OUT OF THE STORM
Robert Pristoop, who serves on staff in New York City, is participating in a new Chosen People Ministries outreach in Staten Island, New York. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, our staff ministered to many Jewish victims of the "superstorm" through relief efforts - and we have followed up by building relationships with them. Robert reports, "We will bring these new friends, many of whom are Jewish people from the former Soviet Union, together once a month on a Saturday evening for a service. Some of them have no concept of Jewish lifestyle. It will be an exciting time of teaching these Jewish people their Jewish roots!"
BLESSING THOSE WHO BLESS ISRAEL
Michael Z., our Israel Director, was pleased to find out about a most encouraging development that came as a result of a speaking engagement at a large conference held in a predominantly Muslim country in the former Soviet Union. The topic of Israel generated controversy, but Michael challenged those in attendance to start praying about Israel and blessing her instead of cursing. Now Michael has heard that after the conference one man helped start a prayer group in support of Israel that has now grown to 200 churches and almost 1,500 individuals! Michael writes, "They invited me to speak at a conference at a 10,000-member church! How faithful is our Lord!"
ONE PLANTS AND ANOTHER HARVESTS
Steve Fenchel, who leads Chosen People Ministries' Messianic congregation in New York City, is rejoicing that Samuel,* one of the Jewish seekers who has attended services for about a year, has made a decision to receive Messiah. Although Samuel had been meeting with Steve, hearing his sermons, and attending his Bible studies, it was another man whom Steve had discipled who led Samuel to the Lord while the Fenchels were away speaking in other churches. Steve, however, is doubly delighted - he observes, "This brings out the wonderful truth that Jesus taught in John 4:37, 'One plants and another harvests.' And it's true!"
CHALLAH PLUS PRAYER BRINGS SALVATION
Staff member Jon Lieberman, who is based in Indianapolis, received a call from Barb,* another Jewish believer, whom he's known for over thirty years. Her mom was quite ill, and although Barb had tried for years to share the Gospel, her mother was opposed. Jon asked his wife, Tammy, to bake a special challah bread for Barb's mom - a great favorite among Jewish people. Barb's mom ate half of it with great enjoyment, and later that day, Jon and Barb prayed on the phone for her. What Jon didn't know was that the speaker phone was on, and Barb's mom had heard Jon's entire prayer. A few hours later, Barb's mother said, "I guess it's about time that I stop resisting and receive Jesus as my Messiah." Barb then led her mom in a sinner's prayer.
ISAIAH 53 EXPLAINED HELPS BRING JEWISH MAN TO FAITH
Following staff member Alan Shore's "Messiah in the Passover" teaching in Washington State, a Jewish man approached him with the words, "I felt as though every word you said was meant for me." After more conversation, Alan gave him his last copy of Isaiah 53 Explained and expressed the hope that it would make the Gospel even clearer in a Jewish way. Weeks later, the man showed up at Alan's door-step with the book in hand. He said, "I haven't been able to stop reading this - and you've shown me how a Jewish person can be a believer. I'm ready." With that, Alan led the man in a prayer of salvation and has continued to be in touch with him.
Love Changes Lives in Israel
Shalom! As you are reading this letter, I am in Israel preparing for the Isaiah 53 Campaign, meeting with our staff, and sharing the Gospel with Israelis.
Once again, I am so impressed with the faithfulness and dedication of our staff members in Israel! They are a wonderful team of God's servants, doing His work with passion, joy, and a deep conviction of their calling to reach Israelis for the Messiah. So, please pray for our staff - for their health, safety, children (more than 25 little ones!) and for God's blessings on their ministries.
Let me bring you up to date on some of our work in Israel - especially our ministries in reaching the poor.
Ministry to the Needy
Recently, one of the elderly Russian Jewish people who comes to our soup kitchen and dry food distribution center expressed her gratitude in the most amazing way with great spiritual meaning. She said, "Each time I come to your facility, it is like a fresh water experience - like going under the waters of the Jordan River and coming up refreshed."
Another recipient (who is also a Holocaust survivor), commented, "The physical food and bread that you provide in the soup kitchen are important, however, the way you present it, with your personal touch and music, is like fresh bread for our souls."
These are the types of responses that encourage our hearts and motivate us to serve the poor and elderly in Israel. As you know, by Israeli law, we cannot link the preaching of the Gospel to the distribution of food and other types of aid... but when you extend love in tangible ways to a needy person, they naturally ask the question, "Why do you care?"
And then we are free to tell them about the One who loves them with an everlasting love.
We continue to serve the poor, elderly and immigrants to Israel through ministry centers in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Sderot (a little town bordering Gaza), Netanya, Ashdod and in various other Israeli cities. We also befriend many of these Russian Jewish people and lonely Holocaust survivors by bringing them on trips, such as to Poland - where many have not been since the days of the Holocaust. Polish Christians meet with these dear folks, showing them God’s love and grace, and even asking for forgiveness. This is a powerful witness to people who never would have traveled if our staff had not been demonstrating love for them day in and day out.
Our staff in the Holy Land is doing all they can to let needy Israelis know that the God of Israel loves them and sent His only son, Yeshua, to be their Messiah.
Rachel and Steve D., Michael Z., Maxim K.
"Thank you for helping us reach the poor and needy in Israel."
The Jewish Poor
Some might wonder if there really are poor Jewish people in Israel, the United States and other countries. In fact, because there is such a large segment of the Jewish population that is aging, the challenge of poverty and caring for the elderly is a big issue within the Jewish community and in our hearts as well.
Due to some uninformed stereotypes, there is a widespread perception that most Jewish people are wealthy and that economic pressures faced by others do not impact the Jewish community.
Unfortunately, these stereotypes have fueled centuries of antisemitism! Despite the common perception of Jewish affluence, poverty is a real problem for many Jewish people. In Israel, 14% of the Jewish population lives in poverty. A recent study demonstrates that poverty is an even more significant issue in the Jewish community of the United States. Present calculations indicate that 20% of New York City's Jewish population lives in poverty.
If these studies are accurate, between the United States and Israel approximately two million Jewish people live below the poverty line.
Brian and Racheli S.
"Thank you for your love and faithfulness."
Poverty in Israel
Poverty drastically impacts Israel in many ways, but here are three of the most significant:
Poverty affects a large portion of Israel's growing elderly population. According to some estimates, as many as 25% of Israel's elderly people are in desperate need of food, medicine and affordable housing. A significant part of this population includes thousands of Holocaust survivors. Those few who miraculously escaped the terror of the Nazi camps and found hope in the Jewish homeland are now hard-pressed to obtain their basic daily necessities.
Poverty plagues Israel's growing immigrant population. After the Soviet Union's collapse, almost one and a half million Jewish people fled the failure of Communism to seek a brighter future in Israel. Unfortunately, many of these immigrants have not found the prosperous life they imagined; rather, a significant segment continually struggles below the poverty line. Poverty is particularly prevalent among Ethiopian Jewish immigrants, 14,000 of whom came to Israel through an airlift known as "Operation Solomon" in the 1990s.
Poverty has an overwhelming impact on Israel's children. Many within the Orthodox community live below the poverty line, and most have rather large families. This results in an alarming number of young people living in poverty. Over 25% of Israel's children have gone days without food. Some are unable to go to school and do not have adequate clothing, particularly in the colder winter months.
I am heartbroken for those Israelis who are living in poverty as well as living with the constant threat of war! I hope you will pause for a moment to PRAY and consider how YOU can make a difference in the lives of God's chosen people.
Jesus tells us that our concern for the poor is evidence of our love for Him (Matthew 25:42-45).
Jason and Janice R.
"Thank you for caring for the marginalized in Israel."
I am grateful for the many Chosen People Ministries prayer partners and financial supporters who have given sacrificially to help us in our ministry among the Jewish poor in Israel.
One of our major points of entry in ministry to these precious people is our Tel Aviv Center. I especially want to thank those who have given towards the $10,000 per month we need to support this center, which is located in the heart of one of the poorest communities in Israel.
I wish you could see what I am seeing today in Israel. As I walk around the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities, I not only see the very spots where the promises to the Jewish people were made - I see the present needs of so many Israelis who are physically hungry, and many more who are spiritually famished. We want to be able to have the staff and facilities to minister to both the spiritual and physical needs of Israelis.
Your gifts allow us to continue this ministry in Israel! It is simply impossible for our staff to raise support within Israel itself, as there are very few churches in the Land that are able to support ministries outside of their own small congregations. I pray for the churches within Israel to grow and prosper so that they will be able to support additional mission work - but this will take some time. Until then, we cannot continue this work without your help.
Would you consider giving a generous gift towards reaching Israelis for Jesus?
Your gift will be used for the general operations of our Israel work, feeding the poor and hungry, and for the Isaiah 53 Campaign, which is planned for early next spring.
Thanks so much for your partnership - and I pray that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who promised to bless those who bless the Jewish people, will fill your home with His presence, power and blessing. (Genesis 12:3)
Your brother in the Messiah,
P.S. Our goal is to raise $50,000 to provide relief to poor Israelis, and if donations exceed this total they will be used where needed most to reach Jewish people for the Lord.
Eugene and Vicka L.
"Thank you for your help in reaching the unreached in Israel."
EIGHTEEN HOURS AND COUNTING
Staff member Larry F., who shepherds a Messianic congregation in Southern California, was asked to speak at a three-day Jewish evangelism seminar in Atlanta. A Jewish woman in her early sixties attended on Friday night and was noticeably moved. She returned the next morning and spoke with Larry after the service. During their discussion, Larry discerned that she was ready to make a faith decision. When he asked her if she wanted to pray with him to receive the Lord, she did - and they shed tears of joy together. The next day, she came back for another session of the seminar and was telling everyone that she had “now been a believer for 18 hours.”
ISAIAH 53 EXPLAINED - IN MANY TONGUES
The Isaiah 53 Explained book is now available in Hebrew, Spanish, Russian, Finnish and English... and is being translated into French, Chinese, Korean and quite a few other languages. Once the French version is printed, we will have this book available in languages spoken by 95% of the world’s Jewish population! Many believers are already giving Isaiah 53 Explained to their Jewish friends, and others are reading it to develop a deeper understanding of the Old Testament and, specifically, this powerful prophecy. If you would like a copy of the book to pass on to a Jewish friend, visit www.isaiah53.com.
ARGENTINA MESSIANIC CENTER REOPENS FOR MINISTRY
After almost a year of repair and remodeling, we have reopened the Buenos Aires Messianic Center! Vice President David Sedaca, responsible for the Mission’s Latin American ministry, reports with joy that a number of non-believing Jewish neighbors joined the service for the Feast of Purim. David writes, “We have now begun holding regular services and Bible studies. A second building on the property will now be used primarily to receive young Israelis who are vacationing in Argentina after completing their military service in the Israeli Defense Forces. This program is already bringing dozens of non-believing young Israelis through our Center, and they are hearing the Gospel in their native Hebrew language!”
JEWISH EDUCATOR FINDS FAITH IN MESSIAH
Mark Surey, who serves the Lord at the Feinberg Center in New York City, made contact with a Jewish man who lectures at an Ivy League college in the Northeast. While meeting at a coffee shop, Mark discovered that Joe* was a Bulgarian-born but U.S.-educated Sephardic Jew whose closest friends were evangelical believers. He was drawn to Jesus, but was sincerely struggling with the question of how individuals who had committed horrible sins could truly be forgiven if they repented. Mark pointed to numerous examples from the Hebrew Bible, such as King David. When Joe saw this and understood the connection between repentance, forgiveness and faith in Jesus, he prayed to receive Messiah.
BREAKFAST CLUB BRINGS JEWISH MAN TO FAITH
Staff member Eugene I., who serves in Germany, is rejoicing that Samuel,* a Jewish man who regularly attends Chosen People Ministries’ Messianic services, put his faith in Messiah - in the informal setting of the weekly men’s breakfast club. Eugene writes, “I felt the Holy Spirit’s guidance in explaining to him that Yeshua (Jesus) took all our sins as a perfect sacrifice in our place, and that we can trust Him as our Lord and Savior. Samuel then prayed the prayer of repentance and receiving of Yeshua as the Messiah! God is truly faithful to His covenant people, and I was honored to be His instrument, helping this Jewish man take a life-changing step of faith.”
Next stop for the Isaiah 53 campaign - Israel!
Shalom in the great name of Jesus the Messiah. In just a few weeks, I will be leaving for Israel to work on the details for our Isaiah 53 Campaign in Israel. This is exciting because I believe that the time is right for this kind of outreach in Israel - especially among younger Israelis.
If I were to describe young Israelis to you, I would say that most of the younger generation is secular. Although current surveys suggest that Israelis are becoming more religious, this is primarily due to the growing birthrate among Orthodox Jews rather than young, secular Israelis returning to Jewish observance.
On the other hand, young Israelis are also becoming more and more spiritually-minded. Many are seeking some type of spirituality - often on the “exotic” side. Hinduism, Buddhism, and other types of Eastern religions are appealing to young, secular Israelis because they do not seem to conflict with their Jewish identity and do not require them to become Orthodox Jews.
Because of the looming threat of war with Iran, the spiritual search of many young Israelis is intensifying. One striking piece of evidence for this is the growing Messianic movement in Israel, which now numbers more than 10,000. Believe me, this represents remarkable growth!
In fact, I remember my first trip to Israel in 1976, when there were fewer than 1,000 Israeli Jewish believers. God has done a wonderful thing - and more Israelis are now hearing the Gospel from fellow Israelis. This is happening in schools, universities, the military, and through many of the wonderful and dynamic Messianic congregations in Israel.
It is time for young Israelis to hear the Gospel in a way they can understand, and we must make the message of Jesus more accessible to them. This is why we are going to bring our Isaiah 53 campaign to Israel within the next twelve months.
Let me give you a few reasons why I believe this campaign will be successful:
- The Isaiah 53 campaign links digital advertising with personal contact, focusing on the web and social networking - and those who order the book Isaiah 53 Explained in Hebrew or Russian will be personally contacted by Israeli believers who are trained for follow-up.
- The Isaiah 53 campaign is distinctively Jewish; no one in Israel would ever think that the prophet Isaiah is anything but Jewish! We are presenting the Jewish Messiah through a Jewish prophet who is well-known to Israelis.
- Although Isaiah 53 is well-known as a Messianic prophecy among Christians, it is a “closed chapter” to most Jewish people. However, through the use of the web, many young Israelis can explore this neglected chapter privately. Who knows how large a response there could be as this little-known, but very powerful, portion of Scripture is revealed?
Reaching Tech-Savvy Young Israelis
Knowing how much young Israelis rely on the web, we are developing a website in Hebrew about Isaiah 53, which Israelis can browse on their computers or mobile devices. Additionally, we have already printed the Isaiah 53 Explained book in Hebrew and Russian, and we are currently working on Hebrew and Russian testimonies for the website.
There are a half-dozen key sites that Israelis use all the time (such as www.ynetnews.com and www.walla.co.il), and this is where we are planning to put our creative advertisements inviting Israelis to visit the Israeli version of our Isaiah 53 website once it is completed.
A Brief History - The Isaiah 53 Campaign in New York City and Los Angeles
In the summer of 2010, Chosen People Ministries launched our Isaiah 53 Evangelistic Campaign in New York City. We used various media outlets to share our Isaiah53.com website where individuals could request our free evangelistic book Isaiah 53 Explained.
By God’s grace, over 4,000 individuals ordered the book during the New York City campaign - 600 of them Jewish seekers! Many Christians also requested the book to help witness to their Jewish friends. Staff members and volunteers personally followed up with the new Jewish contacts in the months following the campaign.
After seeing the success of the New York City campaign, we launched the Isaiah 53 Campaign in Los Angeles, which is home to over three quarters of a million Jewish people, in the spring of 2012. During that campaign, there were almost 20,000 new visitors to the Isaiah53.com website from the Los Angeles area and an additional 12,000 from outside of Los Angeles, which showed that the advertising was working! Over 11,000 people also watched the new 30-minute documentary The Mysterious Prophecy of Isaiah 53, produced by our friends at Day of Discovery, part of RBC Ministries. As was the case in New York City, our Los Angeles area missionaries continue to interact personally with the new Jewish contacts.
The Isaiah 53 Campaign in Israel
So, Lord willing, the next stop for the Isaiah 53 Evangelistic Campaign will be in Israel during the spring of 2014. There are over six million Jewish people living in Israel, and although Hebrew is the common language, there are also 1.5 million Russian-speaking Jewish immigrants. To accommodate them all, we have translated and printed Isaiah 53 Explained in both Hebrew and Russian. We are already working with our team in Israel on the campaign, preparing the advertising, filming the testimonies, organizing the follow up systems, and training those who will personally engage the Israelis who respond.
I am confident that the Lord is leading us to do this, and we just received a large gift enabling us to produce the more than one dozen personal video testimonies in Hebrew and Russian that will be featured on the website in Israel.
We hope to launch this campaign in time for Passover 2014!
We need your prayers and financial support. We have established a budget of $200,000 for advertising. This includes the creation of the ads as well as their placement on the websites that Israelis are constantly surfing.We will also be looking into billboards and television ads, but these are more difficult to secure, as Israelis are generally opposed to evangelism! This is why your prayers are so essential right now as we work on securing the publicity for the campaign.
Your gift today will enable us to purchase the advertising and prepare the ads, which are so critical for reaching Israelis for Messiah through the powerful Messianic prophecy in Isaiah chapter 53. We have lots to do and need your support today in order to budget well and maximize our efforts for the Isaiah 53 Campaign in Israel. We know the Lord will provide and guide us through your generosity! There is no chapter in the Bible that presents the person and work of our beloved Jesus the Messiah more exquisitely than Isaiah 53.
Please help me share this message of hope with my Jewish people in Israel! Thanks so much for your love and concern for the Jewish people.
Your brother in the Messiah,
P.S. For your gift of $253 or more (which allows us to send 50 evangelistic books on Isaiah 53 to Israelis), I will send you a copy of The Gospel According to Isaiah 53. This book will equip you to present the redemptive work of the Messiah to your Jewish friends and relatives.
* The amount of the contribution that is deductible for federal income tax purposes is limited to the excess of money contributed by the donor over the value of goods or services provided by the organization.