Open doors, open hearts

I always look forward to Friday evenings. The weekend is ahead of me and I am often invited to Lillian and Ernest’s house for Shabbat. On arriving at their street, the aroma of Lillian’s famous chicken soup leads me directly to their home! Lillian always opens the door looking impeccably elegant and relaxed, despite having done a long day’s cleaning, cooking and preparing for the Shabbat, and gives me a huge, welcoming hug.

The dining room is always beautifully candlelit and on the table there are wine glasses, Shabbat candles and two loaves of plaited challah bread for Shabbat, set on a special breadboard and covered with a cloth called a challah decke. Ernest says the Kiddush (‘sanctification’ – a prayer of blessing over the wine) in Hebrew after Lillian has lit the Shabbat candles. We then share the wine and bread at the table. The atmosphere is always warm as we hug and greet each other with ‘Shabbat Shalom!’

Lillian is an Israeli who was brought up on a Kibbutz. She now works as a Hebrew language tutor, and lectures in Judaism and the Bible at a Jewish institute. She is well read and knowledgeable in Hebrew literature, philosophy and classical music. She is always ready for a stimulating discussion on politics, art, philosophy, religion and all sorts of other subjects.

Ernest’s family originates from Poland and I recently found out that, as well as Hebrew, he speaks fluent German. He and his sister fled from their homeland to Germany before settling down in Israel. His family story is typically tragic, with many of his family members having been killed in Nazi concentration camps. Despite having spent most of his childhood in an orthodox Jewish school, he tells me that he is not ‘religious’ like other Jewish people and eats non-kosher food. They don’t attend Synagogue regularly but keep most of the Jewish festivals and I have been to their home to celebrate Purim, Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah.

Lillian has expressed curiosity as to why I changed my religion from Buddhism to Christianity. Like many Jewish people, her world view considers that people are born into their religion. This has given me the chance to share my testimony, focusing on God’s work in my life. I explained that my mother was a Buddhist who sadly died when I was six. A friend persuaded my father to attend a church and I began to hear about Jesus. I was not interested in God or the Bible but was always surrounded by Christians who were different from others because of their faith.  They helped me to understand the Bible and I eventually decided to study the Bible seriously. I then realised that I needed God’s forgiveness because I was not right with Him. I explained that I was not born a Buddhist but testified that it was God who came and changed me.

When I am with Lillian and Ernest we speak openly about spiritual matters and they listen to my Christian point of view with interest. They often ask about the topics and Bible passages that I speak on in meetings, especially during my travels in the Far East. They were fascinated to learn that there are so many Chinese Christians and how the churches are growing fast and strong in China. They enjoyed hearing about my recent trip to the Chinese Congress on World Evangelisation in Bali, a gathering of more than 2,300 Chinese Christian ministers and leaders from across the world.

They both continue to ask sincere questions about Christianity and the Bible. They find it puzzling and are amazed when I tell them that many churches in China are praying for Israel and the Jewish people, especially that they may come to know the gospel. Please pray for Lillian and Ernest who have indicated an intention to come to church with me again.

Interestingly, a former colleague and I still do door-to-door work and he also knows the couple. My former colleague met Lillian through his door-to-door visiting many years ago, which led to an ongoing discussion about Judaism, Christianity and the Bible. She highly respects his understanding of Jewish history and Judaism, and his knowledge of the Bible and Christian theology. She recently told us that for a number of years he would visit her on Fridays. She would start cleaning and cooking early in the morning and would have most of her Shabbat preparation completed by early afternoon so that she would be ready for his visit. She told us how much she looked forward to their biblical discussions. When I spoke to him he had no idea that Lillian had waited keenly for his appearance each Friday during his weekly ministry! How wonderful it is to know that the Lord opens doors and softens hearts to hear his good news!

This article was first published in the Winter Herald 2011

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