January – February 2018 / Tevet – Shevat – Adar 5778
Part of our story actually begins many years ago with two very different kinds of introductions to two very different people in different parts of the globe. One introduction goes back about a dozen years or so ago. It took place just outside of Jerusalem. John was eating at a conference center cafeteria during the official meetings of the International Messianic Jewish Alliance. Not far away sat another group of people from a different conference, but it included a couple of people John knew. John went over to greet them and was introduced to the others. When he shook hands with one of them, the older man said with a smile on his face: “I’ve heard all about you.” The man was Father Peter Hocking.
The other introduction took place when Patrice and John were teaching a group of emerging Messianic Jewish leaders in the Ukraine. The “school” was meeting that year in a small village quite near to the village of Tevya from Fiddler on the Roof. One of those who was involved in making the arrangements was a younger Polish man, Irek Chubak.
During the annual summer conference of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations two years ago in Baltimore, Father Peter was in attendance. John noticed him standing by himself between sessions and went over to him and struck up a conversation. They talked briefly about the work Father Peter was doing in bringing together Jews and Catholics in Poland. As they were saying goodbye, John volunteered: “If Patrice and I can be of any help in Poland, let us know.” Eighteen months later, last December, thanks to Father Peter (who passed away several months ago) we were in Poland and Slovakia, teaching for two weeks. (We got to see Irek and his wife Maryla there!) But we told you that part of the story last year.
However, the story did not end there. One of the conferences we spoke at last year was in Krakow, Poland. There were people from various countries in Europe who attended as well as people from other cities in Poland. A Protestant church from Kalisz sent a couple of leaders to that conference. Janusz and Sbeczek were so impacted by the teaching that when they returned home, they decided that they wanted us to be the main speakers at their next regular Sukkot (Festival of Booths, or Tabernacles) conference. Early this year we got an email from Janusz inviting us to speak at their Festival of Sukkot conference in October and share some of the same things we had at the conference in Krakow. Along with it came an email from Irek encouraging us to accept the invitation. At his urging, we accepted the invitation. Their conference also had people coming to it from various countries in Europe. We even spoke with someone from Belfast, Ireland, who is planning to invite us there for a conference. And, we had a couple of wonderful conversations with Domenico, an Italian Jew who has started the process of applying to our Seminary and Yeshiva.
Kalisz is a city that 300 years ago was part of what Jews back then called a “safe zone,” a place where Jews could live free of fear. And, of course, we got to visit the old Jewish community. During the conference we also had the opportunity to read from a Torah scroll that dates to the 1200’s. We had this John and Patrice with their friend and interpreter, Magnus POLAND AND GERMANY…ONCE MORE opportunity because Janusz’s church in Kalicz has a small Jewish museum to which the regional Jewish community donated their Torah scroll. We taught nearly a dozen times over the span of four and a half days. We were so enthusiastically received that Janusz and his team asked us to teach an extra session! So, on Sunday morning we left directly from teaching from the podium and hopped into the car to the airport as the conferees were concluding the service.
From there we flew to Berlin to spend several days with Clark and Ann, some good friends whom we have known since before we were married and who have had a significant ministry among German university students for many years. We even had to chance to interact and share our life stories with a small group of students that meet regularly in their home.
However, our main purpose in Berlin was to teach at Institute of Messianic Studies, as we have several times before. The Institute is housed at the building of the Messianic congregation there, which is largely made up of Russian Jews, many of whom have become our friends over the years we’ve been coming there.
Then we were off to Stuttgart for several days to teach at the Messianic congregation there. As in Berlin, the congregation is made up mainly of Russian Jews, and in fact, Vladimir, the leader of the Berlin congregation had arranged for us to teach in Stuttgart. The congregation is a lively, welcoming community, and we couldn’t have had a better reception. In fact, there are rumors that they are planning to invite us back.
In closing, we just wanted to share a couple of their responses to our time with some of these people, a time and impact you made possible through your prayers and contributions. After the Sukkot conference in Poland a woman came up to us and said: “Thank you; I have a whole new understanding of the gospel!” In Berlin, Deborah, one of the students we met with, is a doctoral student in Jewish studies. She emailed us a week or so ago: “I remember well our conversations in Berlin. Thank you both! I learned a lot! It gave me lots of insights!” And then, there’s this. “This was just what I wanted them to hear!” (said by the rabbi of the Messianic synagogue in Stuttgart) We deeply appreciate your faithfulness to us over all these years because you play a major part in this legacy. Friends, you have been an important part of this through all these years! And, thank you so very much for being part of training leaders who will impact the lives of many others across the country and around the globe. Your involvement and investment make a significant impact on many people’s lives around the world. We want to thank you because by partnering with us you help make this ministry possible. Without your faithful financial and prayer support, the events we share with you could not take place. Merry Hanukkah and Happy Christmas! John and Patrice