From its beginning two decades ago as a San Francisco Bay Area ministry to the Jewish flower children, God quickly enlarged our Jews for Jesus ministry to national scope. Now he has enlarged the stakes of our tent to cover some international outposts, and as he leads we envision an even more extensive international ministry in the future.
Still in the Planning
The newest development in our Jews for Jesus international ministry is that we are considering the establishment of a Euro-team.” The ministry would be different from our U.S. operations and might not even use the title Jews for Jesus, unless we found that to be the best name by which to communicate our message. We would like to begin with a strong work in London, then Paris and Marseilles. It is too early to make definite announcements about this, but we are seeking God’s will in the matter and would appreciate your prayers.
But See What Has Already Happened!
The following pages contain exciting reports about our very recent month-long evangelistic endeavor in Israel as well as inspiring accounts from our newer permanent ministries in Buenos Aires and Johannesburg.
Evangelism in Israel
Our six-person evangelistic team of missionaries from several of our branches recently spent a month doing evangelism in Israel during the Jewish High Holiday season. Along with a Christian friend who lives in Israel, our group ministered in large cities like Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, and at tourist areas like the Sea of Galilee, Masada, Caesarea, Acco and the popular beach resort of Eilat at the southernmost tip of Israel. Everywhere they went they distributed gospel tracts, books and Bibles and spoke to individuals about Yeshua. In general the literature was greatly welcomed and several Jewish people made commitments to Yeshua.
In one report Lori Baron (San Francisco Branch) excitedly described their activities, including an evening rush-hour sortie in Haifa: “It was incredible.…Everywhere we went we would pick up hitchhikers, witness to them and send them off with [Christian] books. Sometimes we passed the same people later and saw them reading the books. At Caesarea we met a busload of Russians. They took every piece of our Russian literature—Bibles, tracts, pamphlets, everything!”
Jeanne Kimmel (San Francisco branch) wrote: “Here in Israel the witnessing opportunities are fantastic! We walk on the beach and have interview after interview. Even the atheists accept a Brit Hadashah (Hebrew New Testament), and we know that God’s Word will not return void.”
At a beach cafe in Eilat, Jeanne glimpsed a copy of The Late, Great Planet Earth on a man’s table. She started a conversation with him by asking what he thought of the book. Ariel said it was not believable. He could not understand much of it because of the many references to Christianity, about which he knew nothing.
“Maybe Christianity is unbelievable to you because you know nothing about it,” Jeanne said. “Would you read the Brit Hadashah if I gave you one?”
Ariel’s eyes widened and he said, “Why not?” He also accepted Jeanne’s invitation to have dinner with the group at a Christian hostel where they were staying.
During her first tract distributing sortie in Eilat, Lisa Opton (Washington D.C. branch) met Andre and his friend as they sat on a park bench. Discovering that they both spoke English, Lisa explained that she was an American Jew who believed in Jesus. Neither of them had heard of such a thing. Lisa showed them Isaiah 53 and Jeremiah 31:31, which refer respectively to Messiah’s suffering and the New Covenant. The next day Lisa met them on the beach again. She talked to them once more about Yeshua, gave them each something to read and invited them to lunch at the meal tent of the Christian hostel where our people were staying. Lisa met the pair a third time while she was distributing tracts. They had not come to lunch, but they came to dinner and listened very openly to a message about new life in Messiah. When they returned the next day, Lisa asked each of them if they wanted to pray to receive Yeshua.
Andre had begun to read the New Testament earlier that day and had already made that commitment in prayer. “Everything looks new,” he said, pointing to his eyes, “and I feel like a different person.” He pointed to his heart. “I believe it’s true. I felt the Spirit of God come!”
Rob Wertheim (Los Angeles branch) met many Jewish people on the beach who were familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures. One couple, Raffi and Yael, seemed quite open to the Scriptures, but they could not understand how a person could be a Jew and a Christian at the same time. Rob explained that Yeshua and his followers were Jewish, and because he was the Jewish Messiah, there was no conflict in Jews believing in him.
They seemed to understand, but suddenly an eavesdropper interrupted the conversation with, “You cannot do this here! No conversions!” He left quickly, and Raffi and Yael talked a while longer with Rob. They did not make a decision that day, but Rob had given them some food for thought.
When David Mishkin (San Francisco branch) offered a tract to one Israeli he responded, “Even here? I saw you [Jews for Jesus] all over New York this summer!” Although he claimed he was not interested, when David gave him a New Testament his eyes lit up!
In another incident while David conversed with a man named Egal, Egal’s friend came along and started to mock. Suddenly he noticed David’s New Testament and asked about it. David handed it to him and continued to talk with Egal about the gospel. By the time David and Egal had finished talking, Egal’s friend had read about five pages of the gospel! When David had to leave, the fellow looked up from the Bible just long enough to wish him well. Then he immediately returned to his reading.
Dan Farris (San Francisco branch) said, “I always wondered why I studied Spanish in junior high and high school until I got to Israel!” On the beach at Eilat Dan heard two people speaking a language that sounded vaguely familiar but definitely un-Hebraic. “Hablas Espanol?” he asked, and the man, whose name was Joaquin, replied in Spanish,”Si, Senor.” He and his girlfriend came from Chile, and both were Jewish. Between Joaquin’s broken English and Dan’s rusty Spanish, Dan was able to explain the Jewishness of believing in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. Dan also spoke to other Spanish-speaking Jewish people from Argentina, Spain and Chile while he was in Israel.
Lori Baron (San Francisco branch) liked proclaiming the gospel in Hebrew, especially at Eilat. One night there on the shore of the Red Sea Lori handed a tract to a Gentile man from Germany whose Hebrew name was Yoav. Yoav’s Jewish wife and daughter were in Germany, but he had not been able to leave Israel to join them because of certain financial legalities.
Broken in spirit, Yoav said he was a believer in Jesus but did not talk to anyone about his faith any more. Lori prayed with Yoav that God would open a way to reunite him with his wife and give him the courage to talk to her about Yeshua. She reminded Yoav that as God had parted the Red Sea for the Israelites, he certainly could part the sea of obstacles in his life.
Yoav came to a brief Bible study on the beach. Afterwards he prayed tearfully, “Lord, forgive me for denying you.” He confessed that he had been actively involved in evangelism, but then had undergone a conversion to Judaism ceremony where he had to deny the Lord before a rabbi.
Penitent, restored and forgiven, Yoav spent the rest of that evening praying for others. For the first time in six years he publicly confessed his faith and told what God had done in his life. The next day Yoav received word that his sister-in-law had found a way for him to get back to his family in Germany! May God use this restored believer to help his family also find true faith.
We praise God for the many evangelistic opportunities our team had in Israel, for changed lives through Yeshua and for the Christian friends who encouraged and helped us while we were there.
Our missionary Guillermo Katz wrote, “Spanish is nice, but I’m glad I speak English! We Argentines do not trust people easily. We are very cautious, because in the past saying the wrong thing at the wrong time in front of the wrong person could mean a lot of trouble. Many people disappeared after expressing their political convictions in front of the wrong people.
“Because of this, when I am handing out tracts on the streets of Buenos Aires many are scared to give me, a complete stranger, their name, address and phone number. Still, God is working in the hearts of some Jewish people. Some are willing to talk to me and even let me into their homes to share God’s Word with them.
“But again, some are still very cautious. Some will not talk to me in the streets, but will call me on the telephone to talk. One afternoon a lady called. I could tell by the tone of her voice that she was very scared.
“‘Bertha’ called because she had found one of our broadsides on the ground. She was very curious because she had always been fascinated with Jesus. She said she was very excited when she found our broadside because she had been the only one in her family who liked Jesus. When I asked Bertha for an opportunity to talk to her in person, she said she would not give me her address and phone number. She would rather talk to me on the telephone.
“As we talked, she mentioned that she had grown up in Bolivia, but then had moved to the United States and had lived there for twenty years. I had noticed that she spoke Spanish with a bit of an accent, but I had not asked from where she came. Intuitively I said in English, ‘Wait a minute. Do you speak English?’ Excitedly she answered, ‘Yes!’From then on our conversation continued in English. I asked where she had lived in the United States, and she said Burlingame, which is a suburb of San Francisco. I happen to know Burlingame very well, not only because I lived in San Francisco for a year and a half, but because I used to go there very often to share the gospel with a Jewish lady.
“When Bertha heard that I knew Burlingame, she got even more excited because I was familiar with things that she knew so well in the States. Alter that she did give me her address. She happened to live only two blocks from my Buenos Aires apartment.
“I went to visit Bertha, and indeed she was very open to hearing about the Messiah because when she had been alone and facing some problems, a Christian friend had taken her to church and had told her that Jesus had died for her sins.
“It seems that God’s hand is certainly on Bertha’s life. Pray for Bertha as she considers the possibility of Jesus as her Messiah. Sure, Spanish is nice, but in this case I am very glad that I also speak English in a Spanish-speaking country!”
Andrew Barron wrote: “On November 9 my wife Laura and I complete our first year of ministry in South Africa. Anniversaries usually activate thoughts about the past and the future, and this is a time of reflection and renewal for us.
“At this writing (one month before the anniversary) thirteen Jewish people and two Gentiles have come to faith, and we have distributed about 133,000 broadsides. Yet even as I think of the successes I catch myself giving in to the human frailty factor of wondering why God allowed some of the difficulties. I want God to conform to my way of thinking. When disappointments and painful everyday experiences come along, sometimes I falter. I look back and wonder, and I look forward and tremble.
“Then I remember that God interacts with us as we serve him, and joy awaits us if we yield to his ways. I remind myself that rather than expecting favors from God I should expect from him the strength and courage to go on, even when the past seems confusing or the future foggy.
“In looking back on this past year of difficult but rewarding ministry, I recall the lesson of Jeremiah 18:6 where God says he is the Potter and his people are the clay. I am sure that if a lump of clay could talk to the one who fashions it, it might complain, ‘Why are you jabbing your thumbs into me? That hurts!! Why did you make the oven so hot? I don’t like it!’ But we know that with the clay and with our life of service to God, it is the end product that counts. Therefore I can only conclude that I must not question God, but allow him to mold me and shape me and use me as he wishes. This takes patience — sometimes more patience than I am willing to have, as can be seen in the following tale from our short Johannesburg history:
“Shortly after our arrival in Johannesburg we found an office in the location we needed for our Jews for Jesus South Africa work. Immediately I hurried off to apply for our telephone service. The new phone line would be the final link for our Jews for Jesus ministry in South Africa.
“Unfortunately, in South Africa we do not always receive service as quickly as we do in the States. Imagine the frustration of this ‘always in a hurry’ American when I was told it would take eight weeks to process my application! How was I ever going to get the work going without a telephone number?
“The next evening after our weekly Bible study a woman introduced herself to me. After some casual conversation, I asked her what she did for a living. She replied that she worked for the post office. When I asked which branch, I learned that it was just across the street from our new Jews for Jesus offices. Here the post office is also the telephone company, and the lady worked in the same office where I had just applied for our telephones!
“That Christian friend I met at our Bible study was literally able to ‘shepherd’ our application from desk to desk, and within two weeks we had our telephones! That might seem slow by our American standards, but it was fast for South Africa and very necessary to our ministry!
“God knew that need, and even in our impatience his hand was upon the entire situation. Shortly after our telephone line was installed, a Jewish man named Bill called our office. Bill had been thinking a long time about the Messiah, and he was ready right then, over our new phone system, to make a commitment to Yeshua!
“This story about the telephone line is only one of many I could tell. It underscores how God always provides what we need most. I will always be grateful for technological tools like telephones that make our ministry easier, but I am most grateful for the power to communicate God’s message, and for the fellow Christians he places in our path to help us with the right things at the right time.
“Yes, though life was not always easy this past year in Johannesburg, we have seen God’s hand at work and it has given us much cause for rejoicing. Now we look forward to the next year with awe and wonder at what we know he can and will do for us and through us.”
Two More Accounts from Johannesburg by Laura Barron…
A Life-Changing Vacation—
“Are there people here who think that Jesus could be the Messiah, have not yet committed their lives to him, but would like to do that?” the speaker asked. The woman felt her hand go up almost involuntarily. She felt her husband looking at her. What had she done? She knew in her heart that the message about Jesus was true, but not much else.
The young Jewish couple had been invited to the church by a family member. They were visiting in the coastal region of South Africa (a popular holiday spot for South Africans in December and January, which is summer in this part of the world). Their relatives were Jewish believers in Jesus, and that holiday with them changed the young woman’s life.
The couple had heard the gospel before, but for various reasons had pushed aside the whole issue. They thought that Jews simply did not believe in Jesus, and that their family members who said they did must be a bit crazy.
Still, that excuse did not sit well in her heart anymore. When her little daughter had approached her at Christmas with stories about Jesus coming so we could pray to God, she had responded angrily, “We are Jewish and we don’t talk about Jesus—only God. Christmas is for them. You mustn’t speak of those stories!” The little girl was bewildered and did not understand, mostly because her mother did not understand.
Yet somehow the young woman had known that the message of Jesus was true. After she publicly affirmed her faith at that meeting, she began to worry about how she could actuate her commitment. She lived in Johannesburg, a five-hour drive from that church and her believing relatives. Since her husband had not committed his life to Christ, she felt she could not look to him for support in her decision. She thought she must be the only Jewish person in Johannesburg who believed that the Messiah had already come! Little did she know what God had in store for her.
Meanwhile, I had called a Jewish woman in Johannesburg whose name I had received as a potential candidate for a visit. The woman said she had a daughter who believed like I did and gave me her phone number. I called the daughter—who was the Jewish believer on the coast whose young sister-in-law had come to Christ two days earlier! Convinced that my phone call was an answer to prayer, she urged me to contact her sister-in-law immediately, and I did.
When I called this new young Christian in Johannesburg we seemed to bond instantly. We began to meet regularly for Bible study and prayer, and her husband began faithfully attending the Jews for Jesus Friday night fellowship meeting with her.
Their little daughter now feels that it is a good thing to talk about Jesus; she knows that even adults can be wrong sometimes! May this new Jewish believer’s husband soon find the love of God that his wife has found.
Out of the Garbage Can—
Maggie is a Christian. She works as a domestic for a South African Jewish family. One day Maggie found a Jews for Jesus Questions & Answers book in her employer’s garbage can. Curious, she retrieved the pamphlet and began to thumb through it. She became interested enough to fill out the perforated card at the back with her first name and South African phone number (no address). Maggie wanted to know more about Jewish people believing in Jesus because she wanted to witness to her Jewish boss. Little did she know that Jews for Jesus planned to open a work in Johannesburg in less than a year.
While we were still in Boston, our headquarters office sent Maggie’s correspondence to my husband Andrew. He faithfully carried her card in his briefcase until we arrived in Johannnesburg six months later.
As soon as I could, I called the phone number Maggie had written us, and a very shocked woman’s voice said, “You’re a Jew for Jesus from America? What do you want Maggie for? Maggie is my maid, and I don’t know how she contacted you people!”
I began to understand what had happened. I assured the woman that Maggie had indeed contacted Jews for Jesus in the States, and I left a message to tell her I had called. Before I hung up, I told the woman I was Jewish arid believed that Jesus is our promised Messiah. I asked her if she was also Jewish, and what she thought about Jesus. She replied that she was Jewish-quite religious for that matter-and not the least bit curious about Jesus. She did, however, promise to give Maggie my message.
Two weeks later a very excited Maggie phoned me. “I knew you would call!” she exclaimed. “I’m a Christian and God has changed my life. I keep praying for my boss, and.…” I could hear the smile in her voice.
“Where did you get the Jews for Jesus book?” I asked. She said her boss had received it from a nurse in the hospital. When she came home, she had thrown away the pamphlet. Maggie had found it in the rubbish and had read it, but had never told her boss.
Shortly after our conversation, I visited Maggie. We fellowshiped over tea and a delicious cake she had baked especially for me. I was about to leave when Maggie’s boss walked in.
After five minutes of small talk, the lady began to fire questions at me: “How can you believe in Jesus and still think you’re Jewish? Weren’t millions of Jewish people killed in the name of Jesus? I’m a good person who follows my religion, so why would I need to believe in Jesus?”
After talking to her for nearly an hour, I realized that she was more curious than she had cared to admit during our telephone encounter. I suggested that she borrow Maggie’s Questions & Answers book because it might answer some of her questions. She agreed and even began to see the humor in the situation. She had just told her friends about my most amazing phone call the other day, and there I was in her house!
Later Maggie called to say that her boss was thinking about our conversation. She had told Maggie that she liked what we had. She had begun to wonder if Jesus could really be for her too, but she was afraid to believe it. Please pray for this Jewish woman and her husband, that God will remove the fear and emotional barriers so they can accept Yeshua, their promised Messiah. After all, she thought she had thrown away that book with its message of Jesus, but God’s Word surely will not return void!
WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HAPPENING? Many Jewish people are finding their Messiah; others are asking questions that God wants to answer; and he is giving Jews for Jesus numerous opportunities to be part of it all!
Would you like to have a part in it with us? Even if you think you are not able to support us financially at this time, there are other things you can do. Read the back page of this Newsletter to find out how you can participate and be blessed!