I come from an Egyptian and Palestinian background, and was born and raised in a Muslim home. At birth, I was betrothed to my first cousin, but did not know it until I was fourteen.
I remember telling my mother when I was twelve that the only thing I would believe in without question was God. As for the rest of the Muslim religion, I would need explanations. My mother is a wonderful woman and she answered every question to the best of her ability. Whenever she couldn’t answer, she would write to my uncle in Egypt who was a sheik, which is like a rabbi or a pastor, but for Muslims. My mother truly wanted me to know God. Yet the older I got, the more empty my heart grew and I knew that I could not remain in my home and live the life that would be expected of me. At age fifteen, I began making plans to leave home.
I left when I was nineteen. My family disowned me. Months after I left home, every righteous desire I had to seek God was gone. But God was not through with me! The Lord placed a girl in my life who befriended me and began to share the love and truth of Yeshua with me. She invited me to church and, with great reluctance, I finally went. Only months later, I came to faith in Jesus. That was in 1995.
From very early on, I knew I wanted to be a missionary. At age 23, I met Dean McDiarmid and, one year later, we were married. My husband happened to be a Jewish believer and also wanted to work on the mission field. God has graciously given us both the desires of our hearts.
I had been interested in Jesus since my early teens and was even reading the New Testament. Yet as a Jew, it didn’t seem right that I should believe in Him. I moved to Israel hoping that I would find the God of Israel and be fulfilled as a Jew.
My kibbutz turned out to be secular, so I left for Jerusalem hoping, once again, to find God in the City of David. I lived in Jerusalem on and off for almost a year. I attended a couple of Yeshivas (religious schools where people train to become rabbis), but I left confused and empty. Where was my God? The God of the Bible? The God of whom Jesus spoke?
During this time, the Intifada, or the Palestinian uprising, was gaining momentum. I came to believe that all Arabs were the enemy and I began to feel a real hatred towards them. I even justified some of the wrongs I had seen, but deep down I knew that hating others was not the way to survive as a people. I was not happy with the person I was becoming.
My mother fell ill in Chicago, so I returned to the United States. I had never felt so lost. In addition to dealing with her illness, I was dealing with the loss of all of my hopes, my ideals and notions of finding God in Israel. Having lived there for several years, I knew that it was not the answer to the emptiness I felt inside.
My loyalty to my Jewish people, history, culture and to Israel had been the most important thing in my life, but it was not enough. During this time, a faithful friend named Bob was unceasing in his witness to me. It really made a difference. And, as I continued reading the New Testament, I could not deny that Jesus was who He said He was, the Messiah, the Son of God who died for your sins and mine and, on the third day, was raised from the dead. I realized that He deserved my loyalty first and foremost. Some may say that I have turned my back on my people by believing in Jesus, but ironically, I now feel the best way to express my loyalty to my Jewish people is by sharing that good news with them.
If you would have told me ten years ago that I would be a missionary for Jews for Jesus, I would have told you that you were crazy—and even crazier if you would have told me that I would be married to a beautiful Palestinian Arab believer in Jesus. With God all things are possible!
I grew up in a little town, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, which is really only famous for two things: Joe Namath and Geneva College. My parents met at Geneva College. My mother, a Gentile believer, began to witness to my father, who is Jewish. Eventually, he came to faith in Jesus and I was raised in a Jewish-Christian home. At the age of six, I received Yeshua into my life as my personal Lord and Savior.
When I was 13, I had a messianic bar mitzvah. It made a bold statement of my faith and salvation in Yeshua, the Messiah.
However, as most teenagers often do, I went through a period of rebellion and disobedience. I became involved in what are called role-playing games.” The most famous was Dungeons and Dragons. These games can become addictive and they also open some dangerous spiritual doors. Playing Dungeons and Dragons is really dabbling in the occult. Although I never went very far with the games, they affected my relationships with God and with my parents.
These problems came to a head one snowy evening. I wanted to go to my cousin’s house to play the game. My parents had already forbidden me to play these games. They didn’t know that that was my intention, but when I asked them if I could go, they still said no because the streets were unsafe to travel. I called my cousin and had him come pick me up. I was at his house for about three hours before my parents realized that I was gone. When the phone rang, I felt sick to my stomach because I knew it was for me.
Back at home, my father made me sit down and read the prodigal son story found in Luke 15:11-32. I saw how I had been straying away from God. I denounced the games and apologized to the Lord and to my parents.
God made a lot of changes in my heart. He gave me a burning fire and zeal to serve and witness. My study of Scripture and my relationship with God became my own rather than just my parents’.
I got involved with Jews for Jesus in the summer of 1997 and I’ve been involved in many short-term volunteer positions with them since then. When I graduated from Geneva College, I decided to come on staff full-time as a vocational missionary. God has truly blessed and sustained my faith and walk with Him all my life. Praise the Lord!
Growing up in Brooklyn as a Jewish Puerto Rican, you could say I had a slight identity crisis. In fact, I spent most of my adolescent years searching for my identity. In the process, I looked toward many things: friends, academic success, girlfriends and drugs—but I never felt fulfilled.
In an effort to start a new life after my freshman year of college, I transferred to a school 700 miles south—in North Carolina. During my first day on campus, I noticed a beautiful girl. As I approached her, hoping to get a date, I got the biggest surprise of my life. She was a Christian. Natalie let me know right from the beginning the importance of her faith in God. That first semester I had many interactions with Christians who challenged my understanding of God and religion.
And on New Year’s Eve, I found myself on the corner of my bed kneeling and asking God, if He existed, to show Himself to me because I was jealous of the Christians I had met and the joy that they had. A month later I bumped into Natalie. It had been about three months since we had last spoken, and the first words out of her mouth were an invitation to a Christian outreach. Two days later I found myself listening to a message titled, Whose Kingdom Are You Seeking? A week later I confessed as many sins as I could remember and asked Jesus to come into my life. That was in February of 1998. And now that I am a follower of Jesus, for the first time I am confident in my identity and that is a Jew for Jesus.
More introductions of new missionary trainees to come!
We are thankful that we don’t have space to introduce you to all of the missionary trainees because God has blessed us with a class of nine new missionaries. Be looking for Cyril and Rhonda Gordon, John Michael and Abra M. and Bruce Rapp!