As we celebrate 25 years anniversary of Jesus of Israel Ministry”, a Ministry toward the Jewish people but not only to them, but to all that want to follow the Lord’s (Hashem) Plan of Salvation, I remember our beginning in the USA.
Let me tell you a very short story of our life of ministry in the last 36 years. First let me say “HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO JESUS OF ISRAEL MINISTRY” or as I wanted this ministry to be called by its Israeli name YESHUAT ISRAEL which really means THE SALVATION OF ISRAEL.
It was October 24th, 1980 as both Nora and I stepped for the first time in the Kennedy Airport New York, USA. I was already a Medical Doctor, by the Grace of the Almighty with some accomplishments in Medical Research in Romania and Nora was well accomplished as a Violinist and Opera singer. Great were our expectations as we first arrived in the greatest country in the world. As we defected Romania by the summer of 1980 we left behind then our almost 4 year old daughter Sharon, hoping that soon she will be able to accompany us in the USA. Even though we became Temporary Residents of USA by October 1987 and we became Permanent Residents of USA in 1989, little did we knew then, that it would take a battle of 10 years and one day involving three countries until we would see our daughter again. Had it not been for Republican Senator Jesse Helms and the Former Ambassador of USA to Romania Dr. David Funderburg’s intervention, it would have taken two or more years until the Department of State issued Sharon Smilovici a Parolee Humanitarian Visa who was at that time only 13 years and 11 months old.
When we initially arrived in the USA, it was two weeks prior to the Election of Ronald Reagan as the 40th President of the United States. Coming from a Jewish Bapticostal realm, surely most of the people we knew at that specific time wanted Jimmy Carter, the Baptist President, to be reelected. Little did we know then, how important that election was for the United States of America, when the Hollywood Artist and the former Governor of California became the new elected President of the United States. Oh, how much we miss that President with such a heart for this Land.
By the winter of 1980, we were in Brooklyn NY when we celebrated our first Hanukah in the USA with Beth Sar-Shalom Messianic Congregations. Not long after we moved from Brooklyn, NY to San Diego, CA via Los Angeles, where we just wanted to spend few weeks with my dear Uncle Richard and Aunt Sabina Wurmbrand. Leaving the cold wintery NY, NY to the beautiful weather of San Diego, CA it was quite reinvigorating, and not only that. I was so blessed to be able to be asked to work as a Fellow in Medical Research again, which was even greater.
Our Medical Research Group had to move from Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in San Diego, CA. to Cedar Sinai Hospital in NY, NY. We decided to remain in California, and little did I know then how difficult our next 9 years would be in the USA. Our Political Asylum was denied and for nine years we were citizens of no country. To return to Communist Romania would mean prison for life, and Israel had rejected me, even though I was a veteran of the Yom Kippur War - classifying me as a dangerous Missionary although I rarely kill a fly! In all that turmoil, we can really see now that this was the Plan of God for our future.
By the end of 1985 and with a very, very heavy heart I said my good-byes to the Medical Field and decided to go full-time into Ministry. Then we moved from the sunny and beautiful California to the cold and rainy but beautiful Portland, OR. By 1986 we both started our Theological training, which we accomplished quite well in only twenty-eight months. It was a miracle, His Miracle, to graduate Western Seminary in such a short time and with a Cum Laude Diploma which was unheard of. Praised be His Holy Name for His Great Miracles!
During those first eight years in the USA, being in NY, CA or OR/WA, we were very much involved in the Jewish Ministry, which was and is an intrinsic part of our being. It was in 1981 when I got very involved with Beth Sar-Shalom Ministries in the Greater Los Angeles Area which was directed at that time by Dr. Daniel Goldberg, a man that I learned to admire and love very much and is in need of all of our prayers right now. I already knew his older Brother Dr. Louis Goldberg (Professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Institute) from my involvement in the Messianic Movement in Israel in the early seventies. Dr. Louis Goldberg had always impressed us in Israel with his knowledge of the Scriptures and we enjoyed his seminaries every summer. Even though I was working with a volunteer status with Chosen People Ministries in the eighties, and I had been promised before we started our Theological training that after our graduation we would be taken on as staff of Chosen People Ministries, by 1988 as we graduated and to our big surprise that promise was not kept.
It was then that we asked the Lord what He foresaw for us in the appropriate future. Soon by September 1988 a call came from Hickory NC asking for us to come and start a new Romanian Baptist Church and be their first Pastor. We moved more than 3000 miles away from the beauty of Portland, OR to the small town of Hickory nestled in the foothills of Piedmont NC, to start the First Romanian Baptist Church in NC. It was the beginning of a great ministry among the Romanian People in NC where we still currently reside, and many more churches started since then.
It was by the fall of 1989 when “The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministries” asked me to become part of their staff having in mind the overseas work among the Jewish People. Our ministry with “The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministries” started in January 1990 and by February I was asked to go by myself alone to work among the refugees that came out of the former Soviet Union in Ladispoli – Roma, Italy. My mission work took me to Rome, leaving behind my wife Nora and our American born son, Nathanael who was only eight years old at that time. I must mention that during all these 10 years in the United States, we hadn’t seen our daughter Sharon.
I had two wonderful years of ministry with “The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry” where I had ministered literally to tens of thousands of Jewish People coming out of the Former Soviet Union, Italy, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Moldova, USA, and Israel. Probably, this only the Lord knows, over ten thousand people accepted Yeshua-Jesus as their Messiah. In those two years I have been ministering in a number of countries, like Italy, Germany, Austria, Romania, Moldova, Israel and the USA.
It was Friday December the 13th, 1991 - believe me I am not superstitious, but that is the truth - I received a call from my direct Supervisor with “The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry,” letting me know that December of 1991 was the termination of my employment with FOI. That came after ten long weeks of ministry in Romania and Moldova that was crowned with great rewards in souls that accepted the Lord, as I have preached the Good News all over even in the plain as I returned from that glorious ministry. I couldn’t believe it. Was this really happening? It was just two weeks after I have sent the FOI headquarters the report of the great ministry I had in Romania and Moldova. I did not know what to think. Did the Lord have forgotten us, or what? Without any real reason the written dismissal came just a week later which made our holydays of 1991 quiet very somber.
In the same week I have received the news from Israel, that my father who worked as a volunteer with the same ministry “The Friends of Israel” for more than 15 years was extremely sick. I could not reveal to him the sad news, but the Lord Himself revealed it to him. When I called to find out how my parents are doing, after speaking with my mom, my father told me: Theo you do not have to tell me, but I know, the Lord Himself revealed me that you are not working anymore with “The Friends of Israel”. Do not worry he said, the Lord has called you to an even greater ministry. I was astonished, I did not know what to say, but I accepted it as a sign from the Lord. And so it was. Was it more difficult? Yes, but with even greater accomplishments. Until this day 25 years later I do not know the reason behind my dismissal from the staff of FOI. But I do not have to know, since I know for sure that this was the Great Plan of The Almighty for our lives.
It was by the end of February of 1992 that I have written my first letter as an independent missionary, The Founder and Executive Director of Jesus of Israel Ministries. It was hard to find the name for the ministry in the beginning where we wanted to call it “The Brothers of Israel”. But in the last moment I have changed the name of the ministry by the request of my uncle Richard to “Jesus of Israel Ministries” which remains until this day. I wonder now after so many years why in world I didn’t named it by the Hebrew name of YESHUAT ISRAEL which would have had even a mightier impact to my Jewish friends. “Jesus of Israel Ministries” received the approval from NC Secretary of State by April 1992 and became a 501c3 ministry by August 1992. So this year is a year of great celebrations. I will always Praise My Lord for what He has done for us; all of our accomplishments during these long years were just because of His Mighty Grace. GRACE that most of us if not all of us, we will never be able to understand it completely. The rest of the story of the 25 years of accomplishments for His Glory will follow in my next letter to come.
Since I am writing about the Mission field I want to let you know that in March and April I will be gone for 7 weeks ministry in Eastern Europe and I need all your prayers. Please do keep me in your daily prayers.
I pray and hope that my next letter will come from Romania before Passover/Resurrection week in April 2016. I will be back with the Lord’s help by April 28th, 2017.
To all of you that have supported “Jesus of Israel Ministry” during 2016 and if by any chance have not received our Statement of your Donations, please let me know ASAP. Also please do forgive me for not writing to you a thank you note as I have sent the Donation Statement last month.
With all my love in His Mighty Grace and Love,
Theo Ben-Abraham Smilovici