God really does work in mysterious ways.
I still remember receiving a phone call from Scott Brown, who was leading one of our most successful Chosen People Ministries Messianic congregations at that time, located in the greater Washington, DC, area. He asked if he could speak with me about a new ministry that he and his wife Margie were excited about pursuing.
I traveled to Washington, DC from New York City and watched as Scott drove up on a Harley-Davidson to the restaurant where we were meeting for breakfast. As soon as he opened his mouth, I knew that I was speaking to someone who had received a clear calling and vision from the Lord.
I could hear the excitement in his voice as he described this exhilarating new evangelistic venture. I respect and admire Scott, so I would have agreed to his doing almost anything, as long as it fulfilled our mission to reach Jewish people with the gospel. However, when he mentioned moving to New Zealand—that was a “faith-stretch” for me. Traditionally, very few Jewish people live in New Zealand!
It might be best to have Scott share the rest of this story about how God turned a burden for reaching young Israelis into one of our most effective ministries to the Jewish people. Before you read what Scott is going to share, let me tell you that young secular Israelis are probably one of the toughest and hardest-to-reach groups among the 15.5 million Jewish people alive today. But nothing is impossible—with God!
As you will see, the Lord gave Scott and Margie, Lawrence Hirsch (our leader in Australia), myself, and hundreds of others in New Zealand a heart for bringing hard-to-reach young Israelis the gospel at the right moment, in the right place, and even at the right time of their lives.
My wife and I stumbled upon the idea of a “backpacker ministry” while motorcycling throughout New Zealand’s wild and wonderful South Island. Every night, we stayed at “backpackers” hostel-like facilities that are designed to create community among their guests. We were shocked and delighted to find these places filled with young seekers from around the world (including Israelis!) who were eager to discuss spiritual topics. It was a candy store for missionaries! And given the fact that Margie and I have a sweet tooth for missions, we moved to the South Island the very next year, purchased a very remote riverside campground and went straight to work!
The original story about Israelites wandering in the wilderness doesn’t end particularly well, but the many stories of Israelis wandering into our wilderness campground are replete with joy and redemption! Take, for example, the story of Shira, a pre-med student who lit up with excitement when I told her that the movie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was filmed just a few minutes away. Shira turned to her traveling partner Naomi and recounted how her mother had read her the entire Chronicles of Narnia series when she was a little girl.
I asked Shira to describe Aslan (the character depicting Jesus) to her friend, and to explain what Aslan did to prove his love for his kingdom. After she passionately (and unwittingly) shared the gospel with Naomi, I asked Shira, “Are you aware that you just perfectly described what God has done to demonstrate His love for us?” Shira seemed to have previously reflected on Aslan’s symbolism because I could hear the “click” of the light turning on! I then told her that there is a chapter in the Tanakh (Old Testament) that reveals Aslan’s true identity and gave her the book, Isaiah 53 Explained. I wish you could have seen how excited she was to receive it!
God brought 2,300 young Israelis to our campground, most of whom received Hebrew New Testaments, gospel literature, and a close encounter with an unashamed Jewish follower of Jesus—me! But if you know the God who does “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20) you won’t be surprised to learn that He has done so much more! To date, our outreaches have touched the hearts and minds of well over 10,000 Israeli guests in our multiple facilities, as well as many hundreds of backpackers from Europe, South America, and Asia.
In the years prior to March 2020, when the pandemic closed New Zealand’s borders to tourists, our facilities were brimming with young Israelis who were exposed to the gospel daily by means of our dedicated staff and volunteers.
Countless gospel seeds were planted in Jewish minds and hearts, seeds that will burst forth in glorious regeneration in days to come!
After returning home from their New Zealand adventure, an Israeli couple wrote this to our staff at one of our backpacker facilities:
“You taught us the lesson of love that we will continue to learn and to teach others. We learned about Christians who love Israel and love us, and who are completely different from those we knew before. We learned about Jews who live among us that we never knew existed [Jewish believers in Jesus]. We are thankful for the lessons we learned. We wish that you continue to have blessings from God . . .”
Scott concludes, “What a privilege to be part of a kingdom initiative that is moving Israelis, one by one, closer to the King Messiah, Yeshua!”
BACK TO BASICS ’22 CAMPAIGN
I am sure this story of God’s redemptive power has already captured your heart and thrilled your soul. What started out as an off-the-beaten-path vision for Jewish evangelism has now resulted in thousands of young Israelis hearing about Jesus in an absolutely wonderful, beautiful, and loving setting.
I want to let you know that we have prayerfully developed a series of outreach goals for 2022–2023. We have learned a lot during the pandemic, and not simply because of the difficulties of this period. It also allowed us time to reflect upon our ministries for the Lord.
I believe the Lord wants us to refocus on the very same ministries we have been doing for longer than a century. I can boil it down to two strategic efforts: The first is direct evangelism and the other is discipling and training those we reach for Jesus. These goals are in sync with some of the last words of Jesus before He ascended to the right hand of the Father:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).
During the next year, we plan to focus on reaching Jewish people who are traditionally “hard-to-reach,” like young secular Israelis. This also includes secular Jewish urbanites, the ultra-religious Jewish people around the globe, especially in the greater New York area and Israel, and many others as well.
We believe this “remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Romans 11:5) is spread throughout the global Jewish community, and over the next few years we hope to locate and reach them for Jesus. Of course, once reached, we will disciple and train them one on one and through our new Chosen People Bible Institute online. We will also plant them in growing messianic congregations and enable them to study at our Charles Feinberg Center in Brooklyn or online.
We are training the next generation of leaders in the field of Jewish missions.
Who knows? Maybe some of these next-generation leaders will be from among those who were formerly “hard-to-reach.” Through your prayers, generous giving, and the sacrificial work of our missionaries, we will see a movement of next-generation Messianic Jewish leaders prepared for the work of global Jewish evangelism. That is my hope and prayer!
It would be a blessing to know you share this vision for our Back to Basics Campaign. Right now, I do not think anything is more important for Your Mission to the Jewish People than focusing on evangelism and discipleship in preparation for the Lord’s return.
I believe this will be a powerful step forward for the Lord and the Jewish people in a post-pandemic world!
PARTNERS IN THE GOSPEL
On behalf of our entire global staff, I want to thank you for your prayers and faithful support. We are partners in the gospel and in bringing the message of Messiah Jesus to the Jew first and also to the Gentile! We cannot allow Jewish evangelism to become the great omission of the Great Commission.
Our Back to Basics Campaign for 2022 will also include equipping members of local evangelical churches and Messianic congregations around the world to serve the Jewish people alongside us by providing encouragement, new and exciting tools, and in-person and web-based training.
Thanks so much for caring and again, Happy New Year! I hope 2022 will be a year filled with His presence and even some unexpected ways to serve Him through the year.