I am 72 years old and I live in Delaware. I am a retired professor of nursing. I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home. However, at an early age I found myself rebelling against the many rules and regulations of our religion. My mother was often beside herself with my constant questioning and challenging of our faith.
As an adult, I never seemed to fit into a congregation, whether Orthodox or Conservative Judaism. I felt that something was missing, but I could not identify what it was. For many years, I was preoccupied with my career and put behind me all thought of attending any synagogue. Then in the 1970s I met another nurse who asked me to share her home. We became very close friends.
Unfortunately, at age 49, she suffered a stroke.
Betty was Catholic and attended church regularly. While she was recuperating, she asked if I would help her attend mass every week, and I agreed. As I listened to readings from the Old and New Testaments, I found I was becoming interested in what was said about Jesus. I actually liked what I was hearing! That shocked and frightened me. Wait a minute, I thought. If you like Jesus, that means you must be a Christian, not a Jew. No way! You were born a Jew and will die a Jew, so put all of this out of your mind! I did that, but the seed had been planted.
I had heard from childhood that Jesus belonged to the Gentiles, not to us Jews, and that because of Him, throughout the centuries we had suffered untold persecutions and horrors. Therefore, no Jew wanted any part of Him. His name was mentioned only in a derogatory manner. The subject was closed. There could be no discussion about Jesus.
For many years I made no effort to pursue answers to my religious questions. Then tragedy struck. My friend Betty died after a sudden, terrifying illness. I was totally devastated. I felt completely alone and very frightened. I had no family in Delaware and only a few friends. Since Betty had been so ill, and I was so preoccupied with caring for her, I had no time for other friends.
I became depressed and sought counseling for my grief. As I was coming out of my depression and making some positive plans to go on with my life, I was in a serious automobile accident. My car was totaled, and no one could understand how I had survived the crash. I sustained rather serious injuries, but no broken bones. It astonished me that I could survive such an accident when I was so sure at the point of impact that I was about to meet my Maker.
My survival made me think that the Lord must have some purpose for me on earth still to be accomplished. A short time after all this, I saw an article in a small local newspaper concerning a program at a certain church. The people responsible for the program were messianic Jews. I knew nothing about them, but I remembered hearing the term messianic Jews” before. Immediately I knew what it meant, and I became excited to learn more about it. I called the church, and they gave me the telephone number of the Jews for Jesus organization in Washington, D.C.
I called their office and explained my interest in learning more about them. They asked if I would like someone to visit me who could offer such explanations, and I said yes. The next thing I knew, Valerie Hanick from Jews for Jesus called me and asked if she could stop by to see me.
The rest is history! Valerie came. She was so loving, compassionate and kind and simply radiated the love, joy and peace of Yeshua! She listened to my story and shared her story with me, and it touched me deeply. She prayed over me and asked if I would be interested in attending services at a messianic congregation. She then arranged for some young people who were members of that congregation to contact me.
The messianic Jewish service was a very different worship experience from any I had ever known. They firmly believe in lifting a joyous sound to the Lord, so there was much loud music during the service. It was far different from the quiet services I had been accustomed to in the past. Yet the people were so friendly, warm and receptive to everyone that I could not help but feel welcome.
Nevertheless, it was not an easy transition for me. At my age, I had to unlearn so much of what I had been taught through the years. I was not at all certain I wanted to believe in Jesus. I found myself having to find proof in the Old Testament about Him. I started searching, almost wishing that I would not find any reference to Him in the Old Testament. That would mean that what I had always been taught was true, and I would decide not to believe in Him.
I was proven wrong. I opened the Bible to Isaiah 53, and there was all the proof about Yeshua I could possibly need. It was a wonderful feeling to find many more passages in the Old Testament that I knew referred to Jesus. Then, and only then, was I able to feel more relaxed about my search and turn my attention to reading the New Testament. I was shocked to discover all that I had missed by never reading the Bible. Ever since then I have been trying to make up for all those lost years.
One Sunday night I was watching a TV program titled “Messianic Judaism.” Viewers who wanted to accept Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah and their personal Savior were encouraged to repeat a prayer to Yeshua, and I did so. For several nights I repeated that prayer at bedtime. One night, I was talking to God. I explained that I was a new believer and I wasn’t sure I was on the right track. Was I doing what He wanted me to do? I then prayed, “Lord, please give me some sign so that I can be assured you hear me and are with me.” I did not hear anything in response, so I went to sleep.
In the middle of the night, out of the stillness, I heard a decisive, deep male voice call out, “Ann!” I bolted straight up in bed. I could hardly believe it, but I knew the Lord had spoken my name!
Since that experience, my life has changed. I find that the prayers I offer in Yeshua’s name are answered. I no longer feel depressed or alone. Several members of the congregation have offered me much help, support and friendship.
My coming to Yeshua is a process taking place in my heart and life. I have 72 years of unlearning to do. It is by no means an easy task to let go of everything negative I have been taught about Jesus through the years. I never read the Bible before all this. Now I am like a sponge. I want to absorb everything I possibly can. I want to learn everything so I can understand better and hopefully be able to bring others to faith in Yeshua.
Recently I underwent baptism by immersion. I had doubts about this. I thought it was a Gentile ritual, not a Jewish one. However, it was explained to me that believer’s baptism was quite different from infant baptism, which was the only orientation I had up to that point. They showed me that believer’s baptism represented a spiritual cleansing and that the Lord commanded this of every believer.
I went ahead, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I was so touched by the moving testimonies given by the other six believers who went through the ritual with me. Seven is, indeed, a blessed number! My one regret is that I did not find Yeshua until the twilight years of my life. My life would have been so different had I found what was missing—spiritual fulfillment—at a much earlier age.