Stories: "A Call to the Jews" Part Two. by Betty Tanner
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The Church I had continued to attend and serve after my husband Keith's home call did not accept my call to the Jewish people. We had learned in the early months of Keith's ministry that the previous Minister had taught his congregation that God had no further purpose for the Jews. I came to understand later that this was called Replacement Theology, which I had not heard about before. But have since discovered that a number of churches apparently hold that view, which is very sad as there are a lot of Scriptures that refute such a Theology. Jer. Chapters 30 & 31 give a very good description of God's ultimate plan for Israel under the New Covenant. This rather shattered me at the time, but I soon learned that the Lord was now testing me in the call and I must follow Him, listen to Him and be obedient whatever the cost. So it was between Him and me!
The lonely path that He had shown me all those months back was beginning to open up before me, although I did have two friends who stood faithfully by me at that time, Edna, a dear friend who I had lead to the Lord and Vivienne, a young friend who was concerned for me in my situation. Once again I proved the strength of those words, I will not leave you comfortless.
On December 18th 1973 I went into hospital to have an operation on both my feet and returned home Friday 21st in the evening. Whilst I was in the hospital, I over heard a Nurse speaking to another and telling her that one of her patients' had fallen out of bed. “Who was it” the other Nurse replied, Levi Ball was the name given. As soon as I heard that name my mind did over time, although I was in a lot of pain. That surely is a Jewish name I thought to myself and even after I had returned home the name stayed with me, so much so that I spoke to our Pastor about Levi when he visited me. I did not know exactly what his views regarding the Jews were but however he responded warmly to my concern and offered to take me to the hospital on the day that I had to go back to have the plaster cases and stitches removed, Friday 4th January 1974. While I was waiting to see the surgeon, our Pastor very kindly went to enquire concerning this patient only to learn that he had left the hospital and had been taken to St. Margaret's Hospital, for the mentally ill. Levi, I was to learn, had the mentality of a boy of nine years. Nevertheless I knew I should visit him, so as soon as I was back on my feet I found out where the hospital was and I went to see him. This was my first Jewish contact.
Levi soon got to know me and showed his pleasure each time I visited him, in fact he became quite possessive when other patients tried to attract my attention. One of the staff said to me as she thanked me for visiting Levi, saying, "Some of these patients never have a visitor, not even their families bother to come and see them". So it was natural that they should want a little notice taken of them. It made me realise that these people with such disabilities were aware of visitors and probably looked for someone to visit them even if they were unable to express this. They were still human beings retaining that instinct to family and can certainly respond to kindness and a sense of being loved and cared for.
I continued visiting Levi until he died and I was encouraged by the words of Jesus "As much as ye did this to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me". I learned also that Levi had no family.
In 1968 we had three young people join our Church; they were attracted to Keith's ministry, his depth of ministry was what they were looking for, Henry, Vivienne and Rita, Viv's friend. When I learned how far they were traveling, from Great Barr and Kingstanding, I felt they should be invited to come to the Manse for Sunday dinner. Viv and Rita accepted the invitation and a nice friendship grew, they were getting to know us and we were getting to know them. We had an extending table so we were able to sit folks down, often there were others invited. We met some lovely people, all kinds from different walks of life, and always interesting. Generally they were believers but sometimes we would have an enquirer or seeker or someone accompanying a friend who was a Christian and who had invited them to come, perhaps for the first time to a church service. Whatever or whoever it was a joy to have them sit at our table and share of the things of the Lord.
Keith had such a rapport with young people and his lively sense of humor went down well with them. Apart from his witness as a Christian and pastor, that little bit of French that he had inherited from ancestors on his father's side also came through. Little did I realize then that one of those girls would become my daughter-in-law.
Rita was the Lord's choice of partner for Gerald and slowly their friendship grew. I remember well how the Lord laid this friendship on my heart and for two weeks I continually prayed for them, constrained by the Holy Spirit to do so. Gerald was now at University and so they were not seeing each other so much. However the Lord was in control and their friendship developed. Although he had said he would not get married before he had finished University the Lord began to show him His Will for them and redirect his steps. There was the usual phone call which we had every Friday evening, but this one was going to be a little different, as he proceeded to say; "Mother, the Lord has spoken to me about marriage, that Rita and I should take that step this year 1974, the last year for him at University, "what do you think Mum"? he continued. Knowing my son as well I did, I knew he would not have taken that step unless he was sure it was of the Lord! So I replied "well Gerald, if that is how the Lord is leading you, then that is what you have to do". I had quite a peace in my heart; I knew it was right for them both. Although I still did not know how the Lord was going to direct my path, that was to come but I knew also it was another step forward for me too.
Their wedding day was arranged for 31st August so the next few weeks were busy with preparations. Not far from where we lived, at the top of Ablewell Street was a very nice gown shop and Jill marched me in there, “it has got to be special Mum,” she said to me. This was a Saturday afternoon and I had been to see Levi before meeting Jill. It happened they had a sale on too, much to my relief, as I knew the dresses would be pricey. There were two ladies working in the shop, mother and daughter, and in the course of our conversation I realized that they were Jewish. Here were two more I could befriend, so I told them that I had been to visit Levi at St. Margaret's Hospital; they were immediately interested and a door was open to me there and then. The younger woman was the Manageress, she told me, and proceeded to take great pains in looking for a suitable dress for me. "Ah!" she said, "here is one for you". I tried the dress on and it was a little on the big side, but it was lovely. “No problem” she said, "my seamstress will soon put that right". Then she could see that I was not too happy with the neckline, it was too low for me. “That can be dealt with” and she explained exactly what could be done with a little alteration, her seamstress could also do that. And she did, within a week the dress was ready and she had made such a good job of it. I slipped into it and it fitted perfectly even the neck line was more acceptable as I tried it on. But what was happening during those visits to that shop? I was building up a friendship with the two ladies, I could pop in any time even if it did mean waiting while a customer was being served, but I had many a lovely opportunity to chat and share with them.
August 31st soon arrived. It was a lovely day and a very pretty wedding, a nice service, followed by a good reception. And then we were waving them off for their honeymoon. The Lord had blessed the day and we praised Him for his faithfulness. By this time Roger had come on the scene. Jill had met him while working in Beatties; both were training for management, Jill also doing a course at College in Business Studies. Both Gerald and Jill had accepted Jesus into their hearts at an early age. Gerald, 2 weeks before his 7th birthday, was a quiet child, studious and easy to manage; Jill just turned 8 years, was more outgoing, venturesome and seemed to have little fear, always a happy child and showed a very caring attitude from her early years, especially to her school friends. Roger was not a Christian when Jill met him, now at 18 years; she is faced with this situation. "What do I do Mum?" she asked me, continuing with, "I know as a Christian I should not go out with a non Christian, but the Lord seems so to be in this". "We will pray about it and ask the Lord, He will show you" I replied.
We did this and in my private praying I really sought the Lord for her. The Scriptures that I had read the morning of the day of the Induction Service for the new Pastor, which was from Josh: Ch15, Vs 16 & 17. I had noted how Caleb looked for the right man for his daughter and I remember how I had come before the Lord with those very verses and said to Him, "Lord if Caleb could be so careful and concerned in the choice of husband for his daughter, so can I. "Please make it very clear concerning Roger", and He did. He gave me great peace of mind and the assurance that Roger would be saved, then adding, "you will tell him the way". This came as a surprise as I had been praying that Jill would be given the opportunity at the right time to witness about Jesus to him. He knew that she was a Christian. So I asked the Lord to open the way for me to talk to Roger and He did.
As we sat in the lounge, I felt the presence of the Lord and knew this was my opportunity. Roger listened very intently to all that I said to him as I explained our way of life as Christians and then explained the gospel to him. When I had finished speaking he said to me, "I understand what you have said to me and I realize that this is a decision I have to make apart from Jill". “Yes,” I said, “that is right”. God worked in a wonderful way to bring about his salvation. Jill had been booked some months before to go to London to a special Rally with the daughter, Hilary, of a friend of mine. I asked Roger as the time was drawing near for them to go, if he would like to go with them. His face beamed “yes I would”, he said. "Well I will have to check that there is a seat on the coach", I responded. There was, just one left, no doubt the Lord had kept that for him. Hilary was naturally concerned, when she knew that Roger was going with them, simply because she thought she might be in the way. She had no need to fear, the three of them had a lovely day and Roger accepted the Lord in that meeting. Little did Hilary realize or even think at the time of inviting Jill to go with her, she was instrumental under God's hand in Roger giving his life to Christ. They were engaged on her 19th birthday 1975 but she assured me that she would not get married before she was 20 years at the earliest. But I was to witness yet again the Lord's intervening where my daughter was concerned. Roger was now ready for managerial post and the Company wanted him to move to Northampton to a new store that had recently been built.
Of course he wanted to take Jill with him and asked me if they could get married before he moved to Northampton. The Lord seemed to be working swiftly where my family was concerned, because in May of this year I had the call to go to Brazil.
This was a great surprise! I was at the B.M.J. Conference and Mr. Levinson was giving us his report on his visit to Brazil. As I listened to him and sensed his concern for the Jews in Brazil, he went on to speak of the need for someone to go out there. I felt a deep conviction in my heart; the Lord had spoken to me. Here I was again saying to myself, the Lord isn't saying that, not to me, a middle-aged woman and I had only been with the Society two years. He could not possibly be calling me! No I said to myself, He wants me to pray for someone from our younger staff members to go, after all they had a few more years' experience than I did. But I could get no peace in my heart as I let my thoughts take over.
I knew before I left that hall I must speak to Mr. Levinson and if I looked silly then I would. As the opportunity arose for me to get to him, approaching him rather hesitantly and thinking at the same time, I know what he is going to say, I had it all worked out in my mind as I still could not believe or grasp what I had heard from the Lord. He is going to say to me "well if you were ten years younger we would consider you". Nevertheless I knew that in spite of my misgivings I must speak to him, certainly if I wanted His peace back in my heart. Much to my surprise and joy as I asked Mr. Levinson, "How do I stand regarding South America?" He looked straight at me, and said, "Do you mean to go out there?" “Yes” I said, with my heart in my mouth. His face beamed, “Admiral” he exclaimed! "Now I can tell you", he continued. "You are the one the Lord brought before me, to go"; but I had to get this from you before I could tell you. Now," he said, "get before the Lord, wait on Him to further confirm this call and to show that you are willing to go". That was wise advice. After returning home from the Conference, the next morning I spent time with the Lord and enquired of Him for further confirmation regarding this call. I opened my bible to Isa. Ch 30 v8 and found myself reading these words. Now go write it before them in a table and note it in a book. The words “Now go” stood out very clearly almost as if the Lord was saying it to me and the words “Note it in a book” also spoke very clearly to me. This too was further confirmation that I would write a book but not yet, it would be in the time to come. November 1972 was when the Lord spoke to me about writing a book; little did I realize then how long it would be before that time arrived. But God's timing is perfect and when I did commence this work I knew that it was the right time.
But to return to Jill and Roger's situation, I could now see why the Lord had brought their wedding forward. This would free me to go to Brazil. When Roger approached me to ask if they could get married so that he could take Jill with him, I naturally felt a reaction within, Oh! so soon, Gerald had not long left us and now Jill. But because I believed strongly in Rom: 8 v28 "All things work together for good", God's hand must surely be in this. Then I had the call to go to Brazil. The Lord had certainly planned all things well. I had peace of heart and mind and entered into the plans and preparations with Jill for her wedding. This was planned for August 16th 1975. My eldest brother was to give her away, so here he was again giving his support and meeting a very real need, as he had done at the time of Keith's home call. On one of his visits, Jill showed him her dress, she put it on for him and his comment was "Jill, you must have top hat and tails to go with that dress". Roger quite liked the idea too and saw to the arrangements with the gentlemen who were to take part and how smart they looked on the day. I had chosen a suit for Jill's wedding, careful to select a color that would blend in with her color scheme. It was indeed a busy time but as the 16th August dawned, all was ready.
I had prayed that the Lord would hold off the rain that had been promised and He did. In fact the day was quite bright, for which I was so thankful as there were a number of guests traveling a distance, including those of my family who were coming up from Kent. The Service was well conducted and the reception, which had been organized by Mrs. Walker and with the help of some of the ladies, was excellent. The Church and the tables all beautifully decorated with flowers added to the lovely atmosphere throughout the Service and reception. How I thanked the Lord for His gracious undertaking and richly blessing the day. Soon we were waving the young couple off on their honeymoon. My family came back to the flat with me, also a few friends, which I appreciated very much but they too finally had to leave, except my younger brother Jim and his wife Edna. They were on holiday and were to spend the week with me. In this I could only but see the gracious hand of the Lord to meet that moment of need; He knew just how much I was going to miss Jill.