Laura Barron spent her childhood years in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Rye, New York. Her father was a doctor and her mother was a teacher. Her parents grew up in a tight-knit Jewish community in Dayton, Ohio and had known each other from school. While this could have been an obstacle to hearing the Gospel, in Laura’s case it was preparation. She says:
“In New York, all of my friends were Jewish and I had never heard anything about Jesus at all. In a way that was beneficial, because I hadn’t formed a resistance to Jesus based on ideas about anti-Semitism or feeling that ‘Jews just can’t be Jewish and believe in Jesus;’ I was a tabula rasa – a blank slate.”
When she was twelve, Laura’s family moved to Sonoma in northern California. “When we moved there, I met a Christian for the first time,” says Laura. This Christian happened to be a girl who was Laura’s age. She invited Laura to go to church one day. Laura agreed.
“After the pastor finished his sermon, he invited people up to the front to pray. My friend nudged me and asked, ‘Laura, do you believe in God?’ In my heart, I had always believed in God. As a younger child, I remember asking my mother where God was and she replied, ‘Everywhere honey, so just watch out!’ I must have been precocious, but it was that chutzpah—or nerve—that gave me the confidence to respond to the altar call that morning. I arrived at the podium and the pastor explained the gospel to me simply and quietly; with a heart of faith I believed and accepted God’s salvation in Jesus at that moment.”
Laura’s parents were not thrilled when she came home and announced that she had become a Christian. But they allowed her to continue attending church with her friend.
“The most important quality my parents taught me as a child was to formulate my own opinions. Growing up, it became my habit to make up my own mind about everything I learned. My parents agreed to let me pursue this path which they thought was a passing phase.”
But Laura’s faith wasn’t a passing phase. She continued to attend church and grow in her relationship with Y’shua (Jesus) throughout high school. After graduation, she attended college in Santa Rosa. She then moved to Southern California where she continued to work on her degree in English Literature at San Diego State University. At this time, Laura began to question God and her relationship with Him.
“I sought to talk myself out of my faith. I took a lot of courses that were based in humanistic thought—Psychology, Philosophy, Cultural Anthropology. I wasn’t in fellowship at that point. I made a decision to consciously open myself up to everything else and really explore what a lot of Christians never come face to face with. But Jesus was in my heart; I couldn’t walk away. ‘I couldn’t not believe.’ This season lasted for about a year; then I got myself back in fellowship and I started listening to His voice again.”
At this point, Laura decided that she wanted to delve more into her Jewish heritage. She took a number of Jewish history and culture classes and connected with Hillel, while always making it clear that she was a believer in Jesus. She also attended a Messianic congregation. Still, she felt she wanted more. So, she began to make plans to move to Israel.
After finishing her degree, Laura made the trek across the world, to the Land of her ancestors. She joined a kibbutz near Tel Aviv and began learning Hebrew. After several months, she left the kibbutz and began teaching English in Tiberias. She considered making Aliyah—becoming an Israeli citizen and settling there permanently. But something drew her back to the U.S. After a year in Israel, in which time both her faith and her Jewish identity were strengthened, she returned to the States and took a job as an au pair for three children in Boston. Three weeks later, she met Andrew—the man who would become her husband.
Andrew was a missionary with Jews for Jesus. He liked Laura from the moment he met her at a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by his congregation. He even thought he could see himself spending the rest of his life—and his ministry—with someone like her. But his ministry was about to change drastically.
Shortly after meeting Laura, Andrew volunteered to begin the first overseas branch of Jews for Jesus—in South Africa. But there was one condition – Jews for Jesus preferred to send a married couple!
He and Laura had only been dating for a short while, but Andrew was confident that Laura was the one for him. He explained to Laura that he wanted to go to South Africa, and that he wanted her to come with him. Laura knew she wanted to marry Andrew, too. As for going overseas with him, she says:
“Right when Andrew first talked about South Africa, I had this sense that God was calling me to go there. It’s one of the few times in my life that I can say that God was clearly calling me or that I was following his leading and I was sure, but my heart wept at the thought of South Africa, and I knew that it was God’s destiny for me.”
Andrew and Laura were married in June of 1989. By October, they were in Johannesburg.
Over the next seven years, they successfully planted a Jews for Jesus branch and a thriving Messianic congregation. They also began their family, with their son Rafi arriving in 1995.
Rafi was a beautiful baby boy with Down syndrome. They were able to access support for him in South Africa, but it was mostly through private services and therapists. They had accomplished their goal to raise up a self-sustaining ministry there, and felt released to leave it in the capable hands of local Jewish believers and an indigenous Jews for Jesus branch leader.
In 1996, the Barron family moved to Toronto to lead the Jews for Jesus work in Canada, and they remain there to this day. Canada has been a great place to meet Rafi’s special needs and has many opportunities for his school years and beyond. Andrew leads the branch there, while Laura oversees all the publications for both the Canada and South Africa branches. She also works as a part-time missionary.
“My primary thrust is trying to minister to Jewish women who are open to the Gospel and to disciple Jewish believers, because I’m the only female missionary. That’s my heartbeat when it comes to ministry—my missionary work. I set up visits with women to meet at a coffee shop, in my home, or sometimes by Skype.”
Laura is also known for her opening her home to others:
“We do a lot of hospitality through our ministry. Our home is also our office in that sense. All of our holidays and Shabbat dinners are done here. We also built an apartment in our basement, so anyone who’s coming through Toronto from the ministry can stay there. Entertaining is something that comes very naturally to me. I would be neglectful if I didn’t allow God to use that gift.”
In addition to all this, Laura also has a passion for doing evangelistic campaigns. She has done a number of outreaches in Israel and participates annually in the New York City Summer Witnessing Campaign.
Of course, while Laura is excited about ministry, her first priority is her family. After moving to Canada, Laura and Andrew were blessed with two more children—Ketzia and Simona. All three children are busy with their activities; Rafi participates in an adapted sportball program, swimming lessons, skiing and horseback riding – he is especially skilled in basketball. Ketzia and Simona have both been involved with ballet, and Ketzia recently took up karate as well. Of her children, Laura says, “Rafi’s greatest quality is his joy, his love of life. Ketzia has a deep desire for God, and Simona makes me laugh all the time.” Both girls know how to make and keep good friends, they are confident and bright and loving sisters to their brother.
They enjoy taking walks as a family and going swimming together. They also take a family vacation to Florida every year to see family and spend time relaxing and playing at the beach.
On the rare occasions when Laura and Andrew get a weekend to themselves, they like to visit a bed and breakfast in nearby Niagara Falls and see a play together.
When asked about the journey of faith that she began at twelve years old, Laura says:
“As I’ve studied God’s word, that faith has stayed with me for 36 years now and has grown in knowledge and strength. I know that all things are possible with God and I thank Him that He has been so faithful in my life.”
*Laura Barron is a missionary at the Toronto branch of Jews for Jesus. Along with her husband Andrew, who heads up the Jews for Jesus work in Canada, Laura pioneered the South African ministry of Jews for Jesus. She is a fluent Hebrew speaker and regularly takes part in the organization’s outreach ministry in Israel. Laura and Andrew have three children: Rafael, Ketzia and Simona. Jews for Jesus is a missions organization on the forefront of Jewish evangelism. The ministry is reaching Jewish people for their Messiah in 14 countries and 26 cities.