We are excited about this year’s class of missionary trainees! This is your opportunity to meet some of them… and to hear how they’d like you to be praying for them.
You may remember, we introduced Melissa in January 2012 as an associate staff member… she was attending San Francisco State University at the time, and now that she’s graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications she’s joining us full-time!
Melissa grew up in a Messianic Jewish home (her parents, Stewart and Shoshannah, serve with our New York branch) and came to faith in Y’shua (Jesus) at the age of five.
After high school, she toured with the Liberated Wailing Wall; she wrote as well as performed some of the songs on our Never Forget recording. Not long after her tour, Melissa moved to Los Angeles to work with the Jews for Jesus young adult ministry. There Melissa realized that her real passion was to see younger children experience God’s heart and love. “When I was little, my dad was a camp director, so I went with him to camp as early as I can remember. I LOVED camp. Literally, I believe I was made for camp. As I got older, I had the thought ‘Oh I could do this for a living. I love it! But who does that? Whose job is it to do camp? That’s not real life.’”
But in November of 2010, Melissa was offered a position as a Children’s and Youth Worker, overseeing our West Coast Camp Gilgal program. She says,
“It was like God placed my dream job in my lap! I am a second generation believer, who has a strong Jewish identity and has had to figure out what that means and doesn’t mean in relation to my faith in Jesus. I have a heart for these kids as they go through these things because I have been there. Please pray as I go through our missionary training, that whatever I gain I’ll be able to invest in the kids and families God has called me to serve.”
Doug grew up in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the son of a pastor. He was very involved in the Christian education classes at his father’s church and also in the church’s youth group. He attended Christian Life College in Mt. Prospect, IL and earned a degree in pastoral studies. Doug served as a youth pastor for a time, and also worked in hotel management.
Heather Blecher, then a missionary with our Chicago branch, came into Doug’s life in the fall of 2011; they met at an arts festival in Rogers Park. Through Heather, Doug was introduced to the Messianic Jewish community and the mission of reaching Jewish people with the news of Messiah, Yeshua.
Doug and Heather were married in April of 2012. Doug began to help with the local Jews for Jesus young adult ministry and was accepted as a vocational missionary with Jews for Jesus in May of 2014. The Drakes are part of our South Florida branch, as Doug is receiving general missionary training from branch leader Robyn Wilk and Heather is ministering to Jewish college students from Miami to Palm Beach.
Doug says, “I’m very excited about what Jesus has done in my life. His commission to us all is to be witnesses to His glory and that is why I am so glad to be a missionary with Jews for Jesus. Since I’m not Jewish, I have much to learn and retain over the next several months. It would be great if you would pray with me for perseverance and endurance as I learn all I can to fulfill my calling.”
Eryn and Elizabeth Black
Eryn grew up in a believing home near Baltimore, MD, with a Gentile father and Jewish mother. He was saved at an early age, and his family became very involved in local Messianic congregations. He grew up confident in his Jewish heritage and his faith in Jesus.
In high school, Eryn was very active in his youth group. He went on to study film at the University of Maryland. After his first year, Eryn realized that the Lord was leading him elsewhere; after much prayer, he started attending Washington Bible College, where he graduated with a BA in theology. There he met Elizabeth who, while not Jewish, was absolutely passionate about Jewish evangelism.
Elizabeth has also known the Lord since childhood; she grew up with many Jewish friends and so frequented synagogues, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and other traditional events. She made it a priority to share the news of the Messiah with her Jewish friends, and learned a great deal about Jewish culture and religion. In college, she attended Friday night services at a local synagogue and also went on mission trips to Israel. It was Elizabeth who challenged Eryn to consider a career in Jewish ministry. They graduated in 2008 and were married in 2009. They served with another Jewish ministry for three years before they applied and were both accepted on our staff in 2014.
Eryn says, “For years, I was so sure that I wanted to be a director. I wanted to make movies. In just a few months, the Lord completely changed the desires of my heart. I’ve always felt a real concern for the spiritual well-being of my Jewish brothers and sisters, but it took time for me to truly connect this with God’s will for my life. Over the past decade, God has impressed upon me a deep desire to see my people come to know their Messiah. The situation is dire. The need is urgent.
“As new missionary trainees with Jews for Jesus, my wife and I have entered a wonderful and challenging new part of our lives and ministries. Having worked in Jewish evangelism for three years, I am already meeting with several unsaved Jewish people on a regular basis. Please keep these young men in your prayers.
“I would also greatly appreciate your prayers for our family. Our son, Jude, is almost three. Thank you for your prayers: they are the fuel that helps run the engine of evangelism!”
Elizabeth adds, “I am extremely excited to be serving with Jews for Jesus. The undeniable need for Jewish people to know their Messiah has fueled a passion to do whatever it takes to tell every Jewish person I can about Jesus. As a missionary in training, I pray that the Lord will continue to grow that calling He has placed in my life, and equip me to become a better minister of the Gospel. Please pray that He will give me grace as I balance my training with caring for our son.”
Like many of her friends, both Jen’s parents were believers in Jesus; unlike most of her Christian friends, Jen’s mother was Jewish. Jen grew up attending a Messianic Congregation, celebrating Shabbat, keeping the holidays, and she had a Messianic Bat Mitzvah. She loved her culture and the traditions that came with it, but Jen always knew that Jesus was the completion of her Jewishness. And she always felt a little bit different for it.
Jen started attending Camp Gilgal, part of the Children and Youth Ministry of Jews for Jesus, when she was 10 years old. When she grew too old to be a camper, she served as staff. Jen says, “Camp Gilgal played a huge role in my development as a believer and overall, as a person.”
Jen graduated from SUNY Oswego where she majored in Childhood Education and received her NY State teaching certification. She loves children and teaching, but never saw herself as a classroom teacher. Following an internship in Jews for Jesus’ Children and Youth work in New York, Jen became a full-time Children and Youth worker.
Jen says, “I’ve always felt a burden to work with children at a time in life when ideas, values, and identity are being formed. If kids’ roots in Messiah are deep, they’re less likely to fall over when a storm comes. I’m very excited to have the privilege of speaking into the lives of the next generation. Please join me in praying that I can prioritize my time and have joy in all of the new things that I will be learning.”