Part 1 — the following portion first appeared in the May 2001 Levitt Letter.
Our ministry just sent its first missionaries. Naturally they went to Israel, since that was the Lord’s request (Matt. 10: 5–6, Rom. 1:16). Kevin Parker is one of our Israel tour leaders, and Todd Baker is our ministry’s theologian. Below is a report of their experiences.
Part 1 (by Kevin L. Parker)
At twilight on Friday the 23rd of March (Shabbat), Zola and the Shalom, Shalom Congregation of Dallas, Texas, commissioned Todd Baker and me to witness to the Jew first (Romans 1:16) in the land of Israel. Zola read Acts 13:2–3, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” On behalf of the congregation, Zola placed his hands on us and sent us off with a blessing. This essential Scriptural event marked the beginning of our evangelism in Israel.
The mission statement was laid out by Him Who was without sin. Y’shua said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:19–20). After His resurrection from the dead on First Fruits, Y’shua further defined the mission to be “His witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). That would be our starting point — Jerusalem!
Our sovereign LORD, Who is marvelous in our eyes, blessed us with an opportunity to witness from the beginning at the international airport in Newark, New Jersey. Because of the continuing PLO intifada that recently included the assassination of a ten-month-old Israeli infant, EL AL was on a heightened security alert for terrorism. Todd and I were detained, questioned and searched for three hours. During this time the LORD gave us the incredible opportunity to witness and encourage the Israeli security personnel. They were courteous, professional, kind, extremely thorough, and listened to His encouragement through our words. This would be the first of many “opportunities” to come.
I will digress for a moment to explain “opportunities.” In order to be an effective witness one must always be prepared and actively searching for “common ground” to begin communication. For example, in the EL AL security situation we all agreed to the necessity of their intense scrutiny and the rationale behind it (i.e., PLO intifada terrorism). From this common ground we can proceed with genuine love, encouragement and ultimately sharing the gospel according to Y’shua. In 1 Peter 3:15 we are instructed to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Another opportunity presented itself upon our arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. One of Todd’s suitcases was missing and at the “lost and found” area we were able to witness to a rabbi who was missing one part of his luggage. The common ground to both parties was “missing luggage.”
Our typical message contained the following elements:
- The reliability of the Tanakh (Old Testament)
- The everlasting land covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
- The return of Israel from the diaspora as prophesized (supernatural)
- All oracles from God came through inspired Jewish people
- The Tanakh and the B’rit Hadashah (New Testament) came through inspired Jews
- Y’shua was a Jew
- The Apostles were Jews
- The first church was in Jerusalem
- The first Christians (i.e., Nazarenes) were Jews
- All Scripture is inerrant and infallible
- The Tanakh and B’rit Hadashah are united through the person Y’shua
- Prophecies concerning the Messiah (predicted and fulfilled)
- The necessity for “blood” sacrifice
- The Perfect Lamb of God
- The Gospel according to Y’shua
- Our personal testimonies
Our typical day began with prayer. In our prayers we included:
- Show us the opportunities
- Give us people with ears that hear, eyes that see, etc.
- Give us wisdom from Above
- Give us the Holy Spirit that convicts and regenerates
- Make us tender and gentle
Prayer (before, during, after) proved to be the most important ingredient for successful witness to the Jew first, and then the Gentile in Israel. On one occasion, after prayer in our Kibbutz room we found a Jewish man and his child literally sitting on our doorstep.
On another occasion we desired Bibles to hand out and God provided us with 28 B’rit Hadashot (New Testaments) “free” from Immanuel Bookstore in the Old City of Jerusalem and the Galilee Experience in Tiberias. Each day the sovereignty of God amazed us. The vast majority of Israelis readily received our message of hope and encouragement. One man actually said, “This is Good News!”
We traveled throughout Israel in our rental car without trouble.
We did not see any tanks or armored personnel carriers. We spent six days in the Old City of Jerusalem without incident. During our seventeen nights in Israel (i.e., Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, the Galilee, the Golan Heights, Mount Hermon, Tel Aviv, etc.) we never heard a gunshot or saw an angry person. As Zola told the Shalom, Shalom Congregation, “Between the two of them [Todd and me] they don’t know enough Hebrew to order a cup of coffee.” Israel is our sister democracy in the Middle East and English is a required language (fortunately for Todd and me). For sure we avoided Palestinian-controlled areas like Gaza and the West Bank. As always, we both felt safer in Israel than in many of America’s large metropolitan cities.
In closing, it was readily apparent that American visitors were absent in Israel. We saw tourists from the countries of Japan, South Korea, Germany, and even China. Israel’s economy depends on tourism and our State Department’s “Travel Warning” has negatively impacted their economy (i.e., hotels, state parks, vendors, tour guides, etc.).
Israel also depends on America’s strong political support. This is a time when America needs to stand unequivocally with her sister democracy that is surrounded by Arab dictatorships. Please take time to encourage the president (Genesis 12:3).
Todd and I were privileged to be ambassadors for Y’shua in the land of Israel. We thank Shalom, Shalom Congregation for their support (i.e., prayers, encouragement and financial support). We also thank the gentleman who donated $2600 to Zola Levitt Ministries “to send evangelists to the Jews in Israel.” And we thank the LORD God Almighty through the blood of the Lamb Who was slain before the foundation of the Universe and the Holy Spirit Who dwells amongst us. God certainly surrounded the two of us with His aura of grace.
Part 2 — the following portion first appeared in the June 2001 Levitt Letter.
Last month, Kevin Parker, one of our two missionaries to Israel, gave his impressions of the completed trip. Below, our ministry theologian and other missionary, Todd Baker, adds to the story. Todd’s remarks about helping carry out this much-needed mission to Israel inspired us to begin a new fund for this vital ministry. Donations to the fund should be marked payable to “To the Jew First,” and we will continue these efforts. Thanks.
Part 2 (by Todd Baker, ThM)
For some time, Kevin and I had felt strongly called by the Lord and compelled by the Holy Spirit to go to Israel and share the Gospel to the Lord’s ethnic brothers and sisters for the simple reason that this salvation message originally came from the Jews and must go to them first (John 4:22; Romans 1:16). The Church subsequently confirmed this calling when Zola and Shalom, Shalom Messianic Congregation sent us out, as Kevin related in his article last month. Our authoritative basis for this evangelistic mission to the Jews of Israel and Jerusalem comes from both the mandate of Scripture and the command of Christ. Y’shua and His Jewish disciples set this pattern for the Church to follow. Both made it a point to go to Israel and the Jew first with the Gospel’s saving message (Matthew 10:5–6; 15:24; Acts 13:4, 14; 14:1; 17:1–2).
Therefore, our witness began with the Jews of Jerusalem because the Great Commission given by the Lord was to begin in that Jewish city. Evangelism was to start with the Chosen People exactly where the epochal events of the Gospel (the death and resurrection of the Messiah) occurred (Luke 24: 18, 28–29, Acts 1:7–8). Not only does the B’rit Hadashah (New Testament) command this, but also the Tanakh (Old Testament). In Isaiah 40:9 the Lord tells us to “speak good tidings” (in the Hebrew, “speak” is an imperative indicating a command given by God, and of course “good tidings” means the Gospel) to Jerusalem with boldness and strength. And to that end, the Holy Spirit empowered us with boldness and strength to do this very thing in Jerusalem, Galilee, and throughout all Israel for seventeen days from early morning until late at night. We had several divine encounters and providential opportunities with the Jewish people of Israel. There are too many to fully relate in this article, but the following paragraphs below are a few examples of how God is working in the midst of the Chosen People again as they return to their ancient homeland, just as Moses and the prophets predicted in preparation for the return of the Messiah to Israel to establish His 1,000 year kingdom from Jerusalem (Deut. 30:1–3; Is. 11:11–12; 66:7–9;Hos. 3:4–5; Amos 9:14–15). Through it all, Kevin and I were both humbled and greatly moved as we saw their response of openness to Y’shua’s message of comfort and encouragement.
While in Jerusalem, we went to Mt. Zion where the tomb of David and the Upper Room are closely situated. There is a small synagogue in the room with David’s tomb. There on the Sabbath day, Kevin and I were led to talk with two Yeshiva (Jewish seminary) students, studying to be rabbis, about how Y’shua of Nazareth fulfilled many of the Messianic prophecies, with special emphasis on the Messianic Psalms. By the way, one of the young men, named Menachem, was reading the Psalms from the Hebrew text before we came into the room! We shared with them from the Hebrew text about prophecies that foretold the Messiah’s virgin birth (Gen 3:15; Is. 7:14); where He would be born (Mic. 5:2); the manner of His death (Ps. 22); His resurrection from the dead (Ps. 16:10–11) and His glorious return, when the Jews are regathered to Israel from dispersion and Jerusalem is excavated from ruins and rebuilt (Hos. 3:3-5; Ps. 102:12–16). We spent almost an hour with them. They were intrigued and said they would give this important matter serious attention and study.
Please pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes and hearts to accept Y’shua as Lord and Messiah.
Another incident in Jerusalem involved an intense debate between three Sephardic (Middle-Eastern Jewish) students of a Torah school. Later, we found out that our discussion with them had taken place just outside four synagogues joined together. The hour-long debate centered on who Y’shua was, and how only by a blood sacrifice can the sinner be cleansed and forgiven in the sight of God (Lev. 17:11). When they admitted that keeping the Law and following rabbinical tradition was not sufficient enough for salvation, and that only an acceptable blood sacrifice could save, they acknowledged their nation was in trouble, having no Temple, priests, or sacrifice for nearly two thousand years!
Then we preached to them about the reality of the New Covenant, which has already been ratified with the house of Israel through the once-for-all perfect sacrifice of the Messiah (Jer. 31:31–34; Matt. 26:27–28). Sadly, they rejected this saving truth, stumbling over the simplicity of it and taking offense at a crucified Messiah (1 Cor. 1:23; 1 Pet. 2:8).
Part 3 — the following portion first appeared in the July 2001 Levitt Letter.
Part 3 (by Todd Baker, ThM)
In Galilee, the Lord gave us several witnessing opportunities. The people there were generally receptive, grateful, and some very moved as we told them how God is bound to the Jewish people through the eternal, immutable and unconditional covenants (namely, the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants).
One evening Kevin and I noticed an elderly woman with a walking cane badly limping along in pain. We went back down the stairs and greeted her. Her name was Naomi and she had multiple sclerosis. Kevin gave his personal testimony about the intense struggle he and his wife Leighanne went through during her time of illness. Through it all, he told Naomi, God sustained and strengthened them, transforming a tragedy into a triumph.
We told her the only way that could have happened is the fact that Y’shua the Messiah came and took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses (Is. 53:4; Matt 8:17). We further told her that He defeated death by His resurrection and that He personally wanted to carry the heavy load of her crippling disease upon His shoulders (Matt 11:28–30). She was moved to tears. We ended up giving her a Messianic Jewish Gospel tract and a Hebrew New Testament, with assurances of keeping her in our prayers.
But the Lord saved His best for last. While on the plane coming back to the States, the Lord gave us the opportunity to share with a Russian Jewish lady from New York City. Her name was Nadia. She had stayed in Jerusalem for three weeks visiting her relatives on her first trip to the Holy Land. We shared with her how God sent us over there to comfort and encourage the Jewish people with the good news of Y’shua the Messiah.
Surprisingly, she responded by telling us that an Israeli tour guide who was a Messianic Jew said the same things to her in Jerusalem. We went over the Gospel with her via a Messianic Jewish tract. After she carefully read it we asked if she would like to receive Y’shua the Jewish Messiah in her heart. She gladly prayed with us and was born again on the spot!
After she did this she exclaimed with visible relief and joy on her face, “Now I feel such a peace.” Yes, that is because the Prince of Peace lives in Nadia now. We cannot thank the Lord, Zola, and the Shalom, Shalom congregation enough for allowing us the inestimable privilege of sharing the Gospel of Y’shua the Messiah with His Chosen People.
We do not desire this to be a one-time event. Therefore we humbly ask for the continued support (in prayer and finances) from believers all over that we may endeavor to go twice a year to Israel to boldly and lovingly share the Gospel “to the Jew first and then to the Gentile.” If we as a Church do not evangelize the Jewish people then we simply fail to carry out the Great Commission properly. The heart of every born-again believer should be that Jews, the brethren of Jesus, come to faith in Y’shua as Messiah here and now. This was Paul’s heart cry (Rom. 10:1–3), for it is the heart cry of God concerning the Jews and Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37).
Todd and Kevin are planning a return mission trip to Israel in September or October. Please mark your contributions, “To the Jew first.” This fund will send them. (Rom. 10:15)