Argentina: A Personal Note
In 1977 my wife Zhava and I took our first trip together to Argentina. Born in Argentina, Zhava came to the United States when she was 9. Her family continued to speak Spanish and to identify as Argentines, and for me visits to her mother’s and uncle’s houses felt like being in a little Argentina. It was only natural that Zhava and I would want to do something to reach the half-million Jewish people of that great country for Yeshua. In particular, we had a burden for Zhava’s relatives who had remained in Argentina.
My first trip to Argentina was filled with discoveries. I found out that Jewish people could have names like Jose, Ricardo, Carlos and Adriana. I also realized that the Jews of Argentina identified very strongly with the nation of Israel, and that many had emigrated there.
Zhava and I toured the Orthodox areas of Buenos Aires. We went into Jewish bookstores and restaurants and to the synagogue with Zhava’s family. Our burden for Argentina increased, and we prayed that some day God would do something there. I spoke no Spanish, a big obstacle to our doing any missionary work in Argentina. Not only would I have to learn Spanish, but Castilian Spanish—according to my wife and other Argentines, the only true Spanish.
We visited Argentina again in 1985 and found that the number of Jewish believers had increased. There were a few more active works among Jewish people than we had found in 1977. We sensed that the Lord was working in Argentina among the Jewish people. We were able to witness a little to Zhava’s relatives, and our burden for Argentina intensified.
Within that same year of our second trip I received a letter from Guillermo Katz, an 18-year-old Jewish believer from Santa Fe in northern Argentina. We invited Guillermo to serve on our Summer Witnessing Campaign, but after correspondence with him we learned he wanted more than summer service for the Lord. He wanted to prepare for full-time service among the Jewish people of Argentina. Zhava and I saw this as an answer to prayer, and Moishe Rosen was very encouraging about training him for Jewish evangelism. We invited Guillermo to the United States, where he attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and San Francisco State University. He had a few years of missionary training with us after that.
At first we didn’t know just how Guillermo would work in Argentina or what his relationship to Jews for Jesus would be, because at that time our board of directors had limited our operations to North America. However, just prior to Guillermo’s return to South America, the board resolved that the needs were too great in other parts of the world to continue to restrict Jews for Jesus to North America. They decided to open a branch in Buenos Aires.
Since Zhava and I were most familiar with Argentina, Moishe asked me if I would supervise Guillermo and take an interest in developing a work among the Jews in South America. My assignment included an annual trip to Argentina to encourage Guillermo, familiarize myself with the needs of the Argentine Jews and keep abreast firsthand of what the Lord was doing among them.
Zhava and I made a trip to Argentina last year when the work was in its beginning stages. Guillermo was handing out Spanish broadsides on streets as busy as Broadway and Fifth Avenue in New York. He had started a small Bible study and was making visits. A number of Jewish people had come to the Lord.
On our most recent trip to Buenos Aires we spent time with Guillermo, but gave quite a bit of our attention to a facility that another ministry had given us. It’s hard to describe the joy we felt when we invited Zhava’s unbelieving Jewish cousin to a Purim party at this new building. The place was filled with almost a hundred people, most of whom were Jewish and some of whom were still unbelievers like Zhava’s family.
After the service Zhava’s cousin told her how impressed he was with the people at the meeting, especially with their apparent joy, enthusiasm and peace. Right then and there Zhava was able to witness to her cousin and his Jewish wife. We felt that all we had hoped and dreamed for in 1977 had begun to come true.
The Jews for Jesus ministry has been established in Argentina. God has provided us with good leadership and a beautiful facility. And we even had the opportunity to share the gospel more effectively than ever with Zhava’s family. We praise the Lord for the wonderful way He has provided!