Anyone who has been reading The Jews for Jesus Newsletter for any length of time no doubt has read some stories from our staff concerning their families. Most of the articles end with a sense of sadness, for many of our loved ones do not know the Lord. If I were to have written about my family a while back, I too would have had to end on a sad note. But now, as I write, I have a different ending to tell.
I became a believer in Yeshua at the age of 15. As I think back to that cool October night, I can still see those exciting moments in my mind’s eye.
I was at a small gospel chapel for what I thought was a very sad event—the funeral of a friend of mine. Gordon had died on the road after falling asleep behind the wheel on the way to tell his girlfriend that he had re-dedicated his life to Jesus. At the time I was not sure what that meant, but I was soon to find out.
After a very moving and powerful service, I went downstairs to contemplate the direction of my own life after just having lost my friend. As I was sitting in front of Gordon’s casket, alone and sad, a man appeared from a corner room. He sat down beside me and began to tell me about Gordon. But the Gordon he told me about was different from the Gordon I had known. He told me that Gordon had really loved Jesus and had done various things to help his small church. Then he contrasted Gordon’s death with the death of Yeshua. He told me that because of Jesus’ death on the cross, I too could have a new and abundant life. While I did not know what was involved, and while this seemed to go against the grain of all that I had been raised to believe as a Jew, I sensed that I needed Yeshua, so I prayed the little prayer the man suggested. He explained to me that now Jesus had forgiven me of all my sins, and that I would live with him forever.
I must confess that I did not understand all of the jargon, but I sensed I had done something terrific. As you might imagine, word spread rather quickly that this young Jewish kid had accepted Jesus into his life as Lord and Savior. Later that evening virtually everybody in the church came up to me, shook my hand and told me what a great thing I had done. With everyone congratulating me, it was like I was the celebrity at my Bar Mitzvah all over again.
That night I discovered something very important to my young Christian life. As soon as I got home, I learned that my faith in Yeshua was going to cost me something. When I returned from the funeral that night, I told my parents what had happened to me after the service. Needless to say, they did not share the same sense of excitement that everyone at the church had displayed. In fact, after much yelling and arguing, the little pocket New Testament I had been given at the church to help me grow ended up in the garbage. That was to be the first of many such encounters I had with my parents over my new faith.
Immediately after my decision to follow Yeshua, my parents did many things to keep me from being involved. They tried to get me to participate in Jewish youth group activities. They would not allow me to go to church, especially the one where I had become a believer. I used to attend prayer meetings in a neutral setting and not really tell them the truth about where I was going (this is not a practice I would recommend now). I would tell them half truths, like I’m going out with my friends.”
For about two years there were many such episodes. Finally, after a time of being a “yo-yo” Christian, I decided to take my stand again and let my parents know that I believed in Jesus with all of my heart, and that I would try to live for him whatever that meant. They reacted in a hostile way to the news, and I sensed that a great gap existed between me and them. I felt as if I were falling away from them, and only the strong hands of the Lord would uphold me.
Later came the inevitable trip to the rabbi. The rabbi actually defended my being baptized, although he did not agree with my conclusions about Jesus.
The years passed, and my involvement in the Lord’s work was apparent. I enrolled in Northeastern Bible College to prepare to serve the Lord with Jews for Jesus. In my service with the ministry, my parents have seen me travel all over the world with the Liberated Wailing Wall. They have met and known many on our staff and have come to appreciate them. They have seen me marry Angi, a beautiful daughter of Israel, and have seen us begin to raise our three lovely children. In 1983 my parents came and watched as I was ordained at Evangel Baptist Church in New Jersey. But through all of this they never could bring themselves to accept the Lord themselves, until 1984.
My parents had come to Los Angeles to visit us. Unfortunately, our time together was cut short by a sudden stroke that later took the life of Angi’s mother. We had to leave immediately for Chicago.
My parents decided to stay on in Los Angeles to be with the kids. While they were there they spent some time with Avi Snyder, the leader of the Jews for Jesus Los Angeles branch. In the course of their conversation with him, they naturally began to talk about spiritual things. Avi asked them, “Is there any reason you can think of for not accepting Jesus?” They both thought about it and answered “No.” Avi then led them in a prayer of repentance and commitment to Yeshua. That thrilling event happened within 20 minutes of my mother-in-law’s going on to be with the Lord.
Once again God gave me a life for a life. At Gordon’s passing, I had found life in Yeshua. Now at my mother-in-law’s passing, my own parents found new life. Even as I write, they are showing signs of growth. The ironic thing is that I was not there when they decided to believe, and I am not there as they are beginning to grow. Yet God is giving me the joy of seeing something that in truth I never expected would happen.
Yes, mine is a different ending than the norm, but please keep on praying for all the rest of our families who need the touch of God’s love in Yeshua.