God used the physical, emotional and sexual abuse from my childhood to bring a young Jewish man to his Messiah. Now, more than ever, I can own the truth of the two scriptures I lean on and quote most: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), and “…we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
How did the pain of my past lead to this man’s new life? It’ll take just a brief glance back in time to lay the foundation. “Jewish families are closer than any other families.” “Jews stick together. They really love each other.” I’ve heard statements like those most of my life, but this is not my experience. My Russian-born mother and father did not model love to my family. We are five children who today still find it difficult to be in the same room together.
Before I escaped my Bronx, New York environment, my young body had experienced the brutal fists of my father on numerous occasions. My emotions were traumatized from my mother’s constant yelling. My self-image bore the stigma of being told, “We found you in a garbage can.” I felt like an unprotected stranger, full of fear, around my three sisters and my older brother.
Lack of any loving foundational teaching of right and wrong opened opportunity for sin to abound. Seeking affirmation, I became a victim of sexual abuse. The wolves of this world always seem to be there, ready to pounce on the unprotected. I grew reprobate in this environment. Every sinful action hardened my heart but, deep down, the little boy wanted to escape.
The U.S. Navy provided my ticket out. Years passed. I carried the Bronx with me wherever I went, feeling unloved and unprotected. As the song goes, I “searched for love in all the wrong places.” And every search produced a new layer of shame and guilt.
After my discharge from the Navy, I settled in Florida where the Lord gave a persistent Southern Baptist gentlemen a love for this lost Jew who worked for him. Over the years I grew in Jesus. I felt called to missions and have been privileged to be a missionary the last six years.
Yet all through the years, my dysfunctional, abusive background extracted a toll from me. Many times I lived in Paul’s Romans 7:15: “…what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”
Often pastors and missionaries are regarded by some of the body of Christ as “super Christians.” Such thinking has caused many problems. The reality is that we are no different than any of you. We still need love, fellowship, time in the Word, prayer and, as I’ve just re-discovered, continued healing from our past.
As a believer, I would often say to people, “Please be patient. God isn’t through with me yet.” Fourteen months ago God helped me take a giant step that brought some of the promised healing which that saying indicates is coming. In the process He made His power perfect in my weakness, and He even used my weakness for an opportunity to bring another lost sheep home. The process began in our fourth year in missions. We were asked to transfer to the home office support team in Texas.
I thought that one of the reasons for our move to Texas was to provide a more stable environment for the family, and that is true. But God had bigger plans for me. His plans unfolded quickly. Shortly after our arrival the Lord introduced me to a Christian in a hospital therapy program called Rapha. A window of time opened at the mission which allowed me to take a leave of absence. My insurance policy from our home church totally covered the treatment. My wife, my pastor, some close friends and the mission community were all in support of me as I took the frightening plunge to face the pain of my past.
The days—24 of them—consisted of individual therapy twice a day and group therapy and classes once or twice daily. Rapha’s program is anointed. The Lord wasted no time in using it to get to the root of my problems. Years of buried anger over my childhood rejection were quickly revealed. The roots of rejection and need for approval ran all through and around this anger. I cried and hurt daily.
I learned that I could hurt without having to fix it. I learned that whatever we as humans use to fix the pain, we will become addicted to. I learned to let the Lord comfort me in my pain, to use it for my growth, and to teach me to forgive just as He forgave for pain unfairly heaped upon Him.
I learned to accept that bad things can happen to innocent children. I learned that all of what had happened to me could be used by the Lord to bring His comfort to others. Most of all, I experienced the journey from head knowledge to heart knowledge of His death for me, His love for me and His total acceptance of me. Toward the end of my stay in Rapha, God re-emphasized my missions call by sending me a man I’ll call Irving (not his real name).
Irving walked into the ward dining area to take the hourly head count. He didn’t wave an Israeli flag or wear a Star of David, but I knew he was a child of Abraham. He spotted me, too. After taking attendance he sat down for a cup of coffee. I wandered over. “You’re new here, or at least I haven’t seen you before,” I began. Irving responded, “I work for an agency and sometimes Rapha needs a substitute.” “Even a Jewish one,” I said with a smile, and we both laughed.
“But what are you doing here?” Irving asked. “You’re Jewish, aren’t you?” “Of course, I’m Jewish,” I said, still smiling, “but I believe in the Jewish Messiah, Jesus.”
“I see,” came Irving’s response. “I’d like to talk about this, but I have to make rounds. Can we talk later?” Still smiling, I invited Irving to my room following his rounds.
I spent most of the time before his arrival in prayer: “Lord, give me insight; don’t let me rush or push him. Don’t let me get angry if he takes a pot shot at me.”
But Irving was genuinely interested. He had a dozen good questions, which showed me that he had done considerable thinking about Jesus’ messiahship.
Questions answered, I could sense that God had given me favor with Irving. With a smile still on my face, I felt the boldness to ask, “Is there any reason now why you shouldn’t ask Jesus to prove His realness by becoming your personal Messiah?”
Heads bowed, two Jewish men asked the Creator of the universe to come into that psychiatric ward to generate a new life in the Spirit. Irving was jubilant. We talked a long time off and on during the night. Then, just as quickly as he had come into my life, he was gone. There was not another substitute aid during the rest of my stay.
I went to Rapha to get inner healing. Never in my wildest thoughts did I imagine that Jehovah-Rapha, God our Healer, would bring healing of the Spirit to a child of Abraham while I was there.