Our Jews for Jesus ministry is always looking for new ways to reach people with the message of the Messiah. While our most widely known method is through literature distribution, we also reach Jewish people through the telephone. We call believers to encourage them, and people who do not yet believe to tell them the good news that Messiah has come.
Sometimes we get their names and phone numbers from their friends or from those who study or work with them. When we receive names that way, we send a letter of story and follow it with a telephone call. We also do cold calling,” which means dialing people we don’t know, with whom we have had no previous contact. We get those names out of the local phone book. In either case, we receive a variety of responses ranging from “?!!*#&@!!” to a more polite “Sorry, I am not interested” to genuine invitations to discuss the Scriptures.
As a missionary with Jews for Jesus it is my responsibility to seek out Jewish people who have never heard the gospel. I am also charged with the responsibility of following up on those who have heard and to invite them to consider that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.
One evening, armed with a telephone book and a list of Jewish surnames, I set out to search for Jewish people who might be interested in hearing why “a nice Jewish girl” like me would even consider the possibility that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. That particular evening I called a lady named Eva.
I discovered that Eva was elderly and confined to a wheelchair in a convalescent home. When I asked her what she thought of Jesus, she explained that she was Jewish and did not believe in him. I told Eva that I, too, was Jewish. I asked her if she had ever considered that Jesus might be the Messiah, and she answered no. Then I asked if she would believe that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah if I could show her some evidence from the Hebrew Scriptures. She replied that she didn’t know. When I asked if I could drop by and speak to her in person, she consented to meet me.
The next day I went to visit Eva. I found her in a state of discouragement. She began to explain all her physical ailments to me and said that God couldn’t love her if he allowed her to have all those illnesses. I explained that everyone’s body will wear out eventually, but part of us, our soul, does not wear out. It lives forever. I asked if she believed that, and she said yes. I told her that she could be with God forever, but that he required her to make a choice. I went on to explain that the right choice meant accepting Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, whom God had promised he would send.
Eva said she hoped she would make the right choice. I asked her if she would accept Jesus as the Messiah if she knew for certain that it was the right choice, and that God wanted her to believe in him. She said she would. I told Eva that on my next visit I would read her some passages from the Hebrew Scriptures concerning the Messiah. She said she would like that.
The next week I returned to the convalescent home to visit Eva. She was in the hall with some other ladies who were also in wheelchairs. Eva was not in a mood to talk to me that day. Before I had gone into the home, I had planned to read Psalm 40 to comfort her, and I decided to carry it through. I explained to Eva that God gave me a “new song” and peace in my heart when I accepted the Messiah. I explained that he would do the same for her, despite her ailments. She repeated that God could not possibly love her because he allowed her to suffer so much. I tried again to assure her of God’s love, but she would not respond.
As I left her, I was feeling discouraged. On my way out, another Jewish lady, Mollie, stopped me. She had overheard my conversation with Eva and liked what I was telling her about God. I asked Mollie if she wanted to know more about the Messiah, and she said she did. I promised Mollie I would return the following week.
The day came, and I found myself in Mollie’s room. She was glad to see me, but we talked for just a few moments. It was near dinner time and she did not want to get involved in a lengthy conversation that would have to be interrupted. She asked if I would come back later that week. I returned a few days later to see Mollie. Armed with the Word of God, I read to her Isaiah 44:21-22: “…thou art my servant, O Israel; thou shalt not be forgotten by me…return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.”
I assured Mollie that God loved her and had not forgotten her. Then I read Isaiah 43:18-19, “Remember not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing;” I explained that the “new thing” was the new covenant, and it was through Jesus, the Messiah. Then I read her Isaiah 53 and asked whom she thought it described. She said, “Jesus.” I asked if she believed that Jesus was the Messiah, and she said yes and related an incident from several years before. She said she was on her deathbed and asked God to help her. She believed he did help her, and she had never forgotten it. She said she felt that God had not forgotten her now, just like he had not forgotten her in the past. That day Mollie asked the Messiah to come into her heart to do that “new thing” he promised he would do.
I had sought out Eva, but it was God’s time for Mollie! As for Eva, I continue to pray for her, that she too will invite Jesus into her heart. I pray that she will get past the obstacles and “forget the former things” and, setting them aside, will ask God to do a new work in her.
The phone rang, and it was Cara, one of the missionaries in our Chicago branch. In calling Jewish surnames from the local phone book, she had happened to speak to an elderly Jewish man, William, who was very upset. People often get upset with us, either because they don’t understand what we are trying to say, or because they feel threatened by their own lack with regard to spiritual matters. William, however, was not upset for either of those reasons. He was deeply depressed and confided that he felt like committing suicide. Before Cara could respond, he hung up. She immediately called me and asked my help.
We in Jews for Jesus are not counselors. We are evangelists and Bible teachers. We don’t have “crisis hot lines.” But like all true believers in Jesus, we do have a hotline to heaven. With a swift prayer, I dialed the number Cara had given me. William answered. I introduced myself and began to explain why I was calling.
Much to my surprise, William seemed to have calmed down. I found myself talking to an educated, articulate man. He began to tell me of some real heartaches he was experiencing. His wife had died within the last six months. He was feeling the loss deeply, especially now that he was all alone in the house they had shared for most of their married life. Besides this tragedy, he had recently undergone quadruple bypass surgery. He was unable to care for himself very well or to get out and see anyone. No one had visited him. As a past faithful member and officer of a local synagogue, he felt terribly let down by the lack of care and concern of those he had called friends.
Perhaps some of you reading this can empathize with William. Perhaps you have experienced similar feelings of grief and loneliness. Was it not your relationship with the Lord that finally made the difference or is now making the difference? Imagine experiencing that grief and pain with no knowledge of a loving heavenly Father. Imagine facing the twilight of life alone and with no hope of an eternity with God. It is small wonder that William was depressed and contemplating suicide.
Certainly it was God’s timing that Cara should contact this man at that point in his life. Surely it was God’s appointment that I should call and tell him of real and lasting hope in Messiah Jesus. I wish I could say that William received the Savior that night. He did not. But he did listen as I shared my story. He interacted and discussed the possibility of a personal relationship with God and expressed an interest in talking more and getting together with me in person.
There are many like William all around us in our communities. They may be nameless and faceless to most of us, but God knows them. He sees their hearts and longs to minister to their needs. How will he do that? Through people like you and me and Cara who are willing to reach out.
Pray for us at Jews for Jesus as we reach out with the message of hope to the “Williams” in our area. Pray also that God will grant us all—including you—the courage to make those phone calls, to visit those homes, and to listen to the voices of those who so desperately need the hope that only God can give.
Editor’s Note: Please pray also for two other telephone contacts reported by Cara. One is Mitzi, a retired older woman who has received some of our literature and has spoken several times to Cara. She fears her husband’s negative reaction, but would like to meet with Cara “when the circumstances are right.” The other is Judy, a younger, single businesswoman with whom Cara spoke for about 15 minutes concerning some of the messianic prophecies. She seemed interested. She does not come from a “religious background.” She believes in God, but is “not sure about the Messiah.” Hopefully, Cara will be getting together with her in person to talk further about the Lord.
Telephone Ministry: In Praise of the Telephone
I have often heard people wonder out loud whether or not the Apostle Paul would have used radio or television to broadcast the gospel, or whether he would have written the book of Romans on a word processor if one were available. Or would he simply have faxed his letters over a communications cable or via satellite? Questions like that are raised when some wonder if technology and our faith can be reconciled because they feel that technology is in some way infected with the sinfulness of those who use it or have created it.
I don’t know if I could categorically say that Paul would or would not have used some of our modern technology, but technology in and of itself is amoral and only loses its innocence in the hands of immoral individuals. However there is one instrument I am absolutely convinced the Apostle Paul would have used, and that is the telephone. In my experience as a missionary I have found the telephone to be an invaluable tool in reaching out, ascertaining genuine interest, bringing people to the Messiah and helping them to grow in their understanding of him.
When I was stationed in Chicago, the winters were so brutal that many times we could not get out to start the car. Besides, chances were that if we could get to the car the engine probably would not have turned over anyway, because the battery would have been deadened by the minus 25 degree outdoor temperature. On cold winter nights like that, the telephone became a valuable instrument of reaching out to the Jewish believers who needed a special personal time of prayer or instruction. It was not nearly so expensive as one might think for a 45-minute local call that involved a Bible study and some light sharing. Granted, nothing is as good as looking into a person’s eyes and understanding the body language, but I remember one such telephone conversation that was used to help a young man, who was sliding toward a cult, turn around and look at the Bible in a new way. That night I really praised God for the telephone.
Another effective use of the telephone was during campaign time in New York City. I received a phone call from a young Jewish man who had received one of our gospel tracts. He didn’t have time to talk to the individual who handed him a tract on the street, but he called the number on the back of the tract, and after a brief time of explanation, he prayed to become a believer in the Messiah. Of course I wanted to meet with him face to face, and we made an appointment the next day for him to come in. He did come in, and we met and started our discipleship program. But that young Jewish man made his commitment to Jesus on the telephone. The moment of his rebirth was accomplished without his being able to see the face of the “midwife” who led him to that rebirth. All he saw was the receiver of the telephone, but his experience was real.
Why sing the praises of something that we in the 20th century see as a necessity of life? Every now and then I think we need to be reminded that this “necessity” can also become an instrument for God’s glory. When was the last time you talked to someone, or prayed with someone over the telephone about the things of God?