Ricky, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the multitude of tribes and homogenized peoples scattered abroad, greetings! May grace be extended to you by the hand of the living God. I want you all to ponder this question I have been asked numerous times lately, “Who is Yeshua?” Just take some time out of your busy day and mull over in your mind the answer you would give to a Jewish man if he asked you about Yeshua (Jesus). Over the past three weeks I have been traveling all over southern Argentina and Chile distributing a large quantity of gospel tracts in thirteen towns and three national parks. The route followed is a main thoroughfare for Israelis in their 20’s that are out seeking a good time and trying to figure out their lives in this maddening world. Along with the mass distribution and some open-air preaching, we spent some time hiking a few trails in the mountains, looking for occasions to open a conversation with someone and quickly point them toward the things of eternity. What better place to make an impact in the lives of these young people? Go find someone hiking up a trail in the mountains or find a group of young men sitting around killing time in a random hostel and bring to them the very source of living waters. Or, walk up on a bicyclist along a sparsely populated road of southern Chile and start sharing the uncompromising truths of the Word of God. Of course, in doing so you must be ready for a multitude of responses. “Oh, I’m as much of an atheist as you can be!”; “I’m looking for God as I travel and I’m shocked that you would sit here with me to talk about, of all things, GOD!”; etc. You really do find the full spectrum of responses out here. Most are of the ecumenical persuasion from people who prefer to shut out any thoughts of God or death or eternity. Some Israeli responses have me going back to the Scriptures with a newfound veracity: “I’ve never heard the story of Yeshua”; “We don’t know anything about Him so we don’t have an opinion (about Jesus)”; “Who is Yeshua?”
As I return to the Scriptures with this question in mind, I am finding my need to examine the Word that became flesh and get to know Him with deeper intimacy. Who is Yeshua? He is the Ancient of days. He is an austere Master over His servants. He is the shoot of Jesse, the son of David, in the line of Judah that will soon return to save all of Israel. He is the Captain of the hosts of heaven! Yeshua is the one of whom it was written in the 45th Psalm, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of thy kingdom is a right scepter. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Yeshua is the Passover Lamb brought by God to the holy convocation between God and Israel nearly two-thousand years ago. He paid the punishment of your sins by hanging cursed on a cross and pouring out His own blood for you. Three days later He proved everything He said by rising from the dead. This is Who we preach, the blessed Prince of Peace.
For two weeks on the road and the backcountry trails from Bariloche to Ushuaia, we found occasion not only to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, but also to answer the question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). As I expected, many people did not care to listen to the message. So many in this day and time have become rich and increased with goods; yet these are poor, wretched, naked, and blind. Too much treasure has been laid up here on this earth. “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee” (Luke 12:19-20). One evening while I was stuck in a port town waiting on a ferry to arrive, a bicyclist rode up to me, and so I initiated small talk about cameras and the beauty of the mountains. She was a nice woman from France. We talked for nearly fifteen minutes about the world around us. She was so very kind until the conversation turned spiritual. Yes, until God showed up, this woman was very kind and soft spoken and seemed so wonderful. As I turned the conversation to spiritual matters and the authority of God and the Bible, the woman became intensely enraged about the thought of her being wrong. She simply could not stand to tolerate the idea of there being “one truth” and that she had to submit to the authority of someone that was truly righteous and holy. She started cursing and blaspheming God simply because I wouldn’t “agree to disagree.” It was interesting to me to have this conversation with her after having had a completely different conversation with another bicyclist from Germany a few hours earlier. The German bicyclist was a young man that grew up in the Catholic snare of the Devil. He knew nothing of God’s grace or about how to obtain mercy from God. He sat and listened over lunch about the risen Lord, Jesus Christ. After our conversation, I gave him a gospel tract in German and we parted ways. What a contradiction of reaction from two different bicyclists that day!
What I would like to highlight for you, though, is the response I had sharing with Israelis. Most of them were very secular and knew little of the Scriptures. A few claimed to be atheists and cared nothing for the things of God, but the vast majority became very interested in the Bible after sharing a few moments with them about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. One night in a restaurant, a couple walked in the door and found a seat at the table next to ours. We slowly engaged them in conversation since we were the only ones in the place that could speak English. One thing led to another, and we ended up talking about Jesus Christ. My friend Matt asked them what they thought about Jesus Christ. The young man said, “I don’t know. I’ve never heard his story. I know he was born of a virgin, Miriam, but I don’t know anything about him.” For the next hour we were able to talk about the Old Testament and God’s plan of redeeming men to Himself. We talked about Jesus and we shared with him and his girlfriend about the Son of Man that was once dead but is now alive. As custom is, I was carrying around a Hebrew New Testament and I asked if the guy would like to have it so that he could know all about the story of Yeshua. He was delighted to see that I had a New Testament in his language. He gladly accepted the gift and told me that he would be opening it that night to start reading through it. I pointed him to the book of John and we part ways. What a blessing to sit and eat with sinners, calling them to repentance. Pray for this couple. They are headed back to Israel soon and bringing with them a book that is forbidden in most homes there. Another such instance happened out on a trail enroute to Cerro Fitz Roy. We were hiking and handing out gospel tracts when we saw another young couple sitting on the side of the trail. We stopped to talk with them and see what they knew about Yeshua ha Meshiach. Come to find out, the young man knew a couple of short pieces from the life of Jesus Christ. His girlfriend knew nothing about Him. For the next twenty minutes, we were able to spend some time with them, elaborating upon the life of Jesus and His death on the cross, paving the way for sinners to come to the Father. We were interrupted halfway through our conversation and nearly crushed by an alpaca train that was portaging goods up the trail. This didn’t phase the young couple though. They wanted to hear more. They took gospel tracts in Hebrew and we continued up the trail sharing with others about the coming Christ. On yet another occasion down in Ushuaia, as I was walking down the street, I passed a large group of Israeli men. So, I started to hand them all Hebrew tracts. Most of them took one until I came to the front of the line and was told by one of them, “Oh, I don’t need this. I’m not religious.” I just laughed and said, “That’s good because religion has failed anyone that has tried it.” He said, “Oh but I’m an atheist now. I don’t believe in God.” I stopped him there on the sidewalk for a moment and said, “Sir, God says that you are a fool. You know there is a God. And I have to tell you about Him.” We continued to walk up the street and I told him that when a man tries to climb up to heaven by being good he always finds his end to be death. But God can give life. The Messiah, Yeshua, He came to call sinners to himself that they might be forgiven. He was struck with a deep curiosity. “Okay, please, give me one of those. I want to know what you’re talking about.” He returned to his group of friends and I kept going up the street. I don’t know if I’ll ever see that young man again. I hope I do. I hope we greet the Lord together in the skies someday soon! I hope he is trusting in that glorious resurrection!
After reaching the southernmost point on the South America road system just outside of Ushuaia, Matt and I made our way back into town to get tickets for the bus so we could start working our way back north. When we entered the ticket office for the bus company, a black man sitting behind his desk helped us out. When we stood up to leave, I handed him a gospel tract. “Wait, a minute. You can’t just give me this and leave. You don’t care about me or you would have tried to talk to me about this.” I turned around and sat down to begin a battle that would rage on for about forty-five minutes. This man tried acting ignorant in the conversation about eternal matters. He challenged me and tried many times to trap me in the snare of the Devil. Praise God, though. The wicked man fell into his own trap. I believe this man to have been possessed of a devil with the way he spoke. It seemed that his conversation was saturated with God’s words and a twisted pressing of trial with them against me. The Lord gave great victory though, and as I realized what was going on, I simply rebuked the man and walked away. There is no reason a Christian should ever entertain the Devil. Nor should a man ever engage in vain debates. God’s word is true and there is no debate about it. May God deliver this man from the snare of the Devil!
As we boarded the bus to come home, we found ourselves few days ahead of schedule. I was hoping to be gone three full weeks, but the Lord had us moving quite fast from one town to the next. Upon our return, the rest of the team here had been working with a group from YWAM. We were giving them training for two weeks. It seems the Lord rushed our plans in order for us to be here the final week with a couple of young men from the YWAM team. Bad weather had caused one of the teams to stay indoors and not go out to the mountains. This allowed for some local ministry in the streets. The two young men had never seen a street preacher before but were excited to go out and be bold in their faith. We headed into the city one evening, and for several hours, we went through the city streets distributing gospel tracts to anyone that crossed our path. And in five different places, I and two others from our group found the boldness to preach in the open-air. Two of the men on our team have started to learn how to lift their voices up in the streets and preach. Praise God! The watchmen are in the city crying aloud before the terror of destruction consumes the wicked. After a few days with the YWAM group, they moved on, and we geared up for a trip to Mt. Tronador, a big volcano just two hours distant.
We were joined on this trip by some Mississippi gentlemen. Two doctors came down to get some evangelism training and to be a part of sharing the gospel with the backpackers here. One of the men also brought his fifteen-year-old son. We had a great time hiking up the mountain and traversing its huge glacier. The sights were truly breath-taking. But, the best part was before we even started hiking. A group of Israelis had taken the bus with us to the trailhead, and we all started the hike together. For about an hour, I was given the greatest honor I can think of on this earth: I was allowed to share the gospel with a young lady from Jerusalem. She knew nothing about Yeshua. “Who is Yeshua?” We talked about so many things along the hike . . . about the Holy Ghost and Proverbs 1, about Jesus and His ability to forgive sinners, etc. She was able to understand how God can take out a sinner’s heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. The rest of the group was also engaged in conversation along the trail. As we sat down for a break and to eat some lunch, someone pulled out a piece of salami and cheese and began to thank God for his food, asking a blessing upon it. One of the Israelis was a bit upset and said that we shouldn’t be praying over food that isn’t Kosher. This gave great place to a discussion concerning the vision Peter had in Acts 10 about God proclaiming all things clean when taken with thanksgiving. We told him the truth about what defiles a man: not that which goes into a man, but rather the things that proceed from a mans heart defile him. He stopped us and said, “Hey, I’ve been to that house. I visited the house where Peter saw his vision in Joppa.” This man knew a little more about Yeshua. Sadly though, he only knew about the Catholic perversion of Jesus Christ. One of the hardest things to communicate to the Israeli is that Catholicism is not of God. After lunch, we split ways with the group and continued up the trail. This was a great place for the gentlemen from Mississippi to practice sharing the Gospel. They were able to engage a German man and then a handful of people from Buenos Aires. We had a great hike out, fellowshipping in the Lord and discussing the things of God. What a blessing to spend time with brothers from all over the world.
Now that this last trip has wrapped up, I am setting my sights on shorter hikes locally. There are still people to be trained in evangelism and many more lost souls out and about in the area. Keep praying for an open door with the Jewish people. Jehovah God is still jealously pursuing the hearts of the sons of Israel. Pray that my love would be replenished and that my zeal for the gospel would increase an hundred fold. Pray that God would open a door down here that no man can shut! Pray, and pray with fervor!