Historically, the word colporter was used to reference those who labored to distribute the printed Word of God, those who traveled far and wide to give out the Bible to folks who didn’t have a copy for themselves. In earlier American history, the Baptist Colportage Board (extinct for many years) did a lot of good work on the frontiers and in the army camps of the Civil War. A chapter from J. William Jones' 1887 book Christ in the Camp details some of the this labor that took place in the Confederate camps in particular. These are amazing first-hand accounts, and you can read about them HERE. Where is colportage ministry like this today?
We here at FPGM (aka Zerayim Colportage Board) embrace our roles as colporters to the Jewish people first and also to the Gentile nations in the spirit of Psalm 66:11–“The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.“ Stories like those in history from faithful ministries like the Baptist Colportage Board both motivate and inspire us. It has often been said that men who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it. Where Bible-believing Christians and faithful missionaries are concerned, those of us who don’t know our history may be doomed NOT to repeat it. Pick up a missionary biography, my friends (preferably concerning someone who labored prior to this modern Laodicean Church Period), and be motivated to serve the Lord by the cloud of witnesses who have gone before. Learn the history of the faithful remnant at home and abroad and, by all means, REPEAT IT! Here are a few good places to start, some of my personal favorites:
No Compromise, The Life Story of Keith Green by Melody Green
Borden of Yale by Mrs. Howard Taylor
The Unlisted Legion by Jack Purves
High Adventures in Tibet, by David Plymire
The Heavenly Man by Paul Hattaway
Praise God, our colportage work in Huaraz, Peru for the 2019 Israeli backpacker season has begun. This year’s Team Yeshua is smaller and younger; and I’m discovering that I like teenagers. They are hungry to learn, full of energy, and bring less drama to the field. Maybe we will start targeting the 16-18 year-old range for future summer volunteer teams :)
Just a few days ago, we welcomed our first Israeli dinner guest of the season and blessed him with a printed copy of the Hebrew New Testament which he gladly received. It was a really good time with this young man whose grandparents survived Auschwitz and came to Israel from Poland long ago. We wanted him to feel genuine love from a group of crazy Gentiles and to know how seriously we believe the Scriptures that came down to man from the True God through Jewish prophets and eyewitnesses. I told him in Hebrew: “I don’t know if you care about the things of God or not, but take it from me, a wicked Gentile who was once like Cain, that the God of Israel is real, and the Messiah of Israel is real. He changed my life.”
When this young man took the New Testament at the end of the evening and said “Thank you, I will read it,” I replied, “You do that, and perhaps next year in Israel we can talk about what you read over some hummus.” It struck me that a young man was even willing to come alone over to a strange apartment at night and have dinner with a group of Gentile strangers not many hours before he was slated to go do some ice climbing. But, the Lord drew him, and the divine appointment got me thinking about the true nature of putting a copy of God’s Word into the hands of someone who doesn’t possess it. It’s cold water to a thirsty soul (Proverbs 25:25); it’s sweet honey to a hungry mouth (Psalm 119:103); it’s FAMINE RELIEF.
In the Old Testament Book of Amos (an amazing and appropriate indictment against America today), the prophet warns Israel of a day that would come, a day when it will suddenly become dark at noon and a feast of celebration will be turned into mourning, “as the mourning of an only son” (8:9-10). Following this day, a long famine is prophesied upon the people, not a famine of food or water, but a “of hearing the words of the LORD. And they shall wonder from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it” (8:11-12). My friends, this is an amazing detailed prophecy that was fulfilled literally more than 700 years later on the Feast of Passover in AD 30 when the Messiah of Israel was hung on the cross in a rock quarry alongside the intersection of two major roads outside the walls of Jerusalem. As the people celebrating an important Jewish feast walked by “wagging their heads” (Matthew 27:39), the land suddenly went dark at the sixth hour, at noon just like the prophet had said. It was dark as night from noon until 3:00pm, and an earthquake that rent the veil of the Temple in twain literally turned a celebration into mourning, the mourning of an only Son who had been rejected and pegged to a tree (Matthew 27:45-56). Ever since, having pronounced a curse upon themselves just like in the desert when the spies came back from viewing the Promised Land (compare Numbers 14:28-29 with Matthew 27:25 and consider that we must be very careful not to speak our own judgment), the people of Israel have suffered a famine, a veil over the eyes with regard to God’s Word that will continue until the end of the Church Age (II Corinthians 3:13-16).
I came across this article the other day, Ultra-Orthodox Protest Military Draft, and it highlights a source of malcontent for many secular Israelis, including most of the backpackers we meet. Here you have these religious hypocrites who spend all their time in the yeshivas studying Torah, day in and day out, and they refuse to serve in the military like all the other young people are conscripted to do. They collect a government check that gets bigger and bigger the more children that they have, and they sit back “studying” while the other Israelis work hard to pay taxes and send off their sons and daughters to serve in the IDF . . . all so these blowhards can “study the Scriptures.” And these, who won’t lift a finger to work or defend their country expect all those who do to listen to what they have to say about spiritual things, EXACTLY what Jesus said in Matthew 23:4. Nothing has changed! Yet, for all their so-called study, the religious rabbis remain blind to the plain truths of the Old Testament and what is spelled out so clearly concerning the identity of the Messiah. Even today, Rabbinic Judaism (definitely NOT Biblical Judaism) runs to and fro seeking the Word of the Lord and cannot find it (Amos 8:11-12). I chuckled at one of the comments posted to this article: “I would think that by now, everyone pretty much KNOWS what the Torah says!” There is and remains a famine in the land, amongst the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Isaiah also prophesied it (Isaiah 6). Jesus affirmed Isaiah 6 in His day (Matthew 13:14-15), and Paul confirmed it in his when he spoke to the Jews who had gathered to hear him upon his arrival in Rome (Acts 28:25-31). It’s the famine Amos prophesied in detail, and it won’t end until God has finished calling out for Himself a people amongst the Gentiles (Amos 9:11-12; Acts 15:14-16, noting the importance of the phrase “After this”; Romans 11:25).
But praise God, this famine will one day end, “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26, see also Hosea 5:15). And even before that day, there is FAMINE RELIEF for the Jewish people by the Word of God, for when the heart shall be turned to the Lord, “the vail shall be taken away” (II Corinthians 3:16). There has always been a Jewish Remnant, and there are those out there now blinded of whom it can be said as it was to Jesus’ Jewish disciples “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear” (Matthew 13:16).
When this year’s Team Yeshua rendezvoused in North Carolina for orientation a few weeks ago, we took them to visit a Jewish believer in Yeshua the Messiah, a disabled Israeli war veteran with incredible conviction and some incredible stories. He bluntly told our volunteers that the greatest thing they can ever do for a Jewish person is put a copy of God’s Word, both Old & New Testaments, into their hands. I understood exactly what he meant. This simple act of kindness is FAMINE RELIEF, and I am amazed how spiritually hungry souls are drawn to it when eyes aren’t looking.
Back in Israel a few months ago, I tried a little experiment. Outside our guesthouse in Netanya, there was a concrete wall lining the property that abutted the sidewalk. It is common for people to put stuff out on these walls, like old clothes and household items, and it is understood that these are free to take. One morning, I put a couple of Hebrew New Testaments out on the wall. By day’s end, they were gone. We did it again; and someone took them. Oh no, these weren’t taken to be disposed of. If someone didn’t want them, he or she would have left them be. They were taken of curiosity when no one was looking, when the rabbi wasn’t around. We put out the spiritual food in a time of famine, and it was scarfed right up.
I have read testimony after testimony of this curiosity even amongst the orthodox and ultra-orthodox. When a student of the yeshiva or even sometimes a rabbi has an opportunity to scarf up a New Testament secretly apart from prying eyes, he does so. And there are occasions where eyes are opened and former religious rabbis are now committed followers of Jesus the Messiah. Colportage work truly is FAMINE RELIEF, and something as simple as putting a copy of God’s Word in a strategic place where it can be found is leaving out food for a starving soul. That’s why we used to strategically place Scriptures in Buddhist monasteries over in remote corners of the Himalayan. Monks wouldn’t take them from our hands because the lama might be watching, but if they happened to find a Bible in dark corner or in their pants’ pocket when they were grabbed off the line, well, curiosity is hard to restrain.
Over in Israel, the synagogues, the yeshiva study rooms, and the religious shrines are lined with bookshelves containing prayer books and various Talmudic writings and commentaries. We love moseying through these rooms and clandestinely slipping a few Hebrew New Testaments onto the shelves, as pictured above in an old study room near Jesse’s tomb in Hebron. The Word of the Lord will not return void, and spiritual meat found amidst a bunch of empty carbs in a time of famine won’t be ignored. The Holy Spirit will use it.
Here in Huaraz, we try to make sure the book-exchange shelves in local coffee shops and the reading tables in hostels popular with the Israeli backpackers have copies of both the Hebrew Old and New Testaments. Some that we put in one coffee shop last year, one with a huge book-exchange library, were gone when we went to look for them the other day. Praise God! A Peruvian friend of mine who ran a hostel and trekking agency popular with the Israelis allowed us to put some in his place last year. Well, he since moved to a new location, and when I went to visit him a few days ago, I saw that he had brought the one Hebrew NT copy that was left with him (I guess the others had been taken). It was right there with the other reading material, in plain view for an Israeli backpacker. Hallelujah! I was greatly encouraged that this unsaved Gentile would care enough to bring that Hebrew Bible along and make it available for the Israeli backpackers at his new hostel. I was reminded of Luke 7:4-5.
Administering FAMINE RELIEF isn’t just putting out the Word of God, it’s GIVING it out. Praise God the aforementioned young man took a copy from my hands the other night. Out on the streets here in Huaraz, the volunteers have already met a number of Israeli backpackers and have put Hebrew Gospel tracts pointing them to the Scriptures into these hands. Yesterday, everyone hiked up to a beautiful mountain lake situated at 14,500 ft. above sea level. We purposely start these popular hikes late in the day so as to meet all the other hikers coming down. Sure enough, there we a couple of Israelis out there, and our volunteers administered some FAMINE RELIEF. I really like this young team; they are very bold.
Spiritual FAMINE RELIEF isn’t only about the Jewish people. The whole world is blind and starving. Paul the Apostle who speaks of the veil over the eyes of the Jewish people in II Corinthians 3 goes on to say in Chapter 4 of all those who are lost, both Jew and Gentile: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (4:4). Only God’s Word can shine through the darkness. Praise God, we have only been here a little more than a week, and we have already had occasion to distribute copies of the Spanish Scriptures through public preaching in the local plazas and encounters with locals as we go about our days. Moreover, FAMINE RELIEF has already been administered to Gentiles from 9 different nations: Peru, Venezuela, Slovenia, Mexico, Argentina, France, Germany, Poland, and the good ‘ole USA.
And the best part is . . . we have only just begun. Team Yeshua will be down here until August 21st. My family and I will stay until October. Please pray for this colportage work, and your help in administering FAMINE RELIEF to both Jew and Gentile is greatly appreciated. We can certainly use it. For more information on how to donate, visit HERE. Online giving is also possible and very easy: paypal.me/zerayim
Last year, Israelis would sometimes have problems finding our apartment. We decided to make things easier this time around. I don’t think there is any question which apartment houses the Gentile family who loves Israel and the Jewish people :)
In Jesus, the Jewish Messiah,
Jesse Boyd, Colporter