He had been married for over 53 years; they had no children, just each other. She had died a few months before and loneliness was destroying him. For distraction he would turn on the local Christian television station. Over time the gospel message seemed to make sense to him, but he was Jewish and didn’t see how it could be possible for him to believe what they were saying. Then he saw an ad in the local TV Guide—a message from Jews for Jesus. That ad seemed to be the missing piece he needed as Sam sensed that we might provide the connection he was seeking. He responded to the ad, and I arranged to meet with him in person.
As I sat across from Sam and listened to him tell of his loss, my eyes welled with tears. My wife and I are approaching our twentieth wedding anniversary this August and she nearly died of encephalitis four years ago when we were in Israel. I could only imagine the pain of losing a wife of 53 years. But we had come together to speak of other things, things that could change a lifetime of loss. I asked Sam who he thought Jesus was and if he believed that Jesus died to pay the penalty for his sins. The answer was yes, and Sam was ready to begin a new life in Jesus that very day.
Sometimes it takes weeks or even years of patience and ministry before we see a person receive the free gift of salvation. Other times, all God asks is that we be ready to pick the fruit that He has been cultivating throughout a lifetime. When I began meeting with Sam for discipleship Bible lessons, I discovered that he had spent a brief part of his childhood in Detroit. As a boy he and his friends would go to the local Jews for Jesus” chapel and listen to stories about Jesus. Sam explained that although they were not especially interested in Jesus, they were very interested in the refreshments that were served afterward. Little did Sam know that over half a century later the seeds that were sown in his heart would bear fruit, to the glory of God.
The Jews for Jesus ministry did not exist fifty years ago, we never had a work in Detroit and we don’t conduct ministry in quite the way that Sam described. Sam just lumped all the Jewish Christian missionaries under the title “Jews for Jesus.” However, David Brickner’s grandfather (also a Jewish believer in Jesus) did have a work in Detroit fifty years ago called the First Hebrew Christian Church. Isn’t it just like God to enable the grandfather to plant a seed so that his grandson (and his grandson’s colleagues) could live to hear about the fruit thereof?
The gospel ad that helped provide “the missing piece” for Sam is one of dozens we’ve placed over the years. These ads have led to hundreds of personal encounters with Jewish people who want to know more about Jesus. Thanks to each one of you who have responded when we’ve asked for your help to place these ads. We could not do it without you!
Update: Jhan met with Sam to study Scripture a few times—enough to see that he truly had begun a new life in Jesus. Unfortunately, Sam’s health deteriorated to the point that his doctor moved him into a nursing home. The doctor would not release Sam’s whereabouts or phone number, but Jhan gave his phone number to the doctor to pass on to Sam. We’ve not heard from Sam since his move; please pray that if he doesn’t contact us, God will provide someone in the nursing home to help Sam follow Jesus.