Shalom in the great and powerful name of Jesus our Messiah!
One of my favorite Bible passages has continually proven to be true throughout this challenging time. The Apostle Paul wrote, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Now, this passage does not mean bad things that happen are outside of God’s foresight and knowledge because God is omniscient and omnipresent; He is the beginning, middle, and end of all things, and nothing can take him by surprise. One of my favorite pastors, John Piper, puts it this way:
When the King James says, “all things work together for good,” it does not mean, they work that way on their own, or by some power of fate. It means that God makes all things work together for good. So God is the one working…and what he is bringing about is good, and what he is bringing good out of is “all things.” Paul is not saying all things are good. He is saying all things are turned by God for good.1
I wholeheartedly agree with Pastor Piper. The Lord has taken the terrible and used it for good for our 127-year-old ministry among our Jewish people! The last fourteen months have been challenging but incredibly fruitful for the gospel!
To give you the whole story, I would like to rewind to March of last year and walk you through our 2020 year—scary, I know, but hang on, you will see how God miraculously provided, often in the eleventh hour.
On the Heels of Our 125th Anniversary
For me, it is important to remember that the pandemic erupted right after the wonderful and joyful celebrations of our 125th year of ministry in 2019. We were jubilant! We held numerous events across the country. There was a fantastic concluding banquet with Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, as our keynote speaker. We ended 2019 with a conference on the history of Chosen People Ministries’ founder, Rabbi Leopold Cohn, which was held at the Feinberg Messianic Center in Brooklyn. Out of that conference, we produced a book about Rabbi Cohn called A Rabbi’s Vision Continues. In early February 2020, we had another unique event, the Borough Park Symposium, which included a lineup of several noteworthy, mainstream Jewish scholars—a rare opportunity for the Messianic Jewish community.
We planned an advancement campaign that was to kick off in January 2020. Chosen People Ministries was growing, both domestically and overseas. Our centers, congregations, Feinberg program, and short-term ministries were driving forward, and we had finally moved back into our beautifully renovated Manhattan headquarters. The renovations were costly, and though it took a while to recover financially from the expenditure, we continue operating without debt, even up until today— thanks be to God! All our programs were growing, and we were getting ready to launch new ministries—especially to Israelis traveling around the world and in the United States. We were hopeful, with great vision and excitement about the future.
Enter March 2020
Then it hit! Let me share how I came face to face with the pandemic. I flew up to Toronto for a Canadian Chosen People Ministries board meeting on Friday, February 28, 2020. For some reason, my usual way of entering the country through the preferred traveler program was closed, and I had to stand in line for more than two hours to pass through customs to enter Canada. I was used to some people from various countries wearing face masks, but now it was almost everyone but me, which made me think that I was really missing something and that maybe the virus we were beginning to hear about was getting worse!
I knew that there was a coronavirus outbreak in China and that a few people in Seattle had already contracted the disease. I was supposed to return to Canada the following week for a Bible conference in Vancouver. From there, I was expecting to fly from Seattle to England and then Israel. During that week, news of the virus began heating up, and there were reports of the first deaths in—of all places—Seattle.
Some of our Israeli staff told me that I might have to quarantine if I did come to Israel. There was even a possibility that the government would not allow me into the country at all. All of this was fast-breaking news. I canceled the trip and did the Vancouver Bible conference by Zoom, though I dislike canceling anything!
We shut down our Manhattan headquarters office on March 16, 2020 and the Brooklyn and Florida offices soon after.
We set up a system for our mail to be transferred daily from New York City to Langhorne, Pennsylvania, where our mail was opened and sorted at a firm owned by a friend of one of our board members. All our staff began working from home, and we started meeting every morning at 8:30AM for prayer via Zoom and at 4:45 PM to end the workday.
From that point on, life became very different. Our ministry became primarily digital; our direct ministries, services, and Bible studies went online, primarily through Zoom. We initiated a host of additional online ministries as we already had a strong digital media department and a bunch of outreach websites. We were very engaged in bringing the gospel through the use of social media.
But little did we know that life and ministry would not get back to anything close to what we would consider normal for more than a year.
Time to Pivot
We are all very aware of what has transpired this year, and thank God, even though quite a few of our staff had COVID-19, no one died. Almost everyone has recovered. Many of us, however, lost friends and family to the disease. Unfortunately, we are not yet finished with COVID-19 as some staff members even contracted the disease over the last couple of weeks. We will probably still see other cases, I am sorry to say, though hopefully not among our staff. We especially need to pray for India and,specifically, Andrew and Levanya Yelchuri, our staff members in Goa, India, whose ministry is to reach the hundreds of Israelis traveling through India after their army service. Of course, this is now halted, but we pray the Israeli young people will return when the pandemic lifts in India.
In many ways, it was especially difficult for us as Your Mission to the Jewish People is focused on large and heavily populated urban areas where the majority of Jewish people live. Some of our congregations, Bible studies, and ministries are already meeting in person, particularly in the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia.
At this moment, we sense the Lord powerfully at work and leading us toward a better and brighter gospel future. I thank God that our staff stayed close to one another and never lost hope in the Lord. We knew He would make a way for us through this season of darkness.
The future is as bright as the promises of God, and it is time for us to look forward and seize the future for His glory.
I hope and pray you are well and that the Lord has preserved you and your loved ones through the pandemic. I am especially sorry if you lost a friend or loved one to the disease. May He wrap His all-powerful arms around you and bring the comfort that only comes from our risen, powerful, and faithful Savior.
In Messiah Jesus,
1 John Piper, “All Things for Good Part 1,” Desiring God (blog), June 9, 2002, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/all-things-for-good-part-1.