'GOD, IF YOU'RE REAL, I WANT TO KNOW.'
by Avram Yehoshua
I remember a time when my younger brother, my mother and I, were at my grandparent’s apartment in Brooklyn (my mother’s parents). I was about nine. We had stayed overnight and Nana (the name I grew up calling my grandmother), was asking what we wanted for breakfast, as we sat down to the kitchen table.
I told her, ‘Bacon and eggs’ and received a swift kick in my leg from my mother who was sitting adjacent me. ‘Not here! she told me, leaning over to emphasize it. I didn’t know. My mother had rebelled against her Orthodox upbringing. Even though I was raised ‘Jewish’, we never observed the Sabbath and we ate bacon. This is something that Nana and Gramps wouldn’t approve of.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 24th, 1951. I would learn about pain at a very early age. My mother divorced my father when I was five. I grew up thinking that I was the only kid who didn’t have his father living at home. I was confused and felt ashamed, even though my father loved me with all his heart. Once a week he would drive 60 miles one way, from New York City to New Jersey, and take my younger brother and me out for the day. We’d play baseball, basketball and football together. We’d eat lunch and supper with him and go to the movies and just ‘be with him.’ He devoted his life to his ‘two boys.’ I thank the Lord Yeshua for the father that I was born to. He taught me much about God’s love.
I had an Orthodox bar-mitzva in Newton, New Jersey in May, 1964. Why did I have it? Because my grandparents wanted me to and my mother wanted to honor them. My formal Jewish training, which started in the third grade in the Bronx, quickly came to an end when my mother remarried and we moved to New Jersey. I was in the third grade.
We lived too far away from the synagogue in Newton to continue my Hebrew School education. But one day, when I was 12, in the eighth grade, my mother turned to me and said, ‘Oh my God! You’re almost 13!’ And so my Jewish training for bar-Mitzva resumed six months before my 13th birthday.
I thank the rabbi for getting me through what would have been a very embarrassing situation. When I was called to the bima to read the haftara portion (the portion of Scripture from the Prophets that the bar Mitzva boy reads), I chanted it melodically and without mistake. The only problem was that I had no idea what the Hebrew words meant or what I was doing, except that today I would ‘become a man.’ A few months before my bar-Mitzva, the rabbi, sensing that I would not be ready in time, made a recording for me to play over and over again so I could memorize the haftora portion.
After the service, the men of the synagogue came to me and congratulated me. I felt ashamed, for I had deceived them. They heard me chant the words but they meant nothing to me. I couldn’t understand the Hebrew and my heart was far from walking in the ways of the God of Israel, the very meaning of bar-Mitzva. But what a party we had! I received a beautiful gold watch from my Nana and Gramps, and cash and gifts from all the other people.
After we got home, I went upstairs to my bedroom to count the loot. One of my cousins told my mother. She shouted from downstairs, where all the people were, ‘André!!!’ (my American name), ‘You better not be counting that money!’ Nothing like Jewish guilt. (Like all Jewish boys and girls born outside the Land of Israel, I was given an ’American’ name (André), and a Hebrew name (Avram), on the 8th day of life when I was circumcised. The Hebrew name is generally used in the synagogue.)
The next day, I assumed my assimilated American lifestyle, which had nothing to do with being Jewish. My life was caught up in playing baseball and basketball. My hero was Mickey Mantle and I loved the Yankees. I could tell you at any given moment what Mick’s batting average was, how many home runs he had hit, etc. Left on my own, with no real religious training, I had fallen in line with how most American boys grew up.
At 20, I was attending Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey. I remember one day, turning onto Rt. 17 from Rt. 4, to go to the pool hall where I made my living shooting pool. I would eventually graduate from Ramapo State College in Mahwah, N.J. (Dec. 1974), with a B.A. in Political Science, with no distinctions. My heart was into shooting pool and my real education would come from the pool hall where I got an M.A. in ‘Banking’ and a Ph.D. in ’English.’ : )
My life was one where I did whatever I wanted to do. Leaving home at 18, I made the pool hall my new home where I could be found 70 hours a week. I smoked grass, did hash and some LSD too. I learned what sex was about and saw that I was not as ethical as I had imagined myself to be. But lately, something was stirring inside of me, or should I say, Someone? As I entered the ramp to come onto Rt. 17 that would take me to the pool hall, I looked up to the sky and said, ’God, if You’re real, I want to know. If You’re not, than Heaven and Hell don’t really mean anything. But if You are, then You are wise enough and strong enough to get in onto a guy like me.’
That began my spiritual journey. Oh, I ‘knew’ that God existed. I had heard about Him in one way or another all my life. But God meant no more to me than Abraham Lincoln. I knew he existed too, but Mr. Lincoln didn’t effect my life, not as I could see it in 1971. And neither did the God of my Fathers. Where was LIFE?! And where was true integrity?
I was hungry for Reality. I searched for God in Transcendental Meditation. I found something there that was ‘nothingness’, but it wasn’t the God of Israel. I looked into Zen. I loved it. I thought that it was the perfect answer to reality. But I would come to see that God was not there either, just ‘self’ at a heightened level of awareness. I would wander down that spiritual lane for the next four years. And then I moved to Tampa, Florida with a friend of mine.
I had played pool for five years and could have turned professional but my heart wasn’t into hustling people. I had come to see that in order to get better at the game, I would have to become insensitive to people and to any morals that I still had left. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life but I knew that I didn’t want to shoot pool for the rest of it. I could see that to be the best, you had to give your soul to the game. But the game didn’t reward me with something that satisfied my soul. It just took my soul and left me empty.
I left Jersey and would have gone to California but I didn’t think that my ‘67 Buick Skylark would make it. Tommy Vince and I decided to head to Florida. It was September 1975. I only brought a few books with me but one of them would radically change my life. I had heard many good things about this book a few years earlier. When I began to read it in October, 1975, I thought it was going to be like a number of books that I had read before on ‘self-help’. I was into the ‘pull myself up by my own belt loops’ philosophy and that’s why I thought that this book would be similar to them. It wasn’t.
The God of Israel ‘spoke’ to me through the book. I was drawn to it. The book had true, short stories about people who were searching for Reality, searching for hope, for real peace with God. And many had other needs as well. Each one found their answer in Jesus. I was deeply impressed. I had never read anything like that before.
Growing up with my limited Jewish understanding, I knew nothing of the terrible things that the Church had done to the Jewish people over the last 1900 years in the Name of Jesus. My grandparents and parents had never mentioned that Name and so I wasn’t turned off by His Name when I read it in the book, as many Jewish people would have been.
By the time I had gotten half way through the book, I could see that Jesus was everything that I had always wanted, but could never ‘put my finger on’. I gave myself to Him right then and there, asking Him to come into my heart and to forgive me of my sins, and the most wonderful thing happened. As I surrendered myself to Him, I felt an indescribable peace come over me. I would later understand that it was the Holy Spirit.
I knew that I had made the right decision. I knew that God was real! The God of Israel was affirming it. I now had an experiential awareness of God. He had manifested Himself to me as He had done in the past to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It would be the first of many such experiences. One journey came to an end, while another began.
The Way of the Jew
When my mother divorced my father, my younger brother and I went to live with Nana and Gramps for about two years. My mother wanted to ’get on her feet’ financially. She wanted to work and earn a living. I don’t know why she didn’t live with us. Perhaps the place was too small for all of us. Whatever the reason, during that time, a very special bond developed between my grandmother and me.
My grandfather worked in the garment district of New York City. He had learned the trade from his wife to be’s father, before they were married in 1929. He came over to the United States from Lithuania around 1908. His father, Mosheh (Moses), owned a large farm, had farm hands and a mill. From what I heard, he was well to do. But his wife died of cancer when their only son Philip was about ten years old. Gramps had three older sisters (Zelma, Saka and Basha), but I think that they may have already been married. Philip was only twelve years old when his father sent him to live with a relative in Brooklyn. It just happened to be the same apartment building as his future wife and in-laws lived in.
My Gramps never said much. ‘How are you doing in school?’, and, before we would leave to go back home, ‘Be good.’ I will always remember him sitting on the couch with the daily paper, going over the race track results for the horses. I don’t know if he ever bet on the horses or if he even went to the tracks but he loved to go over the results.
My grandmother, in the 1960’s, would work in department stores as a sales clerk to earn ‘extra’ money. Whenever my brother and I would come over to visit, she would make sure that we left with a few dollars in our pockets. It was just another way that she loved us. Whenever we came, she’d always have my favorite soda (Canada Dry Black Raspberry), or next to favorite (Canada Dry Ginger Ale), and there’d be special meals. When we woke up in the morning from spending the night, she’d ask us what we’d like for breakfast. Pancakes were always a favorite as well as the hot cereal, Farina, with lots of heavy cream and sugar. I didn’t know about nutrition in those days : )
They weren’t religiously observant although they were Orthodox. What I mean by that is the only time we went to the synagogue was for the High Holy Days in the fall. And that would come down to the holiest day of all, Yom Kipor (the Day of Atonement, when all Jews fast and pray). We never read the Tanach in the home. We didn’t discuss the Commandments. And we didn’t pray before meals. We’d keep Passover but it was more a time of a festal dinner than an actual telling of the Passover story and its significance.
Living in Hamburg, New Jersey, I didn’t grow up in a Jewish community. I never heard anything about ‘Jesus’ from my mother or her parents (my Nana and Gramps), or my father (although I’d find out that he prayed for me to come to the Lord for many years without saying anything to me). I knew the name of Jesus, as some of my friends were Christians, but they were about as Christian as me. Our god was sports.
I never suffered any anti-Semitism ‘in the Name of Jesus’ from Christian boys who went to church, most likely because I didn’t do anything associated with being Jewish. And growing up, I didn’t hear of the Holocaust, either from my family, or from the public schools I attended.
About two years after I came to Messiah I began working for a photocopier outfit in St. Petersburg, Florida. They sent me for more training to Miami. It was winter and my grandmother and grandfather were there from Brooklyn, vacationing for a couple of weeks. I went to see them one evening.
After we had gone for supper at the local automat, we came back to their small hotel room. I remember my grandfather sitting down on one of the two single beds, and my grandmother standing in front to me. We were to the left of my grandfather and he could see us.
’Nana’, I said, ‘I have the most wonderful news!’ ‘Oh, what is that, André?’, she said. ‘I believe in Jesus!’ I expected her to be very happy for me. If I had taken a knife and plunged it into her belly, the shock on her face would not have been different. A deep sadness came over her. I was stunned.
My grandfather didn’t say anything at first.
I didn’t know what to do. What I had thought was the most terrific thing in my life, hurt my Nana so.
She spoke a few words to my grandfather, I don’t remember what and he said something too, again, I don’t recall. I remember the emotional content though. It was sad and resigned. Something like, ‘Nu? What can you expect? Bob (my father), is a Christian.’ They thought that my father had led me to Jesus. Even though he was a Jew, he had come to the Lord at an early age but he never spoke of Jesus to me till after I had given my life to Him.
There wasn’t much said after that. I left a little while later and it would be years before my grandparents would talk with me. They couldn’t deal with their Jewish grandson betraying them and all they held dear.
At the time I didn’t know about the Holocaust. My grandfather lost two of his sisters and their families to the Nazi beast (his father Moses dying just before World War Two). Saka and Basha and their families were no more. Zelma, the oldest sister, had moved to South Africa with her husband. She lived to be a grandmother. The Holocaust was more than just a T.V. documentary to them. The pain of it was very real.
Over the years I reached out to them and after about ten years, I was able to speak with them. By 1988 I began sending them the Jewish Newsletters that we send to Jewish people that need Yeshua. They didn’t like that. My mother and her brother, my Uncle Jack, came against me for doing it. ‘Don’t you have any respect for them?! They don’t want what you’re sending them and neither do we! Stop it!’ But I wouldn’t stop sending the Newsletter to them or to my mother and uncle.
I’d lose my uncle over this and my mother never understood why I continued to send the Newsletter. I told her, ‘I love Nana and Gramps (and Uncle Jack and you), very much. I know that they are upset with me sending them the Newsletter but this is the greatest thing that I can do to show them that I love them.’
I stopped sending it at my Nana’s death. My Gramps (1896-1991), died at the age of 95. And my Nana died ten years later (1905-2001), at the age of 96. It was hard for her without Gramps. It’s been hard for me without her.
I have struggled over where they will be on the Day of Judgment. Two common, ordinary Jews who never got a real opportunity to know about their Messiah because of Christian anti-Semitism. If the Church had loved the Jewish people for the last two thousand years, instead of persecuting the Jews, perhaps my grandparents would have come to know Jesus.
If the Church had not adopted the false teaching against the Law of Moses, my grandmother could not have said to me that she was born a Jew and would die a Jew. The Church has turned Jesus into a Gentile. They have erected a wall between the two Camps. The typical understanding has been that when a Jew comes to Jesus, they have to give up their Jewishness and become a Gentile. The Jewish community sees this and says that Jesus cannot be the Jewish Messiah. If Christians would have celebrated the holy days of Israel (Lev. 23), etc., Jews would not have been able to use Christmas, Easter and Sunday as an excuse to stay away from their own Messiah. If...
I know that Yeshua is merciful and righteous and so I leave their eternal fate in His Hands. Yeshua has given me a love for all peoples, but especially my own. Evil has been done to me and to those I have loved, but in His Name, I forgive them all. Yeshua has forgiven me much, and I extend that to all who have sinned against me.
The Way Of Broken Dreams
For the first eight years of my life in Jesus, I would walk in ’traditional’ Christianity. I prayed much and devoured the Bible. Feeling called by the Lord into the ministry, I applied for seminary at Oral Roberts University and was accepted. I entered the Master of Divinity program in August, 1979 and left in March, 1983. I did not graduate. I had a conflict with the Dean of Theology over theology and practice, and I was suspended.
It was shattering for me. Four years of my life. I had a 3.57 grade point average (an A-) with 87.5 credits, more than enough to graduate. As one professor sympathetically told me, ‘You certainly got quite a seminary education.’ What he meant was that I not only got an academic education but also a strong taste of perverse Christian ethics. What I was suspended for, I could easily have been forgiven for.
A year before the suspension though, I remember one of my fellow students, a man by the name of Mark Wexler, coming into a class I took with him and telling everyone there that he wanted to be called by another name; ‘Mosheh.’ It was his Jewish name. I didn’t like that he was parading his Jewishness around. And yet, God would lead me down a similar path.
After the suspension, my wife Robin (who would later take the Hebrew name Rivka), and I began holding worship services at our apartment complex on Saturdays, as our Sundays were filled with church. I was proceeding on with ordination in the United Methodist Church and Rivka was a youth minister at a United Methodist church.
At one Saturday meeting, the Lord brought a Gentile couple into our little congregation. They spoke to me about Messianic Judaism. I had never heard of it before. They said it was a Judaism that believed in Jesus from a Jewish perspective. It’s supposed to be a biblical Judaism versus Rabbinic Judaism. They told me that there were more than 150 such congregations (or Messianic Synagogues), in the United States, 40 in Israel and that they were springing up every place on Earth where God had dispersed us Jews.
As I prayed during the summer of 1983, I came to see that the Lord was leading us to establish a Messianic Synagogue in Tulsa. In September I sensed the Lord leading me to officially sever my relationship with the United Methodist Church, for they were going one way and the Lord was leading me another. And so, we embarked on a journey into unknown territory. It was at that time that I sensed from God that I was to begin using my Hebrew name, the name given to me at my circumcision when I was eight days old. And so André gave way to Avram (Hebrew for Abram). That year God would cause to come alive in me a deep love for my Jewish people; a love that I had never known before.
In September, 1984, the Synagogue confirmed me as their rabbi, God having ordained me for that purpose. I knew that this was cause for much misunderstanding in the traditional Jewish Community but which of the branches of Judaism had a patent on the title? Because if one did, the others would not be able to use it! And besides, ‘rabbi’ is a much used title in the Messianic Community around the world.
The title of rabbi is one of honor among the people in their respective branches of Judaism, for their own rabbis. But who in the traditional Jewish Community (those who do not yet believe in Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel), would give me honor because of the title? None that I knew of.
The title of rabbi in the Christian community is totally foreign. Both camps told me I was wrong for having it. But I came to see that God gave it to me for a season, as a badge of humiliation. I was following in the way of my Rabbi, Yeshua.
(I would carry the title of ‘rabbi’ for 16 years. When I came to Israel, I saw that when I would share it with Israelis, many would be
turned off to any further conversation as their idea of what a rabbi was, was influenced by the rabbis in Israel. Many of the rabbis are unscrupulous and dishonest and have been exposed as such. Also, the ultra-Orthodox look down upon the common Israelis as ‘sinners’ and so don’t associate with them, causing much strife and contention among the people. In the year 2000, I was led of the Lord to drop the title, sensing that it was counter-productive to reaching out to both the religious and the secular Israeli. )
’Israel’ became so strong in my heart that I thought the Lord was sending us over to Israel to live. Rivka was pregnant with our first child and I believed that he would be born there. We got our passports in order and waited for our piano to sell in order to give us airfare to Israel and some cash to start a new life there. My son was born on the third night of Sukote (the Feast of Tabernacles), the 17th of Tishri, 5745 (12 October 1984), in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
One day in January, 1985, in prayer to the Lord, I spoke and told Him, ‘I guess I missed You on Israel.’ The Lord Yeshua spoke to me and said, ‘The Israel that I have called you to are the Jewish People of Tulsa.’ With that I knew that God was planting me in Tulsa, to reach out to my Jewish brethren with the Great News of God’s LIFE for us in Messiah Yeshua. Unbeknownst to me at the time, He was training me for Israel, to live and to witness here.
We named our first son Zavdi, the name the Lord had given to Rivka before she conceived him. Zavdi means, ‘My gift’ to you. He certainly was. What a joy to my soul that I had never known before. And I am the oldest of six, having raised the last four from diapers. I loved them with all my heart. My mother would go to work when I got home from school (my step-father already working the evening shift), and my younger brother, Noel, and I, were left to feed, bathe, nurture and put to bed our three youngest brothers and sister (David, Sarah, Matthew and Joseph). I would not think that the love that I had for my brothers and sister would ever be exceeded. But Zavdi took a place in the deepest part of my soul. There was such an intense oneness and love. I had never experienced anything like Zavdi.
It was a busy time for me. Husband, father, Rabbi of Zhera Avraham Synagogue (The Seed of Abraham), substitute teacher for Tulsa Public Schools, and a full time graduate student at Oklahoma State University.
I had gone back to school because I loved counseling people, that being one of my strong points at O.R.U. And also because I saw the need for finances to support my family. There was very little money as a Messianic Rabbi. I enrolled for a Master of Science degree in Community Counseling and would switch to Marriage and Family Therapy by the second semester. Little did I realize then, that the Lord had other plans for me.
The Way Of Holiness
After leaving Oral Roberts University in March 1983, we lived on the east end of Tulsa. I was 32 years old. There was a Quick Trip on the corner where I liked to play a game called Ms. PacMan. It’s an electronic game that takes a quarter and you try to run up your score before being ‘gobbled up.’ I spent too much time and money there. I was hooked and I knew it wasn’t right. I should have been devoting more of my time to the Lord; studying, witnessing for Him, etc., but I found I had to have my daily fix of Ms. PacMan.
One day, after playing for a couple of hours, much longer than I normally did, I said, ‘That’s it! Lord, I’m not going to play again!’ And I meant it. The very next day I was playing. After I got done, I walked back to my apartment and went into the bedroom and started to cry. I found myself in a heap on the floor, feeling condemned for telling the Lord just the day before, that I’d never play again. I had broken my word to Him. I didn’t ask for forgiveness because the farthest thing from my mind was forgiveness. I was buried in self-condemnation. As I lay there, feeling the weight of my guilt, the Holy Spirit came upon me and the guilt immediately vanished. I felt clean. I felt forgiven. And on top of that, I would find that the Lord had delivered me from my addiction. I had no need or desire to play Ms PacMan anymore. I was free! Glory to His Name! I had experienced the forgiveness, love and deliverance of the Lord Yeshua. In my ignorance and enslavement, He was merciful to me.
Now I was ready to go on with the Lord. He brought a black man across my path who would whet my appetite for holiness; a deeper relationship with Yeshua. I had met many good men and some righteous men, but never a holy man. He was an African Methodist Episcopal Zion minister from North Carolina who, for 18 years, had preached about Jesus but did not know Him. Then one day, the Lord Jesus became real to him and he began to preach the Lord like he had never done before. Some elders in his church became very upset with this new change and in time, would discharge him. But before they did that, the Lord would change his heart toward the Jewish people.
One day, after he had really come to know Jesus, his 12 year old son ran away from home. He looked all over the neighborhood. He came back to his home totally dejected. As he sat there on his couch, he looked up to the Lord and cried out in his anguish, ‘You don’t know how I feel! This has never happened to You!’
The Lord spoke to him softly saying, ‘Yes I do. My Son, Israel has run away from Me.’ And with that a seed of strong compassion for the Jewish people was planted in his heart.
In April and May of 1985, this man lived with us. I was finishing my first year at Oklahoma State University where I had a 3.5 (A) average in the Masters program of Marriage and Family Therapy. But this man’s walk with God caught my attention. I saw the Life, Joy and Love of God overflow from him as he related to people. My heart burned for a deeper relationship with Yeshua, as he had.
I got out of O.S.U. for the summer break and I set my sights on seeking Yeshua. I began to fast and pray and on the eighth day the Lord Yeshua spoke to me and said, ‘You will learn to trust Me. I will meet your needs.’ And with that, I knew in my heart that I was not to go back to finish my M.S. at O.S.U. or continue to substitute teach in the Tulsa Public Schools in the fall. I would learn to trust Yeshua for my very food, clothing and shelter, for myself and my family, in the midst of a great financial crises.
It was the end of May and we were being evicted out of our apartment for failure to pay for two months back rent. The telephone had been cut off and the electric was about to go. A woman in our synagogue told me, ‘You need to get a job and go to work until the synagogue can support you and your family. You need to be responsible!’ But I knew in my heart that it wasn’t Yeshua speaking through her.
In time spent with the Lord Yeshua, I knew that He wanted me on my face before Him. We had less than $100. In sharing this with another woman we knew, she said that she had the answer. She had left her husband two months earlier and had leased an apartment for six months and now she was ready to go back to her husband. If we could come in under her lease we wouldn’t have to pay all those charges for entering an apartment and she wouldn’t have to pay for the four months left on her lease. We went to the apartment manager and she approved it.
The day before we were to move in, I went back to the manager to see if all was still in order. The assistant manager was there and told me the manager was on vacation. She didn’t know anything about our arrangement. It would have to be cleared with the regional manager!
We met with the regional manager who told us that she would need to contact the manager of the apartment complex where we were currently living. I was now in my 11th day of fasting and you might think that I would have had all the faith that I would have needed to handle this situation. My reaction? ‘We’re sunk!’
The regional manager got on the phone and called the manager of our apartment complex and asked about us. When she got off the phone she was ‘all smiles.’ She said that the manager told her that we were fine people and that she was sorry to see us leave!
I could hardly believe it! Here we were being evicted and the manager that was doing it was giving a glowing report about us! The Lord Yeshua would use this situation to show me that even though my faith was non-existent, He would not let me drown. Our Messiah is very faithful and merciful.
I returned to the manager who was evicting us the following day and asked her why she said what she did about us. She told me that she just ‘wanted to do something nice’ for us and that if it were up to her, we could have stayed. Yeshua had made a way where, to my eyes, no way existed. We were passing through the Red Sea on dry ground. He would do that over and over again as we learned to really trust in Him for our needs.
The next day we moved from a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment, into a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment, with no money being exchanged. We were in our apartment for a few days, it was June, 1985, and we still didn’t have any money for the new rent for June. I said, ‘Lord, you didn’t bring us in here to get us evicted from here, did You?’ I asked, ‘Is there anything that I need to do that I’m not doing?’ And the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘That which I have taught you, that you have given to the synagogue, you are to teach in the churches.’ It was 10:00 P.M. and I was in bed but when I heard that I got out of bed and began going through my files.
For over a year, the Holy Spirit had been teaching me about the Tabernacle of Moses, the Sacrifices, the Feast Days of Israel and how holiness was interwoven in all of them. I would finish up with a teaching and the Lord by His Spirit would lead me to the next one, week after week. It was a wonderful time of learning His Word from His Spirit. And each week I would share it with the synagogue.
At my file cabinet I began to pull these teachings out and assemble them. I made up a list of teachings that I would offer and would send it to 20 churches at a time. I would call them a week later and find out if they were interested in having me come in and share on a topic. By the time we left for Israel in January, 1999, I had spoken in more than 250 churches, about 500 times. And the Lord would minister so beautifully through me, not only academically, teaching the people about their Hebraic heritage from the Scriptures, but also by His Spirit, as souls were ministered to and touched by Him. It was a joy to be a part of this.
The Way Of Love
It was an evening in June 1985, a day or two after the Lord had told me to go out to the churches in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was sitting at my desk in our new two bedroom apartment. I was alone in the room and all of a sudden, I sensed another presence. It startled me. It was as if the room had a slight mist in it. And what I sensed was that this presence desired me, as a man desires his wife! I was shocked.
I realized in that split second that the Presence was the Spirit of the Holy One, Yeshua. Understanding this, I yielded myself up to Him. With a heart full of devotion and submission, my arms raised, I said, ‘I am Yours.’ And as soon as I said that, His Presence enveloped me with His most precious Peace.
It was still June, and we hadn’t paid our rent yet. I wouldn’t start going out to churches till August and here we were behind on our rent which we hadn’t paid since we moved in ten days earlier. We had run up late charges at our new place, and our furniture payment had come to its end, with the standard balloon payment. Between rent and furniture we owed about $550. If we didn’t pay the furniture fee that day, about $150, they would come and take it away the next day. Not that we had that much to take away.
A friend of mine had gotten me a speaking engagement with a group of Christians for that evening. It was out of town and on our way out, I wrote a check for the furniture place and gave it to them. I thought that if we didn’t get the money to cover it, they could come and take it when the check bounced. But at least this would give me till tomorrow to deposit any money that I might get for speaking.
I got to the speaking engagement and shared my testimony and asked if anyone wanted prayer. A few people came up. There were only about seven couples and a few singles there. I had determined within my heart that I would not ‘push’ for my needs (rent and furniture), but if I got a chance, I would share it with the people. As I finished praying for the last person, the man in charge came and stood next to the person I was praying for. After I was done, I asked him if he wanted prayer also, or if he were coming to take over. He told me that he didn’t want prayer but that if I had anything else that I wanted to do, to feel free to do it. I told him that I had some needs and asked him if it would be alright to share them. He emphatically said, ‘Yes, go ahead!’
He placed a small basket in the back for those who wanted to give. The people gave over $600. On the way back to Tulsa I just melted. The Lord was truly providing. This would be the first of many such times. And I would come to see that when one is trusting in Yeshua that He doesn’t part the Red Sea until our backs are up against it. Why? So that there can be no doubt as to Who has helped us. We had a congregation then too but it was small and made up of people that were not much better off financially than we were. We told no one in the congregation about our needs. We just turned them over to Yeshua.
We paid our rent and late charges for June, and the check for the furniture was covered. We sailed into July and didn’t have any money for rent again. It was a Sunday and I took Zavdi, my infant son, in my arms for a walk around the apartment complex. He was about eight and a half months old and it was around 8:00 A.M. I went to the apartment office building. They have a swinging bench on the porch. I sat down and swung and Zavdi fell asleep in my arms.
I sat there and noticed the tree in front of me. I noticed that there wasn’t a leaf stirring. No breeze. Totally calm. And then, a slight breeze began to go through the tree and I could see the leaves moving and the wind got stronger and the leaves began to dance. The Lord Yeshua spoke to me and said, ’Just as you didn’t know when the wind would come upon the tree, so you don’t know when My Spirit will move upon someone’s heart to help you. But the testing of your faith is more precious than gold.’
I was excited. It was about 8:30 A.M. I went back to the apartment and said to Rivka (my wife then), that I wasn’t 100% sure, but it’s just possible that the Lord will bring in the money we need for rent today. It was Sunday so there wasn’t any possibility of the mailman ’helping’ us. And our congregation met the day before for worship, so we weren’t getting any tithe money from them either.
About 4:00 P.M., a man came to our apartment whom we had known for about a year. We talked about the Lord and the ministry for about two hours and as he was getting ready to leave he reached into his shirt pocket and handed me a check for $700. It was incredible. The Lord was displaying His faithfulness to me. We can truly trust in Yeshua with our very needs for food, clothes, shelter and Eternal Life.
I asked Bill why he was doing this. He told me that in prayer that morning, about 8:30 A.M., He felt impressed upon his heart to help me.
’Trust in Yahveh with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways lift Him up and He will make your rocky paths smooth.’ (Prov. 3:5-6; my translation from the Hebrew. Yahveh is the Name of the God of Israel used about 7,000 times in the Tanach or ‘Old Testament’. In most English Bibles it is usually translated by the title, ‘the LORD’, or ‘GOD’. Note well the use of small caps for all the letters except the first. ‘Behind’ these two words is the Name of the Hebrew God, Yahveh.)
I believe it was a couple of weeks later in July, I was again holding Zavdi and he fell asleep on my shoulder. He was nine months old. Rivka was out and it was time for him to go to bed so I placed him in our bed. He slept with us. I thought that it would be a good time to pray and I knelt down by the bed and began to speak to the Lord Yeshua. Almost immediately He said to me, ‘I want you to look upon the boy.’
Zavdi was on his belly in the middle of the bed with his face turned toward me. His head was on my right and his feet were on my left. As I began to gaze upon his face, a powerful feeling began to well up inside of me. As it literally rose up from my belly to my throat, I gave verbal expression to this feeling and exclaimed, ‘Oh God! He’s so precious to me!’
Yeshua spoke to me and said, ‘That’s exactly how I feel about you.’ I was overwhelmed. I ‘knew that God loved me’ but I had just felt for my son, the most tremendous love that I had ever experienced in my life. And here was Yeshua telling me that He loved me like that?! God feels for me, like I had just felt for my son?!
I said to Yeshua, ‘Why, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for Zavdi. If it meant me going to Hell, in order for him to be with You in Heaven, I wouldn’t think twice about it! I love him so!’
And that’s when God lowered the boom. He said, ‘That’s exactly how I feel about everyone you’ll ever meet.’ If my jaw wasn’t attached to my face, it would have fallen to the floor. ‘Ooohhh....’ I said. I thought, ‘So that’s how You could allow Yourself to be pierced to the tree and die for everyone’s sin. You love us that much.’
The Lord continued to bless me. On 18 December 1986 (on the 17th of Kislev, 5747), my second son, Yoel, was born. He took a place in my heart right next to Zavdi’s. I would never have thought that anyone could ever come close to the love that I felt for my Zavdi, but Yoel did. Thank You, Yeshua! He was circumcised on the first day of Hanuka. God was overwhelming me with His Blessings.
Yoel is Hebrew for, ‘Yahveh is God!’ Yoel’s name is a declaration of belief in Yahveh in the midst of adverse and diabolical circumstances: the God of Israel is still God!, no matter how bad the situation looks. This would be painfully branded into my soul in the years ahead.
My heart revolved around my sons. There was such joy and love between us. As soon as they were able to understand, they were taught Hebrew, Torah, and the Living Torah (Yeshua). I longed for them to follow me as I followed Yeshua. I wanted them to join me in the Work that Yeshua had given me to do.
One Sabbath (Shabat in Hebrew), on our way to the park, we saw some men working construction. As we passed by Zavdi said, ‘They’re not Jews, Abba’ (Papa). ‘Why not Zavdi?’ I asked. ‘They’re working on Shabat’, was his reply. He was only three years old. It was a pleasant smile I had on my face when I heard that. I was very proud of him.
I don’t recall how it got started, but for the preceding three years, the name Yehoshua (Hebrew for Joshua), kept coming to me. It culminated on June 3rd, 1987, when the Lord Yeshua had me to sit down and read Deuteronomy five and six in Hebrew.
The word ‘to possess’ stands out three times in four verses (Deut. 5:31-6:1), and it impacted me. It spoke of the one who would take the Hebrew people into the Land that the Lord had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so they could possess it. I sensed that the Lord wanted me to take the name for myself. A few days later, on Shavuot (Pentecost), I declared to my Synagogue my new name. Some time later I had our names legally changed.
The name Avram means, ‘exalted father.’ The name Yehoshua means, ’Yahveh saves.’ The meaning of the name that God has given me is that I am the father of a people whom Yahveh saves. ‘Avram Yehoshua’ symbolizes God totally identifying ‘André Sestac’ with his Jewish people, and the Work that He has called me to. God is giving me His heart for my own people. He took a Jew who was Jewish only by race and culture, and transformed me into a Jew who loves Moses, the Jewish people and the Messiah of Israel. This is all the Lord’s doing and isn’t it a most wonderful thing?! I look forward to the day when God will cause me to lead many Jewish people to possess the Promised One, Yeshua our Messiah, just as my namesake, Yehoshua (Joshua), led the Israelis to possess the Promised Land.
Another lesson on trusting Him came. It was the beginning of winter and we again didn’t have money, but this time it was for food, not rent. We were literally down to our last meal, potatoes and beans, and content that we were learning how to trust our God. We were eating when there was a knock on the door. A woman who had heard me speak in her church two weeks earlier, was standing there. She told us that she had been shopping and she felt impressed to buy us a few groceries. We went to her car with her and she had bought us about ten bags of groceries. We were overwhelmed again, with His Love and faithful care.
The Way Of Life: Pain And Death
By 1988, things had begun to come together for me in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had been invited to speak in over 100 churches by then (Christians are hungry for the Hebraic roots of Yeshua), our Messianic Synagogue was growing, and we had begun to reach out to the Jewish Community with the Jewish Newsletters. They are four to eight pages in length and generally deal with a text from the Tanach in which I explain what it meant to ancient Israel, and then go on to reveal how it speaks of Yeshua. We send them out by postal mail. And then the ground opened up and swallowed me. My wife, Rivka, fell in love with Karlman, an elder in our Synagogue from Hungary. He was a good friend of ours. He came and ate at our table three, maybe four times a week. He was like an uncle to Zavdi and Yoel, and a trusted friend to me.
I knew nothing about it until after she was gone. That was February 28th, 1989. She took Zavdi and Yoel and secretly flew from Oklahoma City to Pennsylvania. She didn’t fly out of Tulsa thinking that I’d find out about her leaving and come to get the boys. She would live with her parents till she had enough money to get a place of her own. Zavdi and Yoel were only four and two years old. I would not see Zavdi and Yoel for almost nine years. And then it would only be for a few moments in a Pennsylvania courtroom. I would begin to learn the pain of trusting the Lord Yeshua, at the deepest possible level that any human being can trust God; with one’s children. I would know how Father Abraham felt when God told him to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22).
Rivka began divorce proceedings against me. In order to cover up her sin and immorality, she accused me of abusing Zavdi, and said that she was, ‘afraid for her life.’ There was nothing to support these accusations but in the court system then, just the mention of it was enough to condemn a man. If one wanted custody of the children, then they accused the other spouse of some kind of abuse. It was an all too common legal ‘game.’
In court I represented myself. I could have made her out to be the liar that she was but the Lord stopped me. He did not want me to come against her. He wanted me to give up my sons. He would use this situation to crucify me. If I strove to get my sons back, by showing the court that my wife was using the court for her own immoral and illegal purpose, I would be disobeying God. If I laid my life down, I would be obeying God but I would lose my sons. My soul was being torn apart. How desperately I wanted my sons. I was tormented with how hurt and confused they were at not being able to be with their Abba. I have never known such terrifying pain and helplessness. There is no greater terror to a father, or a mother, than to lose their child(ren) like this. With the Lord’s help, by His real Grace and Presence, I was able to obey my God and Savior. I placed Zavdi and Yoel (my heart), on His Altar.
The shock was felt by everyone. The Synagogue dispersed. The shepherd had been struck. I would go through almost three years of death to self. The ministry would go on, and God would minister through me, but I felt like I was quasi-existing. I didn’t actively seek to go out to the churches and with no money from them, and our Synagogue almost empty, funds to send out the Jewish Newsletters dried up. Feelings of extreme loss and overwhelming helplessness were daily torment and torture for me.
I would know what Abraham felt like when God tested him and said, ‘I want you to take your son, your only unique one, Isaac, whom you love, and go’ ‘sacrifice him’ (Gen. 22:2). God was making Abraham to chose between Abraham’s most precious possession, Isaac, and God. It would have been ‘easier for me’ to try and rip out my own heart, than for me to give up the sons that I love. But by this, God would carve within my soul, the character of my namesake, Father Abraham. In the painful agony of suffering, I came to know the broken and longing Heart of God for His Son, Israel. As I felt my life-blood slowly trickle away, I also saw how powerless I was to change my stubborn, rebellious and vengeful Jewish heart.
I saw too, that when friends don’t understand what the Lord is doing with you, many reject you. Maturity in the Lord is not determined by one’s will or how ‘on fire’ one seems to be. Wisdom and understanding are a rare and precious commodity in the Body.
There was no hope in my life, only dark despair. And in this I came to be on intimate terms with hatred, evil, stubbornness and rebellion. I came to know my own wicked heart.
Yeshua says to love your enemies and forgive those who despitefully use you (Matt. 5:44). It was impossible for me to do this with Robin (Rivka had dropped her Hebrew name and was not walking in Messianic Judaism anymore). It was in struggling with these intense feelings of revenge that I saw that I was no better than she. I wanted to hurt her, as much as she had hurt me. More.
Robin intentionally tore Zavdi and Yoel from their father, knowing full well that it would destroy me. That’s what she wanted. And she did destroy me. She was not only being used by the enemy, I would come to see that she had joined forces with Satan. She was working for him. She would dabble in and own a business that sold New Age and occult things.
By God’s real Grace, I would not give way to those powerful feelings of revenge and act upon them. I would submit to God by His Spirit and His Word. I believed that what she meant for evil, God would use for His Glory.
It was during this time that the Lord in His Mercy, sent me a woman whom He had chosen for me, from before the foundation of the world. God knew that Robin and I would end like this. But in the fullness of time, He sent me Ruti (an affectionate way of saying Ruth in Hebrew). A perfect wife, who can find one? Yeshua has given me one. Far beyond the price of pearls is she to me. A comfort, a strength, an inspiration, a traveling companion down the Road of Life. One to love and be loved by. She would teach me a deeper sensitivity and love for people, and love for Yeshua. She too is on intimate terms with pain. She too has had her children taken from her.
Yeshua would bless me in the midst of my sorrow. Many times Ruti would come to me and gently tell me that what I was about to do might not be the Lord. After I would hear her out, I would agree and thank the Lord for giving me such a wise, sensitive and compassionate wife. A wife who loves Yeshua with all her heart.
Ruti has also experienced the healing power of Yeshua. Once she had Grave’s Disease. The medical treatment destroyed her thyroid. Yeshua healed her and gave her a new thyroid. Another time she had a ganglion cyst tumor that was causing much pain in her arm. One touch from Yeshua and the tumor was gone, but His fingerprint remained for a few moments.
In November, 1991, two years and eight months after Robin took our sons, I felt the Spirit of the Holy One of Israel blow through me. I was lifted out of the grave. I knew it was the Lord because I was well acquainted with Death. And this was LIFE. Again the next day and the one after that and I began to rise from the dead. My brother, my sister; I may not know you, but I love you more than I do my own life. I am as one raised from the dead to tell you of the tremendous Love and Forgiveness of Messiah Yeshua. Of His deep, unfailing and passionate Love for you. In all my pain and death, Yeshua has given me LIFE. He has given me Himself who is LIFE.
Father Abraham’s choice was the highest application of the Shema (Dt. 6:4-5), to love God with all his heart, soul and strength. Only in this Test could he lay full claim to God, to possess Him, to be one with Him, and to be possessed by Him. To know His Reality and Love, isn’t that what our soul yearns for? This is a love that is great enough, to separate a father, from the two sons that he loves. There is nothing like it in this world. And as He gave Isaac back to Abraham, so too will He give Zavdi and Yoel back to me. I trust Him because I know Him. He is Faithful and True and Pure and Holy. He is the Living God. And one day, I will know the Joy that Father Abraham knew, when Yahveh ‘returned’ Isaac to him.
My ex-wife had cut off all contact with my sons about a year after the divorce, even though the court had ordered her to allow me phone and mail access. I could have pursued physical visitation, but would have had to fight her every step of the way, in Pennsylvania. As her need to make me out to be ‘the evil one’ grew, I knew that every court appearance would be emotionally devastating to our sons, even though they wouldn’t be present. And when I would have obtained visitation, the character assassination of me would have continued, and what would that have done to their souls? For their sakes, and in obedience to the Lord Yeshua, I didn’t pursue it.
On the last phone contact, after talking with Zavdi and Yoel, and them telling me what toys to send them, Robin got on the phone and said, ’The boys and I have talked it over and we don’t think you’re a good father. They don’t want to speak with you anymore and don’t send those cheap toys here either!’
Zavdi and Yoel were all of five and three years old. Helpless was a feeling that I had walked in for over a year now and as I realized that I could do nothing, the thought came to me from Jude 1:9, where Satan is vying with Michael the archangel for the body of Moses. I said to her, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Robin.’ She immediately hung up and I would never speak to her again. I placed my sons in His Hands and set about to walk in the Valley of Death for what would be another year and a half for me.
In one sense, Robin had put me out of my misery. To talk with my sons over the phone was very painful, that is, when I finally got to talk with them. Most of the time ‘they weren’t there’, even though the court had set aside specific times during the week for me to call. Robin was supposed to have them ready for me to talk to. Always it was the same attitude on her part; ‘Why are you bothering us?!’ Can you imagine that kind of evil? I had never known it before. She took her own sons from their father, denigrates him in their eyes, slanders me in court, and then tells me that I shouldn’t be bothering her when the court had ordered her to prepare my sons to speak with me?
I doubt whether there is any greater torture than to talk with one’s sons and not be in their lives. They were so small, so tender, so innocent, so trusting, so much in need of the love of their father. So much in need to love their father, and their souls were being torn part by their mother. The father whom they loved was no more in their lives. And they were being told that he was no good. What kind of hatred could make a woman do that to her own sons?
A few weeks before she cut me off, I was speaking with Yoel. He was all of three and a half years old. He said to me, ‘Abba, I want to come to your house’, in that little voice of his that was now hoping and pleading with me.
My heart was being crushed. I was drowning in pain and helplessness. I told him, ‘I’d love for you to come to Abba’s house Yoel, but only Mommy is able to allow it.’ I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. As soon as he heard that, he put the phone down and went to his mother. I called out to him over the phone, to try an get him back, but he must not have heard me. I heard him say in the background to his mother, ‘Mommy, can I go to Abba’s house?’ The coldest, ‘No!’, that I have ever heard, came out of her lips and I died again. Yoel was crying and I couldn’t comfort him. I was being torn apart. (Even as I write this, on Friday, August 1st, 2004, my insides convulse, tears well-up in my eyes and pain comes through my throat in short gasps. It’s hard to breathe. It’s been fifteen years since he was taken from me but my love for him and his brother has only increased.)
When Robin would tell me a little while after this, not to call or send any toys to them anymore, she put me out of my misery. The Lord never left me. Every time I turned to Him, He comforted me and assured me that I would see my sons one day in ‘the Land of the Living.’ He spoke much to me through the Prophet Isaiah. When He would speak, or when I would sense His Presence, I felt strong but a minute after He left, I was lifeless. Not that many would see that though. The prison ministry continued. A man on Death Row who would become a spiritual son to me, would later tell me that during the last year and a half, when he first came to know me, he never realized the depth of what I was going through. He said that all he ever saw was Life in me. And he was very, very close to me, emotionally and spiritually. His name was Sean Sellers. The State of Oklahoma executed him on Feb. 4th, 1999. During our relationship, there was no one closer to me, except for Ruti. Sean died at 29 years of age but his walk with the Lord, and his love of life, and Ruti and me, were an inspiration to us. We were both a father and mother to him, and a brother and sister.
The Lord used a paperback book about a concentration camp, to resurrect me from the dead. I was reading a book called, Treblinka, a very powerful account of evil in Nazi Germany. (Treblinka is an incredible story of the resiliency of the Jewish people in a fiendish concentration camp. It was written by Jean-Francois Steiner. One reviewer noted that it’s, ‘the most important piece of Holocaust literature ever written.’ I agree.) Treblinka was the name of the concentration camp. As I got to the end, the Lord used the book to bring me out of the grave that I had been in since February 28th, 1989. I could sense the Spirit of the Holy One breathing upon me for life. I knew it was the Holy Spirit for I had come to know what was not His Spirit.
About a year before this, I had come to the place where I was able to forgive Robin for what she had done to the boys, and to me. I didn’t wish evil for her, for what she had done. I prayed that God would bless her. God had forgiven me for my evil heart, and I was able to turn around and forgive her.
As God brought me through the Valley of Death and gave me His Heart for a sick and dying world, the Synagogue began to grow once more. I began to actively seek to go out to the churches again and we started sending the Jewish Newsletters out to my Jewish people. By 1994, five years after I lost my sons, finances had picked up to the point where we were able to pay off the rent debt that we had incurred from 1989 to 1992. Very little money had come in during that period but God was so faithful to provide food, shelter and clothing for us. We were able to stay at a house even though the rent we owed had accumulated to ten months. It’s not that we didn’t pay anything every month, but what we could pay was not enough each month. And by 1994, we were able to pay that off. Our landlord, Darryl Simmons, also a believer, was very, very gracious and kind to us. May the Lord bless him.
The Way to Israel
One day in March 1995, there was a knock on our apartment door in Tulsa. John came in and told me that he was ready to send me to Israel. This was interesting but not the first time that someone had said something like that. Being a Messianic shepherd was not the most lucrative job around and so we had no money for flights to Israel, but we believed that one day, the Lord would send us. In fact, about a month before John came, Ruti had gotten in prayer that the Lord would send us to Israel in the spring of 1995.
I asked John, ‘What makes you think that the Lord wants you to do this?’ He just laughed. He said that for the past three months, three words kept coming to him over and over again. At first he thought it was just a nice idea. But then he began to realize that it was the Lord. I asked him what the three words were. ‘Avram to Israel.’ When Ruti heard this she was in another room. She fell to the floor weeping in thankfulness, remembering the Lord’s words.
Ruti and I prayed about it in the coming week and gave him our answer, the Lord confirming it many times over. When I mentioned that Ruti had to come with me, John told me that he had only gotten ‘me’. But after prayer, he told us that we could both go. Bless him, Lord. He asked me if we wanted to go to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem and I told him Jerusalem.
It was May 31st, 1995, exactly 12 years to the day that I began, The Seed of Abraham (the first Messianic congregation in Tulsa). And it was in the spring, as Ruti had received from the Lord. Ruti and I boarded the plane that would take us to the Land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s Seed. But we didn’t know if it was to be a seven day vacation, as John had paid for, or if we were to stay there.
The only place that our heart’s were drawn to, in all Jerusalem, was the Western or Wailing Wall. Going there, I picked up a Jewish prayer book from the many tables that have them there, and I approached the Wall. I asked the Lord, ‘Is this a vacation or are we to stay here?’, and as I did, I turned the book over and over again in my hands until I didn’t know the front from the back of the book, or whether it was upside down or not. I opened it at random and began to read in Hebrew. It was the ‘second blessing after meals’. It reads:
’We thank You, Oh Yahveh our God, for giving to our Fathers as a heritage, a desirable Land, good and spacious. You have removed us, Yahveh our God, from the land of Egypt, and You have redeemed us from the House of Slavery’.
As my eyes fell upon those words, the Holy Spirit began to well up inside my belly and what passionately came out of my mouth was, ‘I want to stay! I don’t want to go back!’ And I knew that the Lord had answered my question about this being a vacation or not.
Looking back over the previous two years or so, we had sensed Yeshua severing our hearts from our life in the States. He was preparing us in many ways for life in Israel. It’s not easy here and unless He prepares the person, they will find it too difficult and go back.
We began to look for a place and the Lord led us to live in the middle of Jerusalem, the Heart of Jerusalem as it’s called. And Ruti and I began to see the hardness of Israeli hearts. There is much perversion and sin in Jerusalem and in all of Israel. To walk down the street is to see the lifelessness in the eyes of Israel. They have been brought back from all the nations but they have not yet been sprinkled with the Water that will cleanse them and give them the Life of God (Ezk. 36:22-27). Not yet, but It’s coming.
Our first neighbors were Daniel and Sarah. In 1995 Sarah was 72 years old and I think that Daniel was 74. They were so kind and helpful to us as we got situated in our small apartment. Every Thursday and Friday, Sarah would prepare food for Shabat. On Friday afternoon she would send Daniel over with some food for us. It was such a sweet gesture. And Ruti would send back with Daniel some salad and other things that Ruti had made for us.
The Way of Judgment
On Sunday, September 15th, 1996, Robin (my ex-wife), was murdered in Pennsylvania. Ruti and I were in Jerusalem for about a year and three months. I found out about Robin’s death a week after it happened. She had left her second husband, Ron, 10 months earlier and was living with his (former) best friend. She had begun divorce proceedings against Ron and it seems that Robin was doing to Ron what she had done to me; trying to gain legal custody of their son, Elliot, with false accusations. Ron took it for a number of months, losing weight, money and his job, and then it seems he listened to Satan. Ron murdered Robin, and his former best friend, and then shot himself.
My sons were only 11 and 9 years old and according to the newspaper account (The Lewisburg Daily Item, Sept. 18th, 1996), they witnessed Ron murdering their mother and Dominic, his former best friend. Ron met them when their car drove up in the driveway and he shot Dominic and Robin. They had come to pick up the children. Ron had them for two days. The day before had been Elliott’s fifth birthday.
My sons were outside, along with their aunt (Ron’s sister and owner of the house), and their younger half brother, Elliott. Ron screamed at them, ‘Get back in the house!’ He then dragged Dominic’s body out of the car and drove off with Robin’s body in the passenger seat. He came to the parking lot of the office of Robin’s lawyer, and murdered himself. They found them the next day.
With everything inside me I wanted to go back to the States and get my sons and bring them back to Israel but we had no money. I prayed that money would come in, oh, how I prayed! But it never did and so I knew that the Lord wanted us to remain in Jerusalem.
Our ways are not His ways (Is. 55:8-9). One of the most powerful words in the Bible is where God has revealed Himself to Job, who has desired to meet his Judge. Job wanted to show God that he didn’t deserve all the evil that had come upon him. And Yahveh says, ‘Who are you to throw a monkey-wrench into my plans for you?!’ (my paraphrase of Job 38:2). Job, realizing the incredible Glory of God’s Presence, and His questions to Job, is humbled and says, ‘Behold, I am vile. What shall I answer You? I will lay my hand upon my mouth’ (Job 40:4).
My sons would go to live, along with their half brother, Elliot, with Robin’s parents in a town close by. They were people who despised me and anything else Jewish, including the Lord. But they were Methodists. Or at least they were on the books as such. Many times while I was married to Robin, I tried to reconcile with them but they would not have that. Now, as I began to pray, I realized that I harbored bitterness toward them, for they had continually told Robin to divorce me and come back to them in Pennsylvania. They were very controlling and Robin was their only child. My ‘crime’ in their eyes was that I was going to be a minister (I was in my last year at O.R.U. seminary at the time and ministers ‘don’t make any money’); I was ten years older than Robin, and I was Jewish. That’s what Mrs. Meredith told me when I asked to marry Robin.
I want to give you an idea of what life was like for Robin, growing up with her mother. I single out her mother, for her mother dominated Robin’s father, even though Mrs. Meredith was ten years younger than him. Robin told me of times when her mother would scream at her for hours. Not the loud kind of scream but the low, intense, angry type. And Robin would sit in a chair and after a while, recede into another place in her soul. She told me that she longed for her father to rescue her but he never did, even though he witnessed this on a number of occasions. Robin tried to commit suicide a few times when she lived with them. Robin was a ‘straight A’ student but emotionally she was crippled.
Before we married, Robin pursued me. I didn’t have the wisdom to tell her no, again and again and again, and so she wore me out and I finally consented. In the six years that we were married though, I had come to love her more and more and I saw her grow emotionally to where she could stand on her own two feet. I remember a time when she finished talking with her mother though, and this time she said, ‘You know, my mother tells me things about you that I know are not true but I have this strong pull to believe her.’ This was just a few months before she left me in 1989. (Perhaps part of the ‘strong pull’ was influenced by her lust for Karlman. She said that for a year before she left me, she would ‘dress for him.’)
Many times after she had spoken to her mother on the phone, she would come to me crying, such was the devastation that her mother wreaked upon her. I told Robin early on in our marriage not to continue to speak with her mother but Robin was too emotionally entangled with her victimizer.
Well, now I was ‘face to face’ with the Merediths. I saw the problem in my heart and I asked the Lord to take the idol out of my own heart, that I might be able to love them. And to my utter amazement, He did! I ‘couldn’t believe it.’ I went into my bedroom to pray about it and within a few moments I came out and told Ruti that I actually had a love for them and could pray for them. Thank You, Yeshua!
I imagine the ‘idol’ had been my own desire for revenge and bitterness. Anything that comes between our Messiah and us, is an idol that we give more reverence to, than Him. He came to set us free. I know. He has set me free from many things that I was enslaved to.
I reached out to the Merediths on numerous occasions during the next few months, sending Mrs. Meredith a dozen roses from Jerusalem once, and asking them in several letters to return my sons to me. But each letter and the roses were met with silence. I initially called but Mrs. Meredith told me ‘never!’ to call there again. I had wanted to speak with my sons. I told the Merediths in a letter that I would respect her demand and not call. Then, six months after Robin’s death, I received a court notice. Since I ‘hadn’t shown any interest’ in the boys for those six months, the Merediths were taking me to court to strip me of my parental rights, and to adopt my sons as their own. Sometimes it seems like there is no end to injustice. But I know Him who is Just and in the End, it will be very sweet. I trust Him.
I wrote to the court, telling them that I wanted my sons very much and that I had tried on numerous occasions to contact them, but to no avail as the Merediths wouldn’t let me speak with them. They most likely never got to see my letters. I also wrote that I wasn’t sure if the Lord would have me to come to Pennsylvania in June 1997, for the hearing. I left it in His Hands.
The Way of God
Five weeks before the hearing in Pennsylvania, we were supposed to pay our three months rent. (It’s not unusual to pay three months in advance in Israel). We only had money for two months and I told the landlord that as soon as we got it, I’d give the rest to him. Two weeks went by and we still didn’t have the third month. It was as though the well had gone dry.
The landlord told us to leave by the end of the month (May)! I thought that was ridiculous, since we had already paid him for two months in advance. But we had caused quite a controversy in the neighborhood, for Yeshua, and I don’t think he wanted us to be there. He gave us two weeks to move out and he was going to keep the extra month, ‘for utilities.’ Of course utilities wouldn’t be anywhere near a month’s rent but this is how it transpired.
Two weeks to find a new place and no money to do it with. One week went by and as we prayed about a place, where to go, we didn’t get anything. And since we didn’t have any money to look, it didn’t matter. Then a donation came to us for $2,000. Something very extraordinary. We thanked Yeshua and breathed a sigh of relief. With this we could rent an apartment. We sought the Lord for where he wanted us to move to. With rents running around $600 a month for just small apartments in Jerusalem, $2,000 would be just enough for three months rent. But the answer we got in prayer, as to where in Jerusalem we should move to, totally shocked me. We both sensed independently in prayer that the Lord wanted us to return to the States. I didn’t think that we were ever going back to the States. But Ruti said she hadn’t been that sure.
We purchased our flight tickets, and sensing from Yeshua that we would be returning to Israel, put our belongings in storage, except for a couple of suit cases clothes we took with us. On June 3rd, 1997 we arrived in New York with a $20 bill and about 12 shekels ($3.00), to our name. We had been in Israel exactly two years and two days.
We stayed at my mother’s apartment in Queens and three days later, we were in Pennsylvania at the court hearing. The look on the face of the Meredith’s lawyer was one of shock mingled with panic. He couldn’t believe that we were there. I couldn’t believe we were there either. He wasn’t prepared for us to be there. And in court he acted like he wasn’t prepared. I thought, ‘How strange.’ I knew that the Merediths liked to have ‘the best’ but this man seemed far from that. All I wanted to do was lay my life down. I was not there to win the court case but to display the Lord’s forgiveness to the Merediths.
Court started and I told the judge that I was representing myself. I knew that I was there to extend to the Merediths what I would want, if I were in their spiritual condition. I would want someone to show me the Love and Forgiveness of Yeshua. In cross examining Mr. Meredith, the only thing I said was that I knew that he had gone through tremendous grief in the death of his daughter, and I did not want to add to that grief. I told the judge that I had ‘no further questions.’ I did the same with Mrs. Meredith, even though my flesh wanted ‘justice’.
As it turned out, the ‘court appointed child advocate’ was found to be tainted with information about the children and the judge closed the proceedings that day. He said that it would continue sometime in the fall, after a new child advocate could be found and a new date set. It was at this proceeding in June, that I found out that because I was representing myself, I would get to see my sons at the later date. (I would have seen them that day, if court had continued.)
If I had hired a lawyer, the lawyer would have gone into the judge’s chambers with the Merediths’ lawyer and my sons would have been brought in and questioned by both lawyers. But I would have never seen them. (Not that I had money for a lawyer.) When I found this out, my heart couldn’t believe my ears. I was going to see my sons? To see my sons in more than eight years was impossible for me to comprehend. They were still ‘frozen in time’ in my heart. To me they were still only four and two years old. Of course, I knew that they weren’t but these were the only ‘pictures’ that I carried in my soul. It was overwhelming for me. I wanted them so much.
If the Israeli landlord hadn’t sinned against us, we’d still have our apartment in Israel. It would have been a mess for us. If we returned to Israel after the court, we’d have to return in the fall (more money). And if we stayed in the U.S.A. till the fall, we’d have to pay the rent on the apartment in Israel. It’s amazing how God works in the midst of the sins of man, for His purpose, to redeem us.
The Way of Rebellion
After the Pennsylvania court date of June 1997, we went back to Tulsa, Oklahoma where The Seed of Abraham was. We missed our friends so much during the time we were in Israel and only wanted to love them and rejoice with them in His Presence. What we found was rebellion and treachery in the camp. It broke our hearts. I had left Yakov in charge of the congregation, a friend and member of the congregation since 1990. I had ordained him just before we left for Jerusalem two years earlier.
A day after we returned and set foot in New York City, Yakov had an accident. Actually, it came only a few hours after he and Daniel (an elder), conspired against me. From what I heard, Yakov was eating something while he drove and it got caught in his throat. This seems to have initiated an asthmatic reaction. He lost consciousness and his car veered off the road and tumbled end over (long) end, finally coming to a stop on all four tires. Yakov broke his spine, hip and shoulder and would lose the use of his right leg. He would be in the hospital for two and a half months.
Daniel and his wife met Ruti and me at the bus depot a few days after the accident. We had taken a 36 hour bus trip from New York to Tulsa because we didn’t have the money for plane fare. If I ever do it again it’ll be too soon. Daniel had come into the congregation a few months before Ruti and I left for Israel in 1995. He became an elder after a year and now was telling me that I had no authority in the congregation anymore. Why? Because I had come back ‘to destroy the congregation.’ I couldn’t believe my ears. With Yakov in the hospital, Daniel was ‘in charge’ till Yakov got well. Daniel was acting with Yakov’s consent.
We had come back expressly to love them and support them and return to Israel as soon as we could. But here was Daniel telling me this and also, because he thought I had ‘missed the Lord’ when we left for Israel originally, and had ‘missed Him’ when we returned (now), that
I no longer had any authority at The Seed of Abraham. Daniel was going to ensure that that wouldn’t happen. He told me that if I wanted to help, I could assist him.
When it rains it pours. I asked him how he could take my authority away without me even being notified about it or given a chance to defend myself. That didn’t matter to him. That was only a technicality. He and Yakov were thoroughly convinced that they were doing God’s Will and if they bypassed some rules for removing an elder, God would understand.
Daniel left that night and we didn’t want to go back to the congregation. But the pull to see the people was great and we came to a service about ten days later. I told Daniel that I would submit to his authority in love and that if I couldn’t, that I would pray to Yeshua that I could. I also told that to Yakov in the hospital, a few days later. We would have seen him immediately when we got to Tulsa but his wife barred the way.
The reason I submitted to their authority was to show them (and others) what a godly authority would do in a case of rebellion. I didn’t ‘lift my hand’ to dislodge them. I left it in Yeshua’s Hands. (For biblical cases where the godly authority didn’t lift their hand to stem a rebellion, see Moses with Korah, Num. 16, and David with his son, Absalom, 2nd Sam. 15-18).
We went to every service. It was very hard. Daniel’s wife and Yakov’s wife disdained us. We couldn’t believe it. These we thought, were our friends and we had only been in Israel for two years. We had loved them, and them us, or so we thought, and now there was this wall of
scorn between us.
It was hard for me to sit in the service knowing that I should have been leading it. I was watching Daniel do everything from leading praise and worship, to giving the message. We continued though and finally, when Yakov came out of the hospital in late August, the congregation was to convene to discuss their thoughts and feelings as to who should be in charge, etc. Not that our congregation was large. When we left in 1995, we had about 35 people. When we came back in 1997 it was less than half of that, many having left because of the Yakov and Daniel. And some would leave when they found out what Yakov and Daniel had done in taking away my authority.
At the congregational meeting in August, Yakov and Daniel ‘pulled a fast one’. They both ‘resigned.’ I pleaded with them to stay and not rip the congregation apart but they were both determined to leave. (And it was supposed to be me that would destroy the congregation.) The congregation was dumped back into my lap. Why did they leave and not just keep the congregation till Ruti and I returned to Israel? There wasn’t enough money coming in from tithes and offerings to sustain the building they were meeting in. They couldn’t afford to pay the rent on the building. That’s why Yakov and Daniel resigned. Yeshua had taken care of the rebels. They had ample opportunity to change their mutinous attitude but they didn’t take it. And so Yeshua sent them on their way.
Ruti and I had thought that when we came back to the States, we’d only be there for two or three months. Here it was three months already, with no sign of returning to Israel. And so we began to meet with our small group in our apartment. As we got situated, I began to go out to the churches again with the message of holiness from a Hebraic perspective and money came in from love offerings from them. With that we were able to send out six Jewish Newsletters (#13-18) in 1998. None had been sent out in the two years that Ruti and I were in Israel.
The Way of God’s Mercy
October 1997 came and we had just enough money to drive to Pennsylvania for the rescheduled court hearing for my sons. We drove in a car that was given to us by the Lord, through Adele Kraus. She’s a former member of the congregation and a good friend. She was getting a new vehicle and knew we didn’t have any transportation. She spoke to the Lord one night and said, ‘I feel kind of bad, getting a new vehicle and Avram and Ruti don’t have any. Should I give them my old car?’ And the Lord audibly spoke to her and said, ‘Yes.’ Adele was obedient to the Lord and that’s how we had a car to go to Pennsylvania. Bless her and her sons, Yeshua.
The court picked up where it had left off. The Meredith’s lawyer called a psychologist who swore that reuniting the boys with their father ‘would be more detrimental to them than the death of their mother.’ It’s amazing what money can buy.
I could have dismantled their ‘expert’ witness but I wasn’t in Pennsylvania to display my intelligence or this witness’ lack of integrity. I wasn’t there to win my sons back. I was there to be a lamb and die that Yeshua might be seen in that courtroom. (When we were there in June, the policeman who was assigned to the courtroom to insure order, was leaving toward the back of the room after it was all over. He intentionally waited till I saw his face. What I saw on his face was an expression of sympathy and appreciation for how I had handled myself. We never know whom we might effect for our Lord as we
walk in His Ways.)
I got on the stand and told the Merediths that I loved them and that because the Lord Jesus had forgiven me much, that I was able to extend that forgiveness to them. Disgust and contempt would best describe the look on their faces. I told the court that I would not fight or strive against the Merediths for my sons. If they wouldn’t return my sons, whom I love, to me, then I would not try and take them away from the Merediths.
I didn’t know the emotional state of Zavdi and Yoel. They lost their father when they were only four and two years old. I’m sure they looked for me to come for them, to rescue them, but that was not to be. They would have felt abandoned by me. And then they would hear all kinds of malicious lies about me so that they would be driven away from wanting to know me. They lost their mother, murdered by their step father only a year earlier, when they were eleven and nine years old. I was not about to try and break in onto their understanding of reality. Doing so could mean harming them more than they might be able to take. They might not have been able to handle my calling their understanding of reality about their mother (or me), into question. I would not do that to my sons whom I love.
When Zavdi, my firstborn, was about to come into the court room, I stood to my feet. He entered through a door to the left of the judge’s stand, a little to my right. I was seeing him for the first time in nearly nine years. I almost lost my breath. He had just turned 13 years old the day before. How could it be? He wasn’t four anymore. That was a hard dose of reality for me. Who was this boy? Was he really my Zavdi?
If it was this hard for me, just to see him, how hard would it have been for him or his brother if I would have pressed them to see me from my perspective? I was not about to do that.
The lawyer questioned Zavdi about some things and Zavdi told the court that he’d like to get on with his life. He wanted his grandparents to adopt him. My turn came and I asked him if he knew that I loved him. He said he didn’t. Try cross examining your son whom you haven’t seen for an eternity of lifetimes. I wished that I could have spent some time with him, getting to know him, and him me. But that wasn’t to be. The judge wanted to get this out of the way before lunch. He had other cases to adjudicate.
I asked Zavdi what he thought of me. He told the court that I had pushed him around, was mean and selfish. I asked him if he could relate an incident for us. He said he couldn’t. He said he didn’t even remember me. So how did he come to have this understanding of me? He said that his mother and grandparents (the Merediths), had told him.
I asked him again if he knew that I loved him and he told me, ‘No’ and began to stare at me in hatred. My eyes began to fill with tears. I was about seven feet away from him. I looked at him as tears rolled down my face. I finally turned to walk back to the table and chairs were Ruti was. I needed to say, ‘No further questions, your honor,’ but I couldn’t get the words to come out. I was all choked up. The judge asked me if I wanted a recess to regain my composure. I should have taken it. Instead, I sat down at my table, shook my head and emotionally cried, ‘No! I want my son to see me!’, and put my head between my hands on the table.
If I would have had the presence of mind, I would have said, ‘That’s not how you saw me when you were four years old. Every day when I would return from the synagogue, you would come running to me as I entered the house, followed swiftly by your younger brother. I’d swoop down and pick you both up, you in my right arm and Yoel in my left, hugging and twirling you both around and around. You liked that a lot. And then I’d sit down in the big, green rocking chair, placing you on the padded right arm of the chair and Yoel on the left. I’d ask you what you did during the day and you’d both tell me.
Then it’d be time for supper and we’d bless the Lord and eat. And after supper it was time for a bath and then bed. By then, you Zavdi, slept in the upper bunk of two bunk beds, and you, Yoel, in the lower bunk bed. Zavdi and I would climb up to the upper bunk bed and you and your mother Yoel would be in the lower bunk bed. And you, Yoel, would always ask me to tell you the bear story before you went to sleep. It began like this:
‘ One day, Karlman (an adult friend from the congregation), came and asked if he could take you both fishing with him. I said yes and your mother made some tasty treats for you to take with you. Things like tuna fish sandwiches, spaghetti, cake, ice cream and candy.’ You liked that.
‘ The three of you set out for the lake carrying your fishing poles and lunch baskets. At the lake you began fishing and you, Zavdi, caught a big fish! Then you, Yoel, caught a big fish too! And then Zavdi caught another one, and then Yoel, you caught another one and on and on it went like that till lunch. Karlman didn’t catch any : (
‘ You were fishing by one of the many trees by the lake. Lunch time came and you had just begun to eat when Karlman spotted a Grizzly Bear coming toward you!’
‘ Climb up to the top of the tree boys!’ he shouted and you both began climbing as the Grizzly came running. Just as the Grizzly came to the tree, he reared up on his hind legs and tried to get Karlman but Karlman had climbed up the tree too and was just out of reach. The Grizzly made a grunt and tried again but couldn’t reach him. You two were higher in the tree than Karlman.’
‘ Everyone was scared! What could you do?! Zavdi, and you too, Yoel, began praying to Yeshua, ‘Help us Yeshua! Help us!’ About that time, I sensed from the Lord that something wasn’t right at the lake and quickly mounted my horse and rode out there.’
‘ The Grizzly, realizing that there was other food on the ground had eaten all the fish and the rest of your lunch. Now he and was back at the tree. Only he was trying to climb it to get to you! I came around the bend and saw that the Grizzly was just about to get Karlman. Charging toward the bear, I took out my rifle and shoot: ‘Pih-chu! Pih-chu! Pih-chu!’ went the sound of the bullets and the Grizzly Bear dropped to the ground. He was dead.’
‘ We were grateful to be alive. We thanked Yeshua. It didn’t matter that the Grizzly had eaten your lunch and all the fish you two had caught. We tied his legs with some rope and using the saddle horn on the horse, dragged the big Grizzly Bear back home. Your mother was so glad to see you.’
‘ We again thanked the Lord for letting me know that there was trouble at the lake and for guiding the bullets into the bear. After that your mother made a wonderful supper of spaghetti and tuna fish sandwiches, ice cream, cake and candy.’
‘ In the evening, we took the hide from the bear and made a great, big bear rug for the living room floor.’
Then it was time for sleep but before that we’d pray to Yeshua, asking Him to watch over you both and give you sweet dreams of Him.
Yoel came in next. He was frightened and couldn’t look at me. He was ten and a half years old. To my question about what he thought of me, he said the exact same thing that his brother had said. (That I had pushed him around, was mean and selfish.) When questioned as to how he came to this, he said that he had gotten it from his mother and grandparents also. I asked him if he knew that I loved him and he said that if I loved him, I would have at least sent him a birthday card or Christmas gift. How could I tell him that his mother put a stop to that eight years ago? I had been sending them toys two or three times a week. ‘Cheap toys’ as Robin had noted. I couldn’t afford anything else. But the boys liked getting them just the same.
It was over by noon. The judge took my parental rights away from me, paving the way for my sons to be adopted by the Merediths. The judge, directing a comment to the Merediths, said, ‘If you don’t have anything good to say about someone, than you shouldn’t say anything’, but that didn’t outweigh what he saw: both my sons didn’t want any part of me. The fact that both directly testified that they had been brainwashed against me by the very people who wanted to take them away from me, seemed to have no effect on this judge. And yet, Zavdi hated me and Yoel was afraid of me.
Perhaps a righteous judge would have given me time with my sons, for us to get to know each other, but this was not a righteous judge. I have nothing against him personally. I have seen judges like him before. Thinking themselves as wise as King Solomon, they give the baby to the wrong woman.
We stood for the judge to leave. Then the Merediths, their lawyer and their psychologist began to leave. As she passed me, Mrs. Meredith intentionally looked at me. She was gloating and smiling spitefully as if to say, ‘Ha, Ha! You lost! I won!’ I deliberately kept watching her. I wanted to see all she had for me. I didn’t respond. I just looked. I felt strong in the Lord. Her mocking didn’t affect me. I felt sorry for her. Because I had come into the courtroom with love in my heart for her, she wasn’t able ‘to hook’ me with her evil.
Everything Robin knew, she learned from her mother. In the end, Robin was not able to break free from the evil. Only Yeshua can help at that point.
This next part is for my sons, Zavdi and Yoel. If you ever read this, I want you both to know: I love you with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my strength. Every day I pray for you to give your lives to Yeshua. He will heal your broken hearts and set you free to love as He loves. I also ask Him, ‘How long Lord?! How long before You bring my sons back to me?’
Trust in Yeshua with all your heart, my sons. Surrender yourself to Him. Ask Him to love you. Lean not on your own understanding. Ask Him to lead you. Let Him lead you. He will make all your rocky paths smooth.
Till we embrace,
I will always love you,
Getting Back to Israel
On Jan. 6th, 1999 we left the U.S.A after having spent the last year and a half in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We had to disband the congregation as there was no one that the Lord raised up to take my place. Sometimes, I’ve heard, a dream or vision from the Lord has to die before it can come to fruition. This is my prayer, that Yeshua will replant The Seed of Abraham in Israel.
As we got established back in Tulsa, and began to minister, finances came in and by the end of the first year, I was thinking how nice it was to be in the States and have some money. You see, in Jerusalem, we went from day to day for food money much of the time. In Tulsa, now, I began to wonder when and if the Lord was going to ever bring us ‘back home’ to Israel. I was beginning to get comfortable.
I think it was in the 14th or 15th month of our eventual 18 month stay in Tulsa, that I came to Ruti after a Sabbath, and said, ‘We need to pray and seek Yeshua if He is going to bring us back to the Land (of Israel) or not.’ We sat down and began to pray. After maybe ten minutes we stopped and I asked Ruti if she had gotten anything. She said the Lord had spoken to her and, ’Yes, we are returning to Israel and we are not coming back to the States.’ And then she said that, ‘The Lord even gave me a date for leaving: January 6th’ (1999).
I said, ‘That’s great. But I didn’t get anything. If that’s the Lord, then He will get in unto me about it too.’ The next day, Sunday, I prayed and sought the Lord again about it and didn’t get anything.
By Monday morning I had ‘forgotten’ about it. I came into my study and saw the pile of papers that I had been wanting to go through for some time now. The Lord used me in many churches to teach about the holiness of Jesus from a Hebraic perspective. Sometimes people would give me papers to read and not having much time for it, I would put them in a pile to go through later. As I went through it, I sorted those papers that I thought would be worth reading and discarded the rest.
I came to a paper on the Ark of the Covenant and as I began to read, I expected to toss it also. Many who write about it don’t really know what they are talking about. This one was different though. It caught my attention. I was pleasantly surprised. I found myself reading well into the article and then the Lord jolted me.
As Ron Wyatt placed his head into the small opening of the cave that housed the Ark, he looked at his watch. It was 2:30 P.M., January 6th! Talk about incredible. Ruti’s words immediately came back to me. Interestingly enough, the year wasn’t even mentioned. I read on. Later in the article, he again spoke of the day, and the year, 1982. I finished the article, excited in the Spirit, and gave it to Ruti to read, as calmly as I could. I didn’t mention the Jan. 6th date. As she read it, every so often I would peek out of my study to see where she was in the article. When she got to the January 6th date, she was impacted too.
Well, that seemed like enough for me to change our lives from one continent to another. We had some errands to run later that day and while making a deposit at the bank, I turned to Ruti and said, ‘You know, a few hours ago when I read Wyatt’s account of finding the Ark of the Covenant on Jan. 6th, I had no doubt that the Lord was speaking to me through it. Now, I’m not so sure.’ I said, ‘Yeshua, if this is You, would you please confirm it for me?’
We drove from the bank to Kinko’s to get some papers copied. There weren’t many so I did it myself and as I approached the counter to pay, I noticed a notebook on it that read, ‘Harvest Church’. I said to myself, ‘Where do I know that name from?’ And then I remembered, ’Jonathan Wakefield’. Jonathan is a pastor friend of mine whose church I had spoken in a number of times over the years. I turned to the man who was at the counter, to the left of the notebook and me, and sure enough, it was Jonathan.
I said, ‘Jonathan! How are you?’ He answered, ‘Fine! What’s going on with you?’ I shared, ‘I’m not certain yet but I think the Lord is getting ready to send us back to Israel, on Jan. 6th.’
’January 6th?! he exclaimed. ‘That’s my 23rd wedding anniversary!’
’ Thank You Lord!’ I shouted. Everyone in the place turned and looked. I was excited. That was my confirmation less than 20 minutes after I had asked for it.
Ruti had been waiting outside in the car as the amount of copying I had would only take a couple of minutes. I told her what took place with Jonathan and we began ‘to pack our bags’ mentally and get ready. January 6th was about three months away.
In the Air
Our flight over was orchestrated by the Lord. We had been told to get to the airport at least three hours before our flight time. When we got there, the clerk asked us, ‘Why are you here so early?’ : )
Then she said that if we liked, we could take the flight before our scheduled flight. It would leave two hours sooner than ours meaning that we only had about an hour to wait. We took it. We boarded the plane and took off for Chicago. Because of snow hitting the mid-west, we were the last flight out of Tulsa that day. Thank You, Yeshua! And as we approached Chicago, we weren’t sure that we’d be able to land because of the snow but about half an hour before our landing, the sky opened up and the sun came out. Our landing was fine. Thank You again, Yeshua!
From Tulsa to Chicago, we sat in back of two Orthodox Jewish men and spoke of Yeshua and the Life He has for them. At first they listened but after awhile, one of them became defensive. But the other continued to be open. It was wonderful, planting some Seed into their hearts. Would you pray for them? Their names are Barry and David, with David being the one that seemed more open.
I shared with them out of Ezk. 36:22-27 where the Lord speaks of giving Israel a new heart and His Spirit. And they said that they had not heard of Yeshua. I said that this was the day that the Lord had allowed us to meet and that I was sharing with them about the New Life that the Messiah of Israel had for them. I told them that I was just a messenger and that they were to seek the God of Israel to find out if Messiah Yeshua was really their Messiah.
One of their objections to Yeshua was that their fathers didn’t believe in Him, so they shouldn’t either. I countered with, if the Messiah comes, then you will tell Him that you can’t believe in Him because your fathers didn’t? So no Jew could ever believe in the Messiah because their fathers didn’t?
The defensive one asked me if I followed all the laws of Judaism. It was just a diversion. I asked him if he followed all the laws. He told me that he did and I didn’t quite believe him. And then he assured me that he didn’t do them perfectly but that he tried to follow them. (In Judaism, there are different sets of laws for different groups of religious Jews. So it depends on what kind of a Jew religiously you are, that determines how many, and what laws, one follows.)
We spoke of eternal life and how one attains it. In Judaism it is given to one if their good works out-weigh their evil deeds. But I told them that our Scriptures never say that. ‘God intended to give us eternal life through Messiah.’ I said that through His death, our sins would be forgiven, just as God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah (31:31-34).
On our flight from London to Tel Aviv, the Lord placed us next to an Israeli man by the name of Hanan (his name means, ‘grace’). He was 28 years old and studying law in London. We talked about finding real life in Messiah Yeshua. He lives just outside Tel Aviv and I gave him my phone number and told him to call me and I’d take him out to eat and we’d continue to talk about the Lord. We were very glad to be back in Jerusalem.
The Way of the Lord
On March 16th, 2004, Ruti and I saw Ugo and his wife Ochi, off to the airport to fly back to their native Nigeria. They were with us for about two months of intensive teaching on the Hebraic perspective of Yeshua. They had come and worked in Israel and the Lord led them to us. We ordained Ugo according to the call of Yeshua upon his life. They have begun a branch of The Seed of Abraham in their capital city of Aba. They will teach the Hebraic perspective to their people. The Light is going forth to the nations:
’And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Yahveh, to the House of the God of Jacob. That He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths. For the Law will go forth from Zion and the word of Yahveh from Jerusalem’ (Isaiah 2:3)
’So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek Yahveh of Hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of Yahveh. ‘Thus says Yahveh of Hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying,' Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’ (Zechariah 8:22-23).
On Jan. 6th, 1999 we left the U.S.A after having spent the last year and a half in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We had to disband the congregation as there was no one that the Lord raised up to take my place. I’ve heard that a dream or vision from the Lord has to die before it can come to fruition. This is my prayer that Yeshua will replant and raise up The Seed of Abraham in Israel and all over the world. It seems with Ugo and Ochi that it has begun. Praise His holy Name. The Lord Yeshua has called Ruti and me to plant Seed into the hearts and lives of Jews and Israelis. Our days are full. Aside from witnessing to Israelis and writing books, we also send out the Jewish Newsletter, mostly to Jews in Oklahoma, but also to Jews in forty other States and five countries. We also send it to believers who are interested. If you know of any Jewish people that need Messiah Yeshua, if you’ll email me their address, I’ll place them on our Jewish Newsletter mailing list. And if you’d like to receive it, give me your name and postal address. They come out about three or four times a year.
The Jewish People have been taken captive by Satan and have been lied to about Papa God and Messiah Yeshua. Their position with Yeshua is very similar to my position with my sons. I know Papa God's feelings for His Flock, Israel. Deep feelings of love, forgiveness and tenderness toward His Son (Ex. 4:22; Hosea 2:21-22), even and especially as Israel wanders further and further away from Him.
Ruti and I desire that the Lord Yeshua will use us to bring many Israelis and Jews to their Messiah. We ask for your prayers. They, and we, need them very much.
Currently, I'm in process of ordaining three men via email, one from Germany and two from the States, to begin branches of The Seed of Abraham in their respective countries. We already have a branch in a major city of Nigeria. It's our hope and prayer for the future that the Lord will send others to us, to train in the Hebraic Perspective, that they too would set up branches in their own countries.
From Ruti, the women will learn how to be a better wife, mother and help-mate. From me, the men will more fully about the Hebraic way, how to be a better husband, father, shepherd, teacher and evangelist.
There are a number of Jewish and Gentile people that we help financially. Sometimes it's only a one time thing, and sometimes it's a continual, on-going thing. We give to whomever we see has a need, as our Lord leads. We thank the Lord Yeshua for being able to do this. Our heart is to help people in whatever way we can. The figures below represent the the years 2002 — 2007:
Year US Dollars received US Dollars given % of Giving 2002 $41,132.22 $11,981.81 29.1% 2003 $39,281.27 $13,866.14 35.3% 2004 $43,876.94 $14,630.48 33.3% 2005 $52,491.30 $12,992.68 24.8% 2006 $50,560.19 $17,478.23 34.6% 2007 $70,591.59 $29,407.80 41.7% Totals $297,933.51 $100,377.14 33.7% Yearly Average $49,645.08 16,726.19 33.7%
We are grateful to be His Hands in distributing food and rent money, Bibles, etc., to those in need, as well as to proclaim the Word of Life.
In the Precious, Precious Name
of Messiah Yeshua,
Ramat Gan, Israel
27 May 2005
Email Avram — email@example.com
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