This blog post is Re-blogged from Grafted In Blog authored by Chad Doell
A few months ago I was caught in a difficult circumstance. I had just completed my master’s degree in Christian ministry which was a struggle efor a number of reasons. In a sense I was able to resolve that the experience was unfulfilling, or even harmful. In another sense, I built beautiful friendships during that time–situations of brotherhood which were able to speak truth and faith into my life in more meaningful ways than any classroom was able.
But this academic portion had come to a close. I found myself back in my hometown of Hague, Saskatchewan, just North of nowhere. I had commandeered my old room in my parents’ basement. I was desperate for direction.
Perhaps my first and most pressing problem is the challenge that will remain for the rest of my life: how to be faithful. I felt more and more that I had received a strange call on my life, which I was never able to explain with the lucidity and confidence that I imagine one who is “called” demonstrates. In quiet times of prayer I could become peacefully certain of the task set out for me. When I tried to tell someone about it, I would sound desperate and disjointed. I had good reason.
I am a Mennonite boy from small-town Saskatchewan with a burden to share the Messiah with the Jews.
I could not feel further from answering that call than I was lying in my bed, in my parents’ basement, in a small farming community. I remember one particular night, with a sort of spiritual exhaustion, praying that if God had truly put this thing on my heart, he would at least show me a way; one small start; the smallest sign of encouragement.
A few weeks earlier I had received a copy of Christ on the Jewish Road by Richard Wurmbrand. Six-and-a-half years of post-secondary education left me with the inability to enjoy reading, but the moment I opened Christ on the Jewish Road I was captivated. I was repeatedly moved by the stories of the Messiah reaching out to his people during the stifling evil of the Holocaust. I was emboldened by Wurmbrand’s passion for sharing the good news with his fellow Jews; I was equally emboldened by his warnings of how hard the path is for the gentile who shares his passion.
And one particularly night I was convicted. I can hardly describe it, but I was filled with love. I had an absolute confidence that this is my calling: to proclaim Y’shua (Jesus’ Aramaic name) to his people. I was completely aware of the ridiculousness of it all, but didn’t care–I loved them, and I would find a way. Even if I only ever point one Hebrew heart toward the blooded lamb, it would be enough. I remember texting a dear friend at 2:30 in the morning with a proclamation of my sending. It’s important to have a witness to remind you down the road.
I would later hear someone call this sort of call a burden. The burden had been on me for years. It started when I was in the darkest place in my life, during my mid teenage years. My soul was sick: I was depressed, angry, suicidal, and searching for meaning. I still professed a Christian faith, but without any root. I was lead and lured into occult practices, and my spirit suffered. I couldn’t rest anymore, and I became consumed with dark things and a belief that I could dominate others spiritually. It was during this time that I met a deliverer who had a very different reaction to a similar spiritual illness: where I searched for meaning in the promise of spiritual power, this young Jewess felt she needed to be more orthodox to be spiritually fulfilled.
Her desire for orthodoxy obviously clashed with my desire for the occult. Thankfully I was a teenage boy and my hormones won out: I cast off these dark things and reclaimed my faith in the Messiah. This is how a Jew led me back to the Christ.
It troubled me that she did not have a Messiah. She loved God so deeply, but related to Him in such a different way. We prayed together and she was struck by the intimacy with which I addressed Elohim.
We planned to marry, and we agreed that one day we would read through the gospels together. She was searching, so the idea of a Messiah wasn’t unattractive to her, despite the way she had been raised to hate Jesus. I never had this beautiful opportunity, and I didn’t live my life in such a way to demonstrate the love of Y’shua for her. We parted ways painfully.
But a seed was planted in my heart. I would read “salvation is from the Jews” and become furious that so many Jews live without a Messiah while so many gentiles squander him with a luke-warm faith. I would read how I was grafted in, and how difficult it was for God to cut away some of the old branches, and weep and pray for those old branches to be grafted in again.
My faith in Y’shua was not the strength of my spiritual life. I had a profound and deep faith in the Father, but his Son often seemed strange to me. I had difficulty understanding him, and had a sort of Pharisaic discomfort with his divinity. So I would pray and pray that he would reveal himself to me, because my faith wasn’t enough to love him.
One night Y’shua did decide to show me who he is. I was going through another difficult period where I was being asked to witness boldly to some church leaders, and it was an exhausting and troubling experience. I felt very insecure. I prayed once more than Y’shua would show me who he is–so that I would know why I was doing all that I was.
And I saw in my heart a man looking over Jerusalem and weeping bitterly. I saw a man who loves his people, the Jews, with a deep and strong and faithful love. I saw a man who knew his people would suffer. I knew that even today, even as you read this, Y’shua still suffers the refusal of his people.
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you. (Luke 19:41-44)
He still longs for her, Israel. He waits for the day he can call her home. He came for her first and will come for her again. How could I, a gentile, ever enjoy his love when I know God’s people continue to refuse it?
A burden–one which was weighing heavily on me that night a few months ago, when I prayed for one small sign to get me started.
And I received my start in a beautiful way. It was only a day or two later when I spied a poster declaring that Laura Barron from Jews for Jesus would be doing a Christ in the Passover presentation at a church literally down the street. I of course attended and was moved by the work of Jews for Jesus–by the boldness and faith with which they strive to proclaim the Messiah to a people who hate him–their own people.
I approached Laura after her presentation. I tried to, as briefly as possible, while still sort of holding myself together, explain to her my position. She heard me, gave me some resources, and encouraged me to contact her again. It was all I needed.
I subsequently became the pastor of a rural Mennonite congregation and began to wonder again how I can be faithful and respond to my burden while ministering where I am. The next step, probably something that should have happened long ago, was to go to Israel. I put it off out of fear, but with the constant prodding of friends and family, I grew fed-up enough to go for two weeks with only two weeks to plan the trip.
I didn’t do much planning, and resolved to travel on faith. I planned as little as possible, but worked to make some good contacts recommended by my cousin Hinke, who lived in Nazareth for three years.
I told people I was going to learn about the ministries in Israel and pray for them, which is true. In the back of my heart, I was hoping to see if there was a place for me there to serve. I kept a daily journal, and will post those entries here with a little extrapolation. I am doing this partly because many people are curious about my trip. I’m also doing this so that others may be encouraged to love and pray for the lost sheep of Israel.