Imagine a Jewish Christian staging a dramatized discussion about Jesus with a fellow believer in a public place—just so eavesdroppers would have an opportunity to hear the gospel! That’s Lori Baron, one of the spunky new missionaries working at our Los Angeles branch. When we asked Lori what she would be doing if she had not come on Jews for Jesus’ staff, she replied, I’d probably be back in Austin to ‘radicalize’ the university there.”
Now please don’t misunderstand. Lori is not a rabble-rouser and she is not a protestor. She is radical in a good sense when it comes to being a Christian. Before she joined our Jews for Jesus staff, Lori focused her talents and energies on finding creative ways to tell others at the University of Texas (her alma mater) about Jesus.
Although Lori is adventurous and outgoing, she has another, quieter side. Intellectual, introspective, and even occasionally inhibited, Lori Baron can be as subdued as she is bold. But the personal trait we really value the most is Lori’s determination to serve her Lord.
For Lori, being a missionary has its problems. Yes, she receives encouragement and satisfaction from her ministry. Yet the people she cares for the most—her own family—have only disparaging things to say about her new career. Please do not think harshly of the Barons. They are a loving family, and they do care about Lori. But as unbelievers, they cannot understand her faith or her calling to be a missionary. In the context of their understanding of Judaism, Lori has become a traitor.
Lori was raised in a conservative Jewish home in St. Louis, Missouri. At the age of 12, she became bat mitzvah, literally “a daughter of the law,” in a ceremony akin to the Jewish confirmation ceremony (bar mitzvah) for a 13-year-old boy. Afterwards she continued to show more than the average interest in her religion by teaching Sunday School at her synagogue and giving bat mitzvah lessons to the younger girls. In the midst of all her religious activities and commitments, Lori began to ask spiritual questions. She wondered whether God was real, and if so, what did he expect from her? Was there something that he wanted her to do with her life?
Lori searched for the answers to these questions in many places. She spent two summers in Israel, living with an Orthodox Jewish family. She found her time there meaningful and sought to preserve the experience after she returned home. She did this by attempting to keep the Law and maintaining the Orthodox lifestyle she had learned in Israel. But the more observant Lori became, the more she realized that it would be impossible to keep the whole Law. Even more, she discovered that her observance was not bringing her any closer to God. Her experience had been culturally meaningful—yet not spiritually fulfilling. Disappointed, Lori turned her attention elsewhere.
She explored a number of Eastern philosophies and became a vegetarian for a while. Still, her questions about God remained unanswered. Finally, heeding the advice of a Gentile Christian friend, Lori began to read the New Testament. As she describes it, “From the moment I opened it, I knew it was true, that God was real, and that Jesus was the Messiah!”
To Lori’s family, her faith in Jesus and her determination to tell about him are a complete turnabout. They cannot reconcile the childhood zeal with which she taught bat mitzvah lessons in the synagogue to her enthusiasm for the gospel. They cannot see that the very zeal for God that motivated her then is the same zeal that kept her searching for the truth—until she found it through the Messiah, Jesus. Now Lori’s zeal has turned naturally to serving him. She would appreciate prayer for her family that they, too, might begin to search for God and find the answer in Jesus.
Lori has been with Jews for Jesus since September 1, 1985. She is learning her ministry quickly, but it will be quite some time yet before she is fully trained. We hope that you will be praying for Lori as she zips around Los Angeles in her little Honda Civic, visiting the homes of unbelieving Jewish people and handing out gospel broadsides in crowded downtown areas and on college campuses.
There were many adjustments that Lori had to make as she left her home, her church and her closest friends. It isn’t easy to begin a new job and a new way of life in a new location. Fortunately, Lori hasn’t had to do without her favorite food—Mexican—as Los Angeles boasts “South-of-the-Border” cuisine as good as any to be found in Texas! And, of course, there is always food for her soul as she seeks to do the will of her Heavenly Father and proclaim the message of the Messiah.
It isn’t always easy to be a missionary, and sometimes it seems especially difficult for those of us in the field of Jewish evangelism. But Lori, along with the rest of our Jews for Jesus staff, finds comfort in the fact that God himself is burdened for the salvation of the Jewish people. With him on our side, we can’t lose! As Isaiah 62:1 says, “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth.”