Jewish Evangelism Then and Now part 5
Part five in a series, condensed from a paper presented to the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism
Every large mission had a children’s work, and the philosophy that if you provided something good for the children, mothers and eventually fathers also would come to worship services and Bible studies.
In the northeastern cities, before the days of central air conditioning, summer heat weighed heavily and playgrounds or wholesome children’s activities were few and far between. Any family who could, would send the children off to summer camp to escape the crowded apartments. Camping, therefore, became a good way of reaching Jewish children, and hopefully, their parents. Most of the camps were two weeks long, though some lasted more than a month. There was usually one camp for grades 3 or 4 through 7, and a smaller camp for grades 8 through 12. Older teens (11th and 12th graders) who had attended camp for two or more years and were active in the mission were usually allowed to serve as junior counselors for the younger campers.
A typical day at camp consisted of morning teaching, a daily Bible verse to memorize, flannel-graph stories and occasionally a film. The teaching programs usually included an Old Testament session, a Jewish session where the children would learn a bit about Jewish traditions and some of the songs, and a New Testament session. These sessions were usually 45 minutes long. After lunch came recreation time—swimming, hiking, crafts, etc. After the evening meal, campers would hear an inspirational speaker and a story or two by young people who had come to faith the previous summer.
Camp was fun, but so were the ordinary mission meetings. There was singing, Hebrew lessons, refreshments and more Bible memory verses. Generally, the materials used were the same as those used to teach other Jewish and/or Christian children—the best of vacation Bible school and Sunday school materials. Sometimes the young people were taken to a baseball or basketball game.
Those who benefited from such children’s activities and came to faith often developed lasting adult loyalties to the mission that had nurtured them. In the 1960s, Child of the Mission,” was a commonly used term. This referred to individuals who had been taking part in the mission activities since childhood. In that era, most women with school-aged children did not work outside of the home. Many missions conducted daytime women’s Bible classes during hours when the husbands were at work. Inasmuch as I never attended the women’s classes I can’t vouch for their content, but I did note a great deal of spiritual growth among those who did.
I learned about fellowship meetings in 1957 when I moved to Los Angeles. Those who had preceded me had sought to reach middle-class Jews through occasional scheduled meetings in the homes of local Christian physicians. We had six monthly fellowship meetings; five were in the homes of doctors, and one was held in the home of Jewish believers Syd and Rose Becker in the Tujunga Hills area. The Beckers had a modest home, but Rose was a people gatherer, and their fellowship meetings were always packed. More typical were the meetings that we conducted at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth Jacques. Dr. Jacques was an orthopedic surgeon, and the Jacques had a lovely home in the Hollywood Hills. Their combined living and dining room area could seat 80 to 100 people, and it was usually full. Mrs. Jacques made friends with these people and was a frequent phone caller. She would share their concerns, chat a bit and always plead with them to come to the next meeting. As motivation, she would tout a great topic, great speaker or great music or else she would simply say, “We’re going to have such a great time, I’ll be so disappointed if you can’t come.” I was always astounded at the quality of the soloists she provided, including a hopeful operatic tenor. I served as master of ceremonies, and there was usually a distinguished speaker. One speaker, Dr. Byron, was a leading oncologist at City of Hope, a hospital largely supported by the Jewish community. Dr. Byron was a superb speaker and taught prophecy. Other times, Dr. Charles Feinberg, then dean of Talbot Seminary, would speak, or they would have some other distinguished personage. I soon learned, however, that I’d better have a message prepared, because such important speakers could cancel on short notice. After the speaker, there were wonderful refreshments, and whereas the planned segment of the meeting lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, many guests didn’t leave until long after midnight.
more to come…