(to see one person receive the Light of the World)]
Tuvya Zaretsky’s article, “Faith is a Gift,” recounts the story of Eugene* and how it took 25 years of ministry for him to receive that priceless gift. Tuvya also explains that he was not the only Jews for Jesus missionary to reach out and be available to Eugene through all those years.
While space is limited in our print newsletter, we wanted to give you a fuller picture of this very encouraging story. So we contacted Stan Meyer (currently serving in our Los Angeles branch) and Alan Bond (currently leading our Chicago branch). Both have ministered to Eugene over the years and have added their perspectives on his salvation story.
Stan, who is great with background details, recalls:
“Eugene came to the United States in 1978, during the height of the Cold War. His father was a Socialist and his mother non-religious, but Romania had a large Hassidic Jewish community and his family had been around religious Jews. Eugene was well-read and knew about Judaism but had chosen to be an agnostic. His father was a critical thinker and taught his family to question and think through important issues.
“Southern California was far more progressive and open-minded than Romania. Eugene enjoyed the freedom to think and converse openly without the fear of Secret Police.
“Eugene ran across Jews for Jesus a number of times in the 1980s. First he received one of our “broadsides” (tracts). He was surprised by how clever and creative they were. He also saw one of our full-page gospel ads in the ‘Los Angeles Times.’ Eugene began meeting with Alan Bond and was surprised to find him an intelligent, thinking person. He’d been raised to believe that Christians were superstitious, provincial, and prejudicial. Alan, Avi Snyder and other Jews for Jesus whom Eugene met treated his challenges and objections seriously and did not give superficial answers.
“Weeks stretched into months and months to years. Alan and Avi moved away to different Jews for Jesus branches and in 1993 I began meeting with Eugene. I tried to show him that the Bible predicted real events that actually came to pass. He was astounded that a book could predict such truth. Yet he told me during one of our visits that he needed to see a personal miracle.
“That afternoon, on his way home, he waited at a bus stop. Not for the first time, he was thinking, ‘If only I could “KNOW.” I need concrete empirical knowledge.’ But then he remembered the words of Albert Einstein: ‘I believe in intuition and inspiration … imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited.’** Turning his head, he gasped. There on the wall by the bus stop were those very words: ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge…’
“‘Who read my mind?’ Eugene thought. Was God trying to get his attention? Was God telling him that his own knowledge was limited? But though he had a feeling this was God’s answer to his request for a personal sign, Eugene could not bring himself to believe until many, many years later, as Tuvya reported.”
Alan Bond, who is of a philosophical/analytical bent, adds,
“It all comes down to God’s timing. I met with Eugene until 1990, when our family moved to Dallas to continue the work of Jews for Jesus there. About seven years later, we moved to Chicago where we (Alan’s wife, Lyn is also on staff) are still serving.
“Even after leaving Los Angeles, I would hear from Eugene about once a month. He always made sure I understood that he wanted to be tolerant. I remember him commenting that he wanted to start “Jews for Fairness.” Then he began frequenting an evangelical church and occasionally he would tell me about a sermon that he’d heard.
“Around 1991 Avi Snyder and Stephen Katz were meeting with Eugene and they seemed to have a breakthrough based on a study of the Hebrew from Isaiah 53. Eugene said he was convinced the Gospel was true … but as time went by there did not seem to be any change or real faith. In our conversations, he still appeared to be ‘on the fence.’
“It seemed like Eugene was always looking at the Gospel from a distance with a clinical eye —almost as though he were examining a contract. He had come to understand the Gospel message pretty well, but he seemed to be perpetually counting the cost of what it would mean for him to believe, really believe, in a life-changing way. And while I was not opposed to speaking with him long distance, it seemed as though he’d call me during the times that he had distanced himself somewhat from our Los Angeles branch. That always bothered me because, clearly, he was keeping his distance in more ways than one. Yet he was still drawn to the Gospel and to those who could talk to him about Jesus. He’d always come back with some question or observation.
“When, some months ago, I heard that Eugene had received the Lord, at first I wasn’t sure what to think. But then Eugene called. He told me what had happened and the whole process by which he finally came to faith. This time, it was clear that something had changed. Eugene was no longer keeping his distance from the Gospel. It had finally become personal.
“God’s timing is often different than what we’d choose. But then He is omniscient and we’re not. Moses thought he was ready to do something about the plight of the Israelites when he was 40 years old, but God knew the timing was just right when Moses was 80.”
Editor: So the title of this article asks how many Jews for Jesus it takes to win one person to Christ. And the answer? None! But while God does not need us (or any other person or agency), in His grace He wants to use us … sometimes one or sometimes many, to lead individuals to faith. So if you are sharing your faith with someone and it seems like nothing is changing, just remember: God will not allow your faithfulness to be wasted. His Word never goes forth without accomplishing His purpose … sometimes when you least expect it!
*not his real name
**Einstein. Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms, (1931), p.97.