It would take a time traveller to report on this year’s Thanksgiving and Hanukkah outreaches, since this letter has come to you well before they took place!* But we hope that you’ll pray for our holiday outreaches, especially when you see a few highlights from last year!
Who are you Thanking?
From branch leader Aaron Abramson in New York City:
Thanksgiving in New York City is always a tremendous opportunity to reach out to tourists and residents alike. Last year was no exception.
Two weeks before Thanksgiving, a few of our New York staff had some fun at Union Square Park in preparation for the holiday season.
There, in the center of the park activity, we rolled out a white banner. We painted the center to read, “Who Are You Thanking?” in the midst of a bright red circle. Many of us handed out colored markers to onlookers and passersby, offering them the opportunity to join in on the creative process! Dozens of people knelt down on the cement that day to write what they were thankful for, and to whom they were grateful.
As the banner was being created, a few staff members interviewed passersby as well as fellow staff members. Participants voiced their gratitude into the camera lens, naming things like: safety from hurricane Sandy, family members, faith and life. Many stopped to ask about the project, to discuss their beliefs, and to understand our ministry. (See the video.)
Building on the energy of our “Who Are You Thanking?” outreach, the evening before Thanksgiving we brought a team of staff, teenagers and volunteers to the Upper West Side. There beside the Natural History Museum, tens of thousands of people gather to watch the balloons for the Thanksgiving Day Parade inflate into their full glory. It’s quite a spectacle! Our New York staff took advantage of the gathering by handing out free hot chocolate to the crowds and sharing about our Jewish Messiah.
We gave out around 3,000 cups of hot chocolate, each of which was stamped with a “Who Are You Thanking?” sticker. We distributed matching postcards with the same theme to raise the issue of being grateful to the One who gave us the greatest gift of all! We were able to engage thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish spectators. Some simply took a cup of hot chocolate, while others wanted to know more about the heart of our mission.
The following day, our team went to several locations along the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route and handed out more of those new Thanksgiving postcards. All in all, we were able to hand out nearly 20,000 pieces of gospel literature!
After sharing a short meal together, our team headed to Far Rockaway where tens of thousands of people were devastated by the effects of Hurricane Sandy. We partnered with several churches to serve a Thanksgiving dinner to those most severely impacted by the storm. And we worked with the children by providing games, arts and crafts, and some heartfelt encouragement. It was a blessing to be able to meet and serve alongside others who wanted to bless the community.
The following day, New York City transformed into a “shopping mecca!” Black Friday was in full swing and the streets were loaded with people looking for bargains. We didn’t miss this opportunity! Our team went out again and shared the gospel with many hurried shoppers. Pray that as we greet people once again with the gospel, that many will be hungry for the good news.
Need a miracle?
That was the theme of our New York team’s Hanukkah outreach, as Rachel Friedlander reported: “On the fourth night of Hanukkah, our New York City staff headed to the very Jewish neighborhood of 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue. There, we set up a table with a large, double-sided foam core sign on which Amer Olson had skilfully drawn an enormous menorah with the words, ‘Need a Miracle?’ We asked passersby if there was something they needed in their lives – something that seemed impossible.
“New Yorkers stopped to jot their answers on colorful sticky notes and plaster them all over the menorah board. Some asked for prayer, others wanted to talk about Hanukkah, our beliefs and our organization. Some were angry, of course – one of our missionaries was slapped by a disgruntled resident. But the overall reaction was curiosity and interest.
“We also set up a camera, filming those willing to answer the questions, ‘What miracle do you need in your life?’ and ‘What miracles have you experienced?’
“Around our ‘Miracle Station’ several missionaries handed out free candles with cards attached, wishing the public a happy Hanukkah. The cards explained that Yeshua is the shamash, the Servant who ignites each of us with the light of life! It also included our contact information and quoted John 8:12,
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said,
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”‘
May New York City truly be ignited from within with the light of Yeshua!”
Weather … or Not
Bundled up in Chicago
Along with many of our U.S. branches, “Black Friday” is a big day for evangelism in Chicago. As you can see, both shoppers and Jews for Jesus evangelists were braving some cold temps:
“After our warmest Thanksgiving in years, with temperatures climbing into the 60s, the wind turned cold and temperatures dropped. Weekend temperatures never made it out of the 30s. On ‘Black Friday’ and Saturday, five staff and twenty volunteers were greeting the crowds around State Street and the Magnificent Mile shopping areas. This was a record number of volunteers for the beginning of our ‘Christmas push’ (multiple sorties between Thanksgiving and Christmas)”. We hope this year Chicago will have another great team of volunteers and, possibly, warmer weather.
Meanwhile, staff were in short sleeves in Australia and Brazil
Rahel Landrum reports from our Sydney storefront, “I was encouraged by the opportunity to witness to three Israeli shoppers in one day. First, two women came to buy Hanukkiot (plural of Hanukkiah, or Hanukkah menorah). One mentioned that she’d heard of Messianic believers in Israel. The other was curious about our faith. They both left with Hebrew New Testaments. Another Israeli came in, wanting to buy a Hanukkiah for his wife. He asked me who I thought killed Jesus. I shared with him about the reason Jesus came, that He gave his life for our atonement; no one could take it without His permission. Michael listened and said he had never heard this before, though he had read parts of the New Testament. He seemed genuinely interested.”
None of these people gave their contact information for us to follow up, but we know that the Holy Spirit can follow up with them and we pray that He has.
Sergio Danon reports, “Two volunteers joined me for a sortie (tract-passing expedition) at a Hanukkah event at Copacabana Beach. Two Israeli seekers gave their contact information to hear more about Jesus. They seemed quite open. A Brazilian rabbi who did not seem so open surprisingly gave his contact information as well.”
We had a Hanukkah party in partnership with Beit Yeshua Messianic Congregation, which we jointly pastor in Johannesburg. Just over 100 people were present, including two Jewish people who are not yet believers. One, Harry, had met with our missionary Barry several times before the party. After the event, Harry phoned Barry to say how he had enjoyed this Hanukkah party more than any other he had been to, and how he had felt a sense of inclusion and love there. Pray for Harry, who now appears to have intellectual understanding of Jesus, but has yet to surrender his heart to him.
*We’ll be able to report on our 2013 Thanksgiving and Hanukkah outreaches by the December edition of RealTime, which will be emailed to subscribers on December 16. Subscribe to our email updates here.
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