The United Kingdom is home to the second largest Jewish population in Europe, and has the fifth largest Jewish community worldwide. Over two-thirds of British Jews live in London where there are numerous pockets of Jewish communities, each with its own characteristics. Jewish people originally settled in east London, and many still reside there. Others, mainly those who are “upwardly mobile” have moved north or west.
With all its variations and diversity, London ranks thirteenth in the world as a Jewish population center. You can see why it was important to Jews for Jesus to have a solid story there. We got our official start in the UK in January of 1992 when Stephen and Deborah Pacht opened our London branch.
Yoel Ben David has been spearheading our evangelistic efforts in London since July, 2010. He and his wife Adele are both Israelis; prior to becoming believers in Jesus they lived for a time in one of Israel’s most orthodox Jewish communities. The Ben David’s have been with Jews for Jesus since 2004. Yoel has led several evangelistic outreaches, including several festivals in Israel. From Israel he served in the London branch, then San Francisco where he worked alongside David Brickner before returning to London to take his current post. He and Adele have three children, Noa, Boaz and Natanel.
Alison and Barry B. both grew up in Liverpool and London respectively; Barry had a liberal (somewhat like Reform Jewish in the US) upbringing, while Alison’s home was secular. While Barry was in his thirties when he came to faith, Alison has believed since she was sixteen. They both began volunteering with our London branch and met at our Hanukkah party in 2005. They began full-time service with us during the summer of 2008, participating in three consecutive witnessing campaigns in Israel, London and New York City. In addition to frontline missionary work, Alison also edits our UK newsletter.
Ziggy Rogoff was brought up in a kosher-observant home in the London borough of Redbridge. He attended Hebrew classes three times a week and celebrated his bar mitzvah in Jerusalem at the Western Wall. As a young adult Ziggy did not believe in God. However, after completing his post-doctoral studies in mathematics, he accepted a friend’s invitation to church, where he heard a clear explanation of the gospel. But it was through reading Betrayed- the life story of Stan Telchin- that Ziggy realized it was possible to be Jewish and believe in Jesus. Once he was convinced, he wanted to tell others. He began volunteering with Jews for Jesus and joined our staff in 2009.
Julia Pascoe was born and raised in London and has known Jesus as her Messiah since 1998. She, like Ziggy and so many Jewish believers we know, was greatly influenced by the book, Betrayed. Julia began to volunteer with Jews for Jesus, playing her guitar at special events such as our annual Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) service. She joined our staff in 2004. She is a member of our Jews for Jesus Council and is currently on hiatus from the London branch as she leads Blue Mosaic, our evangelistic music team (see November 2010 newsletter.) Traveling with Blue Mosaic continues to be a wonderful adventure for Julia, but once that season is over, she will be eager to resume her ministry in London.
In addition, we also have two missionary trainees who are completing their training in our London branch, Kata and Simon, both of whom were introduced in our Newsletter as new trainees late last year (October 2010).
Kata Tar is from Hungary, where she received a Marxist education and remained an atheist until she became disillusioned with these ideologies while at university. She began searching, never dreaming that Jesus could be for her. It was not until she met with an old friend who had become a Christian that she opened her heart to Him.
Simon Lissak grew up in a secular household, deeply affected by the experiences of his father, who managed to escape Poland during World War II. As an adult Simon felt he had everything one could want, yet he and his wife, Maxime, felt something was missing. Through a series of circumstances, including an accident involving their 22-month-old son Felix, the family was drawn to Jesus.
Kata and Simon both volunteered extensively with Jews for Jesus before applying to be full time evangelists.
The branch conducts regular events to reach Jewish seekers and to keep us connected with those who are part of the larger Jews for Jesus community. On Monday nights, Yoel and Alison teach from the parsha (the particular Scripture readings that will be heard in Jewish worship services that week). Once a month, the branch has a community meeting (called a havurah) that includes Jewish seekers and various believers in Yeshua (both Jewish and Gentile) who volunteer with us, and/or bring Jewish friends to our events. Every three weeks there is a Shabbat meal for singles (believers as well as seekers) and each month the branch has Bible clubs for children in north and south London. Plans are also in the works to host quarterly film events as an opportunity to stimulate discussion with Jewish seekers who have been meeting with our missionary staff.
As in all our branches, missionaries in London focus on meeting with Jewish seekers and doing their best to see new Jewish believers in Jesus grow in the faith. Their ministry would not be possible without the support of our faithful and hard working administrative staff: Kevin Wren (CAO), administrators Wendy Burton and Tony Metliss; and Gwen Vollans and Etinosa Omogiade who help with church relations so that our missionaries can meet more Christians who might become involved with our ministry.
We hope the following perspectives by Ziggy—as he’s just finishing his training—and Barry, who is learning to see his calling in a new way, will give you a feeling for what it’s like to be a missionary to the Jewish people in London.
I have been reflecting over the past few months that it is time for me to be FIT for the demands of ministry: F for focused, I for innovative, and T for transitioned. Indeed this is a transitional time for me, as I finish the training I began in New York and become a full-time missionary.
When I think of focus, I think of the core values we memorized in training: the first core value being direct Jewish evangelism as our priority. There are many theological issues we may feel a need to discuss or debate, but these can be distracting. We have to repeat continually the message that Jewish people, like all people, need to hear the message of the Savior and repent of their sins. Focus is essential to our work.
Innovation is also essential for the ministry. It is embedded in core value number eight: creativity in our staff. There is a real need to meet peoples’ needs by finding ever more creative ways to communicate the gospel effectively. I developed a program of Jewish evangelism taking people on tours of the Holocaust exhibition, that I called Ten One, (the title comes from Romans 10:1, ‘Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.’) and we are now shaping this into something we hope to use as an outreach in the London Branch. I am also working on communicating the gospel via visiting Christian Union meetings in schools as well as in universities. Recently, I began to organize Friday night Shabbat meals in order to network young Jewish believers and provide an opportunity for them to bring friends to hear the gospel. Every time we meet I give a short talk on that week’s parsha (portion from the cycle of Scripture readings).
Focus and innovation are important, but I recently took the exam marking the end of my training period, so right now transition is at the forefront of my mind! Putting training into practice is a transition. It’s time to increase my weekly visits, phone calls, sorties (tract-passing expeditions) and more. I am probably most excited about sorties, as this will allow me to do cold contact evangelism for many hours each week. Sorties can be tiring, but they really develop my thinking on communicating the gospel. They also help me depend on my relationship with God as I ask him to mold my understanding of His love so that I can step out in courageous faith and proclaim God’s message to a lost and confused world.
I’m the kind of person who starts out with high hopes and great expectations and can easily become discouraged and disheartened. God is showing me that witnessing is often a slow, painstaking process and I need godly patience for the long haul. My instincts are to try to speed up the process, to “collar” people and demand, ‘Why can’t you see it? Jesus is your Messiah!’ But I remember Hebrews 12:1 (‘… let us run with endurance the race that is set before us’) and must accept that I am in a long, slow “race.” A marathon!
British people are usually very polite, but often need much time to trust. I am a classic extrovert, quick to dive in and talk, uncomfortable with the slow, patient approach! But Paul exhorted Timothy to ‘be persistent … with the utmost patience’ (2 Timothy 4:2). Patience does not come naturally to me, but when I look to Jesus, it releases the pressure I feel to precipitate a spiritual breakthrough with Sid or Moishe or anyone else I visit. Suddenly it is Jesus’ ‘problem,’ and I need only trust Him.
For example, I had been phoning Russell on and off for about a year. He was always polite, always avoided talking about Jesus and always declined to meet. Then, one evening, I asked if he’d like to meet, as usual (a little half-heartedly) and he surprised me by saying ‘Yes.’ I quickly arranged a place and we had a great talk. He listened as I shared from John’s Gospel and he asked lots of questions. We parted with him wanting more. Praise God! And I did praise Him, because I had thought Russell was a lost cause.
Then there is Aubrey. He seemed to relish a good argument, enjoyed spouting off at me, and always came back to his standard Jewish orthodox views. I wondered if my time with him was well spent and thought perhaps I should stop seeing him.
How wrong I was! How quick to judge I was. Avi Snyder (our European director) and Yoel advised that I should wait until Aubrey and I had at least twelve visits before making any decisions. So I phoned Aubrey. He was happy to hear from me. We met and this time, we were able to talk about real issues. It had taken a while before Aubrey felt comfortable with me, but we’ve since had several meetings. Please pray for Aubrey and Russell’s salvation.
On a sortie recently, a troubled woman started chatting with me and then suddenly took a great risk, “I’m gay,” she said. And waited expectantly for me to reject her. She knew I could not condone her lifestyle. But neither did I have to condemn her. “Jesus loves you.” I said. She seemed moved by that statement. What a privilege we have. People open up to us because we carry Jesus’ peace with us, and if we are patient, we can help them see that they can trust Him.
And so I am learning to pace myself, and to trust Jesus more for peace, patience and breakthroughs … both large and small!
Please uphold our London staff and those they are meeting with in your prayers. Also please pray as they are are planning and preparing for the Olympics outreach in 2012.