Gina Ciavolino—not a name you’d think to associate with Jews for Jesus, is it? But yes, Gina is Jewish, and she is now serving as a missionary in our San Francisco branch.
Gina was born in New York City on June 16, 1958, and she was raised in the suburbs of New Jersey. She accepted Jesus as her Messiah when she was only 13 years old, and the following summer her mother also came to the Lord. Since then, her father, younger sister, older brother and grandmother have all become believers!
Gina graduated from Montclair State College in New Jersey with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music therapy. She then moved to Costa Mesa, California, and served a six-month internship in a home for the mentally retarded. Following her internship, Gina took a position as activity director for a nursing home. She has always chosen to involve herself with people, to care for others and to serve. Time after time, Gina has sought out jobs that called for a compassionate heart and a cheerful disposition. Missionary work certainly requires those qualities, so it’s not too surprising that before very long the Lord led Gina in our direction.
In March of 1982 Jews for Jesus held a Messianic Music Workshop” in Los Angeles. Our mobile evangelistic team, the Liberated Wailing Wall, came to sing some of our Jewish gospel music. Gifted Jewish Christians from all over the greater Los Angeles area came to spark one another’s imaginations and to work at developing their talents. Gina Ciavolino was one of those gifted Jewish Christians; but besides her musical ability, Gina showed initiative and spunk. Actually, to quote Mitch Glaser, our minister-at-large, Gina had chutzpah. In the English vernacular the Yiddish word chutzpah means “gutsiness” almost to the point of being pushy. But someone as small and cute as Gina can afford to be a bit more up-front. Indeed, sometimes a woman that size and that attractive needs to develop such qualities in order to be taken more seriously.
During that music workshop in Los Angeles, Gina met our music director Stuart Dauermann who auditioned her and encouraged her to apply for missionary service with Jews for Jesus. Soon afterwards, Gina did apply, and was accepted on staff. The obvious place for her was with the Liberated Wailing Wall, where her tuneful talents could be used daily to tell people about Jesus. A normal term of service with the Liberated Wailing Wall is 18 months, but Gina served for 20 as she stayed with the team for two extra months to take part in the recording of our newest album, Messianic Joy.
When the album was completed, Gina came to work in our San Francisco branch. Gina still sings and plays her guitar whenever she has a chance, and she has written several songs that are a real story and praise to her Messiah. The letters on the license plates of her bright yellow Volkswagen spell out “PRZ HYMN,” and her greatest joy is to praise the Lord with her music. Gina’s nursing home experience has enabled her to be especially skillful in ministering to the elderly. She feels a special burden in this area, and sees opportunities to witness to people in nursing homes as a final mission field, perhaps the last chance some of the patients will have to hear the good news of the Messiah.
Gina’s lively spirit and the music she brings help create opportunities for her to minister to people of all ages. When it comes to passing out our gospel broadsides, Gina’s favorite location is the University of California at Berkeley. Because of the campus, the entire town of Berkeley has always been a hub of activity—a where-it’s-happening kind of place, and there are many Jewish students who, time permitting, are willing to discuss almost any issue.
Gina Ciavolino had been a believer in Jesus for ten years before she came on staff with Jews for Jesus. She says that becoming a missionary helped to end a time of stunted spiritual growth for her. When Gina joined the Liberated Wailing Wall, she immediately saw how much she still had to learn. It was an opportunity to begin filling in some gaps. Gina is doing a fine job in our San Francisco branch. The Lord is blessing her efforts. She finds the work challenging, and leans on Proverbs 3:5-6 for strength: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
(Editor’s Note: Among her many talents, Gina is a gifted writer. Her missionary reports often find their way into this Newsletter, and the following article is one such incident from her work that we know you will enjoy reading.)