I did a missionary visit with Walt Whitman.
That’s right, Whitman the author. He, along with Dante the poet and Melville the storyteller, did more than breathe life into their characters. Like many of their contemporaries, they wove biblical themes into their writings. A basic knowledge of Scripture helps the reader understand their metaphors, at least that’s what Stella discovered.
A bright Jewish college student, this frustrated literature major had to face the fact that she didn’t know the Good Book—especially the New Testament.
She explored the message of Jesus in an attempt to understand great literature. Though she read some of the Bible for herself, Stella mostly relied on Christian classmates to explain the biblical antecedents to the texts they studied. I had no interest in Jesus,” she told me. “If one of my friends had invited me to church, I’d have turned her down.” Growing up in a Jewish home in southern California, she had learned to be “open minded” enough to tolerate the beliefs of others without opening herself up to anything that might challenge her own beliefs.
After graduation, Stella came to the Washington, D.C., area and became friends with one particular Christian couple. “They never tried to push me, but they were always there for me, nudging me along. Then one day they invited me to their church.”
Though she wanted to decline their invitation, Stella found herself agreeing. Her first Sunday in church, Stella was nervous, wondering why she was there, wondering why she hadn’t canceled the previous day as she had planned. To her surprise, the service was interesting, and the people seemed friendly. She attended sporadically for the next few months, slowly gaining insights into themes she understood as a literature major—only now these themes were not confined to a book that could be put on a shelf. Stella knew that she must choose to accept what she was hearing as true, which would radically change her life—or simply walk away.
Though her Christian friends had taught her much, Stella wanted a Jewish perspective on the matter. She explained this to the pastor of the church, who put her in touch with Jews for Jesus. What a joy that first phone call was! I could tell that God had been moving in Stella’s life. Her Christian friends had nurtured her and cared for her in such a way as to truly reflect the love of Yeshua (Jesus).
I met Stella in person a few days after our phone conversation. With an open Bible we went over the basic points of the gospel. I asked point by point if she believed, and Stella affirmed God’s plan of salvation. I read her a prayer of repentance and commitment and asked if she was in agreement. That day, Stella asked Yeshua into her heart.
Stella is still fearful of her parents’ reaction, but she is overjoyed in her new life. Now she doesn’t merely know about the Savior from great books that refer to Him; she knows Him personally. Please pray for her boldness with her family and her growth in the Lord.