Latin American Jews respond to Messianic message

South American Jews are experiencing the spiritual revival that has swept the continent since the mid-1980s.

..."There is definitely a move going on," Scott Sekulow of Yachad Ministries told Religion Today. Thousands of Jewish people are accepting the message that Christ is their promised Messiah, and Messianic congregations are starting and growing throughout the continent, he said.

...The nationwide revival that began with huge evangelistic meetings led by charismatic evangelists such as Carlos Anacondia is filtering down to the Jewish community, Sekulow said. Revival is "kind of like a wave. It hits the Gentiles first and then the Jews."

...Sekulow caught the wave in Argentina when he ministered there in 1998. More than 1,000 people, about half of them Jews, accepted Jesus as their Messiah, or savior, during a 10-day outreach in Rosario, a city of 1 million near Buenos Aires, he said.

...About 10,000 Jews and Gentiles heard the message of Christ, he said. About 100 members of Messianic and Gentile congregations teamed with 52 Jewish and Gentile believers from the United States and Great Britain to talk to people and preach on the streets. Five Jewish festivals featured songs and dances and a message about Jesus Christ, Sekulow said.

...The team visited Hogar Camino a la Vida, a Rosario orphanage that houses 22 teen-age girls. Members sang, talked with the girls, and donated funds to buy shoes and make renovations to the home, Sekulow said.

...Some Jewish leaders urged their people to avoid the festivals. A Jewish radio station broadcast a message every 15 minutes telling people not to attend, Sekulow said. "It was the best advertisement we could get. Every night we had capacity crowds." Most of the city's rabbis had left town for a weeklong conference, clearing the way to evangelize, he said.

...Yachad Ministries is planning more outreaches. Sekulow has met with church leaders in Brazil to plan a festival there, and more events are being planned for Argentina. The group also held an outreach in Colombia in 1997.

...The Atlanta-based ministry seeks to reach Jews with the message of Christ and to educate the church about its Jewish roots, Sekulow said. It also trains Christians how to effectively talk about Jesus with Jews.

...Christians have to be sensitive when ministering to Jews because of past sins committed by the church against the Jewish people, Sekulow said. To some Jews, "the name 'Jesus Christ' is like a curse word," he said. But if a person uses Jesus' Hebrew name, Yeshua, "then the barriers don't go up and they can hear you."

...South American Jews are more open to the Gospel than are those in the United States, Sekulow said. American Jews have more prejudices against the message of Christ, but in Argentina people say, "this is just another kind of Judaism," he said.

...Argentina has one of the largest Jewish populations in the world. Many emigrated from Spain during the Inquisition, when the Catholic Church sought to forcibly convert Jews and Muslims. Policies by President Julios Roca in the 1860s created favorable conditions for Jews fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe, Messianic Jewish Life magazine said. Many came in the late 1940s and 1950s, after the Holocaust in Europe. There are about 7 million Jews in the country, Time Almanac 2000 said.

...There is a strong Jewish community, but others have assimilated into the culture, Sekulow said. "There are many who say their grandparents are Jews, but don't see themselves as Jewish." Persecution has made it necessary for many Jews to keep a low profile, he said. "Due to past anti-Semitism and bombings at Jewish facilities in Buenos Aires, many Jewish people had kept their Jewishness private and guarded."

...A Messianic community has existed in Argentina for 70 years, MJL said. The Hebrew Christian Alliance, now the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, sent two missionaries to start a congregation in the 1930s, and by the middle of the decade many Jews had embraced Jesus as their Messiah. There are at least 13 Messianic ministries in Buenos Aires reaching out to the Jewish population, the magazine said.

Religion Today - February 2, 2000

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