JEWS FOR JESUS officially began efforts to evangelize the more than 100,000 Jewish people of Australia in 1998, when Bob Mendelsohn, along with his wife and children, moved to Sydney from our branch in New York City. Each week, Bob and a quickly-gathering crew of volunteers met and prayed and began witnessing on the streets and in one-on-one visits with Jewish seekers.
We conducted two of our Behold Your God campaigns in Australia: in 2003 we campaigned in Sydney and then two years later in Melbourne. Each city has a Jewish community of roughly 40-50,000 people. During the campaigns, Bob was interviewed on both secular and Christian media, which amplified the gospel message.
In 2005, we opened Jews for Jesus Books and Gifts,” a small bookshop in the heart of Sydney’s Jewish community. Each week, Jewish passers by frequent the shop. Some come to argue, others come with questions and some want to make purchases. It’s a great way to meet inquirers and we thank God for this entrTe.
Bob has been building relationships with churches in the area since 1998 and now speaks in 100 churches, fellowships and Bible colleges each year, thanks to the work of Ed Bennett, who helps with our church relations. Our two other missionaries in Oz, Mark and Rahel Landrum, also minister in local churches.
The Landrums met during our 1990 New York City Summer Witnessing Campaign and were married in 1992. They served together in Chicago and London before moving to Australia in 2004.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN SYDNEY began with eleven convicts who arrived on January 26, 1788. Those early settlers eventually built a synagogue in Sydney in the 1830s. After World War II, European Jews scattered worldwide and Sydney became home to many from Hungary, whereas Melbourne received mostly Polish Jews after the Holocaust. Since the 1980s, South African and Russian Jews have found a home in Aussie cities as well.
Nearly five million people live in Sydney, which makes it the largest city in the country, though not the capital. You might compare Sydney to New York City. It’s the hub of Australia’s international travel and tourism as well as a political, entertainment and commercial capital.
The Jewish community in Australia is very concerned about Israel/Zionism and preservation of Jewish life and culture. Even though the Jewish community is minimally Orthodox (less than 10%), most Jewish resistance to the gospel is framed in theological challenges. Our missionaries in Oz spend much of their time answering the objections raised by the rabbis, and spoken by ordinary Jewish people in conversations on university campuses, in the downtown area, and everywhere in between.
OVER THE YEARS WE HAVE USED A VARIETY OF METHODS TO SHARE CHRIST IN AUSTRALIA: mailings in neighborhood coupon mailers, psalm reading tables in evening restaurant areas, man-on-the-street interviews with video cameras, our broadsiding, or tract-passing (of course!), gospel ads in the major newspapers, and billboards.
As mentioned, each week Jewish inquirers come into our storefront bookshop, where we give away Bibles and brochures to those who are sincerely interested. Sometimes an inquirer will join us for our weekly “Thursdays at Six” discussion and Bible class. Some eventually come to faith in Jesus and grow in discipleship.
We regularly conduct Jewish holiday outreaches at Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur and Passover banquets in areas around Sydney. These are well-known as events to which we encourage Christians to bring their Jewish mates.
A LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT OUR AUSTRALIAN BRANCH: we have begun sending out newsletters in Chinese, Spanish and Korean. For more information visit Jews for Jesus Australia’s website at: www.jewsforjesus.org.au.
Alternative Evangelism in a New age world?
Jews for Jesus has an evangelistic booth each year at a major New Age festival called “Mind Body Spirit.” Rahel Landrum has continued to ponder the question: are there creative yet biblical means for Jews for Jesus to convey the Good News in a way that is relevant to this group?
She settled on a creative kind of “biblical numerology” and accordingly our Jews for Jesus booth had a sign offering to “decode the meaning of names” according to “ancient Hebrew codes.”
A traditional Jewish system assigns numeric values for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Rahel wrote people’s names in Hebrew, then used the system to work out a one-digit number to correspond with each name. From there, she utilized biblical knowledge and research to explain the symbolic meaning of that number . . . which became a springboard to the gospel.
This “name decoding” created so much enthusiasm that Rahel could barely keep up with the appointments people scheduled to meet with her at our booth.
Rahel reflected, “Why was this so popular? What’s in a name? It’s human nature; people are desperate to know about themselves. It made me smile yet feel sad at the same time as people sat, spilling their guts to me, a stranger, so eager to hear my ‘reading.’
“People seem instinctively conscious of a fundamental truth: that we are uniquely made. King David said: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:13-14)
“In a world that becomes smaller and smaller, where everybody becomes more and more like everyone else, people try so hard to cling to their individuality. To know that you’re fully known and loved nevertheless by the One who holds the future in His hand and wants the best for you is a wonderful truth to grasp in your inner being. It’s a message we can share confidently with others.”
The following are two examples of Rahel’s encounters:
Mary came with her husband, saw the Hebrew letters and explained that she was Jewish and wanted her name decoded. Rahel could see that Mary had difficulty standing up. Rahel worked out the number for her name, explained its biblical meaning and shared the gospel with Mary. Then she told Mary that the power to heal comes from God in the name of Jesus, and offered to pray for her health. Half an hour later, Mary returned. Her walk was no longer wobbly. She wanted to thank Jesus because she was feeling so much better, and she wanted to tell Rahel the good news.
Ashlee came to the booth with her mother. Rahel first talked to the mom and found out she was a Christian who had become disappointed with the church and was looking for answers in the wrong places. By the end of the conversation, she prayed with Rahel to rededicate her life to Jesus.
Then Rahel talked with Ashlee, ‘decoded’ her name (which was the number eight) and shared the gospel with her, using the biblical symbolism for that number as follows: there were eight people on Noah’s Ark (2 Peter 2:5) and that circumcision occurs on eighth day (Genesis 17:12). Also, the first-born was to be given to the Creator on the eighth day (Exodus 22:29,30). In Hebrew the number eight is sh’moneh, from the root shah’meyn which means “to make fat,” “cover with fat,” “to super-abound.” As a participle it means “one who abounds in strength,” etc. As a noun it is “superabundant fertility,” “oil,” etc. So as a numeral, it is the superabundant number.
Rahel explained that God, Creator of heaven and earth wanted to give Ashlee a new life, make her a new creation in Jesus. Ashlee had heard the gospel before from her mom’s family, but this time it hit home. Ashlee agreed to pray to become a new creation, cleansed of sin and have the abundant life God intends for her by His power. Rahel was able to refer her to a local church and passed her details to that church.
Rahel’s concluding thoughts on this outreach: “It’s amazing what God can use. He’s an ‘out of the box’ God. We’ll be doing this again next year and I need to train others. Please pray for the right people to be involved in this.”
MORE STORIES FROM OUR MISSIONARIES IN AUSTRALIA . . . AND BEYOND
Mark Landrum reports, “I was passing out broadsides (tracts) when I first met Harry, a retired medical doctor. Harry is Jewish and his wife is a Christian. Harry explained that he couldn’t believe in the resurrection because it is not medically plausible, but he was willing to give me his contact information. I sent him literature giving evidence for the resurrection and later was pleased to be able to visit him in his home.
“God has slowly been working in Harry’s life. At one time he didn’t want his wife to go to church. She studied the Bible with others and cried out to God. She has been an amazingly patient and godly wife. God has been her strength and Harry has made progress. He not only doesn’t mind his wife coming to church anymore, but he regularly attends with her! Not only that, but after they visited a church to hear my wife, Rahel, speak, Harry was so impressed that he arranged for Rahel to come and speak at the church he attends.
It took my own father-in-law 40 years to come to faith. His first contact with the gospel was in a labor camp (similar to a concentration camp) during the Holocaust. Through the life of a fellow prisoner he was first impressed by the power of the gospel. Forty years later in Israel, he finally accepted Messiah. He too attended services with his wife for years as an unbeliever. Many thought he would never accept Yeshua as his Messiah.
Please pray for Harry’s salvation, and for our ministry to him.
Bob Mendelsohn reports, “A Christian suggested that I become a Facebook friend to Susan(not her real name), a Jewish woman from Kansas City (my old stomping grounds). Friends can be easy to gain on such a website, but talking deeply about topics that are often considered taboo is not so easy.
“But in this case, I told her, ‘I hear you’ve been discussing religion with others.’ (I knew from her Christian friend that Susan had heard the gospel from many people, and had even attended church a few years ago while searching.) And after she replied in the affirmative, I told her a bit of my own story, and then asked, ‘Would you like to discuss it with me?’ Again she said ‘yes’ and we kept up conversation for a month.
“Then it was time for a vacation . . . my 40th high school reunion in Kansas City. Second Timothy 4:2 tells us to be ready to preach the word ‘in season and out’ and that would seem to include vacation time, so I checked to see if Susan wanted to meet and continue our discussion in person. She did. But every time I tried to organize an appointment with her there was some reason why she couldn’t make it. It seemed like a case of spiritual warfare and so I practically insisted that we meet on Sunday, my last day in town. Susan agreed, and we met after church.
“It was clear that God had opened Susan’s heart to the gospel, yet she had difficulty understanding how a Jew could follow Jesus. I turned to John chapter three, and read the comparison between Jesus and the serpent on the pole from Numbers 21. Susan’s father is a medical doctor and she’d seen that image all her life. It was as if God quickened the image to her, and she understood. The significance of the substitute satisfied her, and she received Yeshua that afternoon.
“God was kind to give us connections with others, even other Jewish believers in the area. He knows how to bless us and to help many find eternal life, when we are on the clock and when we are on vacation. Thanks be to God!”