More than a million—that’s how many tracts our team of 22 campaigners handed out last year during our 1995 Witnessing Campaign in New York City. We also gathered names and addresses of more than 3,800 individuals who wanted to know more about Jesus. Almost 1,200 of those were Jewish. What amazed me the most was that more than 500 individuals prayed to repent and confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
You might wonder how that happens—how people make such life-changing decisions after talking just a few minutes with a stranger. Here’s an example. One evening I was handing out tracts in a subway in the middle of rush hour. Streams of people flowed past. For some reason” (also known as the Holy Spirit) I stopped a woman to ask what she thought about Jesus. There is no way I could have known that woman’s friend had been witnessing to her. She was ready to make her decision right in the middle of that crowded subway. She committed her life to Jesus and thanked me with tears in her eyes.
The beauty of it is that our hard work does not bring people to the Lord. It just puts us in a place where we can see Him pour out His grace.
The 1995 Campaign was a victory for the Lord and a victory for the ministry of Jews for Jesus—but it was also a victory for me on a personal level. It was my second Witnessing Campaign. The first time, I came as a volunteer. My prayer after the 1994 Campaign was that the Lord would give me endurance and true compassion for the lost. During the year I really did not sense an answer to my prayer. Then in 1995, I came on Campaign again—this time, as a brand-new missionary in training with Jews for Jesus.
To my surprise and delight, the intense pressure of the concentrated outreach brought out what God had been doing in me. When the insults and opposition came, I found myself responding differently than I had the previous year. Instead of struggling to contain my temper, I wanted to engage the people in discussion—and often I did. The changes also affected me physically. I was focused on the work at hand rather than on fatigue. I knew God was changing me, equipping me to be a missionary. It was as though He were confirming my decision to join the Jews for Jesus staff.
The last two weeks of Campaign I led our team of Russian speakers. I would approach people with a big smile, say my five-sentence speech in Russian, then hand them a card to fill out their names and addresses if they wanted to know more about Jesus. Many gladly filled out the cards. But success inevitably attracts opposition. One day, a man strode up to me, spat in my face and said that if I ever came there again, he would kill me. It was the second such threat in as many days. The next day I took the team down to that same little street near Brighton Beach. The four of us stayed for four hours. We left with the names and addresses of seventy-one unsaved Jewish people who wanted more information about Jesus. Hallelujah!
The Lord’s pronouncement “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few,” is still true today. When the Campaign was over, the task of follow-up seemed overwhelming. Yet if God had brought us the initial contacts, He would be faithful to enable us to follow up. (Many local churches partner with us to follow up the non-Jewish contacts, but we needed to contact the 1,200 Jewish people who wanted to know why we believe in Jesus.) We dove in, sending each contact some literature and a letter, then phoning each to invite a response. In many cases, we were able to arrange personal visits. Let me tell you about the first three Jewish people who were willing to study the Bible regularly with me.
Abraham is an Ethiopian Jew. Some have speculated that the pocket of Jewish people in Ethiopia descend from the time when the Queen of Sheba came to visit King Solomon (2 Chronicles 9). Abraham was a firm believer in God but had never read the Bible. Amazingly I found a Bible in Amharic, his native language. He received the Word of God gladly, and it wasn’t long before he professed Christ as His Savior. He grew quickly in the Lord and no longer needs our assistance.
Bruce was not so eager, but he saw in us a certain peace that he wanted. He is forty-four years old and does not believe much of anything. Yet he always asks me to pray for him (he suffers severe back pain). We have been meeting every few weeks now for almost a year. I wish I could say he’s come to faith, but he hasn’t…yet.
Frank came to faith five years ago, but backslid almost immediately into a life of drugs. When I met him, he had returned to the Lord but was “hanging by a thread,” as he put it. He had little understanding of the Bible and was really struggling. I was glad for the opportunity to have personal Bible studies with him and to help him become rooted in the faith. I’m pleased to say that Frank is in fellowship with other believers and continues to grow stronger in the Lord.
There are so many more people, so many more stories—it would take volumes to tell them. But as we prepare for another Summer Witnessing Campaign next month, please keep all of the Jews for Jesus staff and volunteers in your prayers!