I used to like chasing butterflies. Yellow ones were my favorites because they were small, flew really fast and made a soft whooshing sound as they passed my ear. I remember those days like they were yesterday.
I was four years old and playing with the butterflies in the back yard while my mother was folding laundry from the line. One little white butterfly kept circling me. I would catch it and let it go, and it would come back to be caught and let go again. Finally, it landed at my feet and it occurred to me that I could step on it. So I did.
Immediately, I was overwhelmed with sadness and shame. I had taken the life of an innocent, beautiful butterfly. At that moment I knew what was right and wrong, good and bad. I knew what I was, and I began to cry.
I felt sad and lonely for days. On July 15th, 1974, I went into my mother’s room to sit with her as she brushed her hair. I loved to watch my mother brush her hair. She sensed that I was not feeling myself and asked what was wrong—but I was ashamed to tell her what I had done a few days before. Instead, I asked her where she was going and she replied, We’re going to church.”
I remember feeling puzzled and saying, “We can’t go to church, Mommy—we’re Jewish!”
She smiled, put her arm around me and told me about Jesus. I listened to her words about God’s love and forgiveness and silently prayed, asking Jesus to come into my heart, to live in me and to forgive me for killing His butterfly.
That day I saw both my parents baptized.
For many years, neither my parents nor I had a very strong walk with the Lord. Further, my parents accepted the idea that since they believed in Jesus, they were no longer Jews. We became a completely secular family.
We moved a lot as I was growing up. Our 24th move took us to Minneapolis just before I began 9th grade. I made friends and settled in. My parents decided they would not move again until after all three of us kids finished school. I had been singing for years and, in high school, I jumped in with both feet, joining the Varsity Choir, then the Concert Choir and finally the Chamber Choir, an actual professional singing group made up of high school kids. I was active in clubs, in theater and with writing. As with many teens, my relationships with friends were much stronger than with my family. My friends didn’t think much of Christians, and neither did I.
In the Fall of 1990, my sophomore year of college, I was in a relationship I was not happy with, my grades were poor, and Sam Summers, my ‘arch-rival’ from high school, died of cancer. Sam and I had had moved to Minneapolis at the same time and we had many things in common, including a love for writing. I had decided that I didn’t like Sam. I couldn’t really fault him for anything except that he was “too nice.”
Soon after Sam died, I had dinner with a mutual friend of ours. She told me how she had been with Sam and his family in the hospital room when he passed away—how they were all holding hands and praying with him as the Lord took him home. She told me that he had never finished the book he’d begun to write in 9th grade, and how the day he died he had thrown away all the pages except the last one, which he gave her. It said one thing: “Jesus is the Way.”
That is when I began to think about my own mortality. Two Christian friends who lived across the hall reached out to me. I remembered accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior when I was a little boy. Soon I was going to Bible studies with my Christian friends and, with their encouragement, I made a deeper commitment to the Lord.
As I daydreamed about my future, I thought I would spend my life writing, working for a public relations company, or making television programs. As a Jewish person, even as a believer, I never imagined myself as a missionary. It amazes me how the Lord decides what He wants us to do with our lives and leads us on that path…despite our expectations.
I began exploring my Jewish identity in Jesus and “coincidentally” I saw a local Jewish pastor on television. I forgot about it for a few months until my parents and I began discussing spiritual matters. The very next week I went with them to that Jewish pastor’s congregation—and there I stayed.
During an 18-month internship at that congregation I had my first taste of Jewish evangelism. Both my sister and brother accepted Jesus during this time. I became the song worship leader and my father became an elder in the congregation.
As my walk with the Lord grew stronger, so did my desire to explore my Jewish roots. I spent six months in Israel, which contributed to a growing realization that the most exciting thing I could do is help people to know the Lord. When I returned to the United States, I joined Jews for Jesus’ mobile evangelistic music team, The Liberated Wailing Wall. The evangelism we did through Jewish gospel music as well as handing out tracts and engaging people in conversations “hooked” me.
As I began to look beyond my eighteen-month commitment, I knew I wanted to continue evangelizing. I knew that Jews for Jesus could provide the training and the opportunities for me to reach out to more people than I could possibly imagine. Before the end of our tour, I had applied to become a missionary candidate and was accepted. I’m thankful for the way God has led me and for the many adventures I know are ahead.
Jesus transforms us when we identify with His death and resurrection. He makes us into new creations and sets our spirits free to soar, like caterpillars that go to sleep and wake up with wings to fly. I used to like chasing butterflies. Every time I have a part in someone being born again, it’s like seeing someone grow wings and knowing that I contributed just a little bit to God’s great work of setting people free.
—T. Rose, missionary candidate New York City