Global Conference on Russian Jewish Church Planting
WARSAW, POLAND, SEPTEMBER 14-18
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Dear friends. We are all witnesses to a historic moment in the work of God among our Jewish people. For these few days – there are more Messianic Jews gathered together in Warsaw, this great and historic Jewish city, than have gathered together since before the Holocaust.
There was one great conference held in Warsaw in 1927, sponsored by an organization called the International Missionary Council – Christian Approach to the Jews. This same group organized conferences in Budapest, Hungary in 1928 as well as additional conferences in various locales with high concentrations of Jewish people including an important conference in Vienna, Austria 1937. These three conferences were especially important because they predated the murder of six million Jewish people in Europe – and among these there were at least a quarter of a million or more Messianic Jews.
Hitler tried to destroy our people. However, he ultimately failed because of the faithfulness of God. Others have tried to destroy us and they failed as well. This is because God promised to preserve the Jewish people so that one day we would fulfill His plan and purpose for us as a nation to be a blessing to the world (Genesis 12:3).
This reminds me of a few verses prophetically penned by Rabbi Shaul in Romans chapter 11 about the future of Israel and the Jewish people. These words of the apostle will gloriously be fulfilled in a future time, but our gathering this week and especially tonight, gives me the assurance, hope and faith to believe that God will indeed fulfill His promises to the Jewish people, including the restoration to the Land of Israel and the turning of Jewish people to the Messiah and His return to establish His kingdom.
The great Rabbi and apostle writes,
I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11:11-15)
My brothers and sisters, we are evidence of the faithfulness of God and the truthfulness of His word says that one day our Jewish people will turn to Yeshua. When we do, the entire world will experience a corporate resurrection, the lifting of the curse of sin. The restoration of our planet and the fullness of the promised kingdom of God – with Jerusalem as the capital city and a Jewish King – Yeshua – sitting on His rightful throne is described by the apostle as life from the dead.
As sure as we stand before the Lord as part of this momentous conference, I can assure you that the day is coming when God’s word will be proven true! Our Jewish people, only a remnant from the followers of Yeshua today, will become a nation of Yeshua-followers tomorrow. And when that happens the world will experience the full blessings promised by God to our forefather Abraham.
We are signposts of His grace pointing to a future and glorious day.
Yet today we do see sparkles of God’s faithfulness among our Jewish people. We see this among ourselves, in Poland, with our very eyes. We also see this in our ministries back home and wherever God has called us to serve Him. Our hearts are encouraged by the growth of the Messianic movement in Eretz Yisrael (The land of Israel). Where, just three decades ago, there may have been less than 20 Messianic congregations but now there are more than 150.
I pray that you will be encouraged by the fellowship we enjoy together and as we see the great things God is doing among us. We see that even our remnant according to God’s grace is growing in both number and vitality in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In fact, God’s work among the Jewish people in Poland before the Holocaust was also very exciting! The 1927 conference brought together almost 200 Messianic Jews to celebrate God’s work in what was then perhaps the largest concentration of Jewish people in the entire world – Warsaw – in a country of 3 million Jewish people – Poland – God was at work!
Allow me to read a report from the Vienna conference in 1937, a decade later and just a few years before the invasion of Poland, that describes God’s magnificent work among our Jewish people in Poland. Martin Pasons, a Messianic Jewish believer and the leader of the CMJ work in Warsaw at the time, gave this report.
He provided a thumbnail sketch of the various ministries and missions to the Jews in Poland just two years prior to the Nazi invasion. He wrote rather comprehensively of the situation:
The American Board of Missions has a center in Warsaw on the east of the river. They have room for some inquirers, in addition to general evangelistic work. The Mildmay Mission has a hall in the Jewish quarter in Warsaw and their work mainly touches poorer Jews. The American European Fellowship is in Warsaw and works particularly among children. They have a villa at Radoso, which is used in the summer for children’s work. The Bethel Mission in Lodz has an evangelistic center and a colony. In addition, in Poland there is one Pentecostal evangelist, one member of the Open Brethren, one member of the Closed Brethren and a few private evangelists living by faith. The four missions in Warsaw work together in close cooperation. The shape of this is in the form of monthly, united prayer meetings and monthly evangelistic meetings. In Lvov there is active cooperation between the Church Mission to the Jews and the Danish Mission with their joint monthly evangelistic meeting (IMC Vienna Conference Report:3).
Further reports from the MRW demonstrated that Poland had a considerable missionary presence prior to the invasion. The LJS had stations in Warsaw and Lemberg. In both centers many modern young Jews were being reached through English classes in addition to the regular program of evangelistic work, colportage and itineration. The SFOI had evangelistic centers in Lodz and Vilna. The BJS had a station in Krakow and were reaching whole districts in surrounding neighborhoods through colporteurs. In Lvov, the Danish Mission (DIM) had an evangelistic center. The Barbican Mission (BM) had an evangelistic and medical center in Byalostok and substations at Vilna, Lublin, Grodno, Rovno and Brzesc.
This is a wonderful summary of God’s work among the Jewish people in Poland, but there is more…including some wonderful reports of openness on the part of Polish Jewish people at that time…and you will notice, these reports will sound quite a bit like one’s you might give today as well, as Jewish people were regularly coming to faith in this post-World War I resurgence.
At Sieradz, it was possible by permission of the chief of police to hold a large open-air meeting, which was attended by hundreds of Jews. At Zdunskawola the use was attained of a church building holding 1,200 people. This was completely filled with an audience of Jews and Jewesses who listened attentively to expositions of the messianic prophecies given by the missionaries.
At Warsaw, Rev. H. C. Carpenter, the head of the mission and himself a Jewish believer, is holding practically a continuous baptismal class, and currently the Bishop of North and Central Europe confirmed twenty-four Jewish believers of different ranks, one of whom was a rabbi who had definitely decided for the Messiah and had been immersed (MRW 1925b:330).
In describing the results of the LJS work in Poland the secretary reported that one meeting was attended by 3,000 Jewish people, and week by week the mission hall in Warsaw was filled. Some 200 would-be listeners had to be turned away.
In 1926, the foundation stone of a new mission building was laid for the LJS and the building opened the following year. This meeting hall, named Emanuel of Warsaw, was dedicated soon thereafter. Carpenter had a number of ordained assistants, among them R. Brinker, and a number of lay staff members, including Bazyli Jocz, who was ultimately killed in a concentration camp during the Second World War, and whose son, the well-known Jakób Jocz, also served for a time in the ministry in Poland (Stevens 1960:91).
In 1927, J. Berkowicz was added to the staff of the BJS in Krakow, Poland (BJS 1927-28:30). Peter Goroditch, who began the Barbican Mission to the Jews (BM) work in Odessa (which later grew into a significant Messianic Congregation), conducted ministry in a number of Polish cities at this time: Byalostok, Brest-Litovsk, Rovno, Grodno and Vilna.
Also serving in Vilna, Poland at this time was Bernard Rosenbaum with the Society of the Friends of Israel mission of Basle (SFOI) and S. Joffe with the MMJ in Warsaw. Other missions had works, but the names of their staff in the report were not listed. These works included: Missionhaus Peniel in Lodz which was part of the SFOI mission of Basle, the work of the Danish Israel Mission in Lvov and the efforts of the Berlin Jews Society in Zabrza.
The work of the LJS advanced after the construction of the Emmanuel Center and Church.
In Eastern Europe where we are now deeply thankful, our new Warsaw buildings are complete, the mission hall is regularly well-filled, and we need another room. The name of the building in Warsaw is The Emmanuel Mission House, and when you look at a picture of it, it is quite large (London Jews Society Annual Report 1927a:15).
In 1934, H. C. Carpenter retired from service with the LJS and was replaced by Martin Parsons. According to Carpenter, there were twelve baptisms in 1930, which made 300 since his appointment and a grand total of 11,323 since the inauguration of the mission in Poland. (London Jews Society Annual Report 1935:53-56).
Bazyli Jocz, who died during the Holocaust and was the father of the well-known Messianic scholar Jacob Jozc, and recounts the following story involving opposition to their ministry of colporteurage, or literature distribution.
One day I visited a coffee house. The owner was very pleased to see me and said that the people would soon come, and so they did. In a few minutes the room got filled, amongst whom also were some Hasidim from Ger, who listened intently when I spoke of being convinced of the great sympathy amongst the Jews to Christianity. One of the most ardent of them abused some Jews because they ventured to buy a tract, and he became so furious that he snatched the tract away from the man and tore it into pieces. Those present rebuked him severely and many of them bought tracts. At the end, the Hasid asked me whether I considered myself to be a Jew and if I believe the Torah. Receiving an answer in the affirmative, he gave his hand, apologized and also asked for something to read (London Jews Society Annual Report 1927b:62).
You see, the Lord has been at work among our Jewish people in Poland for a long time. I would say that the work was incredibly successful. Many Messianic congregations, then known as Hebrew Christian congregations, and mission agencies among the Jewish people were active in Warsaw and all of Poland immediately before the Holocaust. For reasons I will never understand God allowed our Jewish people to go through a great season of suffering and the Messianic Jews suffered alongside their fellow Jewish people.
The Messianic movement between the world wars – especially in Poland – came to a grinding halt due to the Holocaust. Perhaps, there was some thought that ultimately the Jewish people would be destroyed. That God would not be faithful to His promises – that the nation of Israel would never turn to Yeshua as Lord and Messiah. But they were all wrong. The devil has had his day, but the Lord will have His – forever. His promises are true and will never be broken. And though we might suffer – “joy, cometh in the morning” as the great Rabbi Saul prophesied,
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery —so that you will not be wise in your own estimation —that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written…(Romans 11:25-26).
Until that great day, may the Lord find us faithful and fruitful in our ministries as we follow His calling as followers of Yeshua to go into all the world to make disciples and proclaim the good news until the glorious day when He returns as King. To the Jew first, and also to the Gentile!
May the Lord give you the strength and courage to continue His work among our beloved Jewish people.