Imagine that you are going on a trip for a year and a half. All you can take with you is one suitcase and one carry-on bag. You will be living with seven other people—on a bus! Not only that, but the bus has Jews for Jesus” emblazoned in huge letters, so you are actually living in a mobile billboard. People will knock on the door at various times asking, “What is Jews for Jesus?”
If you can imagine all that, you’ve begun to imagine the life of the Liberated Wailing Wall, Jews for Jesus’ mobile evangelistic music team. The newest team will begin their tour later this month as they leave their home base in San Francisco and head toward Southern California. The team will be singing and ministering with drama and testimonies in churches, but they will also be handing out our gospel broadsides across the country, particularly at college campuses and downtown areas. We hope that you will keep the team in prayer, and that’s why we are introducing them to you:
Team leader Joe Franco was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in what he describes as a “very religious Roman Catholic family.” He attended church as far back as he can recall and says, “I had a good understanding of who God was, why Jesus came to die for our sins, and how we need to pray to Him daily. But I never had a relationship with Him; my life was one of religious devotion and respect for God. I had a heartfelt love for the Lord but never knew if He loved me back.” That changed one December when Joe was 15 years old. His brother invited him to a Bible study where he met others his age who talked about a personal relationship with Jesus. This was somewhat new and confusing, but Joe sensed that they had something real and genuine that he wanted. He went home that night and asked Jesus to come into his heart and to be his Savior, as one of the girls had explained he could do.
Joe has a B.A. in interpersonal communications from Hunter College in Manhattan, New York. He worked for four years with our New York branch office as an administrator and coordinator for church relations. He was also a volunteer youth pastor from 1989-1993 and from 2000-2002. Most recently, he and his wife began an evangelistic ministry, Shalom Revolution, singing and preaching in churches to get them excited about sharing the gospel with Jewish people.
Joe sings bass and plays the harmonica as well as percussion instruments.
Michelle Gold, another “Brooklynite,” is married to Joe and is the music director for the team. Michelle grew up in a Jewish home where love of music was at the center of the family and sometimes seemed like the glue holding them together. Michelle had a desire for a career in music from a very early age, but her strong ambition was accompanied by equally strong feelings of emptiness. When she was teenager, she went to make a demo at her cousin Stephen’s studio. He told her about Jesus. She says, “With child-like faith, I accepted what my heart recognized—the truth. I returned to Brooklyn, purchased a Bible and began to follow Jesus. I was so excited about my new faith, I snuck off to church every Sunday on my bicycle!” Michelle’s faith hit a bump in the road when at age 17 she moved into her college dorm. It took losing her voice to bring Michelle back to a point of depending on God for meaning and purpose in her life. She was 19 years old when she began to really live her life for Him.
Michelle studied opera as a vocalist at Laguardia High School of Performing Arts and at the Manhattan School of Music Conservatory. She has been writing songs since she was 11 years old and has recorded a CD. Michelle has been ministering with her husband as a Messianic gospel artist/minister for almost ten years now, sharing her hope in Yeshua in the U.S., Denmark and El Salvador. She sings soprano and mezzo soprano.
Melissa Weinisch is the youngest member of the team at 18 years of age; she graduated from high school last May. Melissa was born in Long Island, New York. She grew up in a Messianic Jewish household and says, “My parents met on a street corner in front of Bloomingdales in Manhattan. My father served with Chosen People Ministries and my mother was with Jews for Jesus. They were both handing out tracts when they came to the same corner. After a friendly conversation and a trading of business cards they went their separate ways. They were married within a couple of years. And I was born.”
A believer in Yeshua since age 5, Melissa experienced renewal when she was 13 at an “Acquire the Fire” youth outreach—just a few months before her bat mitzvah. She was president of the dramatic organization known as the “International Thespian Society Troupe” at her high school and has been very active in her Messianic congregation, Beth Shofar in South Carolina (led by her father, Stewart Weinisch). She has served as a Shabbat schoolteacher, nursery worker and of course she has sung on the worship team. Prior to joining the Liberated Wailing Wall, Melissa worked in various jobs, first making jewelry, then at a bookstore, a candy store and finally at an elementary school summer camp.
Melissa sings both alto and soprano.
Jeremiah Zaretsky was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1981 but was living in Vancouver when he joined the team. Jeremiah’s parents are also Jewish believers in Jesus. He says, “My mom was the first person in her family to receive Jesus as Messiah, so I grew up in a Messianic Jewish home. When I was four years old I started asking my mom questions like, ‘What is Heaven like?’ and ‘How do I get there?’ My mom answered these questions and when I was a bit older she brought me to our pastor, who led me in a prayer to receive Jesus as my Saviour.”
In Jeremiah’s last year of high school he signed up for a Jews for Jesus youth program called “Halutzim,” which is the Hebrew word for “pioneers.” This two week program brings Jewish believing teenagers together in New York City where they tour historical Jewish areas and museums, learn to do street evangelism and have fun getting to know one another. Seven years later he signed on for a term with the Liberated Wailing Wall.
Jeremiah was part of a missions leadership team in school. He is a graduate of Canadian Bible College with a Bachelor of Religious Education degree with specialty in evangelism. He recorded his own CD with eight original songs in 2003. He has worked with youth in community center and club settings as well as on a cruise ship. He also led a worship band on a mini-tour.
Jeremiah plays piano and guitar, sings tenor, and apparently he is the fifth Liberated Wailing Wall pianist in a row to hail from Canada!
Monte Hinojosa was born in Hanford, California and is the third generation of Jewish believers on his mother’s side.
Monte has been a part of our Camp Gilgal program since 1995, first as a camper, then as part of the staff. Though he had been raised in a Messianic Jewish home, Monte actually prayed to receive the Lord during his first summer at camp. He says, “When I was ten years old, my grandparents heard about Camp Gilgal. They had been going to different Jews for Jesus functions and they decided to send my sister and me to the camp. When we arrived I was very nervous, not knowing anyone. After only a few minutes, I felt a lot more comfortable as the staff made me feel very much at home. During the two weeks there I had a lot of time to talk with the staff and they told me how they came to the Lord. They kept explaining how each person needs to have his or her own relationship with Jesus, not just through their parents. That really got me thinking about whether I had a relationship with Yeshua. During the last campfire, when they asked if anyone wanted to receive Yeshua, I felt a hole in my heart that I could not work out. I raised my hand and prayed that Yeshua would come into my heart. It was like the weight of the world was pulled off of me.”
Monte was on the wrestling team throughout four years of high school. He has been a member of the worship team at his congregation, B’nai Yeshua in Fresno. Monte plays bass guitar and sings tenor for the Liberated Wailing Wall.
Stephanie Campo was born in Brooklyn and raised in South Florida. Stephanie’s mother, who is Jewish, came to believe in Jesus when Stephanie was very young. Stephanie received Jesus in a Baptist church when she was six years old. When she was nine, she, her mother and her brother began attending a Messianic congregation in Florida, Temple Aron ha Kodesh, and embraced their Jewish roots as believers in Jesus. However, Stephanie says, “My faith was greatly challenged in college. From 1997-2000 I experienced the loss of four people who were important to me: an aunt, an uncle, my great-grandmother and my best friend. All were Jewish and did not know Jesus. I had a lot of questions for God at the time but it wasn’t until after I graduated from college that the emotional side of my grieving really started. First I got depressed, then I got angry, then apathetic. This led me to deal with life as one without faith, not as a follower of Christ. I continued this destructive path until I got to the point of hating who I’d become. My mom, who obviously saw what I was going through, cajoled me to go to a Christian seminar. God really did a heart change in me through that conference and my hope in life and God’s purposes was renewed.”
Stephanie graduated with a B.S. in psychology from Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. She came to work as an administrative assistant with Jews for Jesus in 2002, and served with Susan Perlman, one of the founding senior missionaries of Jews for Jesus. Prior to that she worked for a couple of years with Jewish Jewels, a Messianic ministry in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she also was acquainted with our branch missionaries and was part of the Jews for Jesus Singers. Stephanie sings mezzo soprano or alto and plays clarinet.
Tamar F. was born in Lewis, Delaware. Her mother (who converted to Judaism before Tamar was born) became a believer in Jesus when Tamar was three years old. She took her to a Messianic concert by “Israel’s Hope.” It was at that young age that Tamar first believed in Jesus. High school years were very difficult and Tamar did not live according to her childhood faith in Jesus. Depression, drugs and parties took their toll on her, physically and emotionally. In the midst of some frightening drug-related hallucinations, she called her mother who immediately began praying with her. Two weeks later, in similar circumstances, Tamar began to pray again. It was another three weeks before she found herself witnessing to a friend about her desire to give her life over to the Lord, and at that time she experienced an undeniable supernatural touch.
Tamar was captain of her high school cheerleading squad and performed in professional summer stock theater. She sings soprano/mezzo soprano and plays the French horn and trumpet. Tamar also loves dance and has taught high school dance classes. She graduated from West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia with a diploma in public relations.
Tamar has volunteered on three of our witnessing campaigns: Melbourne Behold Your God, New York City Summer Witnessing Campaign and most recently, BYG Berlin, where she served as a team leader.
Connie Pardue, our bus driver and sound tech, is the first woman ever to hold this position in the Liberated Wailing Wall. Connie was raised in a Christian home with an understanding of Christian doctrine and values. In the early ’90 she felt something was missing in her life and began attending church regularly and listening to Christian radio programs. She found herself growing spiritually and desiring to use the gifts that God had given her for His service. Connie says, “It’s still a growing process. Each step of my life is part of God’s plan. He led me each step and has helped me to grow along the way.”
Connie was a school bus driver before joining the Liberated Wailing Wall and she also worked at her church in many capacities, including writer, editor, proofreader for their monthly newsletter and news releases, as well as being a member of the outreach committee. Connie also sings contralto with a three-octave range! She has sung various styles from Southern gospel to barbershop and jazz. She has led a Christian singles ministry as well as a Christ-centered weight loss program. Connie has a B.S. in education from the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Connie is glad to be with the Liberated Wailing Wall as she enjoys driving and seeing the country and loves all styles of Christian music.
Please pray for the Liberated Wailing Wall, that:
- those arranging their schedule will find favor with churches and be able to fill the itinerary
- hosting churches will do all they can to make their community aware of and welcome to the presentations, and that many seekers will come and hear the gospel
- the bus will stay in good repair
- team members will stay physically healthy as well as close to the Lord; that they will find strength in Him to prefer one another in love
- each team member will become more who God wants him or her to be as a result of this experience
To see if the Liberated Wailing Wall will be at a church in your area, please:
1. Go to: http://www.jewsforjesus.org/
2. Click on “events”
3. Select “Liberated Wailing Wall” from the pull-down speaker menu