Michael, South Africa
I was born in Johannesburg on 3 March 1970. I am one of four children, the eldest son and the descendent of Russian, Polish and Lithuanian grandparents all of whom had an Orthodox Jewish background. My maternal grandfather was a rabbi but he died while my mother was very young. Both of my parents were born in South Africa; they met at work, soon got married and then I came along. I grew up in a very lively Jewish home. We celebrated the festivals with gusto. They were often an elaborate extended family affair with aunts and uncles all joining in! I studied at my local Hebrew School for several years and had my bar mitzvah when I was thirteen.
After finishing my High School studies, I applied to the University of the Witwatersrand for the degree of Medicine. I was accepted and graduated in 1993 and then did an internship at Hillbrow hospital in 1994.
I was always looking for answers and the question “why” would frequently form on my lips. When I started to study medicine, the question was, “Why all the hurt and the suffering?” I thought that I could help. In my second year of Medical School, my mother died. This left me with more “why” questions but no answers. I questioned God as to whether He cared. I questioned whether this life was all that there was and what happened when it’s over? I also became very fearful and anxious. The Scripture says, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Knowing that God wanted to give me answers to my questions was too wonderful!
In my fourth year of medical studies, I met Teresa. She was also on a search for truth. She had come to medical school to study for a nursing degree. Teresa grew up in a church in which she was later confirmed, but did not feel close to God. In her fourth year of study she went with a classmate to a church meeting and came back different. She explained to me that she had been “saved” – saved from what, I was wondering? She told me that Jesus is the Messiah of the Jewish people and that I should see for myself if this was true. What a radical thing to hear – me a good Jewish boy, I would not put a foot in a church!
I did not know it at the time but Teresa and her friends were praying that God would open my eyes to the truth of the Messiah. On the Sunday after Passover (which happened to be Easter Sunday), I attended a “sunrise” service. I did not know what to expect and I thought it rather strange that there was a religious service happening outside before the crack of dawn. At that service my heart was strangely warmed and I had a sense that I was going to burst into tears – I was not sure why at the time and managed to “pull myself together.”
I then read the New Testament. For the first time in my life. I read about Jesus, this enigmatic yet caring Jewish carpenter who said and did such amazing things for my people and then died. Amazingly, He even predicted this and that He would return after death. I read on and saw how His first followers were all Jews and that they really believed that they had found the Messiah of Israel. This was astounding to me. It began to dawn on me that I too had to make a choice – if Jesus is the Messiah, then I too had to follow Him – if He was not then no one should follow Him! After a few short weeks I chose to follow where He would lead and committed my life to Messiah Jesus. I experienced a wonderful peace as the truth really set me free and my burden of sin was lifted from me. It has not always been an easy road from there. I have had to face rejection and persecution from friends, family and the Jewish community, but God has remained faithful and has been my strength through it all.
The Lord was gracious. He allowed me to practise medicine for five years and during this period He was preparing me for Higher Medicine – the medicine that cures the heart and soul of its pain, anguish and sin – only found in Messiah Jesus! In January 1999, my family set off for the USA to begin missionary training with Jews for Jesus. We returned to Johannesburg in late 1999 to complete training.
In August of 2002, I took over the directorship of Jews for Jesus in South Africa. What a privilege to serve the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and to represent Our Messiah in South Africa and beyond!
These testimonies were used with permission from Jews for Jesus: