Shalom in His grace!
We are ready to move forward! Your Mission to the Jewish People is cautiously reopening our congregations, facilities, and in-person ministries around the globe. Because of this dramatic pause, we were able to take a breath and allow the Lord to show us some new ways to carry out our ministry and even to reorder our priorities. We are often so busy, but because of the pandemic, we were able to focus more on the Lord, our families, and allow an even deeper love for our Messiah, Jesus, to fill our hearts.
I cannot tell you how much I have appreciated the valuable lessons I have learned through this wandering through the wilderness! I am glad it is not forty years in the desert, but the Lord did use that time in the lives of the children of Israel to form my ancestors as a nation. I now have a better understanding of what my forefathers endured and how valuable these times can be for our growth and spiritual transformation.
Let me take a few moments to reflect on the journey of Chosen People Ministries through the past year.
Celebration of our 125th Anniversary
I never expected that in the months following the joy-filled 125th-anniversary celebration of our ministry, we would travel from the highest mountaintop to the lowest plane in such a short time. The changes from July 2019 to June 2020 are head-spinning!
If you recall, Chosen People Ministries was founded in 1894 by Leopold Cohn, a Hungarian rabbi who accepted Jesus on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1892. In 2019, we honored our wonderful heritage by doing what we have done for years—evangelism and Bible teaching from a Jewish perspective.
We hosted Bible conferences in Charlotte, North Carolina (February 23, 2019); Orange County, California (March 29–30); Sandy Cove, Maryland (May 31–June 2); and in the Midwest in Lake Lawn, Wisconsin (October 9–17). We held our most extensive street outreach ever in New York City (July 27–August 10).
Finally, we sponsored a Chosen People Ministries Heritage Tour in New York City (November 13–15, 2019), culminating in a celebration banquet at the Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn (November 15).
We held one additional event at our Brooklyn Center in December (December 4–6, 2019), which could be one of the most important events of our 125th year. Three non-Messianic Jewish scholars, along with some of our staff, presented historical papers on the Life and Times of Leopold Cohn. Imagine three Jewish scholars who are not believers in Jesus dialoguing with us on the founding of Chosen People Ministries!
The Impact of COVID-19 on Chosen People Ministries
The coronavirus took me and everyone else by surprise. As you know, COVID-19 hit New York City very hard!
At the beginning of March, I was all set to travel to the Holy Land. I began getting phone calls from friends and staff there, telling me that Israel was very concerned about the spread of the virus and that it looked like people who had been in Europe were going to be quarantined upon their return. One of our staff members had this experience because of travel to Europe. Since I planned to fly through London, and I would only be in Israel for a couple of days, it became evident that the trip was ill-fated! So, unfortunately, I had to cancel the trip.
During the week of March 9, we began to see major cities going into a never-before-experienced lockdown, starting with Seattle and then San Francisco.
On March 15, our governor closed the restaurants and bars in New York. I knew that our day was about to come, and so, on Sunday night, March 15, I sent an emergency text to our entire staff and told them not to come in on Monday, March 16. Why risk another week of subway travel? Within a few days, we also closed down our Florida office and moved our Feinberg Brooklyn-based training program online.
Most of us still had little idea of how the virus would impact New York City and our ministry, the economy, and lifestyle in general. Thankfully, we were already using Zoom extensively for evangelism and discipleship in both the United States and Israel. As a result, we were able to switch to digital technology very quickly for most of our communications. By mid-March, we had moved all of our services, Bible studies, and various meetings to the Zoom platform.
I am happy to say that our beloved administrative staff made a smooth transition to working from home. We established a very structured week, beginning each day with a prayer meeting on Zoom, and then ending each day with closing prayer at 4:45 pm. These gatherings became a great way to help those not used to working from home get to work, and end the workday at 5:00 pm to help them create a division between work and personal life. These prayer meetings continue to unite us spiritually as we share personal prayer requests and get to know one another better than ever before.
We have conducted a series of well-attended Bible conferences and other online events. We shared the Messiah in the Passover online with more than 2,000 people!
I am sorry to say that almost 600 meetings in churches were canceled. We were disappointed to lose these meetings as many Christians bring their not-yet-believing Jewish friends to hear us.
So What Have We Learned?
Jewish people have proven to be more open to the gospel because of the pandemic. One Jewish man came to faith through one of our first online services at our Brooklyn congregation. We have also had several other Jewish people come to the Lord as a result of our ongoing evangelistic campaigns over the web. This past month, we had one Jewish woman accept the Lord in America and another man in Israel, where we continue our online campaigns.
We look forward to gradually reopening. We expect to be back in our Manhattan, Florida, and Brooklyn offices by August. We also anticipate our services and Bible studies to resume in-person meetings slowly. We understand that our national recovery will vary depending on the area. We might not be through it, but we can better manage our relationship with this insidious, invisible enemy.
Your prayers for Chosen People Ministries mean a lot. We hope you can give generously during this summer season since the summers are usually financially challenging for most ministries and churches.
Whatever you can give today will make a significant impact as we continue to reach Jewish people with the gospel. So far, we have not had to cut our staff. Thank God, we can pay our bills and continue our work in the United States and especially in Israel!
This season has also reminded us that online ministries are a great way to reach Jewish people for Jesus. Jewish people like the anonymity of considering Jesus without their family or friends knowing what they are doing. We are using about a half-dozen outreach websites. For example, we receive hundreds of requests from Israelis each month through our Facebook ads for our Isaiah 53 Explained books, both in Hebrew and Russian! Our wonderful staff in Israel are ready and available to follow up. You will read more about what is happening in Israel for the gospel in the rest of the newsletter.
We have had well over a million people watch our testimony videos on the http://www.Ifoundshalom.com site and through various social media pages during the last twelve months. We also increased our missionary staff and volunteers, and the congregations we sponsor are growing, too! Most of them had far more people attending their services through Zoom than in person and will continue to actively promote their online services in the days ahead!
We also learned the high value of spending more time with those we love. When you are unable to be near your children, friends, parents, and grandchildren due to mandatory quarantine and for health reasons, you begin to appreciate them more. The same goes for our church members and fellow servants of the Lord.
I know I will never be the same. I will move a little slower and try to spend more time with those I love, including the Jewish people to whom I have a ministry.
Thank you for your prayers and generous support, which has enabled us to reach this point. We are ready for what comes next and look forward in hope to the remainder of our 126th year of ministry and beyond.
Your brother in the Messiah,