It was a very bright, warm Soweto day, perfect for a wedding. A local pastor, friend of the Jews for Jesus ministry, had remarried after his wife’s death. Our party of three—Lev and Jenifer Leigh (Jews for Jesus South Africa branch missionaries) and I—drove through the Johannesburg township in search of the home where the reception was being held. We took a right, then a left, then the same right and left again, obviously lost in this village of unmarked avenues and unpaved roads. We finally reached the small but well-swept home. Folding chairs were immediately brought out and dusted off, and we were ushered to a shady spot beneath a tree.
The wedding party arrived and was escorted up the street, preceded by women who ullalated” their joy, an African custom that we Westerners could only liken to yodeling. And as they were escorted into the reception tent, the Leigh’s and I were invited to enter as well. We found ourselves in a beautiful “room” decorated with tropical flowers, heady with scent.
Other people entered the tent, among them four other Jewish believers who were also invited guests. One of them was the pastor who married the couple! Seven Jewish believers in a sea of 200 native South African blacks. Only God could make such a wedding.
But the real place of honor was so obviously given to Jesus. In the back of the house, women tended huge pots of food over coal fires, and these cooking vessels were large enough to feed the community which had been invited in. Broad hugs, wide hearts, and ready smiles radiated God’s love and encompassed those who attended.…
Though many from the community were not believers, a reverential hush seemed to dictate their behavior. Children stood patiently in line while waiting to be served from the huge pots and platters. Inside the tent, seats were quickly vacated, without protest, when guests had finished their meal in order to make room for a newcomer. The small tent had been transformed into a “house of love,” the power of which radiated out through its canvas walls.
If the Jews for Jesus staff in South Africa can claim any “success,” it most surely has something to do with the prayers of many black South African Christians, a microcosm of whom attended this wedding and welcomed the Jewish believers in like family. For a fraction of time, the small Soweto township seemed touched by the sea of eternity, and cultural differences were overpowered by the powerful love of the Messiah.
Many Jewish believers here at home enjoy the comfort and strengthening of identity we find by living with “our own.” We strive to develop messianic communities, congregations and culture that affirm our Jewishness. It is a stretching experience to be transported beyond familiar boundaries and experience the boundless love of Jesus in a culture not one’s own. And yet it is the story of His love, which He allows us to enjoy here at home within the familiar confines of our own “tents,” that needs to be broadened, widened and presented as all-encompassing. By it we will attract the unsaved stranger to come partake at His table and be saved by His abounding grace.