Working as a missionary with Jews for Jesus is exciting. We plant thousands of gospel seeds week after week. We water some that are already planted, watch as still others grow and sometimes have the great joy of reaping the harvest.
Sometimes planting involves more than just dropping a seed. Sometimes it means breaking up the soil and removing all the stones. Anyone who has done any gardening will know that this process can be back-breaking, tedious work.
That describes my ministry to Fran. One day Fran read the story of a Jewish man who had come to faith in Yeshua. It prompted her to call our Los Angeles office for more information. When I received the message that she had called, I returned her call a day later, hoping that perhaps we could get together to discuss any questions she might have.
After I introduced myself to Fran as being Jewish and believing in Jesus, I asked her what kind of questions she had. She explained that she really didn’t have any questions. She just wanted to know more about that man whose story she had read. She was impressed by him, as he appeared to be very intelligent and about her age. She wanted to know how she could meet him. I explained that I didn’t know the man personally and tried to bring the conversation back to Jesus.
Perhaps we can discuss some of the Scriptures that point to Jesus as the Messiah,” I suggested.
“No,” she said, “I’m very busy. Besides, I’m not really interested. I wanted to know if I could meet the man in that article. I thought if someone like him could believe in this stuff, maybe there’s something to it. But now I’m not really interested.”
“Well, that was a discouraging phone call,” I thought. But I also knew that a seed had been planted. I prayed that God would use me to break up the hardness of Fran’s heart. I knew that she was not particularly open to the gospel, but I also felt that it was not impossible for that seed to be watered and some day grow to maturity.
Weeks passed, and each time I called Fran she seemed to get farther away from the truth. I tried several times to get together with her, but she still said she wasn’t interested. Then one day she called me and asked me to accompany her to a local messianic congregation. She thought perhaps she could “meet a nice Jewish man” there.
“But,” she said, “I’m really not interested in changing my religion. I am Jewish, and I will die as a Jew.”
“That’s nice,” I said, “I too am Jewish, and I plan on dying as a Jew as well.”
I explained to Fran that I couldn’t get to the service that particular day. Fran was a little disappointed, but said she planned on going anyway. I must confess I didn’t think she would actually go. But the following week, I received a phone call from Fran. She had gone to the service and thought it was wonderful. She couldn’t get over how Jewish it was! She began to talk a mile a minute about how much she had enjoyed it.
“Last night I took a shower and immersed myself totally in the water,” she said. “This is very unusual for me, because I have an ear problem and cannot take a shower. I can’t take a chance that my ears will get water in them. But last night I did take one. I let the water cleanse me and asked Jesus to forgive me of any sins I had committed in the past, even those I did today. I asked him to help me not to sin again. I knew that Jesus forgave me, and I stepped out of the shower knowing that I was clean inside and out.”
“Wait a minute—you prayed to receive the Lord in your shower?” I asked. I couldn’t believe I had actually heard right.
She said, “Yes, and if God wants me to be baptized, I’ll do that too.”
She then asked several questions about her Jewish identity now that she believed in Jesus. I assured her that she was still Jewish. After all, what could be more Jewish than believing in the Jewish Messiah? She asked if she could still light Shabbat candles and observe the High Holidays. “Of course,” I assured her.* She asked me to pray for the rest of her family and for a Jewish man she’s been dating, that they all would come to faith in Messiah as well.
Before we hung up, Fran explained that I had been the biggest influence in her spiritual life. It was my persistence, she said, that had done it. Her second greatest influence had been that service she attended. I put the receiver down and took joy in knowing that I had planted seed in fertile ground, and had been able to break up some of the hard parts. But someone else had watered, and God alone had reaped the harvest. I must admit that I would have liked to have been there to pray with Fran. But God didn’t need me to do the reaping that time, just the planting.
* We explain to new Jewish believers that they need not give up their Jewish culture and tradition as long as they are not relying on any of those things for salvation, which comes only through faith in Christ.