Take your vacation in a van boldly marked JEWS FOR JESUS,” and you will have plenty of witnessing opportunities. At the end of our cross-country summer preaching tour, my wife Lois and 1, still driving the big Jews for Jesus van, headed south for a few days of camping in Grand Tetons National Park . After setting up camp at Jackson Lake , we headed eight miles further south to Colter Bay where we could buy groceries, wood and ice.
As we returned to the parked van after shopping, a thirty-ish looking man approached us and demanded answers to questions: “Are you Jewish or Christian?” “Do you attend church or synagogue? ”
I responded and sensed that he was sincere. “Have you many Jewish friends?” I asked.
“Yes, many. I’m Jewish myself,” he replied. “But I’m not religious; I’m a cultural Jew.” He introduced himself as Dr. Cohen from Bergen County , New Jersey . The Cohen family had just arrived at the campground. While waiting for their cabin to be prepared, he noticed our van and decided to ask us a few questions. His wife, Barbara, joined us as we talked.
“Have you any literature you could give me?” he asked. I gave him our last piece of Gospel literature, a copy of ISSUES (a magazine specially written for Jewish people).
“Would you be interested in receiving this and some other things through the mail?” I asked. He indicated he would, and gave us his address.
As we said goodbye, we wished the Cohens a joyful vacation. We drove away, pleased that the Lord had given us this opportunity. We prayed that the Holy Spirit would further the witness in his heart.
Yet in God’s plan, we were not finished with the Cohens. The next day was very hot, and Lois and I decided that a cool swim in the lake would refresh us. The beach at our campground was so rocky and the water so cold that we decided to go to Colter Bay where we hoped the swimming was better. As soon as we drove into the parking lot, who should drive up beside the van but Dr. Cohen and his family. “This is fate!” he exclaimed with a smile. “We’ll meet you down at the beach.” Lois and I prayed that God would give us an opportunity for further witness. He did.
We conversed with the Cohens about Israel , abortion, the ethical and idealistic struggles within the medical profession, and listened to Dr. Cohen’s proud explanation of his wife’s Ph.D. candidacy and instructorship in English Literature at Columbia University . But when Lois tried several times to introduce a spiritual trend to the conversation, Dr. Cohen seemed less inclined to talk about spiritual matters than he did the day before. After a while, he turned on his side with his back to me to sunbathe. This body language spelled out avoidance to me, but I felt that we had not said anything to offend him. I also sensed that this man was suffering from some kind of discomfort − whether physical or psychological, I didn’t know.
After about an hour and a half on the beach, Dr. Cohen announced that his family had been exposed to enough sun and that they should leave. We chatted amiably as they called their two girls out of the water and began to gather their belongings.
Suddenly, as if he had let go of something that was building inside of him, he blurted out, “I’m a desperate man!” Then he told us about his recent back surgery. The operation was successful, but complications had led to a chronic bladder problem. This condition, although not fatal, caused intense pain. One of his friends, a top urologist, had despaired and diagnosed the condition as medically incurable. Dr. Cohen said, “My prospects are pretty grim: a life-long struggle with pain. I would give anything for a faith like yours, but I just can’t bring myself to believe.”
I encouraged him to call upon God to reveal Himself and make His way known if he really wanted to know. “How will God show him?” sneered his wife sarcastically.
“God is a big God,” I responded. “He will find a way suitable to Robert’s condition and experience.”
Dr. Cohen gestured us to come aside. “My wife is very skeptical,” he confided. “I can’t discuss these matters with her. Give me your address and phone number and I’ll call you when we return.” We gave him our San Francisco address and phone number. When Lois asked if he would also be willing to have someone with a faith like ours visit him, he assured us he would. He told us before we left, “I came up to your van yesterday only because I am so desperate and I’m looking for something.” I told him that I trusted we are for him a sign pointing in the direction he will choose in his desperate search.
We fully expect that God will water the seed sown in this man’s needy and desperate heart. And we are rejoicing that God granted us the privilege of sharing this Gospel witness with Dr. Cohen, because we were marked out for his attention by twelve-inch lettering on our Jews for Jesus van.