• Video (above): David shares about his experience in New York.
Greetings from the annual Jews for Jesus New York City Summer Witnessing Campaign. Our New York campaign is one of the longest standing traditions in the history of Jews for Jesus, dating back to 1974. Since then, every July with only one exception, 15 to 30 Jews for Jesus staff and volunteers gather for a month-long, all-out effort to make the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to Jewish people and all the other people in the Big Apple. That means three to four times each day, six days a week we hand out our Jews for Jesus broadside tracts and engage passersby in conversation, asking them, “Who do you think Jesus is?”
Each day, the average campaigner hands out between 1,000 and 3,000 gospel tracts, engages in a dozen or more conversations about Jesus and takes down the names of a handful of interested inquirers who want to receive more information from Jews for Jesus.
This year’s campaign is being led by Sarah Ascher. Sarah is a veteran of Jews for Jesus campaigns, though she has only recently joined us as a full-time missionary. In fact, Sarah was featured in the documentary “Awakening,” filmed during last year’s New York Summer Witnessing Campaign. (If you haven’t had a chance to view that documentary you can see a summary film clip (left) and take advantage of this month’s RealDeal to order a copy with free shipping.) I know Sarah would greatly appreciate your prayers.
I have stopped counting how many campaigns I have participated in since my first one in 1977. But I remember vividly so many encounters I have had throughout the years. The very first time I went out onto the streets of Manhattan I was actually arrested by the Port Authority Police for just handing out tracts in front of the Bus Terminal on 8th Avenue. Welcome to New York!
The following summer, I was standing at the Roosevelt Avenue train station in Queens when a Jewish woman came up the steps, took one look at me and screamed as if she had seen a ghost. Then she stood there and started crying, tears streaming down her face. I was shocked, to say the least. When she finally composed herself she explained that she had been going through a very difficult season in her life.
She was just about at her wits’ end when a coworker gave her a video to watch. It was about Jesus. Being Jewish, she knew she couldn’t believe in Him, yet she was strangely moved by what she saw. Finally she prayed, “God, if this is real then You are going to have to help me. Let me meet someone who is Jewish and believes in this Jesus.” The very next day she met me.
After getting over the shock of it all, she told me that our meeting was proof positive that God had answered her. She accepted my invitation to pray right there in that train station to receive the Lord. I saw her several months later at our Jews for Jesus office in New York. She was meeting with one of the missionaries for discipleship and had already become active in a local congregation. That is what we like to call a divine encounter, and every year Jews for Jesus Summer Witnessing Campaigns are peppered with these kinds of incidents.
I will never forget the summer of 1985 in Greenwich Village, when an entire family of five gathered around me to hear the gospel and then prayed with me as a family to receive Christ. Mind you, that sort of thing does not happen very often. In fact, our campaigns are mostly tough going, often boring, and we all find ourselves struggling with fatigue, rejection and discouragement. But oh, the joy of those divine encounters! And oh, the joy of those times when we sense the Lord lifting us with supernatural energy to keep going, when we know that in our own strength, we would just throw in the towel and quit.
For the past number of years I have chosen to visit our New York City campaign during the third week. The first week the campaigners, who are mostly in their twenties, are energized; everything is fresh and new. The second week they are settled into a routine, hitting their stride and feeling more confidence. The fourth week is the final week of campaign, so the campaigners have the end in sight and that usually gives them a fresh burst of energy to finish well. Usually the third week is the toughest. That’s when discouragement and fatigue set in and become the biggest challenge—and that is when I want to be there, to be as much of an encouragement to the campaigners as possible.
Each day throughout the campaign we have times of prayer and Bible study, as well as chapel services for worship and spiritual refreshment. This week it is my honor to speak in the chapel, and to stand side-by-side with our campaigners as we go out onto the streets of New York to hand out tracts and engage people in conversation.
I want to invite you to pray in a concerted way for us this week, that God would give all the campaigners boldness and encouragement to deal with the challenges of the week. Pray that God would minister to their hearts and help them to endure and to grow in His grace. Please pray for me that I will receive special empowerment to minister to and with the group as I come alongside them. More than anything, please join us all in praying for divine encounters, for hearts to be open to the gospel, for the Lord to be glorified and for Jesus to be magnified here on the streets of the Big Apple. Thank you for standing with us.
Postscript: As of Friday, July 13 the campaigners have handed out 161,900 tracts, received the names and addresses of 802 who want to hear more from Jews for Jesus and have prayed with 40 people to receive Christ! Hallelujah.