They are not Jews for Jesus staff. Some of them are not even Jewish. Yet they hand out Jews for Jesus tracts, conduct Jews for Jesus meetings, work on lists, check out bookstores to see if they carry materials for Jewish evangelism and involve themselves in a variety of activities for the Jews for Jesus ministry. They are a group of special volunteers we call Co-Laborers in Messiah.
These volunteer workers make themselves count in hundreds of big and small ways. Some prefer to work quietly behind the scenes, while others enjoy a bolder and more innovative approach.
This past year, several of our more outgoing Co-Laborers throughout the country participated in a variety of evangelistic parades and festivals:
Bob and Chris Trank and their children, Aaron and Sean, from Sacramento, California, dressed up in Mountain Man outfits and participated in the annual Fourth of July parade in the historic Gold Rush town of Columbia. Their goal was not just to drive 100 miles to march in a parade, but to hand out broadsides. They distributed more than 200 Jews for Jesus broadsides written especially for the Fourth of July.
On another occasion, the Tranks’s wedding anniversary produced a new broadsiding experience. Bob and Chris wanted to spend the day in beautiful Lake Tahoe just to enjoy the scenery, but many people go there specifically to gamble. What better place to hand out tracts than in front of the casinos, and the Tranks did just that!
Bob and Chris have also developed an exciting puppet show involving Bob and a marionette they have named Harold the Hasidic boy. They spend many long hours working with the children at their Sacramento chapter and at the West Coast Ingathering (a Jews for Jesus retreat for believing and inquiring Jewish people).
East Coast activities this past year included Co-Laborers Rick and Beverly Jamison of Oakton, Virginia. They joined the Washington, D.C. branch of Jews for Jesus for a Labor Day parade in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
From Ithaca, New York, Nancy Cochran reported, Our chapter has finally triumphed over City Hall!” Denied the right to broadside at the Ithaca Festival the previous year, Nancy had asked our Jews for Jesus lawyer to write to the mayor of Ithaca. Even after receiving the “official” letter, the mayor held his ground. Undaunted, Nancy contacted the assistant city attorney who, after reading the lawyer’s letter, responded, “This looks fine to me.” He even admitted that it had been a mistake to deny her request the previous year!
Opportunities abound for Co-Laborers. Those who live near a Jews for Jesus branch can volunteer their time at that branch office. However, many Co-Laborers can be found in outlying areas—even overseas.
Co-Laborer tasks are as varied and as different as the people involved. Many Co-Laborers hold monthly fellowship meetings where believers and unbelievers can meet to hear a speaker and chat over light refreshments. Throughout the year, Shabbat and Jewish holiday celebrations are held at various chapter meetings. Conducting Bible studies and discipling new believers are other available avenues of service. Co-Laborers also may follow up on itinerant missionaries’ contacts or do special reports that are sent to them from headquarters. Several of the Co-Laborers evangelize at literature tables at local colleges and universities or attend to literature tables at church meetings when Jews for Jesus speakers come to town. By doing the latter, they free the visiting Jews for Jesus missionaries to spend more time with the congregations.
Each Co-Laborer finds his or her unique form of service. In Golden, Colorado, Co-Laborer Megan Singer witnesses at her beauty shop at the Cherry Oaks Retirement Home. Most of her customers are elderly, unbelieving Jewish women. Megan put several copies of Issues, our evangelistic publication for Jewish people, in the magazine rack at her shop. Two Jewish women read the magazines with great interest. In the past, both had told Megan that they did not believe in God, but after reading Issues, they opened up in conversation.
Marc Shapiro of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, was invited to a series of lectures at the Catholic University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. At the Center for Jewish-Christian Learning, the topic for this year’s series was “Jews and Christians Speak of Jesus.” Debate was hot and heavy, but one positive aspect of the evening was that everyone got to hear about how Jewish it is to believe in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah.
Jeannine Steinhoff of Kansas City, Missouri, conducted her first broadsiding sortie in front of the local post office. One woman who took a broadside on her way in was very excited to learn that Jews for Jesus had arrived in Kansas City. When she came out, she told Jeannine that people standing in line were discussing Jesus and saying things like, “I thought He was just a prophet.” Jeannine managed to hand out about 50 broadsides before the postmaster told her to leave.
Co-Laborers keep in touch with Jews for Jesus on a regular basis. Cecilia Butcher, Co-Laborer Coordinator, serves as a link between them and the ministry. Once a month, Cecilia sends each of us updates on ministry happenings. She also keeps current on what is happening in the life of each Co-Laborer, making sure proper procedures are followed, offering help as needed and supplying love and encouragement to all.
Co-Laborers also keep in touch through a prayer chain headed by Peggy Wyher in Vero Beach, Florida. Peggy and her husband, Paul, take every prayer request to God three times a day. It is encouraging to the Co-Laborers to know that when they are in the midst of a difficult situation, Peggy and Paul are praying and standing for them.
Tom and Kacci Dennet of Wichita, Kansas, summed up one experience as Co-Laborers in Messiah with, “We had such a good time [hosting Jews for Jesus missionary Lisa Opton during her Passover tour and attending some of her meetings] that it couldn’t be called work.”
While serving the Lord is a call to discipline and obedience, most of the Co-Laborers share the Dennets’ feelings. They usually regard their service to Jews for Jesus as a privilege rather than work.
Not everyone can hand out tracts, conduct meetings, serve meals or do some of the more difficult things that need to get done. Yet there is room in the Co-Laborer in Messiah program for various personalities and abilities. Sometimes a Co-Laborer is needed just to stand by with an encouraging smile and a quiet prayer.