Campaign leaders Bruce Rapp and Larry Stamm
Yosef Ashurov, one of our outreach workers in Odessa, was handing out broadsides at 108th Street when he met a former neighbor of his from Uzbekistan. Mara moved here 13 years ago. “I told her that God loves her, and Y’shua died so that she could be made right with Him,” Yosef said. “She seemed very interested so I invited her to our concert. She walked for two hours just to be there! When she arrived, Elizabeth (our missionary to Queens, who is originally from Uzbekistan) shared the gospel with her again. Mara listened very carefully, and then prayed with Elizabeth to receive the Lord.”
That was just one example of the synergy between the local and overseas workers on the Queens campaign. Like Brooklyn, the Queens campaign overlapped with the Russian-speaking campaign—only more so. In Brooklyn, the Russian speakers operated separately from the actual Brooklyn campaign in terms of hotel, schedules, etc. In Queens, it was really one campaign, with overseas and American missionaries rooming together, eating together and hitting the streets together. The Russian speakers on the Queens campaign had all done outreach in the U.S. before. For those who didn’t speak English, we had translators. There was also plenty of non-verbal communication, hugging and thumbs up. And the Russian broadsides were actually bi-lingual so that non-Russian speakers could distribute them, too.
Of course there were areas of Queens to reach that were not primarily Russian. As in Manhattan, there are many areas of high foot traffic, great for broadsiding. We even designed one of our new broadsides especially for this campaign: The King of Queens).
Campaign leaders Bruce and Larry also wanted to go beyond the tried and true sorties. One way of doing that was through the Chagall exhibits. Jerry Karabensh, a long-time friend of Jews for Jesus, loaned us his Chagall collection and flew out to present a lecture with each showing. He explained how Chagall illustrated scenes from both the Old and New Testaments and portrayed Jesus’ crucifixion in many of his paintings. Even the work commissioned by the Knesset portrayed Isaac spreading his arms as though he was being crucified. Following Jerry’s lectures, guests viewed the prints, and our missionaries conversed with them in a relaxed atmosphere.
The Queens campaign also employed the use of banners on an overpass above the Long Island Expressway (a main artery into the city). It became obvious that this was helping to make Jesus an unavoidable issue when phone calls to our Messiah line spiked during the times our campaigners were “bannering.” One caller to our Manhattan office complained, “I saw you idiots over the LIE! You are causing a traffic jam!” Nevertheless, numerous serious inquirers called after seeing our banners and advertisements, whether in subways, street corners or highways.
God used even the hardships for His purposes. When Queens experienced a power outage due to the heat, it meant no elevator and no air-conditioning in the hotel. One day, several campaigners decided to remain in the lobby for their rest time. There, they ended up praying with one of the hotel staff to receive the Lord. And that’s a witnessing campaign for you . . . God uses our weakness and frailty to show forth His strength!
Postscript: One week after the campaign ended, Bruce and Tracy Rapp moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where they will be proclaiming the gospel among the 100,000 plus Jewish residents in the area. Bruce has had a heart to pioneer this work since our Behold Your God campaign in Phoenix in February and March, 2006. The outpost will officially open on September 22, with their first public meeting: a High Holiday service. Pray for wisdom, creativity and strength for the Rapps in this new venture, as well as a good transition from New York to Arizona. And please pray that God will raise up a core of volunteers to help them.