“Chag sameach!” she greeted me as I approached my locker at the gym. I smiled back and wished her the same. (The greeting, pronounced “khog sah-may-ahkh” means happy holiday.) As we chatted, Rachel (not her real name) asked me how I would be celebrating Pesach (Passover) this year. I could have simply replied that my family was visiting for the whole holiday; however, I smiled at her and said, “I use a different liturgy because I believe that Jesus is the Promised One of Israel.”
Rachel was speechless, but a few minutes later she commented, “I would really like to find out more about what you believe. Let’s talk sometime.”
Many women at my health club are Jewish and they have always recognized that I’m Jewish, too. One by one, opportunities have arisen for me to share my faith. Rachel and another woman I’ve spoken with are Orthodox and keep kosher homes. When Rachel agreed to visit with me, she took care to choose a place away from the club where no one would overhear our conversation. She is deeply entwined in her community and did not want any rumors flying.
Even though Rachel was curious, it took more than a year from our initial conversation about Jesus before she was actually ready to sit down and talk about it. By that time, she had thought more about my faith in Jesus and was hungry to know more. Rachel had been watching me as we saw each other every week at the gym and she couldn’t find anything “un-Jewish” about me; after she knew I was a believer, she surreptitiously tested me on my understanding of everything from Yiddish to customary gifts for Jewish occasions. She went out of her way to meet my children when I brought them to the gym.
It was around Purim when she finally said, “You’re a mensch (a genuine person, someone worthy of respect) but you believe in ‘Jesele.’ So, tell me when, how, where and why—I’m listening. I’ll buy you a hamantasch (traditional Purim pastry)— let’s talk.”
We talked for an hour and I told her my story, my husband’s story, testimonies from Survivor Stories, Israeli stories and even Stan Telchin’s story. She was familiar with a few of the Messianic prophecies and said that she could never believe in a virgin birth. I asked her if she believed the Haggadah (Passover liturgy) when she read it and she said, “Absolutely.” Rachel agreed that it wasn’t hard to believe that God parted the Red Sea and could even laugh at herself for believing some miracles and objecting to others. After that, she confessed to me that she had been watching Christian television programs. She could agree with most of what she heard, but translated the word “Jesus” to “God” in her mind as she listened. Rachel wanted to apply Christian teaching and principles to her life without focusing on the Messiah who makes it possible.
I left Rachel with a copy of our Yeshua book (a Messianic prophecy primer) and we agreed to meet again. As soon as she looked at the cover and said, “This has to be an intelligent book; it’s written by a Jew named Moishe Rosen. He’s one of us. But I’m not going to tell my rabbi.” I smiled and said, “Well, let me know what you think. We’ll talk about it next time.”
This is just the beginning of my ministry to Rachel and others at my gym. I am grateful that the Lord has used my faith even when I’m working on physical fitness, and hope you will pray with me that as I seek to shine his light, Rachel and others would be drawn to Yeshua and find their spiritual fitness in Him.
Laura Barron works part time with Jews for Jesus and is a full time mom to Rafi, Ketzia and Simona. Her husband, Andrew, leads our Toronto work.