The Last Five Ten Years and Heading East
In our September Newsletters there is a short article titled “The Last Five Years”. The following provides some more background information and the unfolding nature of our lives and ministry.
As some of you might know I was raised on Long Island NY. I attended and was Bar Mitzvahed at an Orthodox synagogue in 1974. I came to faith in Y’shua (Jesus) as the Messiah in 1984; this was shortly after graduating from SUNY Albany. In 1985 I moved to the Midwest and have lived in Illinois or Wisconsin for the majority of the last 30 years. My faith in Messiah created a tremendous stir and fractured relationships within my family. My dad and I have not seen each other face to face since 1986. My last trip to Long Island was in 1989.
I have lived in the Midwest, Illinois and Wisconsin, since 1991. During the years 1995-2005 I ministered at a small Pentecostal congregation in Oshkosh WI. Central Wisconsin has little if any Jewish population. Geographically this was the farthest away from the Jewish community that I had ever lived. By His wonderful spirit and grace, my heart was at home in Oshkosh. This Jewish boy from the New York City area was at home, content and happy in Oshkosh. I would have been happy and content to spend the rest of my life in Wisconsin. The appreciation of God’s love for the whole human race, the spreading the gospel outside of the Jewish people is a wonderful and significant heart understanding, and often a bit challenging in the depth of some Jewish hearts. The Holy Wind of God (the Holy Spirit) had needed to do a work in my heart in this area (see article). Yet in 2004, something started to change, a nudge, a tug, in my heart; it was a nudge to move back to Zion IL and spend some time at the Zion Faith Homes. There was a sense that this move, though only slightly east, was a move east, east as towards the Jewish people, east, as towards Jerusalem.
My children and I moved to Zion in the summer of 2005. (My first wife, Sandy, died in 1999.) In 2005 the Smiling Maven was born. It was a bi-monthly newsletter focusing on the incredible grace of God from a Jewish perspective. In 2006 and 2008 I made my first two trips to Israel, heading east, east as towards Jerusalem. In 2010, I began dating Deb, and we were married in 2011. Deb wonderfully and thoroughly identifies with this sense of heading east. She likes to call the Jewish people her “peeps” (people). Our marriage, blending of our families, and blending our ministry strengths led us to an unplanned, but highly blessed sabbatical from writing and speaking.
In 2014 this started to change. We produced a Messianic Haggadah and were asked to do a number of Passover Seders. In 2015 speaking opportunities and the number of Passover Seders increased. I was asked to do both a Jewish funeral and a Messianic Jewish Wedding. A bible series at Waukegan Full Gospel led to the writing of the booklet Inverting the Upside Down Image. (Available) The publication of our newsletters has now been scheduled for the end of this summer – September 2015.
As for this summer – heading east has additional meaning. In August we will be flying out to the west coast – Oregon. Deb’s oldest son Eric and family are moving from Oregon to Wisconsin. Eric has asked us to drive one of their two cars across the country to Wisconsin. We will be taking some extra time visiting Yellowstone and other scenic spots as we head “east” toward the Midwest. While in Oregon we will be visiting my brother Garry and his family. His wife, Sheila, has a niece that will be celebrating her Bat Mitzvah. The family has welcomed us and invited us to attend the celebration. This is the first Jewish celebration that family has warmly invited me to attend in over 20 years. We are thankful and looking forward to this time.
After traveling east through the Rocky Mountain and the numerous beautiful sights of the Western United States, we will return to Zion IL for one week. The first week of September we will leave Zion and head east again – this time towards Philadelphia; I have been asked to officiate at a second messianic wedding celebration. Instead of flying we have decided to take our camper and spend some time in the Philadelphia area and then spend some time on Long Island. Though just for a short visit we will be heading east together, east as towards the Jewish people. The New York/Long Island area is the largest concentrated Jewish population outside of Israel. When believers pray for Israel, I often wonder if they realize how many Jewish people are still in the United States and how many of them are in the New York/Long Island area. Long Island is rather affluent, secular, and humanistic. In many ways it is completely unattractive to this Jewish believer in Jesus. However this September, Deb and I will be making our first trip to Long Island as a couple, and my first trip since 1989.
We sense that we are being propelled this summer by the Holy Wind of God* His Wind is blowing and we are caught in that Wind. We are surprised by the timing and circumstances and celebrations that have brought these travels together. We ask for your prayers and support as His Wind blows us across the United States and as we find ourselves among God’s “peeps”, the Jewish people.
רוח הקדש* Ruach HaChodesh. This is often translated Holy Spirit, but in Hebrew the word Ruach is most often translated “wind”.