The California sun sank into the Pacific ocean, and purple twilight blanketed West Hollywood as we finished our week at UCLA. Spiritual shock waves swept through the Jewish community, as the rabbis and their Jewish students realized we were something much more potent than the watered down “Jews for Jesus”. We exalted a Messiah that obeyed and kept the Torah, while continuing to emphasize the absolute importance of His Blood atonement.
That final evening, as Annika pushed the stroller with our two boys, and I gathered up our belongings, a group of Jewish students invited us to dinner.
Humbly situated among the towering glass skyscrapers, a small eatery boasted itself as the only fast food all kosher restaurant in West Hollywood.
“You guys are going to love this,” one of the Jewish students said as we walked into the restaurant.
I was totally unprepared for what happened next.
Dozens and dozens of Jewish men and women sat at booths or tables. Every single Jew wore their white tassles and kippahs. Many of the women wore flowing dresses and veils.
I gripped the door jamb, suddenly overcome with emotion. I leaned over, feeling tears rush to my eyes, barely able to keep them from soaking my face. The force of joy and love that charged through my entire body nearly caused me to topple over. I had never experienced anything like this before.
In that moment, after a week of battling the “anti-missionaries” the rabbis continued to send into my crowds, the rabbis themselves, and an assortment of mocking Jews -- the overwhelming and intense agape love that filled my heart for these people in a new wave of compassion, renewed my heart with joy indescribable.
I loved the Jews. I loved them more than I could ever explain. And in that moment of my life, Yahweh gave me a small slice of the intense emotions He constantly feels for the Jewish people.
After ordering our food and sitting down to eat, the students began to ask Annika and me several questions about the Torah and Messiah and how everything fit together. As I excitedly answered their questions, I noticed a single old Jewish man sitting in the corner. He wore a wide brimmed black hat, typical of the orthodox Jewish look. A thick white beard tumbled down his chest. His white fringes, absent the Torah required blue, proved this was a die hard orthodox Jew and maybe even a rabbi.
Every ten minutes or so, as I answered the questions of these students, I noticed this old man continue to look at our table. His eyes, not filled with anger, were instead filled with wide-eyed amazement. He seemed to be listening to our conversation very intently as I laid out how the Torah and Messiah YahShua were a seamless whole.
By the time we gathered our things to leave, and said our goodbyes to these students, I noticed the old man sitting in the corner was smiling -- and I might have even seen the glisten of tears in his eyes.
* * *
Driving east back into Arizona, my wife and I recounted the intense week of UCLA. We had reached Christian students, who were blown away by the Torah message. We had reached Jews, who for the first time heard a Messiah that cherished the Torah and offered to wash their sins away with His Blood Atonement.
We had even reached the Mennonites. On one of our last days with the wealthy couple in Upland, the UCLA student newspaper had published an article about me. Handing “The Daily Bruin” to them, they read the article with interest and became keenly fascinated with the blessings of obeying the Torah.
It had been victory week in Southern California and only the first resurrection will reveal the results of our labors in the spring of 2003.
Now, the sky blue and the sun shining bright, we snaked our way down the much more winding freeways of northern Arizona. Unlike the arid, desert wastelands of southern Arizona, here we climbed into mountains covered in tall pines.
We were making our way to our next stop -- Flagstaff, Arizona.
The Mennonite couple we stayed with were actually now non-denominational Christians. They lived in a modest three bedroom home situated on a lonely hill that overlooked the mountain town.
And a deep sadness filled the house. As the husband quietly led us through the home, I noticed pictures of a beautiful, lively young boy covering the halls and living room. A sorrow filled the dad’s face as he explained to us, that only a few months go, they had lost their son in a skiing accident on this very hill. His wife, even then, was visiting the gravesite with a fresh bouquet of flowers.
My wife and I sat in his living room, listening quietly to his found memories of his son. We prayed with him, cried with him, and brought a measure of joy to his heart as our little second born, Elijah, began to finally crawl in earnest down his hallways.
The next morning, when we arrived on the small campus in Flagstaff, I preached to the birds. Literally. The college was so small, that there were hardly any students outside, and a cool wind also seemed to discourage people from venturing beyond the student union.
For hours each day I tried to draw a crowd, but I wound up declaring the Word to mostly beautiful mountain vistas.
Discouraged and wondering if I had misheard Yah about even coming to Flagstaff, I followed Annika and the boys into a massive campus atrium one evening. Glassed skylights above showed the glittering stars, and the squeak of our shoes against the freshly mopped white linoleum floors reminded me just how unpopulated this campus was. Especially at the end of the day.
As Annika took the boys into a restroom, I paused in front of a massive poster taped to a white pillar that reached toward the skylights. The poster advertised some sort of play that would occur several months from now.
But the image on the poster gripped my heart.
In beautiful water color brush strokes, a picture of the fiery chariot that took Elijah into the sky stared back at me. Flaming horses, a golden chariot burning with white hotness, and Elijah himself, his beard rushing in the wind, as he climbed aboard the chariot.
Before we had begun this missionary trip, I had told Mark at PSU to put on the top letterhead of our newsletter the scripture from Malachi -- Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of YHVH -- to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the children.
And here, now, as I stared at Elijah’s image, I knew Yah was once again confirming that we were exactly where we needed to be, and exactly when He wanted us here.
When we departed Flagstaff, embracing the husband and his wife, praying for their hearts -- I knew that Yah had not sent us to this small town for the students. He had sent us to encourage this grief-stricken family.
* * *
Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our next stop. And no problem gathering crowds here. The first day I preached near a duck pond, a crowd of 100 students pressed around us within only a few minutes.
“You’re doing this all wrong! You are too hateful!” One hypocrite shouted in my face.
Rather than rebuke him, I said, “Fine. Will you please show me how it is done?”
The hypocrite began to tell the crowd how much God loved them and had a wonderful plan for their lives. The crowd cheered and applauded the hypocrite, soaking up the feel good message. Normally I would contend with such a hypocrite, but I felt strongly in my spirit to simply wait and see what would happen next.
“Of course the crowds are cheering!” A young student confronted the hypocrite. “You are just telling them what they want to hear! Jesus wants us to deny our flesh, to discipline ourselves, but you’re just telling them about how Jesus is one big free ride!”
Annika and I smiled at each other, as the student continued to rebuke the hypocrite and started preaching to the crowd himself. The gathered students sobered instantly, and the religious hypocrite became so distressed that he fled the scene.
As the day wore on, the student who had defended me peppered us with several questions about living holy, keeping Torah and serving the Messiah. He soaked up everything I told him. It was so refreshing to meet a pure heart just seeking after the Truth.
The next two days at the University of New Mexico were extremely harsh. The crowds, filled with hypocrites, seemed to constantly gnash upon us with their teeth as we preached on the need to live holy and obey the Torah. Over and over again, various Christians would come out to incite the crowds against us. I began to keenly experience what Apostle Paul must have felt when, upon entering synagogues to exalt the Messiah, various Jews would incite the crowds against him.
Still, even in the midst of this storm. Yah continued to encourage us. One young black man, dressed in an orange shirt, not only encouraged us but very much enjoyed the preaching. To this day, I can still see in my mind’s eye a raging crowd of students, and his face just glowing with the Ruach. He loved our preaching on holiness and when we started talking to him about the Torah, his eyes widened, and he became very excited. Unbelievably, I never got his name, but to have such an excited student right in the midst of all the opposition was Yah’s perfect way of encouraging our hearts.
The Mennonite lady we stayed with in Albuquerque offered us a beautiful private apartment, with its own bathroom and kitchen. The privacy this afforded us was a luxury we were not used to while on the road, and helped us gain some much needed rest in the face of the hostile crowds.
Time was slipping away. We wanted to reach Arkansas for the Feast of Passover to spend the week of Unleavened Bread with a small congregation that I had gotten to know over the internet. With sabbath approaching, we knew as soon as the sun set Saturday night, we would need to drive fast and hard to reach our friends in time for the feast.
For the few years that we had been keeping the Hebrew Feasts, we had attended the traditional Messianic Seders and had never experienced Passover in all its scriptural glory. That was soon to change.
The small congregation in rural Arkansas was pastored by a large, burly man with a black beard and his wife. Though their gathering was small, the Feast was something I will never forget. Mounted on two large spits, two goats roasted over a fire all day. For the first time, I discovered the delightful truth that either a lamb or a goat could be eaten for Passover. Of course, this made perfect sense as the Messiah was not only the Lamb of the world, but He also came to take sin upon Himself, becoming as it were a “goat” for us.
A massive green military tent covered the lawn, where we gathered that evening to eat the goat, bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Flickering lamps on rugged wooden tables chased back the shadows as we recounted the Exodus from Egypt and YahShua’s death on the tree. Unlike the more traditional seders we had celebrated in the past, this one possessed a raw organic energy. More than ever, this very scriptural Passover painted the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah with incredibly vivid colors in my mind.
With a handful of people who had gathered for the feast, we preached at two different universities in Arkansas throughout the week of Unleavened Bread. As I expected, the religious spirits on the campus were prevalent. With the rising temperatures, one of the main issues we continued to run up against were so called Christian women dressing in extremely revealing clothing. Modest dress became a hot topic on both campuses, and often resulted in some very colorful crowds.
On one of our last days in Arkansas, one young woman, surrounded by very lewdly dressed students, approached my wife and admired her head covering. Annika has just started wearing a beautiful blue veil that covered most of her hair. The young woman told my wife that her pastor had just preached on the need for women to cover their heads while praying. Just seeing my wife’s head covering gave her the needed encouragement to follow through with what her pastor had urged a few days before.
Seeing seeds like this continued to be planted on colleges and universities across the nation greatly encouraged us. The Hand of YHVH, blessing our missionary trip, continued to confirm that we were indeed plowing a divinely inspired trail.
“Daniel, I think we can get you on a local TBN affiliate down in Birmingham, Alabama,” the pastor from the Arkansas congregation told me on one of our last nights in Arkansas. “I have a Sabbath keeping friend of mine, John Smart, who lives down there. I think he might be able to help you out.”
Knowing that there was a large university right in downtown Birmingham, we knew that Yah had shown us, just as the Feast was ending, where we needed to go next. We were a long way from Oregon, but exactly where Yah wanted us to be.