Knocking on the door of Abbie’s apartment for the first time, I felt a little apprehensive. When I first called this Jewish woman in her 30s, it became quickly apparent to me that she was experiencing a great deal of pain and suffering. Abbie was battling cancer. That physical trial was heaped upon many past hurts and difficulties; yet she was obviously groping for God. Although she had seemed appreciative of my phone call, I realized that the wisdom of my human years was totally inadequate to deal with the depths of her problems; yet as a staff missionary with the New York branch of Jews for Jesus, I was accustomed to being thrust into person-stretching situations. I breathed a short prayer as I waited for Abbie to open the door.
When I entered the small studio apartment, Abbie immediately began to talk, and I had to struggle to squeeze in even one word edgewise. After several minutes had passed, I said, Okay, okay. I know you’re carrying around the scars of many troubles and your present illness, but I have something very important to tell you.”
As we conversed, I tried to engage Abbie’s gaze. Her eyes darted about. She seemed to be influenced by troubling spiritual forces that caused rapid changes in her demeanor. One minute she was quiet and receptive, then a few moments later, she was distressed and speaking quickly, almost hysterically. I prayed silently as I fixed my eyes on hers.
As I used the Hebrew Scriptures to tell Abbie about the Lamb of God sacrificed for her, the peace of Yeshua, the Prince of Peace, came upon us both. Abbie understood what I said and recognized her need for salvation. “I guess God is after me,” she said. Still, she was unwilling at that point to take the step of surrendering her life to Yeshua. She did agree, however, to come to our group Bible study and to meet again with me a week later.
The morning of our scheduled meeting, Abbie called me and said that she wanted to deal with God alone. A long conversation ensued, and it was obvious that Abbie was wrestling with what I call “pre-salvation pits.” Confronting the issue, I quoted to her from Ephesians 6:12: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Abbie was well aware of the existence of Satan, and as we talked about to surrender to God through the Messiah, she knew that Jesus was knocking on the door of her heart. However, she still wanted to be “left alone.”
Finally I said, “Okay, you know my number. You know that I am available. Call me if you need help.”
That night when I returned to our New York Jews for Jesus center for our Friday night worship service, I found a cryptic phone message on my desk: “Abbie called. She needs you.”
Sensing an urgency, I called her back. “What’s up?” I asked, pretending to be nonchalant.
“I’m ready,” Abbie’s voice was intense.
“You mean you want to open the door and let Jesus in?”
We talked a few minutes longer. I wanted to be sure that Abbie understood repentance and salvation and what she was about to do. Then with deep solemnity, I led her in a prayer of faith, and she received Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
The next day I called Abbie again. Her first words were, “I’m so glad I finally surrendered to Jesus!” When I visited her a few days later, she was visibly ill and weak, yet the peace of God was upon her. She was clearly a new creation, as promised in II Corinthians 5:17. We rejoiced together, read the Bible and prayed. As I left, I knew that even though Abbie’s young body was racked with illness, she had the assurance of eternal life with the Father.
Bette Lehrer is now in Australia using the skills she acquired as a Jews for Jesus missionary in New York City.