Stephen Katz, our San Francisco Chief of Station, was pleased when a certain church invited him to address the men’s breakfast. The pastor asked him to speak about Jewish evangelism, and that’s always encouraging to a Jews for Jesus missionary. The men were attentive and responsive. They had some lively conversation, and at one point a man stood up and said, I’m Jewish and I don’t believe in Jesus. But I want you to know that not all Jewish people are negative about Him.” That’s how Stephen first met Leonard!
It took courage for Leonard to attend that church breakfast. His comment, “not all Jewish people are negative about Jesus,” illustrates the sensitivity that many Jewish people feel about Jewish stereotypes. But it took even more courage for him to listen with an open mind to what our missionary had to say.
Leonard knew that Stephen was there to explain how Christians could share their faith with Jewish people, and he didn’t seem to mind being a living demonstration. As the two of them dialogued, the other men listened with keen interest.
More important, Leonard and Stephen spoke privately for a few minutes after the lesson. Leonard had come at the invitation of his Gentile Christian friend, and he agreed to return to the same church to hear Stephen present “Christ in the Passover” (which he was scheduled to do a few weeks later). Even though the men’s breakfast talk was to be instructional rather than evangelistic, Leonard’s Christian friend had done well to invite him. It might have been difficult for Leonard to come hear Stephen at a Sunday worship service if he had not first “broken the ice” at the informal breakfast.
Leonard came to the “Christ in the Passover” presentation as he had promised. He watched and listened as Stephen showed how the elements of Passover demonstrate the continuity of God’s plan of redemption as seen in the Old and New Testament. After the presentation, they again spoke privately. Leonard was cautious, a person who did not want to act quickly on anything. He was friendly though and agreed to meet with Stephen “some time” to discuss Jesus further.
Stephen called Leonard many times, but Leonard was always “too busy” to get together. Finally, he agreed to a meeting at his office. Stephen hoped he would agree to begin a series of personal Bible studies to explore the claims of Jesus. He was disappointed when Leonard explained that he wanted to continue reading on his own. (Stephen says, “So why should I have been disappointed? If God was at work in Leonard’s life, I should be content. Unfortunately, I sometimes forget that He doesn’t need me—He just wants me to be available.”)
After the meeting, the two exchanged periodic phone calls. Stephen would suggest they get together and Leonard would put him off. Sometimes he would say he’d come to our Berkeley Bible study, but he never did. It seemed all Stephen could do for Leonard was pray.
More than a year had passed since that men’s breakfast when Leonard called to say, “You know, Stephen, I’m still reading the Bible and some other books I’ve got—and I just can’t seem to get away from Jesus. I’m starting to see that maybe this is for my life. I don’t know exactly how my family might take it, but that’s what’s going on and I wanted you to know.” Leonard agreed to meet with Stephen, and he kept that appointment.
When they met, Leonard said that he believed that Jesus is the Messiah and that what the Bible said about His death and resurrection was true. He understood his own need for forgiveness of sin. So just outside of a little coffee shop in Oakland, Stephen led Leonard through a prayer of repentance and commitment to Jesus.
Leonard remained as cautious about his involvement as he’d been before that prayer, but in the last few months, he has grown in his commitment to the Lord. He attends church regularly and continues to meet with Stephen for personal Bible study. We thank God for answering prayer, and we are especially thankful for that faithful church and godly pastor who made it possible for us to meet Leonard.