as ominous as the times may seem, we know that God can use crisis situations to turn peoples’ hearts to Him. God tells us, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). We Jews for Jesus will keep our eyes on the door, so to speak. If God, in His grace, opens that door during these perilous times, we’ll be prepared to go through it to bring our people the Good News.