"Moishe Rosen never thought he was God's gift to Jewish evangelism," Ruth says. "It was always the other way around. He always felt that telling Jewish people about Jesus was a gift and a duty that God had entrusted to him. His legacy is to pass that gift and that duty to others."
In a sense, he already has. Though still a board member and missionary, Rosen is so often publicly identified with Jews for Jesus that some forget he stepped down as executive director in 1996.
Yet the organization hasn't suffered. Today it employs more than 100 missionaries in 11 nations. The ministry has 148 volunteer chapters and 200 volunteers who accompany staff on short-term evangelism projects, camps and internships. JFJ personnel distributed approximately 2.8 million tracts last year and spoke in 2,700 evangelical churches.
David Brickner, who held seven staff positions before replacing Rosen, says his preparation for leadership was the same as other candidates: a combination of mentoring, challenging, opportunity and hard work.
"He is a man who never stops teaching and is a man of insatiable curiosity," Brickner says. "His questions and ponderings about life, ministry and the Scriptures were conversations we were invited into whenever we were with him."
The director says the ministry's 37 years of existence is a testament to the systems, values, and biblical and ethical principles Rosen put in place that have stood the test of time.
The leading principle that still drives the ministry is direct Jewish evangelism, something that includes constant rejection, hostility and lawsuits. The latter included one from comic Jackie Mason after his picture appeared on a tract in 2006 (JFJ withdrew it after an apology).
"We strive for excellence in all we do," Brickner says. "If we say we're going to do something and we fall short of doing that, then we want to be honest enough to say we fell short. We're not going to call failure a victory."
The victories range into the thousands. According to Solomon, more than 50,000 Jewish people worldwide follow Christ, a figure attributable to many ministries, yet still one that reflects JFJ's impact.A Miraculous Ministry
Born in Denver, Rosen came to Christ in 1953, the same year as his wife, Ceil. Though he often cited the arguments of atheist authors, nothing shook Ceil's faith. One evening as Rosen read a pamphlet about heaven in a mocking tone, its truth penetrated his heart.
A year later came the first of many miracles he would experience. It happened en route from Colorado to a Bible college in New Jersey. One night near the end of the trip, as he was about go to sleep, Rosen heard a voice say: "Tires. Check the tires."
Since he had inspected the car prior to the trip, he wondered why. Still, he went outside to look. Nothing.
Back in his room, ready to go to sleep, he heard the voice again. He took a flashlight outside and crawled under the car. There he saw a huge bulge in the right front tire's sidewall.
"When he got to the tire shop the next morning, the man couldn't believe he had made it from the hotel," says Ruth, who learned of the story during book research. "That was a crisis averted-one of those special times when God showed He was definitely watching over him."
Another occurred in 1966 when Rosen was on his first deputation tour with the American Board of Missions to the Jews (now Chosen People Ministries). Driving through Arizona one morning he stopped at a convenience store, where a stranger stuck a knife in his ribs and said, "Your money or your life."
"You can have my money," Rosen replied. "You could never take my life, because it belongs to Christ. But if you kill me, I go to be with Him. Well, what about you?"
"Are you a Baptist?" the man responded before breaking into tears and halting his robbery attempt. The next morning, Rosen found a switchblade on the seat of his car.
One of the more dramatic moments in Rosen's life occurred in 1982 when he sent an appeal letter to raise $120,000 to place gospel ads in 10 major newspapers. The letter raised $400,000. Since he had pledged to spend the funds on advertising, he included outlets such as Time magazine to finish the job.
As gratifying as such experiences are, Rosen laments what he feels is evangelistic ground being lost as he draws near the end of his career.
He sees the battle receding on several fronts. One is confronting people with the gospel, a tactic he fears is fading from the influence of "friendship evangelism." Making friends with someone so they will then listen to you on matters of faith doesn't work with serious Jews, he says.
"I'm not against friendship and I do have many friends among the Jews," Rosen says. "But these are friends who have made it clear to me that we're going to be friends until or unless I start trying to persuade them about Jesus."
Another is ecumenical ministries that emphasize Christian-Jewish relations but at the expense of foregoing efforts to share the gospel. He cites the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which raises more than $80 million a year, 10 times as much as Chosen People's evangelistic outreach.
Among other disappointments are leaders who asked to visit JFJ to learn how to run a successful ministry but after arriving only wanted lessons in fundraising.
Still, Rosen reflects, you give what you can and hope that people will respond: "Some respond well, and others respond with treachery."
Though some point to the longevity of JFJ as one of Rosen's notable accomplishments, the founder shrugs that he didn't start a ministry; he just answered God's call to become a missionary. That he had to wade through considerable opposition never bothered him.
"I've always found that when I was doing God's will, I was fighting the hardest," Rosen says. "The battles were always hard-fought, hard-won, and you had to hold on very hard. I usually knew that I was in God's will because of the opposition."
That's a good lesson for any evangelist to remember.
Ken Walker, a writer based in Huntington, West Virginia, has written previously about Jews for Jesus for Charisma.
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