CAMPAIGN HAPS” (HAPPENINGS)
Long Island Campaign
Kristi saw from across the crowd that some people were reacting with great hostility to a couple of women in Jews for Jesus T-shirts. She made her way over to them. “I want one of those,” she announced as she took one of our gospel pamphlets. Before our young missionaries, Melissa and Crystal, could respond, someone had grabbed the broadside out of Kristi’s hand, ripping it up. Kristi simply became more determined. She wrote down her phone number and gave it Melissa. “Call me,” she said, “I really want to talk about this.”
Though both of Kristi’s parents were Jewish, she was raised in a fairly secular atmosphere. After her mother died, Kristi began searching for spiritual meaning in life. Through her search she kept “seeing and hearing about Jesus everywhere.” She received our mailer offering the Jesus for Jews book of testimonies. She ordered the book and had already read the first story when she saw Melissa and Crystal at Cedarhurst. She noticed their radiating joy in the midst of that troubled situation.
Melissa called and set up an appointment to meet with Kristi. Also present was Bob Mendelsohn, a veteran missionary and leader of our work in Australia. And Crystal (who begins her missionary training with us in September) came as well. They all arrived at Starbucks at the same time, and Kristi seemed happy about the meeting. Melissa, after some small talk, explained how we, as believers, take our authority directly from God and Scripture, in contrast to traditional Judaism, which takes its authority from rabbis and other community leaders.
Kristi knew nothing of the Bible, so Bob opened his and talked to her about messianic prophecies. He began reading Isaiah 53 and Kristi interrupted, saying, “That’s talking about Jesus.”
Crystal shared her story of faith. Bob then talked about Nicodemus and being born again. Kristi said, “I want that. I want to have a relationship with God.” She then prayed with the three others to receive Christ.
After the prayer, Kristi was concerned she did not “feel” God. Bob explained that this was the beginning of her relationship with Him. He gave her a copy of the Gospel of John and told her the more she learns about Jesus, the closer she’ll feel to Him. He explained that life wouldn’t be perfect from now on, but that even in the hard times she wouldn’t be alone.
Kristi is very eager to begin studying the Bible with one of our New York missionaries.
And the hostile folks at Cedarhurst? Who knows whether Kristi would have seen Melissa and Crystal, if not for the commotion that some angry people had caused. Yes, Kristi was already interested in Jesus and had sent for our book. But our opposition helped her to see even more clearly that she wanted to pursue that interest. So when you hear that we are rejected or cursed at in the streets, just remember, as we do, that God is often using that hostility to His greater glory. Kristi’s story is not unique in that regard. Do pray for her to grow in faith and grace.
The last day of campaign . . .
On the last day of the campaign, all the nine campaigns joined together for a commemoration service in Manhattan. We then paraded some 25 blocks through the city, including Times Square. Our destination was a hotel where a banquet room had been reserved so that all of the campaigners could share a meal together.
The day after campaign . . .
Stephen Katz reported, “I was on the phone with a modern Orthodox guy who had called the ‘ymos’ number [a dedicated number used for the campaign]. We talked for an hour and I wondered for the first half if he could possibly as open as he sounded. In the end, I believed that he was sincere, and he prayed to receive the Lord!
“After that I met for my sixth time with a Hassid I’d been asking people to pray for throughout the campaign. He did not receive the Lord, but indicated that he thinks the gospel is true. I was able to connect him with Josh Sofaer (leader of our New York branch), who sat in on most of the visit.
“And after that, I got a call from a Hassidic guy who had seen our banners at New Square on Friday. He doesn’t live there, but was visiting. We talked for a while and he gave me his address so I could send him something to read something in Yiddish.
Then, to my great surprise, I got a call from a Hassidic guy from Boro Park with whom I’d been talking by phone all month. We’d never met because he’s been afraid. But after our conversation he drove all the way up to Manhattan and we had a visit in his car while driving around. In the end we pulled over so he wouldn’t be distracted while he prayed to receive the Lord!”
Stephen was one of three leaders of the ultra-Orthodox campaign who stayed in New York for follow up. He said he was “sleepily praising God” at the end of the first day, after three visits, during which one Orthodox and one ultra-Orthodox man prayed to receive the Lord. Not a bad day.
If you would like to read more campaign stories that were posted on our website throughout the month of July, go here. Under each date, you’ll see a column of five items. The first three items enable you to view photos, new broadsides we used for the campaign, and learn interesting tidbits about New York City. The fourth item features a daily blog/update. Click on that fourth item for any date and you will see a reflection for the day. You can scroll down to the section that says “AND NOW FOR SOME OF THE HAPS (HAPPENINGS),” and those will be the daily updates.
The Fine Line: a post BYG reflection
by Ruth Rosen
We have always identified ourselves openly, rendering the opposition’s complaints that we are deceptive ridiculous. But our teams reaching out to the ultra-Orthodox communities in and around New York simply could not wear Jews for Jesus T-shirts. It isn’t only that they would have been immediately “escorted out” by the shomrim (like an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood watch). No one in their right mind could have talked to people clad in Jews for Jesus T-shirts—no matter how interested they were—because being seen with missionaries would have repercussions. The only way to give anyone in this community the option of talking to us was to go in “plain clothes.” When engaged in private conversations with individuals, we let them know who we were so they could choose whether or not to continue.
It is certainly not our usual way of reaching out and frankly I had to reflect on how comfortable I was with this different way of doing things. Was it really all right to engage people in conversation without our usual, obvious identification? Then I remembered that the Gospel writers included those narratives when Jesus disappeared into a crowd. We read about the times when He chose not to answer questions that would have ended His ministry prematurely. Our Messiah demonstrated that, when necessary, one can be covert without compromising one’s integrity.
Nevertheless, outside of the ultra-Orthodox community, you can expect to see us being our usual more-than-obvious selves as we raise the name of Yeshua. And of course there are those who complain that our usual witnessing attire is too confrontative. You’ve heard it said that you can’t please everyone. Well, in the field of Jewish evangelism, you usually can’t please anyone except those who recognize the need for all people to hear the gospel presented in a relevant way. Nevertheless, we would rather err on the side of being, as some put it, “in-your-face” about our belief in Jesus. We recognize that “covert” operations have their place, but there is a fine line between situations where that is justified, versus our natural human preference not to expose ourselves to ridicule. And that’s a line we dare not cross.
Still, you can expect to continue hearing that Jews for Jesus is deceptive from our opposition. When you hear counter-missionaries talk about missionaries’ “deceptive tactics” remember three things. First, people who cannot discredit the message always seek to discredit the messenger. Second, Jesus told His followers to expect people to make false accusations about them. And third, if Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, there is nothing more Jewish than believing and following Him.
THE GOSPEL IN CYBERSPACE
by Rich Robinson
One new aspect of campaign has been going online and finding others blogging about Jews for Jesus. A “blog,” if you don’t know, is short for “web log.” Blogs are personal (sometimes corporate) online journals where people chronicle their daily lives, their views, their gripes and joys, and just about anything else about their inner and outer lives. Blogs often have colorful names, and usually invite comments from readers. We discovered quite a few people blogging about Jews for Jesus, as well as other mentions on non-blog web sites.
The great thing is that blogging, much like the media, amplifies the message beyond our own efforts. Even when the blogs are negative, just seeing the name “Jews for Jesus” gives people a message. Below are samples of some of the online buzz that Jews for Jesus caused on the internet this summer.
Reactions to our subway ads
Online bloggers had quite a bit to say about our subway ads, which proved to be controversial not only in what they stated (Jews can be for Jesus; Jesus is for Jews) but also in the fact that they stated it (is “advertising religion” offensive?). On The Grande Enchilada (we told you the names were different), it was noted that it’s a free country and the author was not upset at the ads—but wanted to make very clear to the readers that, “There is no such thing as a Jew for Jesus.” It was different over at the web site The Gawker (“daily Manhattan media news and gossip”) where the headline blared, “New Subway Ads Will Make You Wish You’d Been Stabbed Instead.”
When the New York Post ran an article entitled “Holy Hell Over Subway ‘Jesus’: Ad Blitz Targets Jews,” it was picked up by the blog News for Members of the Tribe (“News and commentary about Israel, Zionism, Judaism, the Middle East, and anti-Semitism”). To some people, apparently, exchanging religious views in the public arena—especially regarding Jews believing in Jesus—is worse than being mugged.
But we had to laugh when we read the Religious Freaks blog. The title there was, “Confused Jews for Jesus Annoy Thousands,” and our ad campaign was described as “a massive assault on common sense and decency.” However, they politely added, “their choice in colors was respectable and quite nice, I might add.” Glad to know we are aesthetically, if not politically, correct.
It was also encouraging to see a blog such as Light and Heat (“contend for the faith”) write supportively in “Controversy Used for Good.”
Finally, we have to point out a creative blog headline in regard to a controversy with the MTA, when they objected to one of our T-shirt designs. We’d placed our initials, “JFJ,“ in colored circles, which they viewed as an infringement of their logo. The New York Post reported on this and showed how we changed our T-shirt logo from circles to stars. Back on The Gawker, we read, “MTA vs. JFJ in Final Apocalyptic Fight for Souls of Branded-Merchandise Wearers,” complete with a picture they downloaded from our online Gallery, showing one of our campaigners holding up an example of the T-shirt in question, in a decidedly un-apocalyptic pose.
Reactions to our broadside, “What’s Next for the iPod Guy?”
One of this summer’s broadsides whimsically used Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs as a launching point for the gospel and speculated that coming to faith in Jesus would be the best “NeXTSTEP” for Steve, taking off on the name of a company he founded.
That broadside quickly made the rounds on numerous blogs, complete with illustrations of the pamphlet. Gizmodo announced, “Evangelical Tract Says ‘iPod Guy’ Needs Jesus,” and seemed to miss the point completely as they opined, “We’re as inclined as anyone to believe that Steve Jobs is going to spend eternity in flames…but Rich Robinson of Jews for Jesus is really sure.” Macenstein headlines “‘Jews for Jesus’ Attempts to Convert Steve Jobs,” and described the tract as “the most bizarre marketing tactic we have ever seen…specifically designed to convert Steve Jobs…to Christianity.”
An unnamed blog that uses a large banana as its logo said, “I actually really like the tract, itself. Not for an evangelism tool, but simply as a piece of literature. The pencil drawings are great.” At Shawn’s Weblog, the opinion was that “This is pretty funny and it’s a pretty good idea. I don’t know if it would get me saved but it might encourage me to buy an iPod.” The blog BabaFree says it is “extremely interesting and well put together. The tract includes great plays on words and the Ultimate Message of the Universe.”
It’s good to see the tract getting so much circulation. Let’s pray that some of the bloggers would contemplate the real point, which is that for Steve Jobs or any of us, silicon can’t substitute for salvation.
Reactions in General
Orthomom (an Orthodox mom, we guess) posted a photograph of the Liberated Wailing Wall’s bus and blogged that “this bus, packed to the gills with what I have to assume were missionaries, pulled up to me at a red light while I was on my way to work in the city.” While this suggests hordes of missionaries piled into the bus like sardines, the Liberated Wailing Wall only has seven people. But their bus does make a very nice billboard.
On the other side of the fence, The 522 reprinted a media article and asked people to join in prayer for the gospel in New York City, as does the Post-Methodist blog.
You have to really see these blogs to appreciate them, and if you go to the online edition of this article, you will be able to link into any or all of them. (Be warned that because the majority of these sites are written and commented on by non-believers, the tone and language will often reflect that.)