CMJ exhibits each year at UCCF’s Forum event. We speak to lots of students who want to know if Jewish evangelism is necessary, effective and
As you will see this is a story that stretches over quite a long time with lots of links in the chain, but it is worth mentioning each step as it shows how God’s plans can bring together many players and situations to accomplish his objective.
In 2001/2 I was working for CMJ as a UK field representative.
I took a phone call from the CMJ office asking if I would contact an Israeli/British lady who had called into a careers advice centre in Leicester. Her story was that she had come to England to look for her parents’ families in London and Manchester. Her Mum and Dad had emigrated to Israel in September 1948 with two children Shira and her brother David.
In September 2001 she and her son left Israel and came to the UK - not knowing that God would send them back new people!
Being unfamiliar with English geography she and her son chose to stay in a place halfway between the two cities and so began renting a cottage in a Leicestershire village!
Shira had gone job hunting and the lady who was interviewing her was excited that Shira was from Israel and spoke to her about her faith in Jesus and its links to Judaism. The normal 20 minute interview lasted over an hour!
Shira had met some Jewish Believers in Jesus at home in Israel (actually her two nieces) but knew very little about Jesus himself and what it meant to be his follower.
The interviewer called her Vicar to ask if he knew anyone who could contact Shira to carry on the conversation. Co-incidentally he had just returned from a CMJ/Shoresh tour of Israel and knew that CMJ had people in England who could help so he called the CMJ office. I became the next link in the chain.
I made the call to Shira with some caution. Jewish people generally are very wary of evangelical Christians, and there are some anti-missionary groups who try to discredit Christians by posing as people with questions about Christianity and Jesus, who after contact has made false claims about the Christian’s integrity and methods. With this in mind what happened next was remarkable. Whilst trying to keep a delicate balance in the conversation I was prompted to ask her if she believed that Jesus is the promised Jewish Messiah. This is a question that never gets asked in a first conversation with a Jewish person so I ignored the prompt. It came again and in an internal conversation with the Lord I said “No, I can’t ask her that in our first conversation”. It felt like an exasperated Holy Spirit who said “ASK HER!” So I did, there was silence at the other end of the line, I thought “I’ve blown it!”, and then she said “Yes I think I do” We arranged to meet in town for coffee with my wife Janey and another Jewish believer we knew. This led to a few months of meeting in my office at home as we tried to answer Shira’s questions about how she was to do Christianity. For a new Jewish believer with little experience of Christianity a big hurdle for them to overcome is entering a church. They anticipate that all churches have crucifixes and saints statues and Madonnas, which are mostly offensive to a Jewish person. So for Shira it was a big step to enter the building where my home church met. I was part of a small evangelical group meeting in a Victorian red brick chapel - no crucifix and no statues! She was comfortable enough to go inside after she’d looked through the door, but attending a service was still a big step away. The key was when we held a Passover celebration making the connections with Jesus, the Last Supper and communion. Her response was like many people experiencing their first Passover “Why has no one told me about this stuff before?”
Shira soon became part of church life attending all the Bible studies and services even taking on the church cleaner's role! She agreed to come with us to CMJ's annual summer conference.
During the conference she said she felt she had to call and tell her mum that she had become a believer in Jesus. For many Jewish people this means at least a family argument, possibly a major rift, sometimes even banishment from the family. Shira’s Mum was OK with her decision; she already knew about about Yeshua (Jesus in its original Hebrew form) from her two granddaughters. Her Mum who was in her 80's eventually became a believer too, four years before she died. In Israel many believers live a quiet life in their community continuing to follow the Jewish calendar, eating kosher and following the torah (law) whilst following Jesus much as the early church had done.
The next obstacle was Shira’s son Yoni who by now was working in a hotel on Guernsey. Together they had followed a new age path before coming to England. Shira very excitedly told me one day that Yoni was meeting with Christians on the island and studying the Bible - with a Jehovah’s Witnesses group! It isn’t easy to explain that JW’s are not orthodox Christians and that their version of the Bible does not follow the standard translations. I suggested we pray for him to find the truth. Within a few weeks he had left the group. His grasp of the Bible in its original Hebrew language enabled him to point out the serious shortcomings of their New World Translation. Needless to say he quickly outstayed his welcome!
Sensing that he was alone with his embryonic new faith I contacted a friend who co-ordinated a Prayer for Israel group on the island. As he happened to be the chairman of the local Chamber of Commerce he had no difficulty tracing a young Israeli waiter through his contacts in the Guernsey hotel world. Yoni was soon adopted by the PFI group and encouraged and discipled. He returned to the mainland at the end of the summer season and joined the church where I was ministering and where his Mum was now in fellowship. He quickly showed leadership skills and he became the youth leader at the Fellowship.
It became clear that God was calling both back to Israel and Yoni went to Haifa in Northern Israel. For many years CMJ had a ministry centre in Haifa which was eventually handed over to the local Messianic Jewish congregation led by David and Karen Davis. Yoni joined them, Shira stayed with us for five more years.
Eventually Shira returned home and became the Manager of the fellowship’s hospitality ministry in Haifa until the Corona virus pandemic forced the Guest House to close. Shira still does voluntary work for the Kerem-El (God’s Vineyard) Hebrew speaking part of the congregation as a Deacon.
Yoni furthered his theological education in Israel and at Moody Bible Institute in the United States. After graduating he returned to Israel and spent time teaching at the Israel College of the Bible in Tel Aviv before returning to Haifa he a teaching Pastor at Kerem-El congregation.
The Lord is still working in Shira's family and one of her daughters is now also a follower of Jesus.
Please pray for the rest of her family, a son and a daughter, we know that God hasn’t finished His work with them yet!