Born into this world some 65 years ago, I was given a name with a birth certificate to prove it. But now, many years later, married and after having four children and ten grandchildren, I am often called by another name … Jacques’ wife or the Pastor’s wife.
Being the youngest of three sisters, I grew up absolutely adoring my middle sister, Phyllis. She and I travelled a lot together, including taking a trip one summer to Europe and Israel. However, there was always an unsatisfied longing in my sister to discover a deeper purpose in life. She soon began seeking out the advice and teachings of a guru who had come to Montreal. Just about the same time Phyllis began her spiritual journey, I began dating Jacques. Because I admired my sister’s opinion so much, I would have willingly gone with her to these meetings and likely been very influenced by them. But Jacques, just having come into my life at that very time, and having come to faith only three months earlier, said to me, “No, you are not going to see this guru.”
As young as he was spiritually, he spoke with conviction. Perhaps it was Jacques’ earnest confidence in standing up for exclusive truth … (or perhaps it was the fact that I just happened to like him) … that caused me to heed his warning.
Phyllis eventually adopted the Hindu faith, married the guru, and eventually wound up in India, where she has been for the last 37 years. I married a messianic Jew then became one myself. What about my oldest sister? She became an Orthodox Jew, following the Lubavitch sect. How can such diversity of opinion evolve from one household where traditional Judaism, with all its wonderful culture, holidays, and history formed the bonds that should have otherwise unified our faith system?
I grew up in Montreal, Quebec in a neighborhood that boasted a very high percentage of Jewish people, Cote St Luc. But we lovingly gave it an alias: Cote St. Jew. Montreal has one of the highest rates of non-assimilation in marriage. And while Montreal might be home to the greatest bagels around, it ranked third, behind Jerusalem and New York, as the city housing the largest number of emigrated Holocaust survivors.
I was privileged to attend a Jewish day school where I learned to read, write, and speak English, French, Yiddish, and Hebrew. We ate kosher in our kitchen upstairs, but in the basement, we had our hidden high hill where the delicacies of pizza and Chinese food were savored on secretly disposable dishes.
So, what does a seemingly nice Jewish girl do when she meets a nice Jewish guy who tells her on their first encounter that if she doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ she is going to hell? That smart Jewish girl goes and tells her mother, “Mom, I just met this guy who told me I better believe in Jesus Christ,” to which my mother replied, “He’s a nut. Stay away!”
Most of us who often encounter restrictions from parents would then reply (as I did) by not listening to our mother’s advice. So, I continued to pursue Jacques and even asked him to marry me ten months later! Of course, we do not endorse a believer marrying an unbeliever. We are so grateful to the Lord in His mercy and grace, who waited so patiently for my coming to faith before Jacques really began ministering to people. For eight years, Jacques faithfully pursued the faith, while I withstood the Spirit’s call. He would work, read, and study while I would cook, clean, and raise four children. Every once in a while Jacques would tell me about the Bible, and I would retort, “Tell me anything you want, but don’t tell me about Jesus or Paul.”
In one of my outrages about my husband’s faith, I once came up to him face to face and with a pointed finger, I sternly warned him, “Don’t you dare think you are going to teach my children about Jesus. You will not teach them!” He looked at me and quietly replied, “You are right. I will not teach them. You will!” Those words caught me off guard, causing my mouth to drop into an unexpected silence. But even after my statement of rebuke, the Lord was so generous to allow me to one day be a teacher, not only to my own children, but also to the children at our congregation. A persecutor of the faith became a teacher of the faith. That’s just one example of God’s gracious sense of humor.
For many years, I refused to listen to anything concerning Jesus, but as the eighth year of my marriage drew to a close, the Spirit drew me to the Gospel through radio. It was there, where I began to hear new things about God. It was my hiding place. I recall listening to a morning show with Arnold Fruchtenbaum as the guest. I called in with a question that I thought would surely stump the man, but who would have guessed that years later, instead of questioning this teacher’s doctrine, I would end up studying under him for many years at Camp Shoshanah!
The radio continued to minister to me throughout my seeking days. I remember hearing Psalm 119 where David wrote, “Lord I love thy law and in it I mediate day and night.” What could that mean? I had gone to Jewish school, right? I learned about God and traditions, holidays and holiness, but I never considered “loving God” or knowing His Word in that way. It was as if all my customs and traditions had been my intermediary. But how was I to love God first-hand?
I longed to love Him, but I now understood that developing that kind of love meant undertaking a new kind of relationship with God – one where all my former tools to fix things would not work.
Was I willing to lose my Jewishness for that? Was I willing to face the threat of ending a relationship with my parents whom I loved so dearly?
One afternoon, just after picking up the kids from school, I parked the car in front of my house. I simply left them in the car, ran upstairs to my bedroom, shut the door, dropped down on my knees, and begged the Lord for revelation. The room was dark, the blinds were down, but what I saw that day felt lighter than anything I had ever experienced. As I cried out, a dim light began to rise from the floor. In parallel harmony, the burden on my shoulders rose with it. I felt such joy and relief. I saw nature’s Designer, and I knew there was a God. That experience of emotional joy lasted for six weeks. God was so incredibly generous to give me all that time to go public with my faith. But I didn’t. I never even told my husband until six months later. Only then, because he saw something going on and purposely asked me about my faith, was when I finally confessed it.
Once becoming a believer in Jesus, things became difficult. My parents would constantly tell my children that I was brainwashed and no longer Jewish. Several anti-missionaries visited us (not official deprogrammers per se, but many came to us from the Sephardic side, through Jacques’ brother’s request, being religiously orthodox himself). The good thing about anti-missionaries is that they can help separate the wheat from the tares. At one time, my parents had invited an anti-missionary to visit with us. We were a group of messianic Jews sitting around the table with this one anti-missionary. Through all the rhetoric that flew around the table that afternoon, the final guilt-filled accusation came when he stood up and in a blind rage, pointed his finger at us, and claimed that we were responsible for his grandmother’s death in the Holocaust camps. He told us that leaving our faith was like killing our own.
Now at that time, we were living upstairs from my parents in an upper duplex. This anti-missionary had instructed my parents to put the number “666” on the garage door and front door of their house. He also convinced them to put this phrase on each doorframe inside the house … “You shall hate your mother and father if you are my disciples.”
This difficult and heart wrenching situation somehow gave me the strength to come out of the closet and share with them the advent of the Rapture! While they most likely thought I was insane, perhaps God was preparing me for my own Rapture of sorts, because within one month, we bought a house and moved away.
All during these difficult days and years, the love that my parents kept for me, and vice versa, never failed us allowing me to keep close to them, despite the presence of the sword that separated us. And this love permitted me to be present with my father during the last 24 hours of his life.
My father had become gravely ill. He had a brain stem stroke, which means that he was not able to speak, but he was still able to hear. My mother was a wonderful caregiver. I don’t think she missed a day in the hospital caring for my father unless it was for an urgent doctor’s appointment. She was always there for him. During the last 24 hours of my dad’s life, I went to see him. My friend, who came to the hospital to encourage me, suggested that I call my mom and tell her to rest at home. This would give her the break she needed and allow me the opportunity to spend time alone with my father. My mother was very obstinate to the faith, even more than my father. I had spoken to him about the Messiah over the years and about prophecies, but with no commitment from him in any direction.
I spent time telling him how much I loved him as a father, and I told him how much God loved him as a son. I gently sang Hebrew songs to him. My face was close to his, as I caressed his hair and asked myself, “What can I sing or say to him to speak of God’s love?” So, a song came to my heart as I shared with him. It is based on John 3:16. After singing the second verse, “For God did not send His into the world to bring condemnation, but rather that through receiving Him, men might find true salvation… and have life everlasting,” I asked him, “Dad, do you believe that message I just sang to you? Daddy, do you believe it?” I asked him to squeeze my hand … and he did. In fact, unbelief made me ask him two more times. He squeezed my hand again and again.
It is always profitable to write a testimony of the Lord’s work in our lives. It gives us the opportunity to remember and appreciate each step the Lord took to bring us to where we are today. As I wrote earlier, radio ministered to me then as it does today. I am involved in radio ministry, where we produce programs of Jacques’ teaching for two stations. I am blessed to be a part of it. Just recently, we received a letter from a listener in Toronto who said that though his income was meager, he and his paralyzed mother were giving what they could to support the ministry. He went on to say that each night, as he puts his mother to bed, they listen to the radio program. As tears welled in my eyes while reading this, I thought about how important we are to one another, how our love transcends walls, how we’re walking into the hearts and homes of people, encouraging them, teaching them, comforting them, and loving them – just as the Spirit of God did for me in my own bedroom some 34 years ago. How wonderful to now be able to repeat in harmony with David, “Lord I love thy Law, and in it I mediate day and night.