President's Prayer Letter
Dear friend in Messiah,
We are still in the midst of the High Holy Days—one of the most important seasons in Jewish life. It consists of three Jewish holidays: the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).
The High Holidays encourage us to draw closer to God and to appreciate our salvation in the Messiah Jesus in far deeper ways than usual. In fact, this is exactly why God created the Jewish Holy Days. He marked seven great festivals and a weekly Sabbath as times for Jewish people to refrain from everyday activities and focus their full attention on Him.
The Day of Atonement
Yom Kippur is the capstone of a ten-day period, beginning with Rosh Hashanah, called the Ten Days of Repentance or sometimes the Ten Days of Awe. During this time, we are supposed to repent before God and our fellow man, asking forgiveness for the ways in which we may have harmed others. It is this focus on healing that comes from forgiving and being forgiven that I believe is one of the true miracles of life. It is at the very core of the Gospel message!
To be forgiven and then be able to forgive is a gift. There are very few experiences able to heal the heart and soul as forgiveness can.
May I tell you a quick story about one of my heroes—Corrie ten Boom? She is a woman who really understood the power of forgiveness and the struggles that go along with forgiving.
It was in a church in Germany that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken. It was 1947, and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.
And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.
“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.
“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, ...” his hand came out, “will you forgive me?”
And I stood there—I whose sins had every day to be forgiven—and could not. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner.
I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.1
This powerful story reminds me of one of my favorite Scripture passages to meditate on during the Day of Atonement. Yeshua the Messiah, who observed the Day of Atonement before He became the Atonement, said the following in Matthew chapter 6,
For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
The Savior was making the point that Corrie ten Boom well illustrated,
…that authentic forgiveness is only possible when you have been forgiven.
Our salvation is not based on forgiving others, but it is also true that citizens of the kingdom of God cannot walk in fellowship with God if we refuse to forgive others.2
A person can only forgive as they have been forgiven! When we forgive others, it shows that we understand what it means to be forgiven by God Himself. Extending forgiveness releases others from their sin/debt to us and clears the path for reconciliation and restoration.
Bringing the Message of Atonement to the Jewish People
I love the Day of Atonement because it reminds me of what our work at Chosen People Ministries is all about! What could be more precious and more meaningful than bringing this message of forgiveness and reconciliation to the Jewish people—and to the world?
Thank you for your prayers and financial support. We could not possibly do this work without you! If you are able to make a generous gift this month to the work of bringing the Gospel to the Jewish people, let me assure you that your gift will be used exactly for this purpose—to bring the message of forgiveness to God’s chosen people.
May the Lord who forgives grant you great joy and the power to forgive others.
Your brother in the Messiah,
P.S. There is no better way to understand the Jewish people than to understand what was endured during the Holocaust. The experiences of Jewish people in Germany and Poland have shaped modern Jewish attitudes towards the Gospel. Chosen People Ministries wants to take you there on a Holocaust Memorial Tour to give you an opportunity to visit sites in Berlin, Warsaw and Auschwitz. The tour will take place June 14-24, 2015. Please visit the Holocaust Memorial Website for more information.
1 “I’m Still Learning to Forgive” by Corrie ten Boom is reproduced with permission from Guideposts, Guideposts.org. Copyright ©1972 by Guideposts. All rights reserved.
2 Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., “Matthew” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, v. 2 (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1983), 32. http://bible.org/article/issue-forgiveness-sermon-mount
Our Dedicated Workers on the Front Lines
Dear friend in the Messiah,
Shalom from New York City and I pray you have a Happy Jewish New Year as we will celebrate Rosh Hashanah on the 25th of this month! According to tradition, we are entering the year 5775. Please pray for our holiday services that will be held all month, as we expect many Jewish seekers to attend.
It has been quite a summer for Your Mission to the Jewish People. We completed a successful evangelistic outreach—Shalom Brooklyn (in Brooklyn of course!). We shared the Gospel with hundreds of Jewish people, and many prayed to receive the Lord. We are now following up with all of these Jewish contacts who are open to hearing more about Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah! Our new Messianic congregations, one in Russian and one in English, are both fully operational and meeting at our Feinberg Center in the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn—the ideal environment for these new seekers!
It has been a very difficult and yet fruitful season of ministry in the Holy Land. In the midst of air raid sirens, falling rockets and the tension of soldiers battling for the security of Israel, the work of Messiah has continued. We held children’s camps, trips for Holocaust survivors, Bible studies, congregational meetings, ministries to drug addicts and so much more.
My Brother and Co-Worker – Maxim Katz
One of the staff members of Chosen People Ministries in Israel that I wish you could meet is Maxim Katz. This dear, hard-working brother leads our ministries among Holocaust survivors and elderly Russian Jews in Israel. He leads our children’s camps and ministries to soldiers as well.
Maxim grew up in the Former Soviet Union in the city of Birobidzhan. As an older teenager, he left home and immigrated to Israel. After a short time, in what he hoped would be his “promised land,” Maxim fell into a very unwholesome lifestyle. He began using drugs and alcohol, and soon he was living on the streets. As terrible as this was, this nonetheless led to some life-transforming experiences that would shape the character and future of this young immigrant to Israel.
The most important of these experiences was that Maxim came to know Jesus. He was raised a Jewish atheist, having no concept of God or what it meant to be religiously Jewish. He knew he was Jewish and that Israel was a place he could go to escape the bleak prospects of life and career in the Former Soviet Union. But, like the prodigal son, he left his home and found himself in a far worse condition than before.
Yet God had other plans! He graciously saved Maxim in the city of Eilat, and this young man began growing in his faith. There were some really rough moments when he was tempted to return to his old lifestyle, but through the ministry of a Christian community called The Shelter and the good influence of many others, Maxim pulled through for the Lord. Eventually, Maxim went through a number of discipleship courses offered in Israel and spent a number of years studying at Israel College of the Bible.
Maxim became friends with the leader of Chosen People Ministries in Israel, Michael Z., another Russian Jewish immigrant who had come to the Lord. Michael encouraged Maxim to serve the Lord in full-time Jewish ministry and in 2002, Maxim began his work with Chosen People Ministries. His life—and the work of Chosen People Ministries in Israel—was never the same!
As I mentioned before, God used the difficult experiences in Maxim’s life to shape his character. From a very early stage in his ministry, Maxim demonstrated a heart of compassion that I have rarely seen among believers. He loves children, elderly people and everyone in between. Maxim works tirelessly to show Israelis the love of Jesus in the most practical ways: listening, feeding them and providing companionship, just to name a few.
Eventually, Maxim began a ministry of both practical and spiritual help among elderly Holocaust survivors, which continues to this very day. There are elderly Holocaust survivors who have opened their hearts to the Messiah because God used Maxim to touch their lives!
During the last few months, Maxim’s ministry among the survivors has intensified because of the war with Hamas in Gaza. Maxim has been able to show the love of Jesus by bringing food, comfort and the Gospel to these precious people, most of whom are between 80 and 90 years old. Some had not left their homes for two or three weeks because they needed to stay within fifteen seconds of a bombshelter—it was simply tragic! Maxim has a tremendous influence among so many of them.
The Daniel Fuchs Memorial Fund: Helping Our Under-Supported Missionaries
There was a time when Maxim wanted to serve with Chosen People Ministries, but because he lived in Israel it was impossible for him to raise support. His English was not good and he was unable to travel to the United States to speak in churches or meet Christians who might support his ministry.
Now, his English has improved—and so has his level of support. But there are others like Maxim who need our help. This is why we created the Daniel Fuchs Memorial Fund, named after one of the Mission’s previous presidents who had a great heart for our missionaries and their families.
We have many other staff members living in Israel, Russia, Ukraine and Western Europe who are willing and ready to serve, but need our prayers and financial support to get started! Thank God for the United States of America, Canada and other countries where supporting God’s work through individual missionaries is a fundamental principle of our faith and walk with Jesus. We are privileged to live in places where we can worship as we please and provide resources that can be used to spread the Gospel around the world—to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.
Would you please consider a gift today to help some wonderful ministry workers, who for one reason or another are unable to raise their support? We want to help them get started and to provide support until, by God’s grace, they are able to raise the support themselves.
The average need varies considerably with the country in which the worker lives—so it is hard for me to tell you how much we need. One staff member in Israel needs about $25,000 each year to make ends meet, while another in Russia needs between $10,000 and $15,000 per year. Some of our staff in Brooklyn need more than this.
We try to invest in staff members who serve in areas where raising support is especially difficult, and we also try to do the most for those who are in the beginning stages of their ministries. Your gift today can help put a missionary on the field!
Thank you for your generosity, your love for the Lord and the Jewish people— and for your prayers for the peace of Jerusalem! I would like to send you a copy of our new Messianic Jewish Art Calendar as a thank you for your gift of $200 or more. I know you will love it and be reminded to pray for Your Mission to the Jewish People each day!
P.S. Maxim will be coming to the United States to participate in a special banquet to raise funds for our ministries among the poor and needy in Israel. The date is December 6, and I hope you will pray for this important event—or attend if you are in the area! For more information, visit www.chosenpeople.com/holidaybanquet.
Seniors Receive New Life in Messiah
Carole Bahm, who has been faithfully ministering among Jewish retirees in South Florida, has been witnessing to a 103-year-old Jewish man by the name of Aaron.* His sister-in-law, Kate,* has been doing likewise for many years. Recently, Aaron prayed to receive Jesus as his Messiah and Lord. Carole writes, “When I visited Aaron, I said to him, ‘I understand you accepted Yeshua (Jesus) as your Messiah and Lord. Is that right?’ He looked at me for a long time and then said, ‘Yes.’ To see someone like Aaron become a believer at his age has been a great encouragement. Oh, by the way, he just turned 104.”
Meanwhile in Israel, another Jewish man—a relative youngster at the age of 85-—responded to the Gospel at a weekly Bible study that staff member Eugene I. helps lead. He writes, “At the next meeting, he even prayed on his own. I am very excited for him. It is also an encouragement for many who attend our meetings who have not yet fully committed to following Messiah.”
Patient Prayer Bears Fruit for Kingdom
Staff member Anna Bortsova in Toronto knows what it is to patiently wait for a planted seed to flourish. A few years ago, at a women’s Bible study that Anna was leading, an unbelieving Jewish woman named Deborah* was “sitting on the fence” regarding a decision for the Lord. Later, she moved with her family to California and although Anna continued to pray, they lost contact. Then, Anna’s telephone rang. It was Deborah, calling from California with news. “I want to tell you something! I became a believer!” she said. “And I remembered our Bible studies so often, thinking and reading through the notes.” Now Anna and Deborah regularly call each other and pray together. Deborah is planning to start a group with two Jewish women who are interested in Bible study.
The Word is Getting Around
Dov,* a young Russian Jewish cab driver picked up staff member Joseph Ryan and his wife, Sarah, from the airport. When Joseph mentioned Chosen People Ministries, Dov began talking about a building in Brooklyn that he recently walked past—it turned out to be our new Charles Feinberg Messianic Center! Joseph began explaining to him that Charles Feinberg was a prominent Jewish believer in Jesus. Surprisingly, Dov interrupted, “I know. I googled him.”
Joseph says, “I was amazed! In all of Brooklyn, what are the chances this Jewish taxi driver walked past our building, was interested enough to google it, and then had us in his cab!” Please pray that Dov would be receptive to meeting with Joseph in person when he calls to follow up.
A Health Emergency and a Faith Decision in Israel – All in One Afternoon
Brian S., who ministers at Chosen People Ministries’ Food Distribution Center in Netanya, knows how to keep a cool head. While waiting to be served there, one of the recipients passed out, possibly having a heart attack. Brian began emergency assistance and by God’s grace, one of the others waiting for assistance happened to be a retired doctor who also helped, as they waited for an ambulance. Brian reports, “Praise the Lord, the ambulance took him away alive as our team prayed health and healing over him! All the more exciting, in the same hour, one of our recipients, a Jewish immigrant woman, asked us for prayer. At the end of our visit, she received Yeshua (Jesus) as her Messiah. God is good!”
Isaiah 53 Israel Outreach Update
Over 100 copies of the Hebrew version of Isaiah 53 Explained have been sent out across Israel so far—
mostly to Jewish seekers! People from all walks of life are ordering the book, from religious Jewish people to the very secular. Additionally, people are visiting our Isaiah 53 website and over 100,000 Hebrew speakers watched the testimony video for more than five minutes…this is remarkable! Our staff member Gabi G. is in continual communication with three Israelis in particular who continue to ask him questions about Messiah as they are reading through Isaiah 53 Explained. Please pray for the opportunities for one-on-one visits with those who are searching. Other Israelis who have ordered Isaiah 53 Explained are already followers of Messiah Jesus wanting to grow in their faith and/or share the book with unbelieving friends.
We also sent out hundreds of books to people in our Spanish-language Isaiah 53 Campaign in Argentina…it is tremendously exciting to see God at work. We are following up on the names from both the Hebrew and Spanish campaigns. We will be continuing these online campaigns and turning our eyes towards the great state of Texas in the fall. Please pray that the Lord would open the eyes of 100,000 Jewish people in Texas!
*Names have been changed
Thank you for asking me to describe our difficult situation today. We live in Sderot, an ordinary, small city in Israel. But there is something that makes life here different than other places in Israel. We are one and a half miles from the border of Gaza!
For almost 14 years, enemies have fired missiles at our city and during the middle of the recent conflict, the number went up to 40 rockets a day.
It has been so frightening for my friends and me. Sirens go off all the time, day and night, and sometimes up to nine or ten per hour. Only a few seconds separate the siren sound and the actual time the rocket or bomb falls, and we hear the bombs hitting some targets either in our city or in Gaza.
Of course, we are terrified that the next target might be our home. We are even more afraid that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in cities like Tel Aviv, Ashkelon and Ashdod might be bombed!
We are on the verge of a nervous breakdown and are living in permanent fear.
There are around 80 people like me who survived the Holocaust and live in the social apartments, and we cannot afford to leave. Most of us never thought that we would experience the fear of being killed again…especially in our own homeland!
As the president of Chosen People Ministries, I am privileged to lead one of the oldest and largest mission agencies reaching the Jewish people with the love of Jesus the Messiah. The above is just one of the many moving stories that have crossed my desk recently, and it moved me to tears!
I know you love the same Lord, and that your heart is broken over the recent events related to the war between Israel and Hamas terrorists. Innocent victims suffered on both sides, and we continue to shed tears for those whose lives were shattered by the conflict.
One of the hidden groups of Israelis who have endured the most distress is the almost two hundred thousand elderly Holocaust survivors still alive today in Israel. These dear people, who have been through so much in the past, need the help of loving Christians today.
Maxim, one of our faithful staff members who leads many of our ministries among the Holocaust survivors, writes:
Esther wrote the above letter. Seventeen years ago she came to Israel from Ukraine. She was in the Ghetto during the Holocaust, and her mother was shot before her eyes. Being a child, she was about to be shot together with other Jews but someone pushed her, she fell and somehow was spared.
Nowadays, she is responsible for the Holocaust Survivors Organization in Sderot and helps us in various projects. As you remember, our ministry among these precious Holocaust survivors began with the second Lebanon war when tens of thousands of Israelis living within the range of missiles fired from southern Lebanon fled their homes and moved as far south as they could.
We put together a team that fed and cared for almost 300 people for more than a month. Many of these were elderly Holocaust survivors; they grew to love us and we grew to love them too. We discovered that the survivors were organized into groups in various regions around Israel. We were especially drawn to the small group of elderly Holocaust survivors in Sderot. We began visiting them and doing what we could to help them experience God’s love through Jesus the Messiah and to teach them the Scriptures.
Thank you for helping me reach these precious people through trips, holiday events, Bible studies, food distribution and
so much more. But now we need to do even more, as they have suffered terribly during the conflict.
Maxim organized a Hanukkah party for Holocaust survivors in Sderot
I am so grateful for Maxim's ministry! I asked him for some suggestions on how we might help after the conflict is resolved... for now! Let me summarize Maxim's suggestions for you:
Show Love in Practical Ways
We need to show these people love in very practical ways in order to win a hearing for the Gospel. Let me offer the following suggestions as to how we might help in this time of emergency, now that the terror of the conflict has subsided. The real work of rebuilding shattered lives begins now!
Maxim mentioned three key groups to me who will need our help - the Holocaust survivors, the children and Israeli soldiers - especially those who do not have family in Israel.
Maxim told me that he wants to bring Holocaust survivors to Poland for a break, as he has done before. There today, in contrast to the horrors of the past, they are loved and ministered to by committed Polish Christians. They also have a time of Bible teaching and the chance to get far away from the stress of living so close to Gaza. We need funding to take them to Poland. These beautiful people range between 75 and 95 years old, and we think that the Lord is offering us the opportunity now to change their view of Jesus! We need your help to do so.
Helping the Children
We have also been asked to organize a camp for children from the South (the areas closest to the conflict) that would focus on providing biblical and godly counsel to help these kids process their experiences during the war. Remember, many of them come from homes where a parent was called up to active military service.
There is another group of people we cannot forget. Last time, after the military actions, we organized a weekend conference for soldiers. We asked believing soldiers to take their nonbelieving friends to a place where they could have rest, fellowship and Bible teaching. I think that it would be good to do this again.
We will invite Christian counselors who provide biblical counseling on how to cope with post-traumatic stress in the aftermath of war. This will be very helpful to them.
Your Prayers and Gifts Matter!
Thanks so much for caring - and most of all for praying for the peace of Jerusalem. There were times we thought this war would never end!
Your gift will go towards the work of Chosen People Ministries in Israel. You can specify if you want it used for the Holocaust Survivors, the Children or the Soldiers.
Please write either War Relief or Ministry in Israel
in the "Special Designation" box
If you do not specify, we will use your generous gift to fund our work in Israel: our centers in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and all of the various ministries that we are engaged in each day - especially now - to reach Israelis with the Gospel.
For your gift of $300 or more, I will send you a copy of our new book published by Kregel Publications entitled, The People, the Land and the Future of Israel. This is a very timely book and I know it will be a great blessing to you!
Yours for the Gospel,