Jeff Friedman grew up in a Jewish family, attended an Orthodox Jewish synagogue every week, and lived in the city with the world's largest Jewish population: Brooklyn, New York. The brief encounters he had with Christians left him with a negative impression of the faith during his first 26 years of life.
"Christians offended me; they turned me off," Friedman says. "I basically hated Christians."
One day in 1980, after Friedman moved to Miami as part of his job as a government pharmacist, he went to get a haircut. Mitzi, the hairstylist at the salon, was a Jewish woman - who attended an Assemblies of God church.
"She challenged me as a Jew to study the Jewish Scriptures as they pertain to the Messiah," Friedman recalls. "She spoke to me in a way that made sense."
A week later, after accepting an invitation to a Christmas party at the church, Friedman came to faith in Y'shua (the Hebrew name for Jesus). He immediately sensed a calling, realizing that the overwhelming majority of Jews never hear a culturally relevant presentation of the gospel.
"I have a desire to see fellow Jews come to know this blessing I know," says the enthusiastic and energetic Friedman.
Friedman became a licensed AG minister, graduated from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, and for 17 years served as an AG U.S. missionary while the rabbi of Beth Emanuel, a Messianic synagogue in Philadelphia. When on a ministry outreach team in Eastern Europe, Friedman saw Jewish people living in abject physical and spiritual poverty. The experience motivated him to broaden his vision.
Friedman visited with L. John Bueno, AG World Missions executive director. He discovered that while the Fellowship had undertaken missionary efforts to Jewish people, no such global outreaches existed. Friedman devised the concept of an organization called Jacob's Hope (jacobshope.com) as the first AG World Missions effort to engage the worldwide Jewish community.
|(From left) Chris Mann, Jeff Coose and Jeff Friedman prepare to unload supplies of the first container delivered to Israel.|
"It's latent in our Fellowship that people want to do something for the Jewish people," Bueno says. "This is our only ministry to reach Jews throughout the world."
"A lot of people are supporting Jewish ministries that are not run by Christians," Friedman says. "Those groups provide humanitarian aid. But the gospel is not shared, so people aren't being evangelized."
Jacob's Hope assists both Jewish and Messianic congregations in a variety of practical ways. These include feeding Ukrainians, clothing Israelis, providing teaching materials to Belarusians, and operating a farm to employ Ethiopians.
Friedman is assisted by Vixie, his wife of 28 years. They met in Frankfurt, Germany, where they both worked at a U.S. Army medical center. Vixie, then a Methodist from Alabama, served as a military corps nurse while Jeff worked as a Department of Defense pharmacist.
The ministry has three other AG missionary couples as part of the team: Chris and Shawna Mann; Jeff and Tammy Coose; and a couple directing operations on the ground in Israel.
"I've had a longtime burden for Jewish people," says Chris Mann, who had been an AG pastor in Kansas, Kentucky and Iowa. "It is an honor to serve the Jewish people not only in Israel but globally with Jeff."
In August, Jacob's Hope teamed with Convoy of Hope for the first time and distributed a 40-foot container that included medical supplies and clothing in Israel with the help of Messianic Jews in the Holy Land. Jacob's Hope has three compassion ministry distribution centers in Israel. Jacob's Hope will team with HealthCare Ministries for the first time in January in a visit to the Ethiopian Jewish community.
Jacob's Hope also has been active in Germany, Poland, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine. The ongoing vision includes operating a soup kitchen, repairing homes, building medical clinics, conducting job training and providing funds to dig wells.
As Jacob's Hope grows, Friedman says there will be opportunities for AG laypeople, who have a cultural understanding of Judaism, to take missions trips to distribute goods, work in coffeehouses and construct buildings.
Friedman believes Genesis 12:3 is a God-given promise to bless those who bless the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He also notes that in Romans 15 the apostle Paul writes that those who have received a spiritual inheritance from Jewish people are obligated to bring the blessings of heaven to them.
"We need to bring the Messiah to everybody, to the Jews with as much passion as we do with any other people group," Friedman says.
"I feel greatly blessed that we finally have a full-fledged ministry reaching Jewish people wherever they are," Bueno says.
AG General Superintendent George O. Wood, who has made dozens of trips to the Holy Land, also endorses the ministry.
"This is the first time that Assemblies of God adherents have a chance to invest in humanitarian, evangelistic and discipleship efforts to reach Jewish people around the world," Wood says.
Author: John W. Kennedy, Pentecostal Evangel