11pm. Saturday night. A restaurant.
I heard the clink of silverware as I excitedly spread the atlas on the table before me. My wife, adventure filling her eyes, scooted next to me in the booth.
I traced my finger from Oregon, south into California, toward the Sierra Nevadas. “We’ll head to the Crabb’s first. There is a university I can preach at in Fresno, just south of where they live.”
Annika nodded as the waitress set our food before us. Our two boys were sleeping soundly in the double stroller parked in front of the table.
“I can drive once you get tired,” my wife said. “If we’re planning to drive all through the night.”
That was the idea. We had spent a restful sabbath at our Messianic congregation. The pastor had laid hands on us, prayed, and sent us with his blessing. Our van packed with most of our essential belongings and the rest stored at my wife’s parents house, we were ready to hit the road. The Oregonian had given me a generous severance pay of over $4000. Mark from PSU had agreed to print out and distribute a monthly newsletter for us while we were on the road. We hoped to generate enough support by the time we ran out of our money.
At just past 2am, crossing the moon dappled mountainous border from Oregon into California, I felt myself nodding off, my hands slipping at the wheel.
“Daniel!” Annika was sitting in the very back of the van with the boys. “Go ahead and pull over.”
“How did you know I was drifting off?” I asked my wife while I climbed in back with the boys.
“Yah spoke to me. Told me to tell you to pull over,” she said simply.
I was so grateful that YahShua was already protecting us on our journey.
Bright morning California sun streamed through the diner in Sacramento. We were planning to stay with some friends of ours who had attended our Messianic congregation in Portland but had moved down to California in search of work and to be near family.
As Annika helped our two little ones eat, I called our friends.
“We’re about 3 hours from you guys,” I said.
Robert Crabb’s voice sounded ominous over the phone. “It has begun.”
“The President just announced we’re invading Iraq.”
“Are you serious?”
“Just in time for Purim,” Robert said.
So the nation was going to war right when we were headed out to do spiritual warfare on college campuses across the USA. It felt so prophetic.
We spent the next week preaching at CSU in Fresno, while staying with our friends in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains. As the week drew to a close, my wife and I realized we had no idea where we were going to stay for the rest of our road trip. $4,000 would get sucked up real fast in hotels and restaurants.
“I have something for you,” Robert’s wife, Alexis, said on our last morning in their home.
She placed a purple book in my hands called Mennonites Your Way. “It’s a directory of Mennonites all across the country that make it a ministry to take people in who are on the road doing evangelism.”
“Oh, wow,” I said, taking the book and flipping through the pages. “How did you find something like this?”
Alexis explained how she had been raised in a Mennonite church before becoming a Messianic. “There’s usually several families in almost every major city, some in smaller towns as well.”
Once again, YahShua was leading us, step by step, on this missionary journey, providing as we placed our faith in Him.
I remember well packing our van that bright morning. The tall California Pines glistened in the sunlight, the cool mountain air breathed with crisp freshness, the birds sang, and hope was in the air.
Robert and his wife stood on their porch, waving us goodbye and praying their blessings upon us as we headed south.
I wanted to go to UCLA next, but their Spring Break had just begun, so we headed first to Phoenix, Arizona where we would preach at ASU. The scorching heat and endless blue skies of Arizona were a shock to our Oregonian systems. We couldn’t believe Spring could be so hot. As we drove around the sun baked city, Annika started calling various Mennonites in the area. One was a disconnected phone number. Another family had moved away. Another family was no longer hosting.
Sitting in a parking lot at a gas station in Tempe, I began to wonder if we’d have to use our money and stay in a hotel. Doing the calculations in my head, I realized a whole week in hotels here would severely eat into our cash.
“Wait, there is one last family,” I noticed.
I decided to make the call, and an older woman answered the phone. “Well, yes, we are retired, and don’t have much space, but you’re welcome to stay here.”
“Oh, thank you!”
The Mennonites were in their 70’s, and led us to a room where the boys could sleep in some pull out cots, and we had a bed to ourselves.
“So, what exactly are you doing in Phoenix?” The old man asked.
I began explaining how we were Messianics, preaching a return to Torah through a love for the Messiah, but the older couple looked at us with blank stares. Diplomatically, I cut short my explanation and said, “We’re just trying to reach the students at ASU.”
“Well, they need it -- their Mascot is the ASU devils!” The old man laughed.
The first day at ASU was a a huge flop. I stood out in a field, preaching, but the sun was so hot and there was so little shade, I could barely draw any sort of crowd. The campus was far larger than either PSU or CSU, so I knew I just had to find a better location.
The second day -- Yah showed up! I planted myself near a large fountain surrounded by trees. The cool purple shadows and the nearby water were perfect to draw a crowd. Within minutes, around 200 students had gathered as I exalted the Torah and preached YahShua.
By the end of the week, chapped lips and sunburnt, we had preached to thousands of students. One young man and his girlfriend approached me toward the end of our last day preaching. “Wow, we’ve never heard this stuff before! Can we take you guys out to dinner?”
That evening, as we ate with these two ASU students, they peppered my wife and I with questions about the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith.
“This is just so amazing. Other street preachers have come through here, but they usually just call people names or cut people down. They rarely use scripture. But, Daniel, what you were preaching was just amazing!”
Tears filled my eyes, while we spent several hours answering all their questions, giving them as much Truth as they could handle.
“Thank you both so much for coming to our campus,” they said.
As we walked back to our car, our cell phone rang, and I could see Annika’s face crumpling with dismay. “Okay, I’ll let Daniel know.”
“What is it?”
She terminated the phone call and sighed. “The Mennonites want us out of their house. I guess we’ve stayed too long.”
Exhausted from preaching, and sabbath approaching, I wondered what we were going to do.
“Wait a minute!” Annika suddenly remembered. “There was this lady on campus who really like the preaching. She gave me her number. I’m going to give her a call.”
The lady turned out to be a Pentecostal woman, married with several children. “We don’t have much space, but you guys are welcome to come here. In fact, I’d love to learn what this shabbat thing is all about!”
Surrounded by a sea of toys in their small living room, Annika pulled out her guitar, I pulled out my Bible, and we celebrated the sabbath with this humble Pentecostal family. We found out, to our delight, that a Messianic Jew had recently visited their church, so they were very hungry to learn more about the Hebrew Roots of their faith.
Recharged, we left early Sunday morning, heading west toward Los Angeles, West Hollywood and UCLA.
Our first call in the Mennonite directory landed us in a massive mansion of a house in Upland, California. This was a younger couple, self employed business owners, who instantly took a liking to us. My wife was relieved that we had found friendlier Mennonites than the ones in Arizona.
“You just make yourself at home,” the wife said as she brought us into a large double suite that looked like something out of a lavish hotel in Cancun.
We were overwhelmed by Yah’s goodness.
I was particularly excited by the prospect of preaching at UCLA. Several years earlier, while a junior in high school, I had attended a Hollywood media workshop based at UCLA. The very place where I had once wanted to pursue my own selfish dreams of being a Hollywood screen writer, now would be where I would exalt YahShua.
The next morning, Annika awoke me. “Daniel, the boys are not feeling too well. Would you mind going to the campus alone?”
After praying for the boys, and waving my goodbye to the family, I braved the freeways of Los Angeles toward UCLA. I was very nervous because I had never preached on a campus outside of Portland alone before. But as I listened to a worship song on our CD player called “At the Cross”, I knew my message would be to exalt the Blood Atonement of YahShua.
Little did I know, West Hollywood and UCLA was the 3rd highest population for Jews next to Brooklyn and Israel.
Driving along Wilshire boulevard, I noticed sandwiched between the towering glass skyscrapers, Jewish synagogues on almost every corner. The campus itself was as beautiful as I had remembered it from when I had visited here years ago in high school. Sweeping lawns, red brick towers, terraced gardens, a Mosaic tiled library -- this was by far the largest and wealthiest campus I had ever preached at.
I stood on Bruin Walk, a major thoroughfare for students that cut right through the heart of the campus. Wearing my Jewish tallit, lifting my bible in my hands, I began to preach on the Blood Atonement of YahShua.
Within a half hour, a crowd of three hundreds students surrounded me. Two young Jewish women, in flowing dresses, flanked each side of my crowd, mocking and deriding me.
“You were probably sent from the Baptist church!” One of the females sneered.
“No, I don’t think the Baptists would agree with my preaching on turning away from all sin and being filled with the gifts of the Ruach!” I fired back.
As I noticed more and more kippah clad Jews filling the crowd, an older man, wearing a deep blue kippah and flowing white fringes, identified himself as one of the head rabbis at UCLA. “Daniel, please explain Isaiah 53.”
“It’s a prophecy about the Messiah -- YahShua,” I said.
The rabbi smiled as several of the Jews in the crowd laughed. “Ah, I knew you would say this. But if you read Isaiah 53 closely, you will discover this passage is about the Nation of Israel, not the Jewish Messiah.”
I opened my Bible and began to read Isaiah 53 quietly, asking Yah to give me an answer for this rabbi.
“It’s okay, Daniel, if you don’t have a response,” he mocked. “I understand.”
“Well, can you please explain one thing to me, then?” I asked, lifting my eyes from the Bible toward the rabbi. “Now, I don’t know Hebrew very well -- but my English version says that the subject of Isaiah 53 -- whoever this is talking about -- will have done no violence, neither will there be any deceit in his mouth. Are you telling me, that no Jew in the nation of Israel has ever lied or committed an act of violence?”
The rabbi visibly paled, and a hush fell upon the crowd. He instantly retreated into the crowd and walked quickly away.
“I will tell you who Isaiah 53 is about!” And from that point on, I began to magnify YahShua even more, preaching on His Blood Atonement. Many of the Jews listened for the rest of the day, and their mockery ceased.
Exhausted from hours of preaching, I gathered my belongings and noticed my tallit was gone. Ah, probably someone had stolen it. Frustrated, I felt someone grab my arm. A young student, his eyes wide, begged for me to talk with him.
“Daniel, I’ve never heard this kind of stuff that you are preaching. Are you coming back tomorrow?”
“Yes, I will be here all week. Would you like to go out to dinner sometime in the next few days?”
“Absolutely!” he said. “Thank you for preaching. I’ve been a Christian for a long time, but have never even thought about the Hebrew Roots of the faith. I definitely want to learn more.”
We talked as I made my way across campus back toward my parked car. He continued to ask me questions, I continued to answer him. With every step we took, his excitement only grew.
“I have to get to an evening class. But I’ll be sure to find you tomorrow!” The student said, shaking my hand.
I walked along a city street toward the parking lot and fumbled for my cell phone. As good as this day had been, I would need to tell Annika the bad news that I had lost my tallit. I paused in front of a shop, dialing the phone number, when a familiar sight caught my eye.
Posted to the glass window of the shop, a glossy 8X12 photograph of a blue pouch with Hebrew letters faced me. A sign over the picture said: LOST TALLIT. PLEASE CLAIM.
“Hello?” Annika picked up on the other end.
“Honey, you’re not going to believe this. I’ll call you back in just a second.”
As I walked into the shop, I told the owner that I had lost my tallit a few hours ago while preaching at UCLA.
“Well, here you go,” he said with a friendly smile. “Someone dropped this off here, said they had found it along the street.”
Now what were the chances that in West Hollywood, out of the thousands of stores surrounding UCLA, that I would just happen to find the very spot someone had dropped off my missing tallit?
Once again, YahShua was proving, over and over again, that He was with us, as we continued to cross the Jordan into this amazing Promised Land.