Please rejoice with us over God’s power displayed during the first two BYG campaigns.
It was chilly and not quite light as the city managed to squeeze out the first few commuters from the underground train station at 3rd and Montgomery Streets. They were greeted by campaigners who stood singing Behold, God is My Salvation.” Thus began Operation Behold Your God in San Francisco on Monday, April 23 at 7a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.
After the last note, David Brickner asked God to bless this, the first of over 60 Behold Your God campaigns in the next five years. Then, as planned, David handed Moishe Rosen a bundle of broadsides (tracts). David wanted to honor Moishe with the very first BYG broadside. Moishe is not so big on honors, but was happy enough to hold a bundle of broadsides once again. He gave the first tract to a passer-by. The second went to a man who’d been sitting on some nearby steps listening to the music. Moishe handed out several more pamphlets, but before long he needed to sit down.
He sat on the steps where Roland, the man who’d taken the second broadside, was perched. Roland smiled at Moishe and said he liked the music and the pamphlet. Moishe replied, “What’s really important is, who do you think that Jesus is?” Roland’s answer showed that he seemed to know who Jesus was. And he seemed to know he was a sinner. “I’m really looking for God,” he explained, and reaching into his backpack, he pulled out a Gideon New Testament. It looked like it had never been opened. Moishe showed Roland some Scripture verses and invited him to pray to receive Jesus, which he did. Roland was the “first fruit” of the first Behold Your God campaign. Hallelujah!
San Francisco has far fewer places to hand out tracts than cities like New York or Moscow. In addition, people seem particularly resistant to the gospel, and are quick to believe that Christians are intolerant and unloving. In line with this, we particularly asked for prayer to share the gospel with the gay community.
God was very gracious to us as we found new places to hand out tracts and to get into meaningful conversations. College campuses proved to be especially fruitful (up until the last week, when students were taking final exams). And the campaigners’ attitude toward the gay community was what we had hoped and prayed for: that they would treat each person they met as an individual. Campaigners were able to offer the gospel in humility, as people who were grateful for God’s forgiveness and acceptance and wanted to offer to others the opportunity to repent and be saved. God was gracious, and several who were openly gay did pray to receive God’s salvation and new life in Jesus.
Thanks to the prayers of God’s people, we handed out 422,440 tracts in San Francisco. 217 people prayed to receive salvation in Jesus, 8 of whom were Jewish. 743 people who don’t yet believe gave their names and addresses for us to send them more information about Jesus. 144 of them were Jewish. Here are a few stories of campaign encounters in the San Francisco Bay Area:
Oded returned from the afternoon sortie and clapped his fellow campaigner, Cyril, on the back. “I just got to reap where you sowed,” he announced. Oded was at San Francisco State University where he met Aaron. As they began talking, Aaron told Oded that he was a Karaite Jew. (Karaites are a very small sect that does not believe in the authority of the Talmud, but only in the Torah.) Oded replied, “Oh yes, I have a good friend who is from a Karaite background. He also believes in Jesus.” That friend was Cyril. It turns out that Aaron was a family friend of Cyril’s, and Cyril had witnessed to him five years ago! After a lengthy conversation, Aaron prayed with Oded to receive the Lord. He gave Oded his name and e-mail address but said that he was not ready to receive any phone calls or mail. That might mean that he still lives with his parents and fears their reaction. Please pray for Aaron.
Cyril Gordon ran into Carolina at the Embarcadero. She had received a tract with his particular story on it the night before, and was very moved because she had had an experience similar to Cyril’s. About three years ago she dreamed that Jesus was telling her not to be afraid to ask Him into her heart, but she didn’t know what it meant. When she read Cyril’s story it began to make sense. When she met him the very next day, she knew it was no coincidence, and she prayed with him to receive the Lord. Another campaigner saw Carolina the following day and said she was bubbling with enthusiasm over her new life, and in particular over the Bible.
May 5 was the National Day of Prayer, and while our campaigners went on as usual, our headquarters staff set aside regular work and concentrated on praying for Operation Behold Your God. They even went to some of the sortie sites (tract passing places) to pray as campaigners were ministering to people. Campaigner Rhonda Gordon felt the difference as she prayed with five people that day to receive salvation! One person she prayed with, a student at SF State, began crying when Rhonda began witnessing to her. It turns out that Irene had just had an abortion. The timing for her to receive an offer of God’s forgiveness was indeed a divine appointment.
Steve Kaplan had been praying for several years to be able to contact Erica, a Jewish friend he knew in college. He’d heard she lived for a while in Silver Springs, Maryland, so he asked David Rothstein (who used to live in that area) if he had come across her. Amazingly, David knew the name, not from Silver Springs, but from a pile of “Letter of Witness” contacts he was planning to phone. (These are people whom Christians have referred to us. We send a letter of witness and then follow up with a phone call if they live in an area where we have staff.) Erica lives in the Bay Area and Steve, a “visiting” campaigner, was able to set up a visit with her! She let him know she did not want to hear about Jesus, but it’s hard to believe that God would have set up this “coincidence” if He weren’t doing something in Erica’s heart. Please pray for her.
The second BYG campaign (Minsk) was launched within days of the first. The two ran concurrently for the twoweek duration of the Minsk campaign (the San Francisco campaign ran for four weeks).
In Minsk, we faced the problem of a government that provides neither freedom of speech nor freedom of religion. Thanks to wonderful Christian partners there, our campaigners (wearing Jews for Jesus T-shirts) were still able to pass out 321,589 tracts (enfolded in another publication, which is legal to distribute.) While some Christian groups were initially suspicious and fearful that our campaigners would jeopardize their position, their suspicion turned to joy as they saw people turn to Christ. This was a tremendous answer to prayer. Campaigners prayed with 128 people to receive salvation through Jesus. Thirteen of these people were Jewish. And 2,637 people who don’t yet believe gave their names and addresses for us to send them more information about Jesus. Of those people, 644 were Jewish. Here are a few stories of campaign encounters in Minsk.
Elvira Meyer was handing out literature at a train station when a Jewish man named Yefim approached her with a smile. However, as soon as she began to share the gospel with him he became extremely serious. He admitted that he was sinful and that he felt the burden of his guilt. He really desired reconciliation with God and understood that it was possible only through the sacrifice of Christ and His shed blood. So, he repented right then and there. Elvira says, “I am always thrilled by the mystery of how God can change a person and give him salvation in the twinkle of an eye. Yefim became a different person.” Just one minute after this happened, a policeman came and forced Elvira to leave that particular spot.
This was Natalia Gorbushina’s first campaign, and she often felt inadequate. One day was especially difficult for her; she was experiencing great opposition and depression. She found herself thinking, “Maybe I should forget it all and go home. I just cannot get contacts from people. I’m afraid and shy”. But our God is faithful. He is a God of love and comfort, strength and power. That evening at the hotel, Natalia heard one housekeeper telling another about her problems. Natalia joined the conversation and told Luisa about the One who can comfort her, lift her up and fill her life with meaning. She then took her Bible and showed Luisa the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. They prayed together and Luisa repented and received Jesus. Natalia’s depression was turned to joy as God enabled her to minister to this wounded soul.
The same Natalia looked intently into people’s eyes as she handed out literature in an underground crossing. It was raining outside, and cold and gloomy underground. People ran by, taking broadsides without even looking at them. No one returned Natalia’s gaze. So she cried to the Lord in prayer. Almost immediately, a young man approached her. His name was Philip; he was 20 years old. He said, “I’m Jewish. In a couple of weeks my family and I are moving to Israel, so I won’t be able to get your literature—but I would so much like to learn more about Jesus!” Natalia explained the gospel to Philip, and God touched his heart in a wonderful way. He received Jesus with gladness as his God and Savior. Natalia said, “This was not only God’s gift to Philip, but to me. I am so encouraged that this young man will go to the Promised Land with Jesus in his heart. Now I don’t have to worry for his adjustment to Israel: Jesus will watch over him and his family, He will establish his life, giving him a future and a hope.”
Vlad Rekhovsky had a unique experience during the campaign. He scheduled a visit at 6:30 a.m. with a Jewish man who had expressed an interest in the gospel. The almost 70-year-old man not only showed up on time, but was absolutely open and ready, and willingly gave his heart to the Lord. He left the meeting shining with joy. Praise God!
One of our broadsides was returned to us in the mail. Wrinkled and dirty, it was obvious someone had picked it up from the ground. At the bottom of the broadside was the name and address of Alexey, and a little note from him saying, “I found this piece of paper on the street. I picked it up because it is for me. I have been ashamed of admitting that I am Jewish. And I can’t figure out whether I believe in Jesus or not.” Pray as we follow up with Alexey, that he will find salvation in the Jewish Messiah, and joy in the heritage God has given him.