Avi Snyder is intense, energetic and single-minded about his ministry. His wiry 5′ 3-1/2 body darts about so quickly that sometimes Avi appears as a flash of brown hair, brown eyes and ready smile in a blurred streak of activity. Avi needs every bit of energy God has given him as he supervises our branch work in Los Angeles.
If God had not called Avi to salvation and full-time missionary work, he would probably still be pursuing the successful career he began at 9 years of age—acting. He has appeared in motion pictures, television series and specials and theatrical productions both on and off broadway.
Avi has always given 200% to his work. Before he became a believer, this was a source of much pain and frustration. Avi would pour himself into writing a script, playing a part or directing a production—and then conclude that in a few years his endeavors would mean nothing. He professed to be an atheist, but in his anger he struck out at the God he had claimed did not exist.
“If there is a God,” Avi fumed, “how dare he create me with no purpose for living in a world that has no lasting value?” It was that very anger which proved to Avi that indeed, he did believe in God. How could he be angry with a non-existent being? Once Avi accepted God’s existence, he began to see the reality of God’s presence in the lives of close friends—especially in the life of Ruth Martin, whom he eventually married.
Avi first came in contact with our Jews for Jesus ministry during our 1975 Summer Witnessing Campaign when he received one of our broadsides, “Jews Should Not Believe in Jesus Unless…” Avi held on to that tract for two years—until he came to faith in Yeshua in March of 1977. The next time Avi received one of our tracts was when he and his wife-to-be were contemplating marriage. Avi had recently become a believer and wanted a ceremony that would reflect his Jewish heritage, as well as the faith in Jesus that he and Ruth now shared.
As they were walking in the Westwood area in Southern California, our missionary Peter Rice handed Avi a broadside. The timing was perfect (God’s timing always is!). Peter took Avi’s address and phone number, and soon Avi and Ruth were attending Jews for Jesus Bible studies. Mitch Glaser, the branch leader at that time, performed the Snyders’ wedding ceremony. He also spent many hours in discipleship training with Avi. Little did Mitch know that the time he had invested would come full circle. Avi, now himself our Los Angeles branch leader, pours himself into training new believers in the same way Mitch once trained him.
Because of Avi’s theater expertise, his first assignment with Jews for Jesus was traveling with our mobile evangelistic drama team, The New Jerusalem Players. He and Ruth served in that capacity for about a year and a half. Avi has written much of our dramatic material, and continues to be the overall drama director for Jews for Jesus. In recent years he developed a one-man play about the life of Paul entitled “Watchman for the Morning” which he has presented in hundreds of churches across the country.
Avi has brought much to our ministry—his talent, his energy and his dedication. He has also received much through his work as a missionary. “Because of the nature of this work,” explains Avi, “the only option is to be diligent and to stay very close to the Lord. When working out on the front lines of the mission field, you’ve got to stick close to God. Besides needing his moral support, there is no way I can effectively proclaim the gospel if I’m not living it. The words of our lips must be confirmed by the caliber of our lives. Or to put it more succinctly, you can’t close the deal until you demonstrate the product!”
We asked Avi what he finds most difficult about being a missionary. His answer may surprise you. “I expect opposition from unbelievers, and am prepared to deal with it. But when I meet with a lack of encouragement from Christians who can’t understand why we should be telling Jewish people about Jesus, I get upset. The other thing is, sometimes I have a problem in dealing with my own impatience. It’s hard to be content, waiting for God to bring things to pass in his time,” he laughs. “But then I keep reminding myself that it’s a good thing God doesn’t do things the way I would choose to do them. In his mercy he is much more patient.”
Avi’s favorite foods are Italian and Chinese, but he can’t afford to indulge in them because of a chronic illness called ileitis. While he can’t enjoy much by way of food, there are many things Avi does savor, such as the time he spends relaxing with Ruth and playing with their two children. Leah was born in June of 1980, and Joel in June of 1984. Avi also finds great joy in serving: teaching new missionaries, communicating the gospel to unbelievers, and knowing that whatever he does for the Lord has eternal value.
A verse which has been an encouragement to Avi is Isaiah 40:9:
O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain! O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid: say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
Says Avi, “That verse tells exactly what we should be doing, and there is great joy in obeying!”
We hope you will be praying for Avi Snyder. Pray that God will keep him in good health so that he can continue the strenuous work of supervising our Los Angeles branch. We have quite a large staff in Los Angeles because Avi has proved himself very effective in working with new people and nurturing their missionary skills. Pray also that God would give Avi wisdom in knowing when to work and when to relax. He enjoys his ministry so much that sometimes he forgets when it’s time to stop and catch his breath!