Moishe Knew the Value of Children’s Ministry…
Age never seemed to be a factor for Moishe in relating to people; he was never condescending or patronizing with children. One of his goals was that Jews for Jesus have a meaningful ministry to young people,* and he especially wanted us to excel in camp ministry. He would have enjoyed the following reports, and we hope you will enjoy them too, knowing that this part of our ministry was close to Moishe’s heart.
Camp Gilgal East by Elisheva R
Last July we had an exceptional week with our teens at Camp Gilgal East! We hadn’t changed our program or added a new feature. But while we see God work in the lives and hearts of these campers each year, in 2009 the teens’ level of openness and hunger for the things of God seemed unusually high. As the director of Camp Gilgal East since 2006 and a camp staff member since 2000, this has always been my desire and prayer. As much as camp is about fun and building community, more than anything it is about creating an atmosphere where campers learn and grow in their faith as something that is their very own, and not only their parents’.
One evening, the teens were discussing their own failings and frustrations in their relationship with God. They were telling each other and the camp staff how they want to share their faith in Y’shua with their friends at school and with their Jewish relatives. What was unique was the way they rallied around each other to support this desire. This particular group of campers developed a camaraderie I’ve rarely seen. As the week drew to a close, they continued to express a fervor in their desire to grow in their faith. I was encouraged and excited by the prospect of following-up with them through the year.
Fast forward from July to November: Thanksgiving in New York City. I held a four-day outreach for teens. Of the six who participated, four had been part of the summer camp group. Over the four days, they received training on how to talk with someone about their faith, how they can know the Bible is true, how they can respond to attacks on their Jewish identity by people on the streets. Then they put the training into use as they went on four sorties (tract-passing expeditions)—including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! The daily schedule for this outreach included time for personal devotions. The teens were grateful, but they also shared how they usually only maintain their devotional life for about one week after an event like this.
In February, we had our annual Camp Gilgal WWW (Wonderful Winter Weekend). I was encouraged to hear that the instructor for the event challenged the teens to take time for their own personal devotions beyond one week after WWW was over.
Two weeks after WWW, I connected by phone with most of the teens that attended WWW. I asked them if they remembered the challenge about devotions and asked how it was going: were they making time to spend in devotions with the Lord? Many of them had put in effort, and were disappointed in themselves that they hadn’t spent every day with personal devotion time! I encouraged them not to be discouraged but to keep going, to keep pressing forward.
This group of teens has actually challenged me in my own walk with the Lord. Even as someone serving the Lord full-time, I can’t remember the last time I felt disappointed that I missed a day in my own devotions. We all know what the Bible says about being like children to enter the Kingdom of God, but I think in this case, we can also look to the faith of a teen and say, “I want to be more like that!”
I’m excited that God is raising up this band of teens who are becoming more and more committed in their faith and desiring opportunities to serve the Lord. I hope that this core group of campers will continue to sharpen one another and draw their fellow campers in to be part of this group of teens who are hungry for the things of God. I’m reminded of 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” These teens come from different backgrounds and home lives, but they are coming together, and it’s their faith in Y’shua that is becoming the strongest tie!
This year is Camp Gilgal’s 20th season, and I’m excited to see what God is going to do in all the sessions, not only with the teens. Please keep this ministry in prayer!
Elisheva R is one of many Jews for Jesus staff and volunteers involved in this vital aspect of ministry. As you pray for her, please also remember the big picture and the investment we are making world-wide to strengthen the next generation of Jewish believers in Jesus in their ability to walk and talk for Him.
God Works Whether We See it or Not by Rebekah Pill
My name is Rebekah Pill and I’ve served through the Jews for Jesus student program while completing my undergraduate degree from Pace University. One aspect of my regular work as part of the student program in the New York branch has been a weekly “Kid’s Club” with a few elementary-aged children. This Bible study for children coincides with the branch’s Tuesday night adult Bible Study. My goal has been to teach and to challenge these young followers of Y’shua to study the Bible for themselves. At times it’s been hard to tell if these efforts have made any impact, but now and then I’ve gotten glimpses of how the lessons are actually sinking in. One of our studies was on the “I am” statements of Y’shua (Jesus). We read from the Bible, memorized passages, and did different object lessons to help us understand the various statements Y’shua made such as, “I am the light of the world,” “I am the vine, you are the branches,” or “I am the good shepherd.” Some months later the theme for our building’s evangelistic window display was the “I am” statements.
The window had not been up for very long when I heard that a ten-year-old girl in my Kid’s Club had reported to her father that the window was missing something. He asked her what was missing and without skipping a beat she reminded him of John 4:10 where Y’shua calls himself the source of living water. Not only did she suggest that “living water” should have been in the window, but she was able to articulate why it was important to remember what Jesus said about it.
I was excited, but I was also surprised. You see, this particular child had not participated very well in the study the previous fall. I was shocked that not only had she been listening, but months later she had continued to think about what she’d learned.
It was such a blessing to be reminded that even when it seems like the children are not listening or paying attention, God continues to speak to them. Be encouraged to persevere as you share God’s love and his truth with those around you, even if your audience seems initially unresponsive.
Liz Goldstein is a missionary at the New York branch of Jews for Jesus. Liz also coordinates opportunities for Young Adults in North America. Liz received her bachelor’s degree in art history from Hunter College. Liz’s late father was one of the founders of Jews for Jesus in the early 1970s.