Stephen, a young blind Jewish man, contacted the missionary charity Christian Witness to Israel wanting to learn more about the Christian faith. However, he was worried about how his Orthodox family would react. The CWI office put him in touch with their Director of Ministry, Richard Gibson, who contacted Stephen to find out more.
Stephen had been attending the Torch Trust for the Blind meetings for some time. He had shared his interest in following Jesus with someone at Torch and after expressing fear of rejection by his Orthodox family, they advised him to call CWI.
Richard returned his call and they arranged to meet after Christmas. However, just a couple of hours later Stephen called Richard back to say that he couldn’t wait that long and asked if he could visit him sooner. Richard gladly agreed so they arranged to meet the following day.
Believe and repent
As soon as Richard arrived at Stephen’s flat they got straight down to talking about the Lord. Stephen explained to Richard that he believed Jesus was the Messiah who had been promised in the Hebrew Bible but was very worried about how his parents would react.
Being registered blind, he was very reliant on their help. Richard asked Stephen if he had already repented of his sin and accepted Jesus as his Saviour and Lord but the young man was unsure if he had gone that far.
In response, Richard explained the gospel to him, beginning at the first Messianic prophecy in Genesis 3:15 which shows that God would pay a physical price to destroy the enemy.
Stephen can’t read the Bible for himself so relies on audio recordings but, at the time, he knew the basics of the Bible. He was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah but Richard told him that mere intellectual belief is not enough; even Satan does that and his fate is sealed.
Richard made it clear that Stephen needed to repent of his sins in order to receive Jesus’s free gift of salvation. Stephen nodded before telling Richard that he believed the truth of the gospel and wanted to follow Jesus.
Today is the day
Richard asked Stephen if he wanted to pray and acknowledge Jesus as his Lord. He hesitated and again said that he was scared that his mother would withdraw her support and help from him. Stephen told Richard that she regularly threatened to do just that and used it as a form of control, adding that it didn’t really work!
Richard reasoned with him that if that was the case, he might as well have her threaten him over something important. He replied, ‘Yes, that is so right!’
Emphasising that the Bible says, ‘Today is the day of salvation,’ Richard asked Stephen again if he wanted to pray and was delighted when he said he did. Stephen repented of his sin and enthusiastically professed faith in Jesus as his Saviour!
A new creation
At his baptism a few months later, Stephen said, ‘When Richard asked me if I wanted to pray for God to forgive my sin and accept Jesus as my Saviour and Lord, because “today is the day of salvation”, I was ready to do that – it was what God wanted me to do. I prayed to ask Jesus to forgive my sin and be my Messiah and Lord.’
As Stephen gave his testimony, he went on: ‘Soon I will be baptised… I go down into the water and symbolically die, like Jesus did, and I am raised up as a new creation in Jesus to follow him for the rest of my life.’
A new chapter
Since that time, Stephen has gone from strength to strength in his new faith and Richard has continued to disciple him. Soon after he professed faith, his story was published in CWI’s Herald magazine. Stephen asked for multiple copies so that he could share his story with others whom he met in the course of everyday life.
Already a keen fundraiser and now excited to see other Jewish people come to know their Saviour, Stephen even raised funds for CWI by doing a sponsored bungee jump soon after coming to faith.
Many prayers were offered for the situation concerning Stephen’s family and the rejection he was fearful of facing, particularly from his mother. This fear was not unfounded; it is common for Jewish people to be shunned by their family and community once they come to faith in Jesus and this was a real concern for this young, blind, Jewish man. In Stephen’s case these fears were amplified due to the level of support he received from his family.
However, prayers were clearly answered: when Stephen finally told his family they didn’t reject him but were surprisingly accepting of his new faith and the direction his life was taking.
Having settled in a local church, Stephen met a Christian woman and they ended up getting married before moving from Leeds to Northern Ireland. Stephen’s extended family came to his wedding, as did Richard.
Stephen had warned Richard that his uncle ‘wanted to have a word’ as he wasn’t keen on missionaries. When Richard was introduced to Stephen’s uncle they spoke about the nature of mission and Richard was able to address some of the concerns and misconceptions which Stephen’s Orthodox Jewish uncle held.
Today, Stephen’s heart for evangelism is evident to those that know him and have seen him grow in the Lord. Just recently – inspired by another CWI missionary who goes door-to-door in Jewish areas of North London and shares the gospel on the city’s streets – he told Richard that he wants more opportunities to share the good news of Jesus with others.
‘Stephen’ is a pseudonym.