A Word of Thanks
By the time this issue of the Newsletter reaches you, 1994 will be nearing its end. It has been an amazing year for our ministry— a time of paradox filled with victories and pain. We have experienced heavy disappointments from within and without. Nevertheless, concurrent with pain and persecution we have enjoyed great victories in evangelism. We could have been crushed by the disappointments, but by God’s grace we were not. We could have been undermined by resting in our victories or even succumbing to the self-infatuation that such triumphs can produce. Again, by God’s grace those things did not happen because we were reminded that the triumphs and trophies were God’s, not ours.
At times during this past year, it seemed that the world, the flesh and the devil had all set out to punish us for preaching the gospel. Modern Maturity magazine implied that we were guilty of cult-like” conduct, and our income dropped at the beginning of the summer when we needed it most. In the space of one month, three of our most promising missionaries quit because they felt the work was too tough. A couple of Jewish believers who had shone as bright stars for the Lord turned their backs on Him. A former staff member we all loved and trusted set out to ruin our reputation. He committed immoral acts, left his wife and still intended to remain in ministry.
Other things happened that are just too discouraging to mention. Yet as I write this letter, I am not disheartened. I am buoyantly thankful, and I am filled with a sense of wonder and joy at all the good things God has done for us and through us.
Anyone who has undergone substantial trials, yet at the same time has been greatly blessed, encouraged and affirmed will understand what I am feeling. I know that God is with us, not only because of the encouraging victories, but because of the manifold ways He has shown me that many of His people are with us.
As we approach the Thanksgiving season, I am very thankful to God and very appreciative of you—our friends and supporters. He has used so many of you to make this unlikely ministry possible. Jews for Jesus was, at its inception, and continues to be an unlikely phenomenon on many points. I say unlikely for many reasons.
It is difficult for us Jews to consider Christ because as children we are indoctrinated to believe that it is impossible for an honest Jew to become a follower of Jesus. The Jewish community bands together and tries to make it impossible but only succeeds in making it difficult. God enables some of us to overcome the psychological and sociological fences. He gives us the strength to leap over the walls of traditional conditioning. Some of us become willing to set aside the closest human bonds of family and to endure rejection of the Jewish community to follow God.
We Jews for Jesus are living proof that Jews can and do come to Christ.Yet even though through the years we and other Jews did come to Christ and did want to serve God, large-scale Jewish evangelism seemed all but an impossible endeavor. We had a vision for it, but we knew we could not do it alone. We wanted to see it happen, but we didn’t know how much we could count on God’s people to help.
We thought it improbable that there would ever be so many fellow Christians like you who could understand that with hard work, faithfulness and prayer, Jews might listen and hear and believe. We hopefully presented you with this possibility. Many of you believed with us and helped us, and Jews have come to faith in substantial numbers.
In 1993, there were 1,000, and, as I write this a few weeks before publication, it looks as though the 1994 statistics will leap ahead of that figure. I just heard from Odessa that at the Jewish High Holiday service alone, 41 Jewish people made commitments to Yeshua as Messiah, Lord and Savior!
I am thankful to be able to give you such a good report. I am thankful to God for you because you not only have supported us, but have also loved us. We sense that love. We know that your affection is given not necessarily because we are so lovable, but because you love the Lord. Time and again I have pointed out to our staff that anyone who sends a donation to Jews for Jesus does so because he or she is motivated by love, faith and hope. That reason is good enough for us, and it motivates us to want to behave lovingly and honestly toward you in return.
We think our donors are very special people who are moved by God to be our friends and encouragers. A person could be very godly and never care enough for our particular ministry to read one line we’ve written or send in one donation. I think that you who are our ministry friends are sent by God. I think that every missionary donation we ever received from you was over and above your regular giving. Many of you have even included us in your personal missionary budgets when you had friends, relatives and fellow church members in Christian service who would have welcomed that support just as much as we do.
Mission projects are more fragile than church building projects or other church programs. Often just one subtle word creates enough pressure to generate a chill that will freeze us out. That word is “controversial.” Many allow themselves to be frightened off by it. But knowing that some label us “controversial” has not put you off. It has not dissuaded you from being our friends and supporters. Maybe that is because you share our realization that Jesus Himself was controversial.
Those who are willing to become involved in our ministry often suffer for their choice. Frequently, when a church invites us to give a program, the local rabbi calls the pastor and creates public relations problems by accusing him of anti-Semitism or of deliberately offending the Jewish community. The official propaganda line is that our mere presence in a church constitutes an offense against the Jewish people. Confronted by such an accusation, some pastors back down and cancel our meeting or even promise not to invite us again. Many church leaders avoid involvement with Jews for Jesus because the rabbis disapprove of us. Such pastors and denominational leaders give lip service to the Bible statement that there is salvation in no other name but Jesus, yet they give preference to maintaining a good relationship with the rabbis and the Jewish community over Jewish evangelism.
Yet despite such opposition, we are still able to engage in some 3,000 church meetings a year. Congregations who give us a hearing are edified and encouraged to hear what God is doing among the Jewish people, and they want to have a part in our ministry. Even if no specific denomination endorses us, and no denominational body credits its member churches with missionary work when they give to Jews for Jesus, some churches and individuals still support us.
From our very inception, to our continued existence and growth, almost everything about this Jews for Jesus ministry seemed rather unlikely. Yet it happened.
Throughout the years, ever since the church became largely Gentile, many have maintained that Jewish evangelism was impossible. There used to be an old English euphemism for something that would never happen. People would say of an unlikely or impossible event, “It will come to pass when the Jews worship Christ.” That phrase was an anti- Semitic put-down. It was also the devil’s lie. The devil doesn’t want to see Jews come to Christ, and he loves to convince God’s people that Jews cannot be won to Christ. Many sincere Christians have been frightened away from Jewish evangelism by that lie because they truly thought that trying to win Jews to Christ was an exercise in futility.
We Jews who have come to saving faith in Christ know that Jewish evangelism is not an exercise in futility! We admit it can be difficult, but we never confuse difficult with impossible. The Bible states that “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26b).
When Jews for Jesus began some 21 years ago, we were prepared to do a great deal less than God has allowed us to accomplish. We were prepared to go it alone. We never imagined that we would have such dedicated Christians come alongside to help us. I guess I should have had more faith. I should have believed that God would do more than I expected.
As we move into the special fall season of praising God for His goodness, I praise Him not only for His goodness, but also for your goodness, for your friendship and your support. Just to have you care is a blessing. We are blessed more than we can say, and we are thankful to God for each of you.