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STORIES: “A Call to the Jews” Part One

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by Betty Tanner

The year 1972 was to bring a big change in my life and Tuesday, November 7th, was the beginning of that change. For my daily readings I was going through Romans 10. I knew as soon as I began to read that there was something different about it. It was like a magnet holding my attention and concentration, and when I reached verse 21,

“But to Israel He saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” —Romans 10:21 KJV

The New International Version renders it as,

“But concerning Israel He says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people’.” —Romans 10:21 NIV

For the moment I was rooted to my chair, and as I pondered those words I found myself saying, “Is the Lord calling me to work among His people—the Jews?”

The next thing I remember was that my kitchen was filled with the presence of the Lord, for that is where I was sitting at the time. I cannot say that I had a vision of Jesus but I felt His presence intensely and fell to my knees sobbing my heart out. And God began to show me His love for His people—the Jews.

The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31) became a reality in that moment as I saw something of that being enacted before me. As I was made so aware of God’s love for His people so the Lord began to fill me with that same love, breaking my heart at the same time as I experienced a little of the heart break and longing that He has toward His people.

I say a little because I do not think the human heart could stand the full measure of the tremendous love that He has for them still.

Q & A

For a follower of Christ, what is LOVE—a feeling, an emotion, or an action?

I had known sorrow and grief in a large measure in the loss of my husband, but it was not to be compared with the grief and sorrow of the father for the prodigal son. This has stayed with me over the years and has also kept me faithful to my call to reach them. This calling was going to be so very different from my past experience as a Pastor’s wife had been. The Lord had brought me into a completely new dimension.

I began to understand the relationship of God with the Jewish People in a much deeper way. Before we left the Manse, I remember on one occasion when I was having my quiet time how the Lord began to speak to me and drew my mind to the verse in Matthew 11:29,

“Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart” —Matthew 11:29 KJV

I pondered those words in the quietness and found the Holy Spirit opening them up more clearly to me. The yoke meant a bending of my neck in submission to Him. I knew that I had got a lonely path to tread ahead of me, and now I was seeing a very humble path too, and I must stay close to Him if I was going to learn from Him and adorn something of that meek and lowly heart.

I knew He would not expect perfection, for He understands our frailty. But that my heart was open to Him to fulfill all His plans for me in the years that lay ahead I knew was important and what I could not do He would.

When I finally rose from my knees on that November morning I was asking, “Now what Lord?”

He reminded me that the lady who was to be our speaker next day for our Women’s meeting was from the Mildmay Mission to the Jews. How perfectly the Lord had planned that, for the Church had never had a speaker from a Jewish Mission before. Mrs. Osborne, the lady I refer to, had sometime earlier been booked for the meeting, recommended by a leader of another Women’s Meeting where I had gone to speak.

Meeting Mrs. Osborne was the next step. After the meeting I turned to her and shared what I had experienced the day before. She responded immediately with, “There is no doubt that you have received a call from the Lord to work among the Jewish people.”

Mrs. Osborne was a person of much experience regarding this work. She proceeded to advise me as to what my next step should be and told me to write to the Mildmay Mission to Rev. Bendor Samuel pointing out to me that this Mission may not be the one I would join, but at least it would be a step in the right direction, and the Lord would take me on from there.

That was wise advice, because that is exactly what happened. She did add while she was speaking to me, that she hoped that I would be joining their Mission.

It was all so very encouraging and a confirmation to the call. I wrote to Rev. B. Samuel and a date and time was arranged for me to go to see him, 8th December 1972. Before I left home that morning I turned to the Lord and asked Him to go before me and reveal His Will. He gave me a word in return, which was found in John 11:40,

Jesus said unto her, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldst believe, thou shalt see the glory of God?” —John 11:40 KJV

The New International Version rendered it this way,

then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” —John 11:40 NIV

I felt that He was saying to me if you believe you shall see the glory of God. I set out on the strength of that word knowing that He would be going before me and with me.

I eventually arrived at the Mildmay Mission after a confused journey. From Birmingham to London was straightforward, but it was when I approached the underground that I ran into difficulty. I did not know where to start. I spotted a Salvation Army Officer, “Ah!” I said to myself, “he will help me,” and I felt safe approaching him. But, to my astonishment, he brushed past me and completely ignored me.

Regaining my senses, I thought, he obviously did not see me as a lady in distress! “Dear Lord,” I whispered “whom can I ask to direct me to the platform to catch the train to get to my destination.” I was on strange ground and could easily have gotten lost, but the Lord was with me and in no time at all a young man appeared and seeing me looking lost, came to my aid and saw me onto the right train. Then he disappeared, just as quickly. Could he have been an Angel? I pondered.

I arrived at the Mildmay Mission and Rev. B. Samuel was there waiting for me. However, it did not take long in view of his questions and where they needed a worker to learn that the Mildmay Mission was not for me. I made my way back to the Underground Station, this time to get a train to Victoria. I knew my way on this line, so there was no difficulty there. I stepped onto the train, feeling very despondent, and there arose from my heart. “Well Lord, there is not much glory in this,” I whispered. But the Lord had got it all under His control and had been silently planning for me.

My eldest brother lived in Petts Wood, Orpington, Kent and so as I was coming down to London for that interview, it was arranged that I should pay them a visit. The thoughts of seeing Bert and Jean, my sister-in-law, lifted the despondency a little as I looked forward to seeing them again. Being so far away I could not often do that journey.

Little did I realize what the Lord had planned, for my visit.

My train arrived at Petts Wood, and I made my way round to their home. On the way I suddenly was aware of the presence of the Lord and I found myself saying, “Lord I do believe that you have called me to work with the Jewish people.”

The despondency left me, and I felt a peace fill my heart. I arrived, before my brother came in from work. As he came, in he greeted me, and then said “Betty, I am going to introduce you on Sunday to a gentleman who attends our Church.”

I was soon talking to Ken Burnet, a Messianic Jew and the Director of Prayer for Israel. It was arranged that my brother, on his way to the Sunday school that afternoon, should drop me off at Ken’s place. This proved a memorable time for me, and I was further encouraged as it was obviously another step forward to my call to the Jewish people.

I was able to share with him what I had experienced that Tuesday morning 7th November, and so much more. He was most interested and assured me that I had received such a call. He then asked me if I had heard of the Barbican Mission to the Jews? I replied that I had a vague knowledge of it. A bell was beginning to ring and when he mentioned Stephen Levinson’s name that too sounded familiar.

Ken went to phone through to the headquarters of the Barbican Mission to the Jews (now known as International Mission to the Jewish People). I sat quietly waiting, and as I did, pondered the name of Stephen Levinson. Where had I heard that name, what was the connection? Suddenly it came to me. Stephen Levinson had studied at the All Nations Bible College at the same time as Keith and they stayed in touch over the years, although they never met up again. Stephen, also a Messianic Jew, had met and married Rosina and they had been working with the Jews abroad - Rosina was a qualified nurse and midwife. At this point Ken had come back into the room and I turned my attention to what he was going to say. “It’s OK”, he said, "you are to go to the H.Q.’s tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., and smiling, added, and I can take you."

We had to go to Chislehurst, which was not very far, and Ken assured me that he would wait for me and take me to the station to get the train to London and then the coach to Birmingham. I needed to be home in time for Jill coming in from school; I had arranged for her to stay with friends.

It was not long before we were standing at the front door of the headquarters of the Barbican Mission. Ken rang the bell and soon we were ushered into the study of Mr. Levinson. The two men greeted each other and Ken withdrew. As I turned to the Director already his hand was extended to greet and receive me. We recognized each other and with a bright smile he welcomed me warmly. I knew at that moment that this man knew I was called to work with the Jewish people; the Holy Spirit witnessed this in my heart.

We talked for a while, he asking me questions about my family and myself. He began to say, “Now I would like you to meet,” and then he stopped, and said, “No, I would like the Committee to meet you.” It was arranged that I should have an interview with the Committee 24th January 1973. Then it was time for me to leave, and I was soon on my way home, just praising the Lord, for I had indeed seen something of the Glory of God that weekend.

The 24th January 1973 soon came round and I woke early that morning to be sure I was ready for the day ahead of me. It would have been Keith’s birthday so it had not been difficult for me to remember that date. My friend Thelly, as she was affectionately known, was coming with me. How thankful I was to have her company. Jill, my daughter started working on the 22nd January at Atlas designers (Architectural), so I was able to see her off assuring her at the same time that I would not be late getting back.

Thelma and I met at the station, took the train to New Street station where we transferred to the London train. Thelma was good company; she had a lovely sense of humor and could always find something to chat about, so kept the conversation going and that was most helpful.

For myself, I was feeling a little excitement, but at the same time I was very apprehensive wondering in my own thoughts, what was before me. We made an early start to ensure my being there well on time as my appointment was at 2.30 p.m. Our train arrived punctually, which gave us comfortable time to find our way round London and to be sure of our directions to the place of my appointment. We had some lunch at a nearby restaurant, lingering over this to kill time, of which we still had plenty. We made our way to Church House in London and my feet never felt so heavy as we approached the building, entered, and sat in the waiting cubicle. Half past two was still a long way off.

We watched people coming and going; the place seemed a hive of activity and somewhere among the maze of steps and corridors was a room, behind its door a decision to be made which was to change the course of my life. It was important to me. I did not treat God’s Will and purpose for my life lightly and I was greatly comforted in the assurance that the Committee before whom I should come would be of the same mind concerning God’s Will, in their decision as to my being an acceptable candidate for B.M.J.

The time drew near for my interview so we walked along the corridor and up a flight of stairs to locate the room where the Committee was met together. We stood and waited, what still seemed ages, then suddenly a gentleman appeared and called my name. He ushered me into the room; I was petrified. What I thought would be just a few gathered there, was instead, or so it seemed, a room full, as a sea of faces turned in my direction. Oh help! I cried inwardly as I shyly made my way to the only vacant seat and gingerly sat down, not daring to take in those many faces, except of course the Director’s. I knew his face on which was spread a welcoming smile as I sat down beside him. This was reassuring and gave me a little confidence, sufficient for me to glance up and oh! such a relief, as my eyes alighted on the face of Mrs. Levinson. She too smiled reassuringly.

Maybe it’s not so bad after all, I confided to myself. (What frail creatures we are.) Then the Chairman turning to me and asked me several questions. Quite apart from myself, I am sure, for I had not gathered my wits sufficient to think clearly, but the answer each time was on my tongue. How I lifted up my heart to the Lord in silent praise. Now I knew of a certainty that the Lord was with me. This was a further seal to His Divine call.

The interview was over. I breathed a sigh of relief, and in no time at all I emerged from that room to be greeted by another friendly smile, that of Thelma. I think she was as relieved as me that it was over. We could now relax and enjoy what little time we had left to do some sight seeing before wending our way back to Euston Station for the train home.

This was to be indeed a turning point in my life. I had experienced several changes since the death of my husband, very real changes that had not been without pain, but this was to be another step forward. What now did the future hold for me? I officially started with the B.M.J. on the 1st February 1973, and I was to meet up with the Rev. and Mrs. Anne Wooding also linked with B.M.J.

They had a tremendous love for the Jewish people and it was super meeting them. I spent many happy hours either in their home, in Kings Heath, or we would meet in Carrs Lane Church having been given permission to use one of their small rooms. They had a wealth of experience from which I could draw, and I learned much about the Jewish people as we shared and discussed and prayed much for them. It was not only their years of experience in serving the Lord or the knowledge they had gained, but also it was their lives that spoke so much to me. I saw meekness, obedience, and submission to the Will of God and above all Love, God’s Love.

They had toiled faithfully in their effort to make some contact with Jewish people that they might extend something of that love, but it seemed with little effect.

But how can we judge to what effects our efforts have produced? When the Lord is in control we remain just His instruments, He does the work. Only God Himself understands the Jewish heart, mind and what makes him tick, so only He knows how to woo and draw them individually to Himself. The confirmation I had received to my call and the encouragement that followed were indeed what the Lord had seen I would need in view of what next I had to experience.

Read Part Two of “A Call to the Jews”

Author: Betty Tanner. Used with permission from ASSIST News Service.