From Darkness To Light
Devora* knew only Jewish life. She came from generations of Jewish rabbinical leaders. Devora’s parents were very committed to the conservative-traditional Jewish practices of their parents, and they raised her in a regimented Jewish experience.
Devora grew up in suburban Washington, D.C., where she attended Jewish day schools. She was very committed to the system. She had a bat mitzvah, a rite-of-passage ceremony that moved her to an even deeper commitment. Throughout her teens, Devora stayed loyal to her Jewishness. After a year of travel and study in Israel, she returned to attend a large university near our D.C. Jews for Jesus office.
Devora’s freshman advisor in college was a Jewish believer who tried to witness to her, but Devora ran immediately to Hillel, the Jewish group on campus. At Hillel, she learned more than a defense against missionary logic—she learned some aggressive tactics. Whenever we handed out gospel tracts on campus, devotees of Hillel would approach and harass us. Devora viewed Jews for Jesus in the context of those experiences.
Years later, just a few weeks before Devora was scheduled to defend her thesis as an applicant for a master’s degree, she had a vision! For all her planning, this 23-year-old was not ready for what happened. Anyone who ever met Devora would know she was a level-headed young woman who was not given to “spooky spirituality.” Visions do not characterize a personality like hers.
Yet God Himself appeared to Devora in a mystical form. Among other things, He told her that He, in fact, had a son. Devora was no illiterate concerning the Bible, but at that time she did not know the reality of Proverbs 30:4 or Psalm 2:7 and 12, let alone the Incarnation.
The vision disturbed Devora. She knew that, as a religious Jew, she was not to believe anything that contradicted Scripture. To her, God’s having a son was an abhorrent, Gentile, anti-Jewish concept. Yet the vision seemed so real. After a few days, another vision came over her. This time, Jesus appeared and spoke to her.
Devora was not looking for Jesus. She was not interested in changing religion. Her entire concept of God had been framed by her Jewish background, and Jesus was a nonperson to her. Committed Christians will understand this Jewish mind-set. Christians don’t often think about Mohammed or Buddha. These are not entities with whom they must deal. They are completely outside of the Christian’s worldview.
In this same way, Devora had dismissed the gentle Nazarene. Yet here He was, demonstrating Himself clearly enough so that she knew who He was, speaking these most startling words to her: “You should call Jews for Jesus.”
Devora’s only contact with us had been many years earlier on her university campus. She had dismissed us then as “cult people” and antagonists to her Jewish religion. Now, in the course of one week, God had communicated to her about His son who had appeared to her and told her that she should contact the “cult group.”
Shortly after that, Devora called our office. The only way she knew how to reach us was through the telephone number on the back of a gospel tract a friend of hers had received. Devora called after hours and left a message on our answering machine.
When I heard Devora’s message upon my arrival at the office, I knew I needed to call her immediately. I was scheduled to leave town in two days for a ten-day preaching tour. But after speaking to her for just a few minutes, I knew we had to meet right away. We scheduled an appointment for that afternoon.
Devora was very open to spiritual matters and wanted to tell me the lengthy story about God’s introduction of Jews for Jesus to her. I recognized in her one who had become a seeker under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. She had a Bible and was willing to read it. I gave her some literature, including our Jews for Jesus Growth Book.
I explained this booklet to her as “fine print” for those seeking to read God’s “contract for new life.” It covers such topics as prayer, Bible study, the need to be baptized and the need to confess Y’shua (Jesus) openly. It also speaks of the opposition that is sure to follow. All these factors must be woven into the fabric of a person’s decision to accept Christ. Seekers need to know what they are getting into and “count the cost.” The Growth Book describes what will happen after they give their lives to Y’shua. That includes the problems as well as the good things they will experience.
After I talked to Devora and gave her the literature, I left for my speaking tour. I gave her my phone number so she could call me long distance when she made her decision. I anticipated that this would happen while I was out of town.
I called Devora twice while I was away. The first time, she told me that she had been reading and was intrigued. We talked more about biblical prophecy and God’s good love toward her and discussed her need to repent and receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior. All the while, she was struggling with her identity as a Jew, an Orthodox one at that. She was deliberately counting the cost.
Then on my final Sunday out of town, I came back to where I was staying to find a message from Devora. I returned her call to find that indeed, she had made the decision to accept Jesus as her Savior. She had gone from darkness to light. The cost was weighty.
Since Devora’s decision to follow Y’shua, she has attended our major events, our small events and our prayer meetings. She has given herself to learn along with us and the rest of the Body of Christ, and she has experienced the joy of fellowship. At this writing, she has yet to tell her family what has happened. We are trusting the Lord to fulfill her hopes that they, too, may encounter the Lord Jesus and find salvation. Much prayer is needed for this situation. Pray that they may be willing to count the cost as well and make an equally wise decision.
*Not her real Hebrew name
Bob Mendelsohn is the leader of Jews for Jesus' work in Sydney, Australia. He grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Kansas City, but became a college drop-out when he decided to look for the meaning of life in the counterculture of the '60s. He found meaning and relevance in Jesus which caused him much trouble at home. But he says, "it was worth the cost." Bob has worked for Jews for Jesus since 1979, and served as the leader of our work in Washington DC and New York City before moving to Sydney in 1998. Bob and his wife Patty both graduated from the University of Kansas and Fuller Seminary. The Mendelsohns live in Sydney near their son. Their two daughters and two grandsons live in the US. Their son has a son and is expecting another in 2019.