Farewell, my friend
Why "one of our last occasions?" On Wednesday in San Francisco, Moishe Rosen, aged 78, passed into eternity, with his family beside him, and with angels accompanying him, with Y'shua's arms open for him. He breathed his last and his earthly life was no more.
I spent the day today pondering our long relationship. I remembered the first time I read about him in the journal of the American Board of Missions to the Jews, now Chosen People, Magazine. The year was 1971. His name by which he was known at the time, Martin Meyer Rosen, was memorable. Then it wasn't long before I read about his thoughts in the Time Magazine or the Kansas City Star or some important journal. He was large, larger than (my) life, a famous Jewish Christian, who gave me a voice.
Then it was 1973, and the Liberated Wailing Wall was touring in their first travels through Lawrence, Kansas which was at that time, my home. I fancied one of the women on the team and began writing and even ringing her a time or two. That must have put her off and someone must have told Moishe. He sent word through a mutual friend in Lawrence to leave her alone. Who was this voiced person?
January 1974 I took a five-week trip to California to visit many ministries and see what I could learn. There was no virtual life at the time. During this trip I visited Southern California and then went up north to Pacifica and Berkeley and Marin County. There in San Rafael, in a nowhere village was a tucked-away ministry center called "Jews for Jesus." It was abuzz with activity. People were in different corners, writing, ringing, printing. I knew that the leader of the group was Moishe Rosen. I wanted to meet him and spend a few minutes with him, if it were possible.
He came out of his little office and asked me if I'd had lunch. "No," I quickly and hungrily answered. After a few minutes we were off to a local Chinese restaurant and he asked me of my life and of my trip and then he asked, "What can you do to help 'Jews for Jesus'?" I hadn't given that one much of a thought. I was there to learn, to find out what 'Jews for Jesus' could teach me. They were the ones making a difference after all. Moishe was the one with the voice.
But obviously one major lesson I still have to learn is that the one with the voice is the one with two ears. He listened well and quickly evaluated that I was one into whom he could pour some of his life and teaching and wisdom.
Fast forward to 1979. February. I was still involved in teaching a Bible study for the local church I started in Lawrence, called 'The Mustard Seed.' I was teaching high school mathematics at Basehor High School in Basehor, Kansas, outside Kansas City. Patty, my wife was pregnant with our firstborn. We had a comfortable life. A house we owned. Boarders/ renters whom we enjoyed. But it was a day when I wanted more, and was not content with comfort in the traditional sense. I wanted to share my faith, to evangelize, to get 'out there' again.
I rang Moishe and spent an hour talking with him about the future. Seems the Council, the leadership group of Jews for Jesus which advised Moishe every three or four months, had just met and determined not to hire anyone new, and certainly not to take on any families, as a major season for the group was about to happen. It would not be fair to anyone involved.
But here was Moishe, listening, and evaluating, and determining, and determined to make this Jewish boy come good. He told me to consider coming out and working with the organization. Maybe now was the time. Even though we would be new and we would be a family. But the risk-taker in Moishe, the courageous and faithful sector overwhelmed the advised sector.
So in May, 1979, the Council spent three hours with Patty and me. They battled themselves, the issues, the ill-advisability of it all, and offered me a position as a missionary with Jews for Jesus. We took it and in September, I started. Perhaps due to my pastoral experience or my Orthodox Jewish background or just because, Moishe, the one with the voice, appointed me to lead the Friday night services we began, first at the Odd-Fellows Hall and then wherever else it went. He gave me room to grow and room to fail, and advised and corrected and chided and sometimes even smiled.
The last month of our Jews for Jesus Avodah year (Sept 1979 to May 1980), when the entire staff was in San Francisco for retooling, retraining, and for me, positioning, training and learning, Moishe appointed me to be his adjutant for the month. As in the photo, he put his arm around me. He had me in his office each day, to assist him, to learn how he did what he did, and to mature in leadership skills and position.
That was the way it was in the 70s. The man mentored me from a distance in the 80s, while I was in New York City. We had times of serious cooperation and serious conflict and serious debate and serious fun (is that possible). And all the while he let me be his friend. I remember this time in New Orleans where I was leading a conference at which Moishe spoke. What a good night this was after the final amen. Click to see that photo photo New Orleans
We traveled a bit together in the 80s and 90s. I even was voted onto the Council now and then, so I could advise him at times. We had one good trip in Colorado where he had grown up. After all we shared the same birthplace. He and I (though 19 years apart) were born at Menorah Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. That weekend in Denver was really good. We worked well together. We went to Sydney Australia together the next year. I had visited it before, but Moishe hadn't. Now the learner became the adviser. And the roles switched, but only for a moment.
In 1996, Moishe retired as Executive Director and I felt a loss. The relationship I had with David Brickner who replaced Moishe was not the same. And yet that loss in many ways was overcome as Moishe and I would spend more time on the phone (and of late on Skype) and in person without the daily grind of ministry concerns. It was more the way it had been in the 70s. More about real life. More about what really mattered. More of a clearer voice.
In March this year I spent a fortnight in Kansas preaching and then flew back through San Francisco on my way back to Sydney. Only I had 13 hours rather than the usual two, to connect and leave. So I went into the City. I took some photos of the people and the buildings and then went to Jews for Jesus headquarters. I saw some long-time friends and some new ones. And then spent a bit of time with David. Then together he and I went to visit Moishe. Ceil was making dinner. We ate and talked and told stories and then it was time to go. The four hours had seemed like a minute when it was over. I think I talked more than I should have. But that's what Moishe got me doing so often, so he could listen and help me evaluate things.
If 'wisdom is known by her children' then will you say Moishe was a wise man? That's for me to demonstrate now, and into the future. That's what lies ahead for me.
For now, I needed to put to paper and blog some thoughts about my friend, about my mentor, about our lives intertwined and meshed. Thanks Lord for times with Moishe. Thanks for his wisdom and his risks and his love and his arms. Thanks for bringing him to Yourself. Thanks for bringing me to him.
Farewell, Moishe Rosen. Farewell, my friend.