We recently had the privilege to baptize Gila*, an Orthodox Jewish woman who has found true freedom in Jesus and unashamedly testifies of Him everywhere she goes.
When Gila was just four years old, her parents suddenly went from being secular Israeli Jews to being strictly observant Orthodox Jews – almost overnight!
She told us, “Suddenly we had to follow all the thousands of laws that the rabbis instituted. It was overwhelming. Over time, I began to see and feel on a daily basis that these laws that aren’t even from the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) were an impossible burden.”
She started seeing corruption in the system, too. “The rabbis kept telling my Dad that if he’d give them money, he would be blessed. He’s been giving them money for years and years, and his situation has only gotten worse.”
About nine years ago, Gila got married to an Ethiopian-Israeli Jewish man, and they had two lovely kids together. But one day she was shocked to hear that he wanted to divorce her. She was absolutely heartbroken. “I thought we were doing well together. I tried to keep us together, but according to the rabbis, if the man wants a divorce, even if there is no reason for it whatsoever, he gets to do it.”
Gila tried to pick up the shambles of her life and find the strength to raise two kids on her own. Since she always had a special affinity for Ethiopia, she decided to visit there. She met a charming Orthodox Christian man there, fell in love, and a while later got married.
One day while at his parents house in Ethiopia, she saw a brief scene on a movie they were watching of Jesus, Yeshua, being crucified. She was stunned to see the inscription over his head, “Yeshua of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” She told us, “I didn’t even know He was Jewish!”
As soon as she got back to Israel, she started researching more about Yeshua. She had read only part of the Tanakh in school, but the Israeli schools don’t study the Prophets. So she decided to read the entire rest of the Tanakh on her own. “I started seeing Yeshua all throughout the Tanakh, especially in the Prophets. I couldn’t believe what had been hidden from me! He’s our Messiah!”
She also researched online, and read the entire New Testament on her own in a short time. When we asked her what stood out to her from it, she said, “Especially the words of Yeshua. One of my favorite sayings of His is, ‘“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27). He showed that God didn’t want us to be bound by tons of man-made laws that weigh us down, but rather He gave us good rules for our benefit.”
Faith stirred in her heart as she read more, and she understood she needed the forgiveness and grace that Yeshua gives. “When I came to believe in Him, for the first time ever, I felt truly free.”
She was excited to see our evangelistic videos, and started responding to some of the Israelis who were writing negative comments about our faith. When our team member Kim saw her comments, she contacted her privately. It turns out Gila had just decided to follow Yeshua, but didn’t know a single other, born-again follower of Yeshua in the world!
Kim started taking her under her wings, doing video chats and encouraging her regularly. When she saw that Gila understood the Gospel and the divinity of Yeshua, she asked if Gila was ready to take the next step and start obeying Yeshua as Lord, being baptized in His name. She said she wanted to!
Before the baptism, we met with her, heard her whole story, answered her questions, and prayed with her. She expressed her anger at the rabbis for leading our people astray all these years, but we shared with her, “It’s important to realize that many of them thought that what they were doing was right. We need to forgive those who wronged us just like God forgave us in Messiah, and have compassion on them instead of bitterness.” She recognized this was right and decided to forgive not only them, but everyone in her family and elsewhere who had hurt her.
We encouraged her, “God said there has been a spiritual blindness over our people, but He also promised that one day the veil will be removed and all Israel will be saved. And now you and we can be a part of that, praying for our people and sharing the Good News of our Messiah with them!” You could see the sparkle of excitement in her eyes as she processed this truth with us.
In fact, we could see that she really has a gift in evangelism and apologetics. She’s been sharing the Gospel with people at the supermarket. She started making notes for herself of all sorts of points she could use in apologetics. She’s defending the faith on the comments of our evangelistic videos. Even when we sat down for lunch with her later on, she got out the phone while she was waiting for others to order and started sharing the Gospel on the comments of an Israeli news channel page!
But none of us were aware of the surprise God had prepared for us at the baptism.
A Daring Baptism
Gila had looked for a spring nearby, and sensed we should go to a certain one. But when we got there, it was a tiny spring and tons of people were all around – both secular and Orthodox Jews. Knowing that baptizing a Jewish woman into faith in Yeshua is considered by most Israelis, and especially Orthodox Jews, to be “stealing a Jewish soul” into a “foreign religion,” I asked Gila, “Are you OK with doing this here with all these people around?”
She just looked at me and said, “Yeah, of course!” Even though she’s quite introverted, she’s definitely not ashamed of her faith!
We did the baptism and God met us there in a special way with His presence. Then on the way out, I sensed that I should give one of our cards with our evangelistic website on it to the guys running the park.
One of them immediately asked, “Wait, are you Messianic Jews?” When I said we are, he got excited, “Oh, I’ve watched videos about you but have never met one of you before! I have tons of questions!”
We got to share the Gospel with him and he was quite interested. And then he told us, “By the way, many people believe that this spring you were just at is the place where Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch.”
When Gila heard this, she was totally amazed at God’s sovereignty and love. She’s always had such a strong connection to Ethiopia, and so this was the perfect place for her to be baptized. We all thought she was just randomly choosing a place, but God knew what He was doing!
Gila is very excited about joining our discipleship group that we’re launching, and also we’re connecting her at the same time to a local congregation. Please pray for her, that she would grow strong in faith, have a courageous heart to obey Yeshua in all things, and have wisdom and grace to share the Gospel with her husband who isn’t born again and with the rest of her religious family. And please pray that she will fully develop in her gifts and calling and build God’s Kingdom with us!
Please Pray with Us:
- URGENT: Google and Youtube shut down all our ads as we shared here – please pray for a miracle!
- That God would help us as we’re launching the new discipleship groups in person and online in Israel, that exactly the right people would be in each group, and that each one would be set free from every bondage, filled with the Holy Spirit, grounded in God’s Word, and become effective witnesses for Yeshua!
- For anointing in sharing the Gospel and following up with many Israeli seekers as our evangelistic videos have reached over 1.5 million views per month in recent months, by God's grace
- For God to send out all the laborers needed to meet the urgent need in our evangelistic and Pro-Life work
- For wisdom in organizing our next Street Outreaches
- For the new believers in other countries:
Zechariah, a former Muslim who just recently received Yeshua after speaking with our team member Roger. Zechariah and his wife and three children have received death threats in Jordan and had to flee their home. We connected them with believers who are helping them now. We hope to share more soon, but for now please pray for God’s providence, protection and wisdom, and for a new beginning in a new place in their land.
- For more Israelis to choose life:
Sarah, a 34-year-old, single, religious Jewish woman who is terribly afraid of anyone in her society finding out she’s pregnant. She seems to be at the beginning of her pregnancy and desperately wants to abort! Let’s pray God will help her see that this is a precious child and give her the courage to do what’s right.
Dorit, a 29-year-old, single woman, is pregnant but feels she can’t raise a child in her current poor economic situation. Even though she was offered financial help, she still hasn’t changed her mind yet. But God can break through!