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Jewish and Twice Born
The Personal Testimony of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion's Fire Magazine in February, 1991

First Impressions
I first met Fannie in 1948, the year that the modern State of Israel was born.

The day started typically enough. There was no hint that an encounter was about to take place – an encounter which would touch thousands of lives. I was mature for my thirteen years of age. My mother and father were separated, and responsibility came to me early. On this day, I was tending our family luncheonette. It was a large store in a middle-class Jewish community. Strawberry Mansion had been an exclusive neighborhood; now it had passed its prime, and was beginning to show its age.

I was behind the large grill where sandwiches were prepared, when Fannie first entered our store. It was the busy lunch hour, and I doubt that I would have noticed Fannie except that her dress was long and old-fashioned, and there was something "strange" about her appearance. She ate quietly and then walked up to the cash register. Fannie was not satisfied with simply paying her bill and leaving with a customary "thank you" or "have a nice day." Instead, she startled me with a question: "Young man, are you saved?" she inquired.

My response must have been equally startling to her. "What do you mean, am I saved? I’m not drowning!"
As I recall, she made some vague comments about Christ, sin, and hell; gave me a little pamphlet; opened the screen door; and left almost as suddenly as she had entered. As I immediately threw the unread pamphlet into the trash, I thought with my thirteen years of wisdom, Where did she come from?

Perseverance Pays Off
I doubt that I would have given further thought to Fannie, except that the following week she entered our luncheonette again. She sat in the back, ate her lunch slowly, waited until most of the customers were gone, and came up to pay her bill. Once again she wanted to talk. "Young man," she said, "you’ve got to accept Jesus." Smiling, I assured her that I was Jewish, and "Jesus," I confidently asserted, "is not for the Jews."

She responded, "I know you’re Jewish, but you still need to accept Jesus as your Savior." This time before leaving she gave me two pieces of literature, and this time two unread brochures were dropped into the trash can. By now, I was certain that she had serious mental problems – that she needed a psychiatrist.

But Fannie, it turned out, could not be put off easily. She returned to our luncheonette the following week, and the week after that, and the week after that – month after month, for two years. Sometimes I was in the store when Fannie came; more often it was my mother. During those first months we felt deep resentment for this woman who was presumptuous enough to dare to think that she could "convert" us. After all, we were Jews – my grandparents were orthodox and had come to America from Kiev, Russia, in 1905.

The name, Christ, which I had heard used in cursing on the streets of our city and occasionally when gangs came into the neighborhood and called us Christ killers, I was certain, was for the Gentiles. Fannie, we came to learn, was a Jewess herself – a missionary to the Jewish people. "Missionary" had a negative connotation to us, although we had little understanding of what it really meant. One day a week she engaged in door-to-door evangelism in our neighborhood and came to our store for lunch. It was conspicuous that Fannie was not welcomed in our neighborhood, and she certainly was not warmly received in our luncheonette. Strange, I thought, that she should return week after week, though an unwelcome guest.

One day an incident occurred that bore out that opinion. She began to talk to one of our regular customers. He was an older Jewish man who owned a store directly across the street. He still spoke with the accent of his European origin, and was deeply religious. When he realized she was suggesting that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah – God’s sacrificial Lamb for sin, he turned on her with a verbal barrage of insults of such intensity that I could not help but feel sorry for her. His scorn and ridicule vented, I watched, bewildered, as he stormed out of our luncheonette. When my glance returned to Fannie, her head was bowed, cradled in her hands. Concerned that the incident may have seriously upset her, I asked if she was all right. As she raised her head, I saw tears, but through them shone that "strange glow" I had observed on other occasions. Then I heard her say, "Yes, Marvin, I’m fine. I was praying for the gentleman’s salvation." I was stunned. I could not comprehend her kind response. How, I thought, could she pray for a man who had treated her so shamefully. Years later I was reminded of that incident when I read for the first time the words of the Savior while dying on the cross: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." But that’s getting ahead of the story.

My mother and I did not share Fannie’s belief, but slowly, almost inexplicably, a respect began to emerge for this woman who had simple courage and profound faith. Amazingly, my mother began to eagerly await her weekly visits, ready with an almost limitless number of questions. Did accepting Christ mean one was no longer a Jew? Wasn’t it the Christians who had killed, robbed, and persecuted the Jewish people for two thousand years? (How many times I remember my grandmother crossing to the other side of the street when passing a church, to get farther away from it. And that, because she well recalled the many times Russian Cossacks, on horseback, had galloped into her village to plunder the Jews in the name of "Christianity.") Did the Jewish Scriptures say that God had a son, and, if so, how would we recognize Him when He came? Why did He have to die, and if Jesus really was the Messiah, why did the Jewish people reject Him? And how can a man also be God? Slowly, patiently, tactfully, she would open her Bible and answer these questions from what she repetitively called "The Word of God."

Two years had now passed since that "uneventful" day when Fannie had first entered our store. On this visit, she and another missionary, who occasionally accompanied her, were seated with my mother. "Mrs. Rosenthal," Fannie inquired, "what have we been saying to you these past years that is so wrong? What have we said that is inconsistent with your own Old Testament Scriptures – the writings of Moses and the prophets of Israel? If you really want to know the truth, why don’t you pray to the God of your forefathers – pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – ask their God if what we’ve been telling you is really true." As they were about to leave, Fannie, in what had now become a familiar ritual, quoted from the Scriptures. This time her text was from Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." She paused and literally knocked on the table top three times. Then she continued, "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." What a strange concept, I thought; does God knock on the door of men’s hearts?

My mother went to bed that night, but sleep wouldn’t come. She twisted and turned, but to no avail. She felt immersed in a sea of restlessness. I’m the middle of three sons – one brother is five years older, another five years younger. Raising three boys, without a husband, and running a luncheonette seven days a week, sixteen hours a day, were no easy tasks. But in the midst of her restlessness that night, the God she knew about only impersonally and from a great distance brought to remembrance the counsel given earlier in the day: "Pray to the God of your forefathers – to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and ask their God if what we have been telling you is really true."

And on that night, perhaps motivated more by despair and the futility of life than anything else, my mother prayed aloud to the God of her forefathers and almost immediately fell soundly asleep. Her sleep, however, was not long in duration. She was awakened at about three in the morning. What awakened her were three clear unmistakable knocks followed by the words, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." She would tell me later that she heard, and yet she did not hear in the traditional sense – it was as if the words permeated her whole being. And, they were accompanied by a mysterious presence and tranquility she had never known before. Quickly she dressed, went down into the store, and gathered up all the unread tracts and Bible portions which Fannie had given her over the two-year period – and which by now, unread and untouched, had gathered dust. Returning to her room, she read the remainder of the night. When I came downstairs the next morning, my mother came running up to me all excited. "It’s true, it’s true, I know it’s true!" she exclaimed. "I’ve trusted Jesus as my Messiah – I’m saved!"

I thought. Oh, no, this can’t be! But it could – it was.

A Free Insurance Policy
I was sure that my mother’s newfound faith would not be long lasting. A week, perhaps two, a month at the outset, and then the novelty would wear off. That month passed, then two, and soon half a year. My mother’s faith did not deteriorate or diminish as I had anticipated. Quite the contrary, her faith, which had begun as a little sapling, was now growing into a mighty oak. Fannie began a discipling program, and Bible reading and prayer had become a regular routine. There was a reality in her life that I could not comprehend. She still had problems; they had not disappeared. But somehow, she was able to live above them – to cope with life on a new and higher plane. I was confused. I didn’t know if what was happening to my mother was good or bad. I only knew that it was real.

So it was, that six months after my mother found the God of her forefathers (or more accurately, the God of her forefathers found her), the seed of the Word of God was about to take root and "set up business" in my heart. On this occasion, Fannie literally cornered me by the soda machine. "Marvin, do you believe in Heaven?" she inquired. My response was affirmative, I always had. "Do you believe in Hell?" she asked, probing further. Again I answered in the affirmative. Her direct questions were disarming, and she sensed my uneasiness – but she would not be put off. "Do you want to go to Heaven when you die?" she challenged. Rather abruptly I said, "Certainly, doesn’t everyone?" With bulldog tenacity she held on. "Well, Marvin, you can go to Heaven and it won’t cost you a thing – not a thing." I blurted out, "How do I get into Heaven for free?" Her response has never been erased from my memory. "Heaven is free to you, Marvin, but Heaven is not free. The Passover Lamb had to suffer. God’s Son shed His blood on the cross of Calvary for your sin. He made the payment and satisfied the requirements of a holy God. The premium has been paid. You can’t buy salvation. You don’t deserve it. All you can do is receive it as a free gift." She had been telling me these things since the first time we met – they seemed strange and inappropriate for someone of Jewish birth. But this time it was different. Somehow, I knew that what she was saying was very right and very Jewish. It was something that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets of Israel would approve of.

There in the luncheonette, next to the soda machine, I bowed my head and invited Christ into my heart, asking Him to save me from my sin and make me His child. It was so simple – and yet so complex; so free for me – so expensive for God. I had, without fully understanding the implications, appropriated divine grace. I was fifteen years of age and had never been inside a church. No one in the fourth largest city in "Christian" America had ever told me that God cared – that He demonstrated that care at Calvary – no one until Fannie came along.

Unexpected Opposition
I was unprepared for the pressures my decision for Christ would generate. In my youthful exuberance, I concluded my faith had nothing to do with the here and now, but would be advantageous in the by and by; that my decision did not affect my living, only my dying – that I had a free, paid-up "life insurance" policy. I would soon see how wrong I was.

Instead of opening the store Sunday morning (normally a very busy time in our Jewish community), my mother began to take my younger brother and me to a Bible-believing church in the adjoining neighborhood. Business could wait. For my mother, God came first. The luncheonette was opened when we returned from church. After a few weeks, word spread to many of our neighbors and customers that the Rosenthals were attending church. Our luncheonette was situated on a corner and there were very large plate glass windows facing both streets. Regularly now, on returning from church, we found graffiti on the windows with comments like, "This is Christ’s house," "They’ve flipped their lids," or "Don’t buy here." We knew this was the work of many of the young people in our neighborhood. To them, our belief in Christ – particularly my mother’s public and vocal testimony – was an occasion for mischief.

As if that were not bad enough, my mother now began to invite friends and customers to attend a Bible study in our living room. Some ridiculed, some politely declined, and some had a hunger to know God. To her, the good news of the grace of God was not a thing to be hoarded. A door in the back of our luncheonette opened into our living room and kitchen, and steps in the living room led upstairs to three bedrooms and a bath. We lived behind and above our place of business. I shall never forget that first Bible study. There were always ten or twelve young people "hanging out" in the luncheonette each evening. Some played the pinball machines, others danced to the jukebox, and still others were seated in the back booth talking, joking, and perhaps eating a famous Philadelphia steak sandwich or drinking a malted milk shake. And then came the shock – "the unpardonable sin." From this Jewish home in a Jewish neighborhood, amidst the noise and activity, arose the clear words of a Christian hymn. Those who had gathered in the back room were singing, "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus." Words cannot adequately convey the impact on those present of hearing such lyrics in the center of a Jewish community.

If going to church had caused problems – this was far worse. Our family had become the open scandal of our neighborhood – we were meshummeds – not simply Christians, but "traitors" to the Jewish people! The young lady I was dating was forbidden to see me by her parents. Friends whom I had grown up with now avoided me or made me a chief target of ridicule. Fist fights, because of my mother’s public testimony, became an almost daily event. A petition to have us thrown out of the neighborhood was circulated. And anonymous, threatening, phone calls would occur in the middle of the night. Fannie counseled, "If they rejected the Lord, they will reject the servant." Maybe she was right, but I wasn’t ready to pay that kind of price to be a Christian.

Another Jonah
Jonah couldn’t flee from God, but I wasn’t sure it couldn’t be done. I planned to go into the military, leaving God, religion, and Christ behind. I had had it! I wanted no more peer pressure and ridicule. Soon after I turned eighteen, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. It was, I decided, time to spread my wings and do my thing. The night before I left home, Fannie had some farewell advice. "You’re a true Christian, Marvin," she said. "You have that paid-up ‘life insurance’ policy I told you about. One day when your earthly life ends you will go to Heaven because of what the Messiah has done for you. But if, when you get to Heaven, there is a great big parade and if, in the front of the parade, there is a great big band, if you don’t change your way of living, you’ll be so far back in the line that you won’t even hear the music." Fannie never gave me a chapter and verse to support that statement, but somehow it impressed my impressionable mind. Notwithstanding her advice, I planned to stand firm in my rebellion. God had no place in my plans.

During basic training at Paris Island, South Carolina, I received two or three letters a week from my mother. In retrospect, I’m sure she was convinced that tracts were "cheaper by the dozen." In every letter she enclosed a packet of them. I was furious! In the rebelliousness of my heart I wrote, "Mom, I love you very much, but if you can’t write without including Christian literature, I’d rather you not write at all." I received the next letter and opened it quickly to see if there was any literature. There was none, and I thought to myself, I have finally gotten away from God. Then I read the letter. It began, "Dear Son." The body of the letter followed, and she closed in her usual fashion, "Oceans of love. Mom." Then followed a postscript. (I have been fond of writing brief postscripts ever since.) It pierced my heart like a knife! It read, "Keep looking up, for He is always looking down." She sent no more literature. But, it wasn’t necessary. She had committed me to her Lord, and whenever I went where I should not have been, or did what I knew God would not approve of, the Holy Spirit was ever present to convict of sin and remind me of my mother’s words, "Keep looking up, for He is always looking down."

Through Closed Doors
I felt self-confident in the club car drinking my cocktail. The train would soon arrive at Philadelphia and I would be home. My three years in the Marine Corps had passed rapidly. They were, I felt, good years. I had experienced life – I had grown up. I was a man. I even had sergeant stripes to prove it. I was, in my eyes, a real "John Wayne."

Prospects for the future seemed excellent. My older brother and sister-in-law were both professional dance teachers. I loved to dance and had won a dance contest on national television. I was certain that I would make my way in life as a professional dancer. Only one thing clouded my optimism that day. I had gambled away all my money while in the service and would have to live with my mother in her recently acquired suburban home. But that, I was certain, would be short-lived – about six months – long enough to save some money. Then I could get my own apartment, a half-dozen suits, three redheads, and a new sports car.

I moved into my mother’s home and soon started teaching at a dance studio in downtown Philadelphia. My life became a predictable cycle. I went to the studio at about 1:00 p.m. and finished at 10:00 p.m. This was frequently followed by a night of dancing at some of the after-hour night clubs. On occasion, I broke that routine by playing poker until early morning at a friend’s home. Both my mother and Fannie encouraged church attendance, but I wasn’t interested and was now far beyond parental control. Week after week they pleaded that I attend the Bible study in our home, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

But God has ways of making the blind see and the deaf hear. It was my day off. It was also the night of the Bible study. I had been burning the candle at both ends and decided to stay home and get some much needed sleep. Of course, I took precaution to make sure that I was safely in my bedroom before my mother’s friends arrived. I did not want to have to answer questions about my spiritual condition, which I was certain would arise. It was early evening and, try as I might, sleep would not come. I heard the guests arrive – heard them hanging their coats in the closet, heard them begin to sing some of the familiar Christian hymns, and I desperately didn’t want to hear.

Then the Bible teacher began his lesson. In rebellion, I pulled the covers up over my head, but I could not drown out his words. In a last desperate attempt, I clamped the pillow over my head. I thought, Surely this will blot out the teacher’s voice – but I was wrong. From the living room, down the long corridor, through the closed door, and in spite of the up-pulled covers and pulled-down pillow – God was speaking to me. I could not flee from the "Hound of Heaven." For the first time in years, I lay still, emotionally spent, and let Him speak.

When the message was over, unknown to all of the guests, I got down on my knees beside my bed, with tears streaming down my face. I don’t remember the text or the message on that occasion, but what I have never forgotten is the fact that God – the Sovereign of the Universe – the One who spoke the worlds into existence and breathed into man the breath of life, was communicating to an unhappy and confused twenty-two year old. I still remember my prayer on that occasion: "Father, I have no gifts that I know of – I have nothing to offer you but my sinful life. I know it is Yours by right of redemption. I give it now, if You will receive it, for Your purposes and Your glory."

In my heart, I knew that the words of Augustine, the fourth-century theologian, were true. He had written, "O God, Thou hast created man for Thyself, and man is restless until he rests in Thee." I had experienced that restlessness. King Solomon expressed the same thought when he wrote, "vanity of vanities; all is vanity," (Eccl. 1:2). Solomon’s words can be paraphrased this way: Soap bubbles of soap bubbles; all is soap bubbles. Soap bubbles are attractive, colorful, and tantalizing. They float leisurely by, and hold out so much promise, but when you reach for them, they break! I knew in my heart that that’s what life is really like without God.

At three or four years of age, a boy wants a fire engine, wagon, or a three-wheel bike; a few years later he wants a two-wheeler; when thirteen or fourteen, he wants to play "Spin the Bottle," "Post Office," or "Five Minutes in Paris" (perhaps the names of the games have changed); at sixteen, a car is the appeal; at eighteen, the desire is to get out of parental control; then marriage, a family, a beautiful home, perhaps a sports car or a big diamond, and financial security. Each new goal is like a soap bubble. It promises much, but when you reach out for it, it breaks! There is nothing wrong with any of these things inside the will of God. But outside of it, they leave man with an "itching heart" which he doesn’t know how to scratch. I knew that to be true during this period of rebellion. In the midst of all my activity, my heart had been "itching like mad," and I couldn’t scratch it. But I didn’t want anyone to know it.

A Desert Place
Needless to say, my mother and Fannie were thrilled to hear of God working in my life and my new commitment. They shared the news with the pastor, and within a week I found myself at the Sandy Cove Bible Conference grounds in the State of Maryland. Hearing, through the pastor, what God had done in my life, the director graciously made a temporary job available to me.

It was winter and the conference grounds were closed, but there was a great deal of work to be done to get the facilities ready for the summer conference season. The director would visit on the weekend and assign work for the following week. And work I did – digging a trench for the pipes to be connected to the new pool, scrubbing and waxing the very large dining hall floor, painting and cleaning cabins, fixing some of the cabin roofs – there seemed to be no end to the things that had to be done.

I felt like I was in the middle of a desert with no television, no papers, no one to talk to – only work and study and sleep. (Only later would I read of the 40 years Moses spent in the Sinai Desert, and the three years Paul spent in Arabia.) I remember saying, "Lord, I told You that You could have my life, but You’ve got me here in the middle of nowhere." I began to pack my suitcase. I was going to walk out to the highway and hitchhike home. But somehow I sensed God’s thoughts. Did you say I can have your life? Well, this is where I want you now. I unpacked my bag and stayed on. As spring began to turn to summer, I welcomed the news that the director planned to send me to their teenage camp. I was to be a counselor and life guard.

Taking Root
For the first time, I experienced the thrill of teaching others the Word of God. My mother had brought me two daily devotional books – Streams in the Desert, and My Utmost for His Highest. Each night after putting my cabin of ten teenage boys to sleep, I would sit on the bathroom floor and read six or eight unrelated devotionals from each book. The next day I would teach everything I had read – a sort of spiritual smorgasbord, and only Heaven knows what those young people were taught that summer. But God was there, and that literally made all the difference.

The camp was nearing its end, and before me lay an uncertain future. "Tomorrow’s your day off, isn’t it?" asked the camp director and his assistant. "How about spending the day with us?" I was to meet them the next morning. I had no idea where we were going. We drove north for about an hour and a half and entered the city of Philadelphia. They parked the car at Eighteenth and Arch Streets, and we walked into a large building. Over the entrance in bold letters was written "PHILADELPHIA BIBLE INSTITUTE." We climbed the steps to the second floor, walked down the long hall, and entered the Office of the Director of Admissions. I broke into loud laughter when they said rather matter-of-factly, "We have a young man whom we think the Lord wants in the ministry." The admissions director sternly inquired, "What’s so funny, young man?" I explained that I had never graduated from high school – didn’t even make it through the 11th grade! I had never read a book through, had never written a term paper, did not know the difference between a noun and a pronoun, had cut classes in school much of the time – and here I was at a college in the Office of the Director of Admissions. I was certain he would see the humor in the situation. How wrong I was! My laughter turned to bewilderment when, after an extended interview and examination, I was told to plan to attend orientation classes in two weeks. I would be admitted to the college on academic probation. That, I soon learned, meant that I could not participate in any extra-curricular activity until I achieved a grade point average of "C" or better. And so, with considerable fear and trepidation, a young man – from a Jewish background, who had served in the Marine Corps, and taught dancing professionally – entered Bible college alongside young people who, with few exceptions, had been raised in Christian homes and Bible-believing churches. It was, I thought, an altogether wrong environment for me. But I had told God that He could have my life, and besides – somehow my heart wasn’t itching quite as much since committing my life to Christ.

I quickly learned that the College had a basketball team, and I wanted desperately to play. I had grown up playing basketball in the school yards of our neighborhood and had continued while in the service. For me, basketball vied with dancing as a favorite activity. But I had a problem – I was on academic probation and couldn’t play unless I got off. As a result, for the first time in my life, I began to study. My motives were less than exemplary; it wasn’t to become a preacher, missionary, or Christian worker that I "hit the books." It was because I wanted to play basketball. Somehow, I got off of academic probation and made the varsity basketball team. That became the incentive to return to college the next year. And in such a very special environment, I began to grow spiritually. During my second year, I met the beautiful young lady who was to become my wife. She had graduated from the college and stayed on to work first in the accounting office, and then as the college president’s secretary. During my third year, while studying New Testament Greek, for the first time I began to understand English grammar and acquired my high school diploma.

The college would become God’s instrument to faithfully impart the Word of God – to dramatically change the direction of my life – to lay a strong foundation for future ministry. How could I know in 1960, that fifteen years later I would begin a ten-year period of service as a member of the college’s Board of Trustees?

Fruit for His Glory
During my four years of undergraduate study and two years at Dallas Seminary, Fannie constantly encouraged my wife and me. But more than that, she daily held us up before the throne of grace. And somehow, from her small income, she managed to send cash gifts to help with our education. She was quietly present when I was ordained to the gospel ministry and again when I was called to the pastorate. And how very exciting pastoral ministry was for my wife and me. Beginning with a small flock in a rented building, our heavenly Father was pleased to rend the heavens and bestow blessings upon us. Property was purchased, buildings were erected, souls were gloriously saved, backsliders were restored, and missionaries were being supported and sent out to serve the King. How glorious to be part of God’s program of evangelism and discipleship.

After completing three building programs in five years, we thought we could rest a while – enjoy the fruit of our labor. But the Lord, who had saved us through a missionary to the Jewish people, had other plans.

The Potter at Work
I always had a love for my brethren according to the flesh. I was proud (I trust in the right sense) of my Jewish heritage. I had a genuine concern for their salvation and, through the years, I had shared my faith with many of my kinsmen according to the flesh. But I didn’t want to be a missionary to the Jews. Not me! I had seen missionary work among the Jews, and I didn’t like some of what I had seen. Jewish people, I thought, were largely unresponsive to the gospel, and many Christians and churches seemed largely disinterested. Some, I came to realize, trusted a Jewish Savior – but, tragically and illogically, disdained the Jewish people He sprang from, wept for, and loved. And with such obstacles, a Jewish ministry just didn’t appeal to me. I had told the Lord I would go any where He wanted me to go – the mission field, the pastorate, Christian education – anywhere but into a ministry to Jewish people. But my mother prayed – she and
Fannie – that somehow God would burden me for my kinsmen, to see their great need and respond.

Then one day I was approached by Dr. Victor Buksbazen, who would soon be retiring from his position as General Secretary of The Friends of Israel. He had given fifty years of service to the Lord’s work – thirty in his present leadership position. He was concerned about a successor and the continuation of the Mission’s ministry. He knew our family for many years and thought my background and training uniquely qualified me for the job. But I wasn’t interested. With persistence he kept coming back, convinced that I was God’s choice.

"At least pray about it," he pleaded, "give God a chance." And only because of his persistence, my wife and I made his invitation a matter of honest prayerful inquiry. As we did, the Spirit of God kept bringing to memory an event which had occurred eleven years earlier.

My wife and I were, at that time, engaged. I was leaving my home in Philadelphia to travel to her home in southern New Jersey. Transferring between three buses, the trip would take just under two hours. I walked the three blocks from my home to the bus stop. But strangely, after waiting for a period of time, I felt compelled to return home for a small pocket Bible. That accomplished, I retraced my steps to the bus stop, boarded the bus, and made my way to the back. Once seated, I opened the Bible and began to read. My eyes fell on Exodus, chapter three, and God’s command to Moses concerning captive Israel. Five times God commanded Moses, His servant, to go down to Egypt to confront Pharaoh and deliver His people. And five times Moses refused. Eventually, the Word of God states: "And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses..." (Ex. 4:14). I don’t recall transferring to the second or third buses that day – it remains a blur. But somewhere en route, it was no longer God and Moses in debate, but God and me. When I disembarked from the bus, tears were streaming down my cheeks. My soon-to-be wife was waiting at the bus stop and, seeing the tears which I could not hide, asked if something was wrong.

"No darling," I responded. "Everything is wonderful. But if you marry me, you have to know that our Lord may one day lead us into a ministry among the Jewish people."

And now, formal education and six years of pastoral ministry behind us, God kept challenging us with the remembrance of that experience and used it to call us to serve Him among the lost sheep of the House of Israel.

The sixteen years we served the Lord as director of The Friends of Israel were, for my wife and me, both blessed and fruitful. God gave opportunity for ministry beyond our limited vision, fragile faith, and loftiest expectations. They were days of deep joy, ministering with some of God’s choicest servants, and knowing that we were where He wanted us to be – serving among the Jewish people who, though still blinded, remain the apple of His eye.

Through a Glass Darkly
In May of 1989 we had to leave our beloved ministry. During a period of two and one-half years of intensive study, my view concerning the chronology of Christ’s return and its implications for the Church and Israel changed (the details of which can be read in the author’s book, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church, it can be purchased online at The Silver Shekel Shop). As a result, I could no longer sign the doctrinal statement, which I had personally presented to the board for approval some years earlier. An impasse was reached. I could not be untrue to my convictions; and a majority of the board members did not feel they could broaden the statement on the timing of Christ’s return, which would permit me to remain at the Mission.

Having to leave, at what seemed to me to be the apex of ministry opportunity, was the most difficult and traumatic experience of our lives. I can only say that our exalted view of the Scriptures demanded that we follow those Scriptures as we understood them, whatever the personal consequences. We could not, with integrity before our Lord, hide or sidestep the issue. (Perhaps this was God’s way of expanding His outreach to the Jewish people and also warning the Church to be prepared for the coming storm. Only eternity will reveal God’s ways in this matter.)

Where to go and what to do became the next important issue for our lives. Always believing that you can’t steer a parked car and that God doesn’t lead passive, sedentary Christians, we began to actively seek God’s direction for our lives. Surprisingly, under the circumstances, many avenues of ministry opened up to us, and each had to be carefully and prayerfully considered. Though not mystical by disposition, in the end, the Holy Spirit used Exodus 3 and the memory of God’s presence in the back of a bus many years earlier to give the quiet assurance that we were to continue to minister to the sons of Jacob. To that end, ZION’S HOPE, a not-for-profit missionary agency, was incorporated in June of 1989. And the first issue of the monthly magazine, Zion’s Fire, was published in January 1990. By the end of the first year, circulation grew from 15 to 45 thousand copies each issue. Missionaries are now being placed in strategic Jewish population centers in North America and Israel; and books, brochures, cassettes, and videos on evangelism, discipleship, and prophecy are being disseminated throughout the world.

Reports, letters, and calls received daily tell of the spiritual impact of ZION’S HOPE. We have been humbled by the mantle of God’s presence and evidence of His omnipotent power to make the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame leap with the unspeakable joy of new life in
Christ – abundant and free.

But what of Fannie – faithful Fannie? She never made the hit parade. She was never listed in anyone’s "Who’s Who." No one ever gave her a gold watch or "service" pin. No banquet was ever attended in her honor. Materially, she never had much of this world’s goods – she lived by faith. Educationally, her formal training ended at fourth grade – but few knew the Word of God better than her. The world never took note of her. Some would say her life never counted for much – that she was only a lowly missionary. Were they right? You judge.

More than forty years ago she was used of God to reach my mother with the gospel. Six months later she reached me and the succession started; my younger brother, my older brother, my sisters-in-law, other relatives, and friends. Home Bible studies were started and continue up to the present. Literally millions of tracts, books, and cassettes have been distributed throughout the world. Today, we can identify students studying for Christian service, men in the pastorate, and men and women on the mission field and other areas of Christian service as a direct result of what God began to do 40 years ago in a luncheonette in a Jewish community in Philadelphia. Thousands have trusted Christ and, if God pleases, thousands more will be reached. In part, one solitary woman faithfully served her God. She started a chain reaction that will continue into eternity. I never think of Fannie but that I’m reminded of the words of a chorus, "It only takes a spark to get a fire going." Fannie allowed herself to be a spark for her God – her life started a conflagration!

I had it in my heart for some years to write a little article about Fannie’s influence in the life of our family. On Saturday, February 28, 1976, I felt an irrepressible compulsion to sit at my desk and write this article – I literally couldn’t pull myself away from the task. I would learn two days later that on Wednesday, February 25th, three days before my "strange" compulsion to write. God had called this true daughter of Israel "home."

Invariably, whenever I saw Fannie I would ask, "How are you today?" Her response was always the same, "Marvin, I’m just praising the Lord." Fannie never had, nor wanted, the praise of man. She lived only to please the God she loved. Doubtless, her entrance into His presence was abundant as she heard those blessed words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

When I heard of Fannie’s home-going, I didn’t weep for her. How could I? If mansions in Heaven are of varying sizes (and I suspect they are), she’s got a large, beautiful one. And she’s doing what she loves to do best – praising her wonderful Lord.

Jewish and Twice Born
From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion's Fire Magazine in February, 1991