Holding Down the Fort (One-Person Branches)
We’re so grateful that you read and pray for the needs of Jews for Jesus. The prayers of God’s people breathe His power into our lives and ministry! We’ve frequently asked you to pray for more workers in the harvest, and this following select group of missionaries underscores that request. They lead our “one person branches.” (Actually, we call them outposts, since our branches have three or more workers.)
Rio de Janeiro
Sergio Danon was doing evangelism in Rio (his native city) before coming on staff with Jews for Jesus. In April 2002 he began our first work in Brazil. Sergio is married to Alexia, and they have two children: Israel and Gabriel.
In describing Rio de Janeiro, Sergio explains, “Rio has been nicknamed cidade maravilhosa (“the marvelous city”), and it is truly an international city where people come from all over to enjoy its natural beauty. Among them are Israeli backpackers who are looking to experience different aspects of life after serving the army.”
Robyn Wilk joined our ministry in 1988. She has been a member of the Liberated Wailing Wall, served for many years at our San Francisco branch, and led our training program in New York City for five years before reopening our South Florida work in May 2011. Robyn and her dog, Moxie, live less than an hour’s drive from her parents, sister, brother-in-law and nephew.
“South Florida is diverse,” Robyn says. “We have a large, older Jewish population mixed with a young, thriving Jewish population, especially at the universities. There are hipsters at the beach. It’s multi-ethnic. Yet in some ways, it’s like New York (many New Yorkers have retired here). There’s that intensity, but because it’s hot and many people are older, it’s slower. One of the challenges is that many people leave during the summer.”
Karl deSouza was born in Karachi, Pakistan, but his parents moved to Quebec when he was a child. Karl began with our Toronto branch in 2001, but always had a heart for the Jewish people of Montréal. He began our outpost there in July 2005 in anticipation of our Behold Your God Montréal outreach. Karl is married to Kristen, and they have three children: Nathanael, Elizabeth and Abigail.
In describing the characteristics of his city, Karl says, “We have a very-tight knit Jewish community—probably one of the most traditional, observant Jewish communities in North America. We also have the third highest population of Holocaust survivors in the world. We have a good mix of Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews, and our Sephardic population tends to be mainly French speakers from Morocco, Tunisia and France.”
Stephen Pacht opened our London branch in 1992, though he handed off the leadership soon after in order to open our Paris branch that same year! Fifteen years later, he returned to our London branch, serving there until August, 2010, when he opened our Geneva outpost. Stephen is married to Deborah, and they have four children: Samuel, Hannah, Gabrielle and Jessica.
Stephen has described Geneva as “an international city espousing human rights and freedom, home to the UN and the World Health Organization.” People take pride in their tolerance, and in the city’s heritage as a refuge for persecuted Christians. In fact, the city was also a home for some Jewish people who were fleeing the Nazis. Stephen’s father, born in Vienna, escaped to Geneva for that reason.
We thought it would encourage you to pray for these four if you could hear from them so we asked them all to answer a few questions. We hope that some of you will feel a connection with at least one of these special people and let them know!
What are some of the high points of ministry in your city?
Sergio: Our outreach during the week of “Carnaval” has been a consistent highlight for our work in Rio. Many churches in Brazil take a retreat during that period as the city is overrun by people drinking, dancing and carousing in the streets. I have been blessed to have teams of dedicated volunteers who come with me to reach out to these crowds from 11p.m. to 5a.m. In the first couple of years, people were suspicious of us, but now many are grateful that we are there. They know that while we cannot condone certain behaviors, we care about them no matter what they think, say, or do.
Robyn: The Coconut Grove Arts Festival was a real highlight for me. Around 16 volunteers came out to help, many from a local Messianic congregation. It was also the first time in quite a while that I was able to go out on an outreach because I had my scooter.* It was great to be back on the streets, handing out tracts and scootering back and forth between volunteers to make sure they had enough literature.
Our Rosh Hashanah service was another highlight, again because of the volunteers that came alongside. The hosting church was wonderful; they took care of all the refreshments, ushers and greeters. It was fun to have a music team—any music ministry is always a highlight for me.
* Robyn suffers from Ehlers Danlos, a degenerative disease affecting joints and connective tissue.
Karl: One highlight that’s invigorated my ministry is mentoring two Jewish men who came to know Jesus in 2010 and 2011. Seeing them come to faith was wonderful, and more recently meeting regularly with them for Bible study and discipleship has been great. Both are Moroccan. They came to faith independently, but both were particularly led through the prophecy of Zechariah 12:10. As we continue to meet, both are seeking God as to what He has for them and both are open to ministry.
Stephen: Being part of a Jewish group that meets regularly (and knows I’m a believer in Jesus) and having the opportunity to give them a talk on Jesus.
[Editor’s note: we’ve asked for prayer for the group and have reported back on Stephen’s talk; however Stephen is very mindful of the group’s privacy and so no more details are forthcoming at this time.]
What is your greatest ministry challenge as a one-person branch?
Sergio: Being responsible, not only for missionary work, but also for all the administrative tasks. Usually volunteers want to be involved only with evangelism.
Robyn: I miss having someone to brainstorm and dream with as well as to help. Being somewhat disabled has been challenging, though it’s given me more understanding, compassion and patience for others, which is good especially in ministering to the elderly here.
Karl: I feel it most when I come back from a sortie after something either difficult or praiseworthy happened. That’s when I want to share it with another missionary who has experienced and understands either the difficulty or the joy.
Stephen: It’s easier to bounce ideas off someone else than bounce them off yourself; also it’s stimulating to work in a team.
If you could have a “wish list” of volunteers, what sorts of tasks or activities would you like to have people helping you do?
Sergio: We have good volunteers for sorties, and I’m glad that my son has been helping me with our website and newsletter design, though more help on the latter two areas would be welcome. However, where I need people the most are the areas of data entry and church relations.
Robyn: I’d love to have music volunteers for a local team: we could play and sing together for church meetings, holiday services, outdoor evangelism, and at assisted living communities. I would also appreciate volunteers to help on a regular basis with administrative tasks, and of course, people who want to come and hand out tracts.
Karl: Volunteers for evangelism and in the office would be great. I’d love someone to help organize and maintain the office. Help with translating things into French and proofreading would also be great. I need someone with desktop publishing skills, who can format emails to go out to large groups. That would free me up to do more evangelism.
Stephen: People to go with me on sorties, musicians to help with events and friends to help with our Bible study. The latter would be anything from preparation of refreshments, music, bringing a story and connecting with others—to help encompass, nurture, support and follow up with seekers who attend.
Do you have any prayer requests to help you finish up the last quarter of 2012?
Sergio: Please pray for our Hanukkah event on December 15 and for our “Christmas push” (ramped up street outreach) from December 7-22; for more seekers to meet with regularly; for pastors that will want me to speak at their churches next year (we need local people to share our vision and support us); for recruitment of co-laborers and for the translation of the lectures we need for their training. Also, we plan to publish a book of Brazilian Jewish believers’ testimonies and my hope is to finish the editing by the end of the year.
Robyn: Last month we started our weekly Bible study up again after our summer hiatus. Please pray that it will grow into a strong community and a great place for Jewish seekers to learn more about Messiah. Please pray for my family who don’t know Jesus and live nearby, that God will draw them to Himself. Pray for our outreach at the Las Olas Art Fair this month, and for many more ministry opportunities with unbelievers like Jacob (see “South Florida Praise Report”).
Karl: Outreach during Hanukkah and Christmas the season; planning, organizing and networking for our upcoming Summer Witnessing Campaign in 2013.
Stephen: Part of the strategy in settling in Geneva is the proximity to other areas for Jewish evangelism. (see next section). I’m hoping to do outreach in Annecy in Marseille; also pray that planning and details come together for outreaches in other nearby cities where we minister, though we don’t have established outposts there. Also, since this newsletter arrives in many homes at the end of September, I’ll ask those who get this in time to pray for our Sukkot meeting, September 30, that many Jewish seekers will attend.
What can people pray for you/your branch/outpost for 2013?
Sergio: Please pray for the “Carnaval” outreach (we’ll have training on February 1-2 and the actual outreach will be from February 8-13) and follow-up; also pray as we plan outreaches in conjunction with the Confederations Cup in 2013 (at the time of this writing, it is expected to be held in Brazil from June 15-30) and the soccer World Cup in 2014.
Robyn: For more volunteers who will be able to help on a regular basis (help with special events is also very important, but people who are able to help out each week would be great); for a good outreach at Coconut Grove in February; for churches and other Messianic ministries that will want to come alongside and collaborate to reach Jewish people in South Florida for Jesus.
Karl: We need to stir the pot and get the issue of Jesus out on a larger scale. We haven’t done a major campaign since the 2005 Behold Your God and I’m planning on another campaign, either two or three weeks, probably toward the end of summer. Please pray that all the details and strategy of that campaign be made clear, and that we’ll have a good group of people who want to participate.
Stephen: I’d like to start up evangelistic Bible studies in Geneva and Lausanne; I’m also planning a couple of trips to Marseille and Lyon, and would like to get a Bible study started in Zurich. Please pray for God to raise up a core group of people to help reach Jewish people in all these cities.
What leisure activities do you enjoy?
Sergio: Anything that our family does together. If outdoors, going to the beach or to the botanical garden; if indoors, going to a movie, mall or museums. If we choose to stay at home, playing board games or video games.My wife and I also try to have a weekly date, just the two of us.
Robyn: Playing my flute, “scootering” my dog (Moxie runs alongside the scooter for exercise), reading and spending time with my family.
Karl: Hanging with my family, whether we’re riding bikes, swimming or just talking around the table; I also like to BBQ for my family, as well as chill out with personal email to connect with friends and family that are far away.
Stephen: Chatting with friends and family, enjoying our home and meals together, reading.
For more about these branches, or if you would like to encourage any of these folks and let them know you are praying for them, please see their web pages or contact them at: