CONGREGATIONS WEST... AND EAST!
Scott and Dana Nassau, who minister in Southern California, have recently partnered with a church in West Los Angeles to plant a Messianic congregation to reach the community's significant Jewish population. After preparing for some time with monthly services and other gatherings, the Nassaus are excited to announce that they have begun weekly services right in the heart of West Los Angeles, along the famous Venice Boulevard. If you want to read more about it, go to www.kehilacovenant.com.
Randall and Luda Ford, who minister to the well-established and populous Bukharan Jewish community in Queens, New York, have started a new, English-speaking fellowship. It takes place on Saturday nights for Messianic teenagers and adults who cannot attend their Wednesday morning service. Luda met with two teen-aged girls from the group who talked and prayed about how hard it is to be a witness for Messiah as high school students because of the many unhealthy peer pressures they encounter in school. In addition, the teenagers struggle with how to identify themselves as Messianic believers in the Jewish community. Nonetheless, the Fords rejoice to see several of them growing in their faith - and regular fellowship is an important factor, especially among young people.
JEWISH AND A CHRISTIAN - WHO KNEW?
For the past nine years, Cathy Wilson has organized a special holiday celebration in the Scottsdale, Arizona area where she ministers. This year, she was thrilled when Irma,* an 80-year-old-plus Jewish woman to whom she has witnessed before, responded to the testimony of Rachel,* a Jewish believer. Irma exclaimed, "I didn't know you could be Jewish and a Christian!" Later on that evening, Irma told her friend Susan, a local pastor's mother, who has been a loving witness to Irma for decades, "I believe!" It was truly a Hanukkah/Christmas miracle over which to rejoice.
MINISTRY MAKES A DIFFERENCE IN NEW ZEALAND
The Gospel-oriented social events hosted by Chosen People Ministries staff in New Zealand are a real draw for Israeli backpackers. Our worker Robin B., who leads short-term evangelistic teams to assist in the New Zealand ministry, reports great conversations with a young Israeli traveler named Effie,* and her father who was also there in New Zealand to be with her. As Robin spoke with Effie's father, she shared about her own observant Jewish upbringing and other parallels between their lives. As Robin and Effie's father spoke further, they realized that Robin had also met his son in New Zealand and had shared the Gospel with him as well. Effie's father, who questioned Robin thoughtfully about her belief in Messiah, realized that this was no mere coincidence. Robin writes, "I also got to share with Effie about God’s love. It is clear God is doing something in their lives."
Robin also reports that about twenty-five Israelis attended a Christmas Party where the host clearly shared the Gospel. Amidst the food, the spirited live music and games, discussions about Yeshua (Jesus) sprang up in small groups. One young Israeli lit up when Robin told her in Hebrew that she was a Jewish believer. She said she'd heard of such people, but had never met one. They went on to have a great discussion about prophecy and the Lord’s ability to transform our lives. The Lord is touching hearts in New Zealand!
Shalom. God's hand is at work - all over the world! This glorious truth was brought home to me yet again as I spent a week visiting our partner ministry in Australia, which goes by the delightful name of Celebrate Messiah. Lawrence and Louise Hirsch, dear friends of mine, began this ministry more than two decades ago to serve the Lord among the Jewish people in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and many other cities in this fascinating country with almost 100,000 Jewish people!
Lawrence and Louise are both immigrants to Australia from South Africa. Lawrence is from a very strong Jewish home, and Louise is from a non-Christian Gentile family. They fell in love as teenagers and both became believers soon after high school. After they were married, they immigrated to Australia. After receiving further Bible training back in Johannesburg, Lawrence and Louise initiated the work of Celebrate Messiah - which coined the wonderful phrase, "bringing the message to the original messengers."
Celebrate Messiah is part of Chosen People Global Ministries, which now encompasses sixteen countries containing 96% of the world’s Jewish population. We have established ministries - or been joined by established ministries - in this partnership everywhere from England to South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Germany, France and many more places.
Transformation - One Life at a Time
While in Australia, I had the privilege of getting together with our leaders to pray and strategize about ways to coordinate our efforts to reach Jewish people around the world for the Messiah. One of the most encouraging conversations I had was with a brand-new Jewish believer who was raised in a traditional Jewish home and is now in his early twenties. May I share his testimony with you?
While attending university, he met a "real" Christian for the first time. This first-time encounter with authentic Christian faith is not unusual for many Jewish people growing up in strong Jewish communities; we simply do not get to know born-again believers until we enter the workplace or attend university. This believer began sharing the Gospel with this young Jewish man, and eventually they began studying the Bible together - particularly the Sermon on the Mount. (By the way, this is a great place to introduce Jewish people to the New Testament, as the statements of Jesus in these chapters are so attractive and powerful.)
Eventually, the young man became more interested in Jesus and visited a few local churches. He enjoyed them, but did not feel quite at home. So his non-Jewish Christian friend suggested that he visit Beit Hamashiach (House of the Messiah), the Messianic congregation in Caulfield, which was planted by Celebrate Messiah in the heart of one of the most Jewish communities in Melbourne.
This young man visited the congregation. Though uncomfortable at first about attending a service, he was met in the hallway by a very friendly Jewish believer who encouraged him to sit down and listen to the sermon. He did, and according to this young man's testimony, tears filled his eyes as he heard the message of the Gospel in a Jewish way. As a result, he felt more compelled than ever before to consider whether Jesus is the Messiah - for both Jews and Gentiles.
It was not long afterwards that this young Jewish man received Yeshua (Jesus) as his Messiah. Since then, he has been growing steadily in his faith. But he is not the only one! I met dozens of young people at this retreat who were in one way or another involved in the growing Messianic movement in Australia.
There is also a growing movement of Russian Jewish immigrants to Australia who are coming to faith in Jesus - just as we have seen in Brooklyn, Germany, Israel and many other places. Hundreds of Russian Jewish people in Australia have come to faith in Jesus - and many attend the congregation planted by Celebrate Messiah in the heart of Jewish Melbourne. The Lord is doing great things!
The Rise of Ministry to Israeli Backpackers in New Zealand
I know that you will enjoy the remainder of this newsletter as you learn more about the Jewish people of Australia... but I don't want to leave out New Zealand!
Scott Brown, one of our most effective and respected veteran missionaries, moved his family to New Zealand a few years ago. His goal was to establish a ministry on the Southern Island to work with the thousands of Israelis who backpack through the mountains. Many travel there looking for the meaning of life after spending their required years in the Israeli army.
Scott and his wife, Margie, base their ministry out of a campground, offering Sabbath dinners and free barbecues, engaging in literature distribution, and often going hiking with the Israelis through the gorgeous scenery. With the help of teams we send from the United States to help reach these wandering Israelis for the Messiah, Scott and Margie spend their time sharing the Good News. They distribute Hebrew New Testaments and find other ways to touch the lives of these young Israelis who are eager to talk about the deeper things of life.
We have already recruited a young Israeli couple to be part of the team to serve along with the Browns' many volunteers. In fact, Scott has been providing training in Jewish evangelism to a network of Christians in New Zealand who open their homes to wandering Israeli travelers. The strategy works beautifully, as young Israelis get to see how Jesus-loving believers and authentic Christian families live. This network has doubled over the last few years! We hope to bring this wonderful tool of evangelistic hosting to other countries, and have already trained volunteers in both Scandinavia and Germany.
My heart is filled with the incredible experiences of my recent trip down under. I wish I had more time to share with you what the Lord is doing. I pray that His powerful presence will continue to fill your life and home. May 2014 be a wonderful year of faithfulness and fruitfulness for you as you serve our risen Jewish Savior.
Your brother in the Messiah,
P.S. While in Australia, I gave two sermons at Simcha (the Hebrew word for "Joy"), our Messianic retreat there. This year, we had about 450 people and it was incredibly exciting. If you want to hear these sermons, please go to www.chosenpeople.com/audio, where you can listen to my messages and those of other Chosen People Ministries staff.
Australia and New Zealand
When we think of Jewish populations, we usually think of places like Israel, North America, and the remnant of Jewish life in Europe that has lately been invigorated by the immigration of Jewish people from the former Soviet Union. We also would remember the significant Jewish numbers in South America. Few of us, however, look to places like Australia and New Zealand for important Jewish communities and mission fields that are indeed ripe for a rich harvest for Messiah in terms of Jewish souls.
Are we missing something? Just ask Lawrence Hirsch, founder and director of Celebrate Messiah, Chosen People Ministries' partner in Jewish evangelism, who oversees a thriving ministry in each of these countries. A native of South Africa, Lawrence is keenly aware of the history and development of the Jewish communities in each of these places. By the Lord's grace, he and his wife, Louise, and a cohort of committed staff are making a difference for Messiah in these far-off lands.
House of the Messiah - A Nourishing Foundation
Beit HaMashiach (House of the Messiah) Messianic Congregation in Melbourne was planted by Celebrate Messiah in 1998 and continues to bear witness for Messiah as our "flagship" ministry in Australia. The congregation is led by Lawrence and Louise Hirsch with other staff members: Jay* (Youth and Young Adults), Phil Plotnek (Worship Director), and Rita Ivenskis (Dom Misi'ee - "House of Messiah" Russian Jewish ministry).
Beit HaMashiach's average attendance over the past twelve months has been 137, including children. About 40% of the congregation is either Jewish, married to a Jewish spouse, or comes from a Jewish believing family. The congregation's outreach ministries include Sabbath services for English and Russian speakers, Youth Ministry, Young Adults Ministry, a Messianic Dance Group, Hebrew language class, and men's and women's discipleship groups.
Staff member Barry Buirski and his wife, Melinda, are particularly committed to Tikkun Olam (Repair of the World), a benevolence ministry that has distributed 1,015 food baskets to the Jewish communities in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Sydney since the beginning of 2011 with the help of 259 volunteers. Lawrence and the rest of the staff are also particularly excited about the Melbourne Messianic Center Project, which will be a new two-story facility and a welcoming place of worship, community and outreach with which to engage the Jewish community.
Elsewhere in Australia, another Celebrate Messiah staff member* has a wide-ranging ministry that is based in Sydney. A warm, gifted and experienced missionary, this individual has the ability to connect with a large number of Jewish people. They prayerfully and diligently organize many events and activities that attract interest among members of the Jewish community in Sydney.
Regular follow up with Jewish contacts and Jewish believers is made, as well as meeting with them one-on-one, in small groups, or via Skype or telephone. Visits to Jewish people in several elderly-care homes in Sydney and other parts of New South Wales and Canberra also take place. In addition to all of this, Bible studies are held regularly, including one consisting entirely of not-yet-believing Israelis.
New Zealand - Land of the Israeli Backpacker
Jewish communities come in many different shapes and sizes. One of the most unusual is also one of the most changeable. It is the flow of young Israeli backpackers - many of them recently discharged from military service - who are stretching their legs as young adventurers with a walkabout in New Zealand's beautiful landscape. Scott Brown and his wife, Marjorie, are waiting to welcome them.
A seasoned congregational leader, Scott's vision of providing hospitality and sharing the Gospel with these young travellers through a Messiah-centered hostel setting is bearing fruit. He writes,
Having completed our fifth year managing the camp, we are seeing a steady increase of Israeli guests. We were pleased to host about a dozen young Israelis our first season, and now more than 200 stayed with us this past year. As the numbers have increased, so has our effectiveness. Nearly every Israeli who stays with us receives personal interaction of a spiritual nature, along with a Hebrew New Testament and/or other Gospel-related Hebrew literature.
I'm thrilled to report that while my enthusiasm for the ministry has not waned one iota, my strategies have improved significantly. We have worked hard to expand the network of Christians in New Zealand who host Israeli travellers. Since arriving in New Zealand five years ago, the number of hosts has effectively doubled, with approximately 530 homes now open to Israeli guests.
The ministry of hospitality is a sleeping giant in the world of Jewish evangelism. We are rising to meet the challenge in innovative ways, such as scheduling and presenting new material designed for training those wanting to host the young travellers we want to attract. Our gifted team member, Zohar Gonen, has also been visiting Israelis in hosts' homes on the South Island.
Pray for these "Down Under" Ministers of Messiah
Celebrate Messiah, in partnership with Chosen People Ministries, is faithfully carrying out the Apostle Paul's Romans 1:16 commission to preach the Gospel "to the Jew first and also to the Gentile" in far-off lands that even Paul himself might not have imagined. Pray for these faithful ministers of Messiah as they serve Him. May He make them bountiful in His service!
*name withheld for security reasons
The Isaiah 53 Campaign in Israel is already underway...
And people are responding! We are expecting this to increase as we roll out more advertising, inviting Israelis to visit the Isaiah53.co.il website and request a copy of Isaiah 53 Explained in Hebrew or Russian.
We are also filming video testimonies of Israelis who were influenced by Isaiah 53 and eventually came to faith in Jesus the Messiah. It is amazing to see how many there are! This is a partnership with Israel College of the Bible - a wonderful institution that offers the first accredited Hebrew-language Bible college degree in Israel.
I will keep you posted on the results of the campaign, but for now, may I share a report with you from my dear friend, Jeff Siegel, who leads our Chosen People Ministries work in New York? He also works with a group called Global Baseball (which he founded) that utilizes sports to share the Gospel with Jews and Gentiles around the world.
Jeff took a short-term missions team to Israel and reports the following stories.
There was an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man named Isaac* who asked me for charity, so that I could sponsor his studies under his rabbi. I told him that he would have to pass the Torah test if I was going to help him. He looked at me, amused, then smiled and said, "Give me the Torah test!" I led him through key passages in the book of Genesis through the book of Daniel, sharing Messianic prophecies that point to Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). I spoke to him about Isaiah 53, which describes a Servant of the Lord who would suffer for the sins of mankind as a sin offering. I asked him who he thought the passage was talking about, and he told me he would think about it!
A few days later, we bumped into him again while we were having lunch in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. He was with a friend named Daniel,* and we gave them two copies of the book Isaiah 53 Explained in Hebrew. I reviewed the major points of the book, went over the text of Isaiah 53 with them, and asked again, "Who is this speaking about?"
Daniel answered, "The Messiah!"
I said, "Daniel, you're right. He has already come and made atonement for our sins. He is the true King of the Jews who will one day return to reign as King - right here in Jerusalem!"
He said, "We are on the same page."
Michael Z., Chosen People Ministries Israel Director, is happy to
send copies of Isaiah 53 Explained to Hebrew and Russian seekers!
Jeff shares another great report about using the Isaiah 53 Explained book in direct public evangelism.
We also had additional opportunities on the streets of Jerusalem. I and about ten of our short-termers passed out Isaiah 53 Explained books in Hebrew - we had many interesting and sometimes passionate responses!
One individual was so angry that he went around trying to buy back the books we had given out to people. He approached one woman to whom we had given a book and offered her money to give it to him. She realized that this book must be of great importance, and quickly put it in her purse and walked away. It seemed that the more he tried to discredit us, the more people wanted the book!
I am so encouraged by Jeff's report. Clearly, there are many in Israel who are on both sides of the issue. Quite a few of the Jewish people whom Jeff and his team met in Israel are seeking the Lord and interested in knowing more about Jesus. Others have some of the age-old negativity towards Jesus and the Gospel that we see not only in Israel, but in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Chicago and all across the globe.
We understand where this negativity comes from - it is not because Jewish people have learned about Jesus and rejected Him; it is actually because they have not learned about Jesus and have instead rejected a version of "Christianity" that has been historically hostile towards the Jewish people.
The Jewish Community Is Changing! The Pew Survey Results
Remarkably and perhaps miraculously, we are beginning to see the attitudes of the Jewish community, both in the United States and Israel, change and become more favorable towards Jesus. In a recent survey published by the Pew Foundation, 34% of the Jewish people surveyed indicated that they believed one could be Jewish and be a believer in Jesus. This is amazing! There are many Jewish people in the United States who might be significantly more open to hearing about Jesus than we thought.
We simply need to find new and more creative ways to tell them about the Jewish Messiah's love for them. In fact, this is one of the reasons for initiating the Isaiah 53 Campaign. It is biblical. It is Jewish. It clearly points to the redemptive work of Jesus the Messiah - and it allows us to be creative in our approach.
How Will They Hear?
Although the 21st century has brought a dazzling array of newly-minted, technologically wonderful communication vehicles, the challenge of spreading the Gospel far and wide is certainly nothing new. The Apostle Paul asked a series of questions to those in Rome reading his epistle, which are every bit as pertinent to us today. He asks,
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
Whether the mission field is Israel, New York City, Los Angeles or reaching the wandering Israelis in faraway places in India or New Zealand - we need to send Chosen People Ministries' workers to preach the Good News to the Jewish people. And we can only do this with your help!
Your prayers, encouragement and generous financial support allow us to run Isaiah 53 Campaigns in Israel and send short-term teams to Brooklyn, as well as other spots around the globe where Jewish people live.
Would you pray about supporting our Jewish evangelism fund this month? Your gift will go towards helping us send evangelists to the Jewish people and fund outreach campaigns designed to bring the message of Jesus to the Jewish people.
Whatever the Lord leads you to give means so much to us, and I am sure that it will be multiplied and blessed by other brothers and sisters who believe with all their heart in bringing the Gospel to God's chosen people.
For your gift of $200 or more, I will send you a brand-new, hot off the press copy of our video messages from our fall conference, "The People, the Land and the Future of Israel," which was held in New York City.
Joel C. Rosenberg speaking at the conference in New York City
You will enjoy messages from great speakers like Joel C. Rosenberg, Darrell Bock and Michael Brown. You can also order this video series of eight DVDs - seventeen messages in all - by visiting www.chosenpeople.com/store.
Thanks so much for being part of the Chosen People Ministries family, and may the Lord bless you as you bless the Jewish people - with the Gospel!
Your brother in the Messiah,