December 14, 2012 – The evening began with Roman Clark blessing the food and Rabbi Loren Jacobs blessing the guests and lighting the menorah. This dinner reception honored the Hanukkah, which is also called the Festival of Lights or the Feast of Dedication, an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the SecondHoly Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt during the 2nd century BC. This was a fitting theme, considering that Hanukkah is a feast celebrated in remembrance of what God did for the Jewish people, and Shalom Ministry was now celebrating what God had done in this ministry over the last 10 years. In the Maccebean Revolt, God gave His people the victory over the Greeks king Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Likewise, God has given Shalom amazing victories despite overwhelmingly adverse odds in the last ten years of ministry. Now was a time to give thanksgiving and praise to God for the victories of our past and to ask for continued blessings in our mission to bring the promised Messiah, whom we know as the Light of the World, to the Jewish people. Therefore, Rabbi Loren lit the candles of the menorah, radiating the its light throughout the celebration, bringing us into remembrance of Yeshua, the Light of the World, His admonition to us to be lights to our lost generation – the the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. (Rom 1:16)
The evening began with Pastor John Denson recognizing Tim Broe, the former Chairman of the Board for Shalom Ministry, and now Board Advisor, with a dedication of service award. Considering the advances over the last three years, under Tim’s guidance, this acknowledgment of his contributions to the growth and positive direction of the ministry was well deserved.
Afterwards, I, Don Lett, narrated over a pictorial video presentation recapping Shalom Ministry’s efforts in evangelism over the last 10 years. I began with Pastor Denson’s vision of the ministry, which reminds me of John 15, when Jesus told His disciples, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” So, I began to contemplate the many branches that have grown out of John’s vision for the ministry, which now include a Board of Directors, staff, and many volunteers. Reviewing what the ministry has accomplished through the years, reminded me of branching out in many avenues, plowing the ground and sowing the seed of faith, all with the one purpose of bearing much fruit, by carrying the light of salvation to the Jews and also to the Gentiles.
Next, the President of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship, Rabbi Ric Worshill, presented Shalom Ministry with a Certificate of Appreciation. Just before the presentation of this award, Rabbi Worshill shared that Pastor John had come to some meetings of the Messianic Fellowship, and witnessed the truth that the Messiah had already come, which impacted families in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. Once again, I began to contemplate about a man’s vision and many branches of light reaching out to a world steeped in blindness – to the Jew first and to the Gentiles as well.
After this, the Pastor was acknowledge for his work by Sidney Becon with a Resolution from Detroit. Afterwards, Congressional Candidate, Dorian Coston presented Pastor Denson with Resolutions from the cities of West Bloomfield and Southfield.
Rachel Washington then delivered one of the most inspirational solo performances I have ever been graced to hear. She sang two songs that let the audience awestruck. She was dynamic, energetic, and riveting, pouring out her love for King Messiah in two rousing song celebrations. The group was engaged and infused with the power and the energy of the Holy Spirit.
Ms. Washington had certainly broken the unplowed ground of the the heart. Now it was time to seek the LORD until He comes and sends righteousness on like the rain. (Hos 10:12) Dr. Raleigh Washington was up to the task. This was the moment, I and many others, were anticipating with great desire. Dr. Washington is Promise Keeper’s President and CEO, and the Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors. He is the founder of the Rock Of Our Salvation Evangelical Free Church in Chicago, IL. He co-authored “Breaking Down Walls: A Model of Reconciliation in an Age of Racial Strife” with Glen Kehrein, which was the 1994 Gold Medallion winner from the Christian Booksellers Association. He was awarded Doctor of Peacemaking by Westminister College, making him the third recipient of the award.(Mother Teresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu having received it previously). As an ex-paratrooper, I was impressed that he was Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, having earned the Bronze Star for meritorious service in Vietnam and serving as a Major in the 82nd Airborne.
Dr. Washington walked to the front with his bible in hand and set it down on the podium. He began his talk with a joke about Christianity and race that I can’t quite remember, but it was funny and yet served as a perfect segue into the topic of his discussion. This should not have come as a surprise, considering that one of Dr. Washington’s driving passions throughout his ministry with the Lord has been about breaking down the racial barriers that divide Christians. He began speaking of Jesus’ last prayer with His disciples in John 17. With his finger resting on a closed bible, Dr. Washington began to quote many of the verses in John 17 like, ”I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.” (Joh 17:20) Then he said that a Messianic Jew had helped him understand that this verse was speaking of Jews and Gentiles. “Those who will believe” were the Gentiles, and “through their word” were the Jews who believed in Jesus. The purpose being, “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (Joh 17:21) When Jews and Gentiles proclaim that Jesus is Messiah, this confounds the world. It causes them to look in confusion. When blacks, whites and Jewish believers in God are as one, the world stands and takes notice. More importantly, this is the transformation of the world.
Next, Dr. Washington, began to speak about the Book of Ruth. Here, was a Gentile that would not leave her mother-in-law after her husband had died. She told Naomi wherever you will go, I will go. Because of her faithfulness to her mother-in-law, she was found by her kinsman redeemer, Boaz, and became the grandmother of in the lineage of the Messiah. Furthermore, she was honored with a book in the bible telling her story with her name. He continued to expound upon and quote the words of the scripture, while tapping his finger lightly upon his closed Bible. He never missed any of his points. The focus of the discussion was we are one, but we need to continue to reach out to the Jewish community and our Messianic brothers in Christ.
As the evening drew to a close, I began to contemplate Jesus as the Vine and His disciples as the original branches. A Vine that began with the Jews, that now encompasses the entire earth, of which I am a small Gentile branch. Considering how God honored Jesus’ last prayer and the faithfulness of these twelve Jewish disciples, caused me to ask several questions. What branches will grow out of my life? What will it look like hundred of years from now? How much I owe those faithful Jews, who brought to us God’s Light to the Gentiles? I left that evening considering the Apostle Paul’s words to the Roman Gentiles, “…my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” Lord let that heart be in me also, according to Your Word. Amen – Don Lett