It was late afternoon. I was sitting in front of the computer at the Shalom Center, our San Francisco missionary branch office. After a day of phone ministry and tract distribution, I was physically and emotionally drained, but I needed to tackle some administrative work. The doorbell rang and Dan Farris, my branch co-worker, went down to answer the door. Great!” I thought, “Dan can deal with whoever is there while I get some of this paperwork done.”
Two nicely-dressed women came up the stairs and entered the room where I was trying to work. I smiled politely, hoping they would ignore me.
“The computer is my friend,” I told myself, and proceeded to type, but I kept getting distracted by the conversation about fifteen feet away.
“We are here from out of town,” the older of the two women said. They looked like they might be mother and daughter. Should I stop and talk to them? No, too much to do. Besides, Dan was there. They sat down at a table. Should I at least see what they wanted? I really shouldn’t if I wanted to finish my project by 7:00 p.m.
“We wanted to know if someone could tell us what your group is all about,” the older woman was saying. I turned around in my chair. “Okay, Lord,” I said, “maybe your agenda for this time is different than mine.”
“Maybe I can help answer some of your questions,” I offered. Dan returned to his paperwork, and the three of us women moved back into the kitchen to talk. I discovered that the two were indeed mother and daughter. They were from New York City, but had been in San Francisco on business. “How did you think of calling us?” I asked.
“I got a letter from Moishe Rosen,” one said, showing me the letter. “I thought that while we were here, if I had time I’d call. We’re leaving tomorrow. I stopped at a phone booth and called. They said Moishe had left for the day, but they told me where your office was. It turned out the phone booth was right across the street from you!”
“Wow!” I marveled, “Did you know we also have an office in New York City?” (They hadn’t, but they did now!)
“What got you interested in thinking about Jesus?” I asked.
“I have this friend who told me about Jesus, and I’ve gone to church with him a few times,” she explained, then asked a rush of questions: “Do you go to church? Did you get baptized? What is Jews for Jesus all about?”
I answered all her questions as best I could. I sensed a real hunger in her to know God and the truth about Jesus.
“What about you?” I turned to the younger woman. “I don’t mean to be leaving you out.”
She smiled a bit uncomfortably. “I guess you’re just here to listen and to be with your mom,” I said. She smiled again and looked a little more comfortable. “That’s fine,” I said. “I wish my own mother and I could have learned about these things together!”
The mother, Caren, asked some questions about how Jews who believe in Jesus worship. I said, “You know, I think you need to see that there are really two issues here. Certainly one is, ‘How does a Jewish believer live out his or her faith?’ But before you can answer that, the first issue must be, ‘Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah, and if so, what should a Jewish person do about it?'”
Caren nodded. I opened a Bible to Isaiah 53 and watched in astonishment as the mother explained the messianic import of the passage to her daughter! Then as I shared a bit of my own odyssey of faith, several times I saw the two women look at each other knowingly. “Some of this sound familiar?” I asked. They laughed. Apparently, many of my thoughts and feelings rang true for Caren. I explained how I had prayed with a friend to receive the Lord and described the peace God had given me. “Caren, I don’t think you have done that yet, have you?” I asked.
“No,” she replied, “and I just hope I don’t have to go my whole life without knowing.”
“Oh, you won’t!” I exclaimed. “It’s so obvious that God is working in your life! Listen, what would stop you from praying with me and making the same kind of commitment that I made five years ago?”
“It’s just so new to me,” she said. “I don’t know. For one thing, I don’t want to give up my Jewishness.” I told her about the option of messianic congregations that combine faith in Yeshua with a Jewish flavor of worship, and other ways that we Jewish believers maintain our Jewish heritage.
“Besides, if Jesus really is the Jewish Messiah, then believing in him doesn’t make you unJewish. It’s the right thing for Jews to do,” I said.*
Caren nodded in understanding. Then she brought up another matter. The other thing is my husband,” she admitted. “He asks why, in light of all the persecution of Jews in the name of Jesus, would I want to get into all of that?”
“Well, you’ve read quite a bit of the Bible, right?” I asked. “Did Jesus ever teach that we should persecute and kill one another? No! People do terrible things ‘in the name’ of good things to justify their own actions. What people have done in the name of Jesus is a separate issue from who he is and what he did. Does that make sense?” Both women nodded.
“Well, before you head back to New York tomorrow, I’d like to offer one last time to pray with you so you can receive Jesus as your Messiah,” I said.
“Lori, I am so glad that we’ve gotten to talk with you,” Caren said. “You’ve given me a lot to think about. I’m not ready now, but I think the next time I meet with someone, I will be ready.”
We prayed together that God would reveal the truth about Jesus, and give them the courage to act on what he showed them. Then, with the address and phone number of our New York branch in hand, they were off to catch a bus.
I was so excited about their openness to the Lord, yet frustrated because I would have liked the opportunity to see Caren come into the Kingdom right then. Still, God had given me the chance to share my faith with people who really wanted to know. He had changed my agenda and had given me renewed energy to minister to those who needed me.
When the two women left, I was still full of excitement. I thought of the time Jesus fed five thousand people on five loaves and two fish. It sounds impossible. That’s what the disciples must have thought. “Send the multitude away,” they recommended, “that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves food” (Matthew 14:15).
But knowing the hidden resources of God, Jesus said, “…They need not depart; give them to eat” (Matthew 14:16).
I know that fatigue, hunger or the desire for personal convenience can get in the way of God’s agenda for me. Yet when I am sensitive to his leading and depend on his strength, he often brings me opportunities to point hungry people to Yeshua, the Bread of Life, whose bounty is limitless.
* This really is the crux of the matter that unbelieving Jewish people do not often hear or consider. For more on this subject, see the Glad You Asked article on page 5 of this Newsletter.