SHAUN BUCHHALTER, leader of the Liberated Wailing Wall says, Growing up in Brooklyn as a Jewish Puerto Rican, you could say I had a slight identity crisis.” In fact, Shaun spent years searching for his identity. As a sophomore in college, he met a Christian who began to explain the importance of faith in God. That semester Shaun had many such interactions with Christians who challenged his understanding of God and religion.
Shaun actually became jealous of the Christians he met and the joy that they had. On New Year’s Eve he found himself kneeling at the corner of his bed and asking God—if He existed—to show Himself. A month later Shaun accepted an invitation to a Christian outreach and heard a message titled, “Whose Kingdom Are You Seeking?” A week later he confessed as many sins as he could remember and asked Jesus to forgive him and come into his life. That was in February of 1998.
Shaun has been part of our staff for eight years. He served with our Chicago branch and helped lead our Behold Your God campaign in Detroit, where he met his wife, Crystal. He also served with our San Francisco branch before coming “home” to New York City, where he led last year’s Summer Witnessing Campaign.
Shaun has a degree in political science from the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. While Shaun would be the first to point out that he is not the most musically trained member of the team, he has been well trained for leadership. He is excited about his role in helping the team grow together in the Lord, while making the most of their opportunities to witness throughout the United States.
CRYSTAL BUCHHALTER was born in Lansing, Michigan, and was raised in a Jewish home by her mother. She was singing before she could talk, so it is no wonder that when Crystal began Hebrew school at nine years of age, she joined the children’s choir. The cantor (the individual who sings all the prayers and liturgy for synagogue services) began to train her personally. As his apprentice, Crystal learned much about music and particularly about Jewish liturgy. At age thirteen she went to Interlochen Arts Camp, and continued to do so for five consecutive summers.
Crystal’s father (who is not Jewish) and brother became born again believers in Jesus around the time of Crystal’s bat mitzvah. Even her Jewish mother began going to church . . . and Crystal learned that her mom had started believing in Jesus years earlier, through the witness of one of Crystal’s babysitters. Crystal had always felt a sense of God’s reality through the Bible stories she’d read, and when her aunt and uncle (on her father’s side) invited her to a Christian concert, she attended and responded to the altar call. A year later she was baptized and became active in her church, while at the same time working in the synagogue as a cantorial soloist. Eventually, the synagogue felt they had to let her go, because some felt that Crystal’s religious convictions disqualified her as a synagogue employee.
Crystal graduated from Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan with a bachelor’s in classical voice performance. She and Shaun met, as mentioned, through a Jews for Jesus evangelistic campaign and were married in June of 2005. In addition to her vocal performance, Crystal serves as the music director for the Liberated Wailing Wall.
JENNIFER DODSWORTH was born in Santa Clara, California, to a Jewish believing mother and a Gentile believing father; she learned about Jesus early on and received the Lord at a young age. She says, “The two sides (Jewish and Gentile) didn’t mingle too often, since my Jewish family lived in New York and we lived on the ‘other side of the world’ in California.”
Eventually, Jen’s parents divorced, and her mother integrated more Jewishness into their Christian household. Jennifer’s faith hit some low points and she wandered far from God, a trend that intensified when she began attending San Francisco State University. However, Jennifer says, “Jesus did not give up on me. “While still a student, she became involved with Christians on campus and rededicated her life to the Lord. Jen worked in our Ministry at Large office for several months before she began training with the LWW.
Jennifer sings with the team and also adds flute, tenor saxophone and clarinet to the team’s sound. Although she loves to play all her musical instruments, Jen has a bachelor’s of music degree in classical flute performance from San Francisco State, and her greatest musical passion and gifting lie with the flute. She has been playing for twelve years and is passionate about using the gifts God has given her to present the gospel of Jesus.
ALYSSA STORM, the team’s pianist says, “All my life, my identity seemed based on two things: I was Jewish and I could sing.” Alyssa was born into a Jewish family in New Jersey. Her parents divorced, and Alyssa’s mother remarried into a very strict Conservative Jewish family. Her stepfather is both a rabbi and a cantor, and comes from a family of very well-respected cantors. Alyssa’s fondest childhood memories are of songs sung in the synagogue with her stepfather.
As a child, Alyssa was not happy in school, but music helped her through. She took piano lessons for eight years before switching to voice lessons. In high school, Alyssa joined the choir and met a new friend named Michael. He seemed different from the other students, and before long Alyssa discovered that her new friend was very serious about his Christian faith and wanted her to know Jesus. Her consistent reply was, “I don’t want your Jesus because I’m a Jew and we don’t talk to Jesus!”
Nevertheless, Alyssa had a most vivid dream in which she did talk to Jesus. She awoke and says, “From that moment on, I believed in Yeshua. I never told a soul what happened, but I bought a Bible and began to read Genesis. However, I was not willing to change my selfish lifestyle.” A growing sense of fatigue began to plague Alyssa and she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. She found singing painful and was unable to play piano, as she lost feeling in her hands and feet. Around Thanksgiving of 2004, Alyssa decided to attend church with her friend Michael and his wife Karen. At the end of the service, the pastor asked if anyone wanted to give their heart to Jesus. Alyssa hobbled down the aisle to the altar and there received Jesus. Months later, Alyssa was healed of fibromyalgia and her music was restored to her.
Alyssa has a master’s degree in music from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; in addition to playing piano she contributes her vocal talents to the team.
NATHANIAL JACOBS was raised in a Christian home by a Jewish father and a Gentile mother. He first asked Jesus into his heart at the age of nine, and though he prayed and read his Bible, it was not until his junior year in high school that he began a solid walk with the Lord. He has been involved with Jews for Jesus in the Midwest, particularly with our “Mishpocago” college group.
Nate will tell you that he is not a musician, though he plays piano (having taken eight years of lessons) and has sung in choirs for some seven years. He also plays bass guitar, and so we are happy to have him contribute his many musical talents to the team.
Nate has an associate’s degree in economics and hopes to return to school one day to study in the field of astronautical engineering. He absolutely loves to take things apart and see how they work. We wonder if Nate might eventually take apart the Liberated Wailing Wall bus and reconstruct it as a spaceship. If so, this will be the first Liberated Wailing Wall team to tour outer space. While it might prove to be an interesting experience, we haven’t heard of any Jewish seekers in outer space and furthermore, we doubt that our department of mobile evangelism would be able to fill an interplanetary itinerary. Therefore, the team will have to be satisfied to remain earthbound.
We are happy to welcome back MARK FISCHER, who served as sound engineer and bus driver for the previous Liberated Wailing Wall team.
Mark grew up in a Christian home, going to church and Sunday school every week and Vacation Bible School each summer. At 18, Mark received Jesus into his heart. At 31, he rededicated his life to the Lord, and began consistently praying and reading the Bible. A former youth leader at Grace Bible Church in Parachute, Colorado, he continues to make sure the Liberated Wailing Wall reaches their destination each day, and he works hard at the soundboard as well.
We hope you will pray for each member of the Liberated Wailing Wall. As you can imagine, it is not easy living on a bus for eighteen months! It requires tremendous grace and personal growth for each person on the team, not only in order to live in such close quarters, but also to maintain their spiritual focus and be able to minister to others each day and night. Finally, pray for a good, full schedule and many opportunities to see people come to faith throughout the tour.
We hope you will come see and hear the Liberated Wailing Wall if they are in your area. In addition to their Jewish gospel songs, they bring drama and testimonies in their church presentations. These concerts are the perfect venue to bring a friend who needs to know Jesus, whether Jewish or Gentile! To find out if the Liberated Wailing Wall will be at a church near you, go to http://www.jewsforjesus.org/events and on the right side of the page, select “Liberated Wailing Wall” and your state from the drop-down menus. Come to one of their presentations . . . you will be blessed!