This year’s Hasidic outreach was a direct outgrowth of our Behold Your God campaign grand finale in NYC last summer. The experiences we had during the campaign (especially seeing a couple of Hasidic Jews come to faith and continue in their relationships with us during the year) convinced many of us that God is beginning to do something very significant in this community, that we need to have an ongoing presence there and continue trying to learn how to reach this community with the truth of the gospel.
Our strategy was simple. We wanted a small team of people (only those who had been with us last year) to return back to New York for a two-week outreach, using similar methods of outreach that we used during BYG last year. For the first week and a half we wanted to be very low key, going out on the streets looking to have as many conversations as possible, without demonstrating any organized effort. We knew that once we were identified by the community, our ability to have fruitful conversations on the streets would be significantly diminished. We knew from last year that the major impact evangelistically (and especially in eliciting a response and getting contacts) would be through the mailings/phoning that would bring the message into people’s homes; the street work would supplement that proclamation and provide a greater opportunity to seed the community in prayer.
By the middle of the second week, therefore, we planned to get the message out in increasingly public ways. This would begin with automated telephone calls going out to thousands of Hasidic homes, offering a free copy of the Yiddish film about Jesus that we used last summer. Last year we sent a copy of the film directly to 80,000 homes; this year we simply informed people that they could still get a free copy if they missed the opportunity before. At the same time, we would have the team out with Yiddish banners for the morning rush hour: once at the Williamsburg Bridge and once at the top of Ocean Parkway, where many travel into the city for work. Finally, late on Friday night, we wanted to go out and place 100 Yiddish stickers (with Messianic prophecies and their fulfillments) on streets at the edges of Williamsburg and Borough Park.
We hoped that by the end of the outreach, the community would again be reminded that there are Jews who believe in Jesus, that we would have stirred the curiosity of many, and that we would have given those God is drawing an opportunity to connect with us.
The automated phone calls (a total of 24,874) resulted in the following: 613 people called in response. Of those, 439 were not interested in discussing the gospel at all. One hundred seventy-four were willing to have a conversation in which we told them the gospel message, and of those, ten people gave their contact information to hear more.
Once the word went out on the streets to watch out for missionaries, many people responded to our approach in a similar way, either asking Are you a missionary?” or saying, “I don’t have time for this.” Even so, there were still some fruitful conversations. Karol Joseph reported, “I met a man, ‘J.’ I asked him if he thought it was possible that the Messiah had already come but that our Jewish people had missed him. He responded, ‘Maybe. I don’t know.’ I told him that according to the prophet Daniel, it’s clear that the Messiah would have had to come before the destruction of the Second Temple. And that according to Isaiah, the Messiah would be rejected by His own people, who would think that God was cursing him, though in reality he was crushing him as the guilt offering for our sin. He asked where it said that, and when I told him in Daniel 9 and Isaiah 53, he said, ‘I should really take a look at that…’ Then he had to leave, but he took the phone number and said that he would call. Please pray that he will.
We also had an encouraging experience on Sunday when a rabbi whom Anna Marie had met last week, reappeared. Here’s what she said about the encounter:
“…I ran into Rabbi M. on the streets of Borough Park (last week). He listened as I shared the prophecies of Messiah, especially the time line in Daniel 9. During our conversation, he actually told me he needed to lie down because it was a lot to consider! I could see he was overwhelmed and told him that I meant him no harm, but I needed to share with him. I told him that the love of Jesus compels me to speak of His love to His own people. I then shared my story and the love I have for the Jews, due to the Ruach Ha Kodesh (the Holy Spirit) in my heart! Rabbi M. told me his name and accepted a Yiddish translation of the Gospel of John. I wish you could have seen him looking over his shoulder and shoving the little booklet into his coat pocket. He promised me he would read it at home, in private. We parted ways as he blew me a kiss and called me a ‘good girl.’
“Sunday morning, I headed for church on the outskirts of Borough Park. As I walked, I saw a Hasidic man walking towards me. I prayed, ‘Lord, help me to speak to this man.’ And then I said ‘Shalom.’ He looked familiar to me, so I said, ‘Have we spoken before?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. I suddenly realized it was Rabbi M. He told me how precious I am, how he sees love in my heart and then he thanked me for giving him the booklet (Gospel of John). “Rabbi M., please know that my desire for you is to come to know and love my Yeshua; He’s your Holy Messiah.” Then I found myself weeping. I tried to control it…barely did, when he told me he has the booklet at home and has been reading it. I asked him if he is considering Jesus and he said ‘This, I am considering.’ I asked him to pray to the Lord, the one he calls HaShem, and ask if what I am telling him is true. He told me how glad he was that I had told him about Jesus and I invited him to the church where I was about to worship. He hesitated, blew me a kiss and walked away.”