It’s a Wonderful Life… in Jesus
Frank Capra has touched generations of film buffs with the classic fantasy of George Bailey’s wonderful life.” Feeling his life is of no use to anyone, George tries to end it—and discovers (with the help of his guardian angel) that he has succeeded in touching far more lives than he ever dreamed possible.
As believers in Jesus, we can all do with an occasional reminder that God uses our prayers and witnessing encounters beyond anything we can know this side of heaven. But every now and then, we have the fun of seeing how seemingly unrelated situations and circumstances connect to the glory of God. We hope the following vignettes will encourage you as they have encouraged us!
You may have seen the story last July in RealTime, our electronic publication that gives the most current Jews for Jesus news possible: a young campaigner named Shoshannah Gordon reported,
“My team and I were on a night sortie on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We found a little park outside the subway station and my team leader decided we should take a walk trying to engage people who were sitting around on the benches. The park looked kind of creepy; it was dark and many people, some homeless, some drunk, were sleeping on benches. I saw my team leader Vova talking to people, so I did the same. The first man I began speaking to retorted, ‘Go get me a sandwich. I’m homeless, and I’m hungry.’ Just as he said that, I realized there were many large rats running around.
“I really hate rats so I started to back up. Just then, another man sitting on the bench told me, ‘Don’t be scared, they don’t bite.’ So I started to talk to him. Throughout the conversation I could see the rats running all around us. The next thing I know, this man was ready to pray to receive Jesus as his Savior! We prayed, and since I was so nervous Vova came to see how I was doing. He asked the man some questions and it turned out that he was Jewish! He thanked us for the prayer, was very excited and said he felt different already. It was such an amazing moment! After getting all the information for follow-up we asked God to bless this man and we left. I believe it was a divine appointment. God had put this man in my way, knowing how much I hate rats and how scared I was. He helped me get through all that; it’s amazing how God uses us and helps us to overcome our fears.”
Flashback Part One: You never know where (or to whom) your prayers will lead . . .
It was 1979 when a Jewish believer in Jesus named Stewart Weinisch promised to pray for fruitful ministry for Martha and Loren Jacobs, then missionaries with Jews for Jesus. Stewart knew the Jacobs from the congregation they attended (Olive Tree, in the Chicago area). They were moving to San Francisco for a special year of training and service with the rest of the Jews for Jesus staff. Here’s a notable example of the Jacobs’ fruitful ministry:
A young Jewish woman named Shoshannah Tilleman was on a spiritual quest that brought her to the San Francisco area. In the course of her search she met a woman who took her phone number and gave it to Martha for follow-up. Martha called, the two began meeting and Shoshannah found what she’d been looking for in Jesus. Jews for Jesus paid for her to attend San Jose Bible College. It turned out to be a very good investment!
After the year of training known as Avodah, the Jacobs and about eight other missionaries moved to New York to re-open our branch there. Shoshannah moved to the East Coast about a year later, became an “approved student” with Jews for Jesus and continued her Bible education at Northeastern Bible College while she worked part time at the branch. During her time in New York she met Hector Marrero.
Flashback Part Two: God Works in Mysterious Ways . . .
Hector was a Gentile believer from Mexico who enjoyed volunteering with Jews for Jesus in New York City. He and Shoshannah met and got to know one another through Saturday morning sorties (tract-passing expeditions). Hector became interested in Shoshannah and wanted to court her; Shoshannah, at Moishe Rosen’s advice, traveled to Mexico. Her purpose, she thought, was to prayerfully consider whether Hector was the man for her. But God had another “stop” on her Mexico itinerary. Shoshannah recalls,
“Hector took me to all the Messianic fellowships and I met a wonderful Christian named Rosie at one of those congregations. Rosie was ‘just friends’ with Pepe Gordon, a nice Jewish engineer who did not believe in Jesus.
“Rosie had told Pepe about Yeshua, but he was really more interested in her than in the Messiah. She introduced us, and I was the first Jewish believer he’d met. He had many questions—and with my Bible college education (thanks to Jews for Jesus) I had answers for most of them. But he had some heart questions like, “How can God allow so much evil and suffering?” and “How could God could condemn people who had never even heard of Jesus?” Nothing I said could satisfy Pepe; we were at an impasse. And frankly, I thought he was relieved. After all, he just wanted the girl!
“I finally gave him the book, Eternity in Their Hearts by Don Richardson, feeling that it dealt very well with certain concerns Pepe had raised. He promised to read it. Not long after that, I fell through a roof and ended up in the hospital. Pepe and Rosie came to the hospital and at my bedside Pepe told me he had read the book and believed that Jesus was His Messiah.”
Shoshannah eventually concluded that Hector was not to be her future husband. But had she not followed the advice to “check it out” in Mexico, she never would have met Rosie and Pepe.
Flashback part 3: An unexpected answer to prayer . . .
Upon her full recovery, Shoshannah returned to the United States, where, before long, she met Stewart Weinisch, a Jewish believer who was working with Chosen People Ministries.
Talk about the answer to Stewart’s prayers! Not only did he get to meet part of the “fruit” of the ministry he’d prayed for back in 1979 . . . but seven years after that prayer, she became his partner for life.* But there’s more . . .
Flashback part 4: We’re almost back to the present . . .
Jews for Jesus staff member Dave Garrett met Shoshannah Gordon in his role of Camp Gilgal Director. When he learned that her parents, Rosie and Pepe, had named their daughter after Shoshannah Weinisch, he contacted Shoshannah to let her know. Shoshannah W. was thrilled and renewed her acquaintance with Rosie and Pepe. Then she learned that her namesake was going to be on this year’s New York City Witnessing Campaign. As it happened, Shoshannah and Stewart were planning to go to New York for a few days to meet with David Brickner (who traditionally comes for the third week of campaign). Shoshannah later said,
“I knew I was going to meet Shoshannah [Gordon]. But she didn’t know I was coming to NYC. The day we arrived I was standing outside the Jews for Jesus building, watching the campaigners who were preparing to leave for their next sortie. I asked one of the girls if she was Shoshanna Gordon. She was a bit nervous as she thought I was a stranger, but I could see the family resemblance. So I told her who I was and we hugged. I kept my eye on her for the few days we were in NYC and was delighted that she prayed with a couple of people to receive the Lord. I was fortunate to be able to see that fruit. What a great reminder that what we do for the Lord counts for eternity!
“Shoshanna [Gordon] confided to me that while she knew that she was named after a Jewish believer in the U.S., she’d always thought it was ‘weird’ since no one else she knew in Mexico had a Hebrew name. I told her the story of her Dad’s salvation and she was excited. She said she now likes her name.”
Back to the Present…
We will probably never know whether the people Shoshannah Gordon led to the Lord will witness to others who, in turn, will be saved. But we can see how very connected even the most seemingly random situations and people can be . . . and how spiritual fruit continues to bear more and more fruit. So we can truly say, it IS a wonderful life in Jesus!
P.S. As of this writing, Stewart and Shoshannah Weinisch have applied to be missionaries with Jews for Jesus.
*Side note: Stuart and Shoshannah’s daughter, Melissa, toured with our 2007/2008 Liberated Wailing Wall and wrote some of the songs on the team’s recording, “Never Forget.” She has been very involved with our Young Adult Program in Los Angeles.