My husband, Stu, grew up with an agnostic Jewish father who denied Stu a bar mitzvah because God was for the weak, uneducated people who need a crutch.” My father was an Episcopal minister, but mysteriously, we had a mezuzzah on our doorpost. Stu and I met in 1969 and after we both accepted the Lord, were married in 1973. Then we went to live and work with an urban outreach community, Jesus People USA (JPUSA).
We raised our two children, Jacob and Adriel, with an awareness that the Heiss family had other, more devout Jewish members. Grandma Helen’s menorah was passed down to us, causing us to look more carefully into the Jewish holidays, researching their significance and celebrating them in a way that blended our faith in Messiah with these wonderful Jewish traditions. Each year since that time we’ve lighted our “Heiss Hanukkiah.”
Our community’s school began holding seders for the children. These rich traditions had an especially profound affect on Adriel. Even as a little girl she would often weep with the beauty and closeness of the Lord. When Adriel finished high school, she felt God calling her into fulltime missions with Youth With a Mission (YWAM), where she would often host seders for the students and staff. To this day, this has remained an important part of our worship.
Adriel and Jacob have both traveled to many parts of the world. One of the most profound moments of Jacob’s life was when he and his father went to see Auschwitz. While ministering in East Germany, they took part in chipping away portions of the newly fallen Berlin Wall.
Life for our children has been an adventure, but not one without hardship. When Adriel went with YWAM to Ecuador, she got extremely ill and after finishing her work, came home to recover. It was very difficult for us as parents to hear her say “yes” to the Lord when He called her to return to Ecuador. She got extremely ill again and took a full year to recover once she was back home.
Was it worth it? YES, YES, YES! Hundreds of people came to the Lord during Adriel’s ministry there in the remote mountain villages of Ecuador. Believers there had been praying for 20 years for workers to come to them with the Gospel! I learned to trust God with my only daughter’s life in ways I never would have otherwise. He has proven Himself to be totally trustworthy. Adriel has learned to persevere under great difficulty for the cause of Messiah and the glory of His Name. It was no surprise to us that after September 11th, Adriel answered the call to help lead a team of YWAM workers to witness on the streets of New York City. They also served as a support team for the rescue workers at Ground Zero.
We are so grateful for the ways in which God continues to use our family. A few years ago Stu and I left JPUSA and moved into a new area of ministry as worship pastor and director of missions and women’s ministry for a growing, suburban church planted in the heart of a Jewish community. When we moved into our new home, we celebrated our first Hanukkah there with Adriel’s then-fiance-now-husband Noah and his family, thus launching a new host of family traditions to be handed down. We also joyfully hung our new mezuzzah. It has been vitally important for us to be hooked into the rich traditions of the Jewish holidays. They are special times that cause us to have a heart of concern and compassion for our Jewish people (and all people) worldwide. We pray that they will come to know the Messiah Yeshua.