From Bill Sutter’s Desk Mar/Apr 2005
Joyce Shoff found herself in a quandary. Perhaps it’s one that is familiar to you too. She had a God-given love for the Jewish people and believed He wanted her to reach out to them in love. But she had no idea where to begin. “I didn’t have any close Jewish friends,” Joyce said. “I only knew one Jewish person.”
So she decided to attend a Hanukkah bazaar at a synagogue near her church. There she signed up to receive mailings for special events. It wasn’t long before she received an invitation to attend the synagogue’s “Meet and Greet” meeting. Describing herself as “the biggest scaredy-cat about meeting people,” Joyce said she finally mustered up enough courage to get out of her car. But “I was so afraid, I got back into my car and drove home,” she said.
Pronouncing herself a failure and feeling she had disappointed the Lord, she promised Him she would definitely come through for Him if another invitation came her way. The next day she received an invitation to the Sisterhood meeting. The Sisterhood is a major women’s organization in virtually every synagogue in America.
Once again Joyce got into her car and drove to the synagogue—fears and all. This time she went inside, where the Jewish women welcomed her warmly.
As they chatted, she told them, “After I became a Christian I became interested in the Jewish roots of my Christian faith.” Relationships developed, and Joyce became a full-fledged member of the synagogue Sisterhood.
One friendship led to another, and soon Joyce was at the door of what she describes as the first of several life-defining moments, when she truly knew “the Lord did this.” The local Israeli community asked her to participate in Yom HaZikaron, a day of remembrance for Israel’s fallen military people.
Joyce’s circle of Jewish friends expanded even further when she began attending events at her regional Jewish community center, a 30-minute drive from home. “I would pick up the flyers for upcoming events and try to support activities, especially those related to Israel.”
As more Jewish people became aware of Joyce’s desire to serve, they provided other opportunities. She helped coordinate an Israeli film festival and worked on a sponsorship program to support Israel’s disabled veterans.
Then she was asked to help organize a community-wide solidarity rally for Israel after the outbreak of terror against the Jewish state in 2000. This highly successful event drew more than 700 people, including several hundred Christians. As she became more involved, she found it helpful to subscribe to a Jewish newspaper and read all she could about Israel and the Jewish people for her personal knowledge and for prayer opportunities.
Her increasing visibility as a christian in the Jewish community has provided opportunities for her to hold Purim and Hanukkah celebrations in her church with participation from her Jewish friends. Joyce’s strong, continuing support of her church has been unwavering. And the people and leaders there pray for her and encourage her in what the Lord has been doing in her life.
Joyce now cochairs the Israel Shalom program, under the auspices of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), to aid victims of terrorism in Israel. She is organizing an effort to bring survivors from Israel to the United States to build relationships between the Jewish community, Bible-believing churches, and the people of Israel.
In addition, she is the only christian serving on the 50-member JCRC board, the key public policy body in the Jewish community. Further, she can be found organizing and attending rallies for Israel anywhere from her local Jewish community to Washington, D.C., to Jerusalem.
At the may 2002 JCRC annual meeting, Joyce was honored “for her ongoing efforts to further understanding, friendship, and cooperation between the Christian and Jewish communities of Southern New Jersey through their support of the people and State of Israel.”
Her testimony is clear: “I do this because of my relationship with Jesus. He is the One who has changed my heart.” Today Joyce challenges Christians, “Show unconditional love to the Jewish people, and watch the barriers come down.”
Joyce’s life is a sterling example of how the Lord can use an individual, committed to Him and His Word, to open doors for ministry among the Jewish people. We at The Friends of Israel hear many similar, thrilling reports of how the Lord is leading Christians into vital relationships with the Jewish people and their communities. The time is now. The challenge is clear: Go and do likewise!
Joyce Shoff may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.