Waiting to Enter the Promised Land
Sam watched the soldiers come through the village, burning houses and looting. Frightened, he and his sister hid under a bed as their mother had instructed they must whenever the soldiers came. It was a pogrom, she explained.
Mama, why do they hate us?” Sam asked.
“Because they hate God and therefore they hate God’s people, the Jews. But they can’t hurt us, Shmuel,” she said, using his Hebrew name. “God is watching over us.” Sam’s mother prayed every day for protection, and the soldiers never hurt Sam or his family.
Sam’s mother would disappear all day, and come back at night. Where did she go? He always wondered. She said she was selling “insurance,” but some of the townsfolk laughed at that. One day Sam’s mother sat him down. “Sammy, you know I tell people I go around to the other villages to sell insurance, but I am not really selling insurance.”
“Where do you go Mama?” he asked.
“That’s not important, but what I’m doing is. I’m getting rubles and sending them to a very important place—a place where one day you will live—Eretz Yisrael. Remember, Sam. This place is not our home. One day we will have to leave all this behind. And when we go, we can’t look back.”
Sam listened, wide-eyed. He never forgot his mother’s words. Then one day they did have to leave their village in Belorussia. For years Sam’s older brother had been sending them money in Crisco cans from the United States. When the time came they had enough to pay the Bolshevik guards to let them go.
The ocean voyage seemed like years, but it was only a few weeks. Sam, his mother and sister found themselves in Havana, a festive place where guitarists played in every inn and the scent of spices filled the air. Yet a frightening darkness lurked beneath the merrymaking and the music. Why did all those well-dressed white people look so happy while the darker people seemed so sad? Sam’s mother told him that the Cubans were not happy, and that they had to work very hard for very little. But where they were going some day, people would be much happier.
She said, “One day, Sam, Messiah will come. He will bring us to Israel and bring justice to this island, too. Remember, this place is not our home.”
Sam remembered his mother’s promise, that they would leave all this and go to the land God promised. Eventually Sam left Cuba, not for Israel, but to immigrate to the United States. For more than sixty years he lived there and continued to use the Spanish he had learned in Cuba.
One day as Sam was giving the neighbor’s children candy (they all called him “Grandpa,” and he loved to talk to them in Spanish, which was their first language) the phone rang. It was Sam’s daughter, Joyce.
“Dad, I’m coming over,” she said. “I have something very important to tell you.”
“Okay, so come over,” he said.
“Dad, I have great news for you!”
“So, what’s to tell?” Sam asked.
“Dad, the Messiah has come. It’s Yeshua, and I believe in Him.”
“Oy, don’t tell me that garbage!” Sam said. “Why do you want to believe in Christ? Didn’t I tell you as you were growing up how the goyim burned our houses for Christ in the pogroms? And what about the ‘Chermans’?”
“But, Dad, it’s true,” Sam’s daughter said. “He really is the Messiah.” She said she had been searching for a long time. All those years she had never understood how God could love her because she knew that our sins block our path to Him. She had searched in the occult, in Ouija boards, and many other things, but at last she had found the truth in Jesus.
“I don’t want to hear any more about this garbage,” Sam said. “You’re not a Jew anymore!”
Sam didn’t maintain that position for very long. His daughter continued going to synagogue, but she kept witnessing to people there, and all Sam’s friends found out that his daughter believed in Jesus. Sam, however, didn’t want to hear about it.
Some ten years had passed when Rabbi Scheinberg called him. “Sam, I’m distressed,” he began.
“Are you upset again about my daughter who went and converted?” Sam asked.
“No,” the rabbi said. “I’m upset about her son, Stan. Now he believes in Jesus, too!”
“Oy, Rabbi, I tell you, I can’t do anything,” Sam said. “They’ve turned their backs, and there’s nothing I can say or do. She’s telling everyone about Christ.”
Sam hung up, distraught. He hadn’t been able to stop his daughter, and now his grandson believed in Jesus, too. Worse yet, the boy had become a missionary.
Two more years passed, and Stan came home to visit his family and see his grandfather.
“So, Stan, you still run around with those Jews for Jesus?” Sam asked.
“I’m still there, Grandpa,” Stan said. “Let me ask you something. Do you think that Jesus could be the Messiah?”
“Maybe, but I can’t believe in Him. I’m still Jewish, and we Jews aren’t supposed to believe in Him. Anyhow, it’s all the same God. It doesn’t matter if you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish…”
“Let me ask you this,” Stan said. “If you knew that Jesus is the Messiah, then wouldn’t you want to believe in Him?”
“I guess we’ll find out when the Messiah comes,”
“And what if He comes and it’s Jesus, Grandpa?”
“Then I’ll say, ‘I guess you were right, Sonny Boy,'” Sam replied with a twinkle in his eyes. Sam always had his wit.
For years Sam’s daughter and grandson tried to share the gospel with him. After a serious near-heart attack, Sam had to be put under observation in the hospital in San Antonio. The doctor told Joyce that he didn’t know how long Sam really had, but Sam had to slow down.
“From now on you will be known as ‘take-it-easy-Sam.'” the doctor admonished. They all laughed and tried not to look too serious.
One day as Sam lay in bed, his nurse, Estelle, came to his side. “Your daughter says she believes in the Lord. Is that true?” she asked.
“You mean Jesus? Yes, that’s so,” he replied.
“Mr. Skolnick, we all have to die soon, and I might die sooner than you, for all we know. Your daughter knows where she’s going and your grandson knows where he’s going, but do you know where you’re going?” Estelle asked.
Tears welled up in Sam’s eyes. “No, I’m afraid of dying. I don’t want to go,” he said.
“Well Mr. Skolnick,” Estelle said, “I’m here to tell you that your Messiah is Jesus, and if you believe in Him, then one day He’ll take you home with Him, and this isn’t home. Heaven is.”
At those words an ancient memory flashed through Sam’s mind. It seemed like a century ago that his mother had told him, “When Messiah comes He’ll take us home to Israel.”
Estelle explained that the true home will be even better than Israel. It will be with God in heaven. But first we need forgiveness for our sins, and peace with God through the Messiah of Israel. She invited Sam to pray with her. He did, and he gave his life to Jesus as his Savior.
When Joyce came in later, Sam told her with tears in his eyes that now he believed that Jesus, the Messiah, was coming back and would take him to be with God.
Sam is still battling his physical heart condition, and he is in a rest home. Yet Sam’s inner heart has won the battle. Now with confidence Sam awaits the day, which may be closer for him than for some of us, when he will, indeed, arrive at his home of rest.
Editor’s Note: The above is a true story about Stan Meyer’s grandfather. Stan and his wife Holly are currently, serving as missionaries with our Los Angeles branch.
Stan Meyer is a missionary at the Phoenix branch of Jews for Jesus. Stan received his theological training at Fuller Theological Seminary. Stan and his late wife adopted their daughter, Carrie-Fu, from China in 2005. Stan married Jacqui Hops, a Jewish believer in Jesus, in August 2014.