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Remembering Ray

Veteran CWI missionary Ray McCabe went to be with the Lord on 28th November 2014. He had an incredible impact on those he worked with, not to mention the many Jewish people he reached over the decades with the good news of Messiah. Here his colleagues, his friends and his son Gavin remember Ray.

In my life, two men have influenced me more than any others. Both were missionaries to the Jewish people. And both served the Lord with CWI. One was Ernest Lloyd; the other was Ray McCabe.

At the time I met Ray, he had been a missionary with CWI for almost 25 years and over the next thirty years, as I got to know him, there were certain things about Ray that stood out to me. One was Ray’s evident godliness. He always seemed to me to be a man born out of due time. Ray, it seemed to me, belonged to the 18th and 19th centuries, when in Scotland there were spiritual, theological and intellectual giants in the earth. Ray lived in the books of Scottish worthies such as John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan, Robert Murray M’Cheyne and Patrick Fairburn, imbibed their thinking and emulated their piety. Ray spoke of ‘the Almighty’ and ‘the Most High’ and in prayer he often began by addressing ‘our most blessed and glorious God.’

But the quality that impressed itself most on me and others was Ray’s love for God’s beloved people the Jews and the longing that they should know eternal salvation though their Messiah.

Before starting a pioneering work in Glasgow, then home to 15,000 Jewish people, Ray and Nel spent six months in London’s East End at the Gilead Medical Mission. After serving briefly in Manchester and Liverpool and then Leeds, they commenced what would be their life’s work in Glasgow.

Their mission strategy was simple. For more than four decades they developed genuine friendships with Jewish people and, in that context, shared the Good News of the Jesus the Messiah with Jewish friends. I say four decades because after retirement, for as long as it was possible, he and Nel continued to maintain and develop friendships with Jewish people.

Ray’s knowledge of the Bible, Scottish theology and Judaism was extensive. In his earlier days Ray had done some boxing and in the debates he had with those he was trying to win for Messiah, he often had them on the ropes. But he was all too conscious that evangelism is not about winning verbal fights. It’s about graciously winning hearts, minds and souls. And so, not wanting to lose the person, and in the hope he would win their hearts for Messiah, he would often step back from delivering the knockout blow.

Ray was also a trainer of missionaries and several CWI workers were introduced to the work of sharing Jesus with Jewish people under his wise tutelage. In one of Ray’s last reports for the CWI Herald before he retired he wrote: ‘I sat at the bedside of an elderly Jewish lady with her son and his wife. Her son, who attends synagogue but professes to be agnostic asked what gave me such a strong faith? In a moment of crisis he was asking me to give a reason concerning the hope I have. It was clear that when it comes to death they have no hope. The lady admitted that her only hope is to achieve something of note in this life by which she would be remembered and, turning to her husband she said, “And now it’s too late.”’

There was no despair at the end of Ray McCabe’s life. Ray had hope; a solid hope which was sure and certain. And Ray’s life was dedicated to sharing that same hope with the Jewish people of Glasgow. The hope of sins forgiven and eternal life through the supreme Jew, the Messiah of Israel, in whose presence Ray now rests from all his labours.
Mike Moore

Heavenly rays of light
Judy and I stayed with Ray and Nell for two weeks in 1979 as part of my initial training with CWI. They really epitomised what it was to be spiritually natural and naturally spiritual. In ministry I was struck by Ray’s diligence, discipline and faithfulness as he took me to visit Jewish people in their home or workplace. He would always present a spiritual truth in a most natural manner, usually connecting it with something from the previous Shabbat’s synagogue reading. Ray also loved practical jokes; I will never forget the shock when he sprang out at me wearing his gorilla mask and growling!

Ray’s presence at staff conferences, committees and the Missionary Forum was always a steadying influence, and his willingness to learn from others demonstrated his humble, servant attitude. I always saw Ray as an example to aim at; an example of the power of God’s word and Spirit to ground and settle a man, something which was so evident through his last illness.
Paul Morris, Oxford

Having Ray as my mentor in the early years of my ministry, and a friend ever since, is one of the greatest privileges I have known. Ray was a gentleman evangelist and profound theological thinker whose insights and experience of Judaism and Jewish people were invaluable. Ray’s influence and impact on my life was extensive. For instance, it was Ray who first suggested that I go to work in Israel, where I ended up meeting my wife!

Ray was intelligent – but also tough –with a great sense of humour. What an enriching opportunity it was to get to know him, benefitting from his wisdom and experience, and counting him as a dear friend who will be sorely missed.
Leeds

On my first visit to Scotland back in the 1980s, Ray introduced me to the haggis! I had just started working with CWI and was on my first Scottish deputation tour. When Ray met me at the airport, he could see that I was nervous about the trip but quickly made me feel at ease. He was genuinely interested in hearing about how I had been called to Jewish mission. Suddenly, Ray stopped the car in the middle of the road, got out and picked up a small, dead, spiky animal. He showed it to me and asked, ‘Have you seen a haggis before?’ I told him I hadn’t as he smiled and buried it near the roadside.

At dinner later, in an attempt to initiate conversation with my Scottish hosts, I told them that earlier I had seen a dead haggis on the road... they all burst into laughter! I will always remember Ray for his wonderful sense of humour but especially for his godly wisdom,
gentleness and kindness.
London

We got to know Ray and his family on We got to know Ray and his family on our first trip to the UK. Ray had his own quiet way of going about his daily work. The day began with a time of prayer and the reading of God’s Word before Ray would take us visiting his various contacts. He had a unique way of engaging his Jewish friends in conversation. He would begin by showing an interest in what they professed to believe before going on to sow the good seed of the gospel. We are confident there will be a harvest from his labours of love.

Ray was a true man of God! He started the day with reaching Jewish people in mind and upon returning home there was prayer for those visited. Ray gained the confidence of those he visited, hence they willingly asked him to visit a son, a daughter, or family member. Our special love goes out to the McCabe family who have been richly blessed through a godly husband, father and friend of the Jewish people.
Brian and Vicky Wells, New Zealand

When I first joined CWI in Glasgow in 1997, I asked Ray which library I should go to for books pertaining to Jewish evangelism and ministry. He answered, ‘The Ray McCabe library!’ He had a wonderful collection of books. I treasure all the time I spent with Ray over the years since then and the wise answers he often gave to my questions. On many occasions his wife Nel would provide answers of her own as well. Ray lived an exemplary life and he was very highly regarded by all, especially by many the Jewish friends whose lives he touched. He will be sadly missed.
Glasgow

Dad was fully convinced of the existence of God, of the relationship that he had with God, of the opportunity that God gives us to join with him in eternity after this life and of the faith that God asks of us in return. Dad spent his life seeking to share this reality and faith with others and wanted nothing more than to see everyone he met enjoy that relationship too. I remember Dad, on the last alert day he had, taking the hand of one of his carers and, pulling her in closely, asking, ‘Do you know the Lord?’ and then going on to tell the story of his own coming to faith. And that was so characteristic of him...

Gavin McCabe

This article was first published in the Spring Herald 2015

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