Halutzim: A Short-Term Mission Involving Jewish Teenagers for Jesus
Halutzim (pronounced ha-lootz-eem) is Hebrew for pioneer.” It is also the name of a Jews for Jesus program to develop young pioneers who will help us make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide. We bring ten teens to New York City for two weeks of evangelism, seeing Jewish sites and talking about what it means to be Jewish and a Christian. It is quite a trip! We are meeting many young, capable Jewish believers who are eager for opportunities to serve God.
For example, sixteen-year-old Jeremiah came to us from Canada. Both of his parents are Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus) and Jeremiah is pretty strong in his faith. Still, the thought of New York City can be daunting to those who have never been there. When Jeremiah arrived in New York, he seemed convinced that a mugger would be waiting for him the moment we walked out of the hotel! He was also scared about going out on the streets to hand out gospel tracts—but most people are, especially the first time. During our training time, I explained what to expect during street evangelism and then we did some role-playing. Jeremiah wanted to know, “What if someone just comes over to you and smacks you right in the face?” I told him that he had been watching too much television! But it is surprising how many people we meet who seem to think that New Yorkers are continually assaulting or being assaulted.
The first time we went out to do evangelism Jeremiah didn’t have any meaningful interactions. A few hostile passers by yelled at him and one person tried to ask him for directions, but apart from that not much happened. Jeremiah was understandably discouraged. That night we prayed together that God would give him victory over his fears. The very next day, Jeremiah was on a sortie (a tract passing expedition) and a man began asking him sincere questions about spiritual matters. Jeremiah was so excited by the opportunity to share his faith. Later he recounted the story to me. “I thought to myself, ‘This guy is actually interested! Wow!'”
It seemed to be a turning point for Jeremiah. After that, he had opportunities to talk with others about Yeshua and he prayed with a number of people to receive the Lord. It was a great experience for Jeremiah and for me.
Pioneers—that is what we see in these young Jewish people who are for Jesus. Many who participate are like Jeremiah—scared and easily discouraged in the beginning. It’s great to watch these young people encourage each other to do the difficult thing in spite of their fears and in spite of the discouragement. And time after time, God rewards them with a wonderful, life-changing experience. Some of them may find God leading them to become evangelists with Jews for Jesus, others might serve the Lord with a different organization or perhaps go into secular work. But whatever they do, and wherever they go, they will know that they have what it takes to be bold for the Lord.
If you are or know of a young Jewish person who has a pioneer spirit and is looking for a unique opportunity to count for God’s kingdom, please contact me at [email protected]
Josh Sofaer is the leader of the Los Angeles branch of Jews for Jesus. He is one of four boys, but no one else in his immediate family have come to faith yet. Josh previously led the organization’s New York branch and pioneered their children’s program on the East Coast. He received his theological training at Western Seminary. He and his wife, Annette, have two children, Eliana and Taliah.