Kids for the Kingdom
Jews for Jesus views itself as one of the vanguard ministries for the Lord. Though by 1988 we were fifteen years old as a ministry, that was a pioneer time for us. Until then, there had been no seminary-level school that featured a master’s degree in Jewish evangelism. During the summer of 1988, Fuller School of World Mission in Pasadena, California, opened its doors to 15 of our staff for this pilot program.
Four courses (16 units) and many study hours later, we completed the first summer semester of intensified studies. We came away with some degree of weariness but with an even greater sense of satisfaction and increased learning.
Some of our staff were single, but most of us were married. Between us, we had 16 kids from three to nine years of age. What happened to them while we were in class was part of that pilot master’s program. In conjunction with our adult studies, we instituted what was called Messiah’s Moshav for pre-school and school-aged children. They spent nine hours a day in a full program of Bible education, lessons in Hebrew and Jewish culture, sports, swimming, music of worship and crafts.
All of the children were Jewish. Many of them had missionary parents, and all of them had been taught to love the Lord. Preacher’s kids, missionaries’ kids and certainly Jewish believers’ kids have special needs. Combined, these special needs were the basis for our Messiah’s Moshav program.
Perhaps most significant was the fellowship that the children enjoyed with one another. As the children shared their experiences, they found that many of them faced similar problems and difficulties due to their doubly unique positions as “JBMK’s” (Jewish believer missionary’s kids). As they interrelated, they also found similar encouragements.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church that no temptation had overtaken them but such as was common to all. That is, as believers we share common trials. Others have gone through them before us and have suffered so as to be prepared to comfort us in our similar afflictions. That is genuine fellowship, and I was glad for it for my own children.
My children discovered that they were not the only ones whose parents had intensely busy schedules and that they were not the only ones who sometimes had difficulties explaining their family’s religion to their schoolmates. There was a wonderful “cousin” atmosphere at Moshav as children from various parts of the country who had never met each other found camaraderie, community and genuine love and fellowship with one another. That was most significant, beyond all the good education in Jewish life and culture, all the Bible information and all the fun of recreation time.
Messiah’s Moshav has been underwritten by a couple of foundations and several of our ministry friends. Every summer, the Fuller School of World Mission master’s degree program in Jewish Evangelism continues and with it, this unique program for the children. And who knows? Should the Lord tarry, those who are benefitting from it may be the next generation of missionary leaders!
Bob Mendelsohn is the leader of Jews for Jesus' work in Sydney, Australia. He grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Kansas City, but became a college drop-out when he decided to look for the meaning of life in the counterculture of the '60s. He found meaning and relevance in Jesus which caused him much trouble at home. But he says, It was worth the cost." Bob has worked for Jews for Jesus since 1979, and served as the leader of our work in Washington DC and New York City before moving to Sydney in 1998. Bob and his wife Patty both graduated from the University of Kansas and Fuller Seminary. The Mendelsohns live in Sydney near their son. Their two daughters and one grandson live in the US.