The year 1972 was to bring a big change in my
life and Tuesday, November 7th, was the beginning of that change. For my
daily readings I was going through Romans and had reached chapter 10. I
knew as soon as I began to read that there was something different about
it. It was like a magnet holding my attention and concentration and when I
reached verse 21, but to Israel He saith, "All day long I have stretched
forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people" (King James
Version). The N.I.V. renders it as, But concerning Israel He says, "All
day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people."
For the moment I was rooted to my chair, and as I pondered those words I
found myself saying, "Is the Lord calling me to work among His people --
The next thing I remember was that my kitchen was filled with the presence
of the Lord for that is where I was sitting at the time. I cannot say that
I had a vision of Jesus but I felt His presence intensely and fell to my
knees sobbing my heart out. And God began to show me His love for His
people—the Jews. The parable of the prodigal son became a reality in
that moment as I saw something of that, being enacted before me. As I was
made so aware of God's love for His people so the Lord began to fill me
with that same love, breaking my heart at the same time as I experienced a
little of the heart break and longing that He has toward His people. I say
a little because I do not think the human heart could stand the full
measure of the tremendous love that He has for them still.
I had known sorrow and grief in a large measure in the loss of my husband,
but it was not to be compared with the grief and sorrow of the Father for
the prodigal son. This has stayed with me over the years; has also kept me
faithful to my call to reach them. This calling was going to be so very
different from my past experience as a Pastor's wife had been. The Lord
had brought me into a completely new dimension. I began to understand the
relationship of God with the Jewish People in a much deeper way. Before we
left the Manse I remember on one occasion when I was having my quiet time
how the Lord began to speak to me and drew my mind to the verse in Matt.
11 v29 "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of
heart" KJV. I pondered those words in the quietness and found the Holy
Spirit opening them up more clearly to me. The yoke meant a bending of my
neck in submission to Him. I knew that I had got a lonely path to tread
ahead of me and now I was seeing a very humble path too and I must stay
close to Him if I was going to learn from Him and adorn something of that
meek and lowly heart. I knew He would not expect perfection for He
understands our frailty. But that my heart was open to Him to fulfill all
His plans for me in the years that lay ahead I knew was important and what
I could not do He would.
When I finally rose from my knees on that November morning I was asking,
"Now what Lord?" He reminded me that the lady who was to be our speaker
next day, Wednesday, for our Women's meeting was from the Mildmay Mission
to the Jews. How perfectly the Lord had planned that, for the Church had
never had a speaker from a Jewish Mission before. Mrs. Osborne, the lady I
refer to, had sometime earlier been booked for the meeting, recommended by
a leader of another Women's Meeting where I had gone to speak. Meeting
Mrs. Osborne was the next step. After the meeting I turned to her and
shared what I had experienced the day before. She responded immediately
with, "There is no doubt that you have received a call from the Lord to
work among the Jewish people".
Mrs. Osborne was a person of much experience regarding this work. She
proceeded to advise me as to what my next step should be and told me to
write to the Mildmay Mission to Rev. Bendor Samuel pointing out to me that
this Mission may not be the one I would join but at least it would be a
step in the right direction and the Lord would take me on from there. That
was wise advice because that is exactly what happened. She did add while
she was speaking to me, that she hoped that I would be joining their
It was all so very encouraging and a confirmation to the call. I wrote to
Rev. B. Samuel and a date and time was arranged for me to go to see him,
8th December 1972. Before I left home that morning I turned to the Lord
and asked Him to go before me and reveal His Will. He gave me a word in
return, which was found in John 11 v 40, Jesus said unto her, "Said I not
unto thee, that, if thou wouldst believe, thou shalt see the glory of
God?" - Kings James Version. The N.I.V. rendered it this way, then Jesus
said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" I felt that He was saying to me if you believe you shall see the glory of God. I set out on the strength of that word knowing that He would be going before me and with me.
I eventually arrived at the Mildmay Mission after a confused journey. From Birmingham to London was straightforward but it was when I approached the underground that I ran into difficulty. I did not know where to start. I spotted a Salvation Army Officer, "Ah!" I said to myself, “he will help me” and I felt safe approaching him. But to my astonishment he brushed past me and completely ignored me. Regaining my senses, I thought, he obviously did not see me as a lady in distress! “Dear Lord” I whispered "whom can I ask to direct me to the platform to catch the train to get to my destination." I was on strange ground and could easily have got lost, but the Lord was with me and in no time at all a young man appeared and seeing me looking lost, came to my aid and saw me onto the right train. Then he disappeared, just as quickly. Could he have been an Angel? I pondered.
I arrived at the Mildmay Mission and Rev. B. Samuel was there waiting for me. However, it did not take long in view of his questions and where they needed a worker to learn that the Mildmay Mission was not for me. I made my way back to the Underground Station, this time to get a train to Victoria. I knew my way on this line so there was no difficulty there. I stepped onto the train, feeling very despondent and there arose from my heart. "Well Lord, there is not much glory in this," I whispered. But the
Lord had got it all under His control and had been silently planning for
me. My eldest brother lived in Petts Wood, Orpington, Kent and so as I was
coming down to London for that interview, it was arranged that I should
pay them a visit. The thoughts of seeing Bert and Jean, my sister-in-law,
lifted the despondency a little as I looked forward to seeing them again.
Being so far away I could not often do that journey. Little! did I realize
what the Lord had planned, for my visit.
My train arrived at Petts Wood and I made my way round to their home. On
the way I suddenly was aware of the presence of the Lord and I found
myself saying, Lord I do believe that you have called me to work with the
Jewish people. The despondency left me and I felt a peace fill my heart. I
arrived, before my brother came in from work. As he came in he greeted me
and then said "Betty, I am going to introduce you on Sunday to a gentleman
who attends our Church". I was soon talking to Ken Burnet, a Messianic Jew
and the Director of Prayer for Israel. It was arranged that my brother, on
his way to the Sunday school that afternoon, should drop me off at Ken's
place. This proved a memorable time for me and I was further encouraged as
it was obviously another step forward to my call to the Jewish people.
I was able to share with him what I had experienced that Tuesday morning
7th November: and so much more. He was most interested and assured me that
I had received such a call. He then asked me if I had heard of the
Barbican Mission to the Jews? I replied that I had a vague knowledge of
it. A bell was beginning to ring and when he mentioned Stephen Levinson's
name that too sounded familiar.
Ken went to phone through to the headquarters of the Barbican Mission to
the Jews (now known as Christian Witness to Israel.) I sat quietly
waiting, and as I did, pondered the name of Stephen Levinson. Where had I
heard that name, what was the connection? Suddenly it came to me. Stephen
Levinson had studied at the All Nations Bible College at the same time as
Keith and they stayed in touch over the years, although they never met up
again. Stephen, also a Messianic Jew, had met and married Rosina and they
had been working with the Jews abroad - Rosina was a qualified nurse and
midwife. At this point Ken had come back into the room and I turned my
attention to what he was going to say. “It's OK”, he said, "you are to go
to the H.Q.'s tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., and smiling, added, and I can
We had to go to Chislehurst, which was not very far, and Ken assured me
that he would wait for me and take me to the station to get the train to
London and then the coach to Birmingham. I needed to be home in time for
Jill coming in from school; I had arranged for her to stay with friends.
It was not long before we were standing at the front door of the
headquarters of the Barbican Mission. Ken rang the bell and soon we were
ushered into the study of Mr. Levinson. The two men greeted each other and
Ken withdrew. As I turned to the Director already his hand was extended to
greet and receive me. We recognized each other and with a bright smile he
welcomed me warmly. I knew at that moment that this man knew I was called
to work with the Jewish people; the Holy Spirit witnessed this in my
We talked for a while, he asking me questions about my family and myself.
He began to say, "now I would like you to meet", and then he stopped, and
said, "No, I would like the Committee to meet you". It was arranged that I
should have an interview with the Committee 24th January 1973. Then it was
time for me to leave and I was soon on my way home, just praising the
Lord, for I had indeed seen something of the Glory of God that weekend.
The 24th January 1973 soon came round and I woke early that morning to be
sure I was ready for the day ahead of me. It would have been Keith's
birthday so it had not been difficult for me to remember that date. My
friend Thelly, as she was affectionately known, was coming with me. How
thankful I was to have her company. Jill, my daughter started working on
the 22nd January at Atlas designers (Architectural), so I was able to see
her off assuring her at the same time that I would not be late getting
back. Thelma and I met at the station, took the train to New Street
station where we transferred to the London train. Thelma was good company;
she had a lovely sense of humor and could always find something to chat
about, so kept the conversation going and that was most helpful.
For myself, I was feeling a little excitement but at the same time I was
very apprehensive wondering in my own thoughts, what was before me. We
made an early start to ensure my being there well on time as my
appointment was at 2.30 p.m. Our train arrived punctually, which gave us
comfortable time to find our way round London and to be sure of our
directions to the place of my appointment. We had some lunch at a nearby
restaurant, lingering over this to kill time, of which we still had
plenty. We made our way to Church House in London and my feet never felt
so heavy as we approached the building, entered, and sat in the waiting
cubicle. Half past two was still a long way off. We watched people coming
and going; the place seemed a hive of activity and somewhere among the
maze of steps and corridors was a room, behind its door a decision to be
made which was to change the course of my life. It was important to me. I
did not treat God's Will and purpose for my life lightly and I was
greatly comforted in the assurance that the Committee before whom I should
come would be of the same mind concerning God's Will, in their decision as
to my being an acceptable candidate for B.M.J.
The time drew near for my interview so we walked along the corridor and up
a flight of stairs to locate the room where the Committee was met
together. We stood and waited, what still seemed ages, then suddenly a
gentleman appeared and called my name. He ushered me into the room; I was
petrified. What I thought would be just a few gathered there, was instead,
or so it seemed, a room full, as a sea of faces turned in my direction. Oh
help! I cried inwardly as I shyly made my way to the only vacant seat and
gingerly sat down, not daring to take in those many faces, except of
course the Director's. I knew his face on which was spread a welcoming
smile as I sat down beside him. This was reassuring and gave me a little
confidence, sufficient for me to glance up and oh! such a relief, as my
eyes alighted on the face of Mrs. Levinson. She too smiled reassuringly.
Maybe it's not so bad after all, I confided to myself. (What frail
creatures we are). Then the Chairman turning to me and asked me several
questions. Quite apart from myself, I am sure, for I had not gathered my
wits sufficient to think clearly, but the answer each time was on my
tongue. How I lifted up my heart to the Lord in silent praise. Now I knew
of a certainty that the Lord was with me. This was a further seal to His
Divine call. The interview was over. I breathed a sigh of relief, and in
no time at all I emerged from that room to be greeted by another friendly
smile, that of Thelma. I think she was as relieved as me that it was over.
We could now relax and enjoy what little time we had left to do some sight
seeing before wending our way back to Euston Station for the train home.
This was to be indeed a turning point in my life. I had experienced several changes since the death of my husband, very real changes that had not been without pain, but this was to be another step forward. What now did the future hold for me? I officially started with the B.M.J. on the 1st February 1973 and I was to meet up with the Rev. and Mrs. Anne Wooding also linked with B.M.J. They had a tremendous love for the Jewish people and it was super meeting them. I spent many happy hours either in their home, in Kings Heath, or we would meet in Carrs Lane Church having been given permission to use one of their small rooms. They had a wealth of experience from which I could draw and I learnt much about the Jewish people as we shared and discussed and prayed much for them. It was not only their years of experience in serving the Lord or the knowledge they had gained, but also it was their lives that spoke so much to me. I saw meekness, obedience, and submission to the Will of God and above all Love, God's Love. They had toiled faithfully in their effort to make some contact with Jewish people that they might extend something of that love but it seemed with little effect.
But how can we judge to what effects our efforts have produced? When the Lord is in control we remain just His instruments, He does the work. Only God Himself understands the Jewish heart, mind and what makes him tick, so only He knows how to woo and draw them individually to Himself. The confirmation I had received to my call and the encouragement that followed were indeed what the Lord had seen I would need in view of what next I had to experience.
Read Part Two of "A Call to the Jews"
Author: Betty Tanner. Used with permission from ASSIST News Service,
Web Site: www.assist-ministries.com
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