A Word from a New Agency Member— CJF Ministries of San Antonio, Texas USABy Dr. Gary Hedrick. CJFM President
Here at CJF Ministries, we are excited about our new affiliation with LCJE. We believe it will be a great opportunity not only to cooperate with other like-minded organizations in ministry, but also to learn from what other ministries are doing.
We learn a great deal from watching how other ministries do their work. It helps us figure out what works and what doesn’t work. We try to learn from other peoples’ mistakes, and also from their successes.
Like most other Jewish mission agencies founded in the last hundred years, CJF Ministries began with one individual through whom God worked in a unique and powerful way. Jews for Jesus was founded by Moishe Rosen, who along with his wife Ceil came to faith in Jesus the Messiah through the influence of a godly woman named Hannah Wago. Chosen People Ministries traces its origins back to a rabbi named Leopold Cohn who came to faith in Jesus after studying the messianic prophecy in Daniel Chapter 9. American Messianic Fellowship (AMF) began with William Blackstone, the renowned early Christian Zionist. On and on we could go.
In our case, the ministry began with a young Jewish lad named Charles Halff, Jr., who came to faith in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1944 at age 15. Like most Jewish families, the Halffs were not happy when young Charles announced that he had become a believer in Jesus. They reacted even more strongly when he announced some time later that he was convinced the Lord had called him to become a preacher of the Gospel.
After his death, we found an early version of his testimony, composed by Charles himself when he was in the 20s. This is what he wrote:
“One day I was given two books put out by the Million Testaments Campaign of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One was entitled A Jew, A Book, and a Miracle. It gave the stories of three Jewish conversions, and I wondered how any Jew could give up his religion and turn to Christianity. It seemed very foolish to me, so I threw the book in the trash basket.
A few months later I picked up the other book that had been given to me. It was a copy of the New Testament. I had never read the New Testament before, but decided to look into it contents. In the front of this Prophecy New Testament (which was printed especially for Jewish people) were eighteen prophecies of the Messiah, giving their references in the Old Testament. Also, it gave the place of the prophecy’s fulfillment in the New Testament.
I searched the New Testament diligently for many hours to find the literal fulfillment of these Old Testament prophecies, and God revealed to my sin-laden heart that Jesus of Nazareth was truly the promised Messiah of Israel. There are no less than three hundred and thirty three prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the earthly life of Christ, and how glorious it has been to find that all of them have been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.
The Halff family was well known and widely respected throughout the Southwest. Charles Halff, Sr., was in the real estate business with an office in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. Young Charles’ mother, who was divorced from Charles, Sr., lived with another branch of the family here in San Antonio, Texas. Various Halff cousins were bankers, lawyers, merchants, and (believe it or not) ranchers. Yes, they were Jewish cowboys! Even today, the Halff Brothers Ranch is one of the largest working ranches in the country that is still open to the public (www.halffbrothersranch.com). It covers nearly 20,000 acres between San Antonio and Laredo, near the town of Pearsall.
The Halffs were among the founders of Congregation Temple Beth El in 1875 (one of Charles’ ancestors, Meyer Halff, was on the original board of trustees) and young Charles was well known to the people there (www.beth-elsa.org). That’s where he became a Bar Mitzvah and where he was active in the youth programs. He often helped the rabbi with services and aspired to be a rabbi himself someday.
So you can imagine the ruckus and the ripples throughout the Jewish community when word got around that young Charles had become a believer in Jesus. Ultimately, his father (who lived in Tulsa) disowned him and his mother (who lived in San Antonio) said she cursed the day she gave him birth. They both rejected him—and so, as a teenager, Charles Halff, Jr., found himself on the streets of Tulsa with nowhere to go.
A local Christian family—members of an Assembly of God church in Tulsa—heard about his plight and offered to take him in until he could get on his feet. They gave him a place to stay and took care of him until he was able to get a place of his own.
It was during this time that churches began to invite this young Jewish Christian to come and share his testimony. In those days, Jewish believers were not as common as they are today. It was rare—almost unheard of—for a Jewish person to stand up and say, “I believe in Jesus.” So by the time Charles was 18 years old, people all over the Southwest and Midwest regions of the US were flocking to church meetings to hear him give his testimony. In a newspaper article, a reporter referred to him as “the Christian Jew,” and the name stuck. To us today, the term “Christian Jew” may sound a bit blunt, or perhaps even disparaging, but to the Christians who loved Charles and supported his ministry, it was a term of endearment.
The venerable Jewish Christian scholar, Dr. Charles Feinberg, who was at Dallas Seminary at the time, told Charles Halff that he should be on the radio. He obeyed this wise counsel and “The Christian Jew Hour” went on the air in 1948. A few years later, the ministry was incorporated as “The Christian Jew Foundation.”
In the 1950s and 1960s, the radio program was very successful. Charles’ straightforward Bible teaching, emphasizing the central role of Israel in the plan of God, and his simple presentation of those truths, struck a responsive cord with multitudes of Christians all over the world.
At first, the radio program reached mainly metropolitan areas in California, the Southwest, the Midwest, and the Northeast. Then he expanded into the Northwest (today KARI in Washington State is one of our oldest stations) and deeper into the South (we have been on WGUN in Atlanta, Georgia, for almost 40 years).
When Charles discovered the Mexican border “super stations,” the radio ministry grew exponentially. These stations—distinguished by the initial “X” in their call letters, like XCRF—were situated just across the border in Mexico so they could avoid US government limitations on transmitter power. They boomed their signal all over North America with two or three times the wattage of US stations. They would take advantage of the “sky wave” effect (atmospheric skip) at night and increase their coverage even more. Charles used to say it was common to receive mail from listeners in South America, and occasionally even from Europe, who heard “The Christian Jew Hour” on these powerful border stations.
Visitors to our San Antonio headquarters were often treated by Dr. Halff to a “quick look” at his scrapbooks—one of which included a clipping from the Philadelphia newspaper announcing that “The Christian Jew Hour” had outperformed the ever-popular “Arthur Godfrey Show” in the local market ratings in the 1950s.
Those early years were not all easy, however. There were many discouragements and setbacks. One thing that weighed constantly on Charles’ heart was his burden for the salvation of his family. They had cast him out when he was a teenager, but he had no bitterness or animosity toward any of them. He loved them dearly, in fact, and wanted them to come to know Jesus as their Messiah and Savior.
Unfortunately, he was never reconciled with his mother. Some reports say she developed mental problems even before Charles was born. Charles, Sr., divorced her. They say she died a bitter and unhappy woman.
However, his father spoke to him regularly in his later years. Not long before his father died, he confided in Charles that he had started listening to “The Christian Jew Hour” on our Tulsa radio station. He didn’t say that he had received the Lord, but he told Charles he was proud of him. Many people had witnessed to Charles, Sr., over the years, so Charles always said he hoped he would see his dad in heaven.
His aunt (if you’ve read the life story book, she’s the one who offered him $85,000 in bonds to recant his faith in Jesus) not only became a believer in her later years, but actually was a supporter of our ministry! She became like a mother to him when his own mother forsook him. Charles is buried next to his aunt in Sunset Memorial Park here in San Antonio.
There were other difficulties in the early years, too. Some churches were not open to this young Jewish preacher because of latent “Christian” anti-Semitism. The pastors taught their people that God was finished with the Jewish nation. The Jews, after all, had apostatized when they rejected Jesus as the Messiah in the first century, so God destroyed their nation in AD 70 and crossed them off His list! So what can we possibly learn from this “Jew boy” preacher? This was a predominant attitude that young Charles came up against as he traveled the country in the 1950s and 60s in church meetings and city-wide evangelistic crusades. Even in “Christian” circles, some doors were closed to him simply because he was Jewish.
He also had health problems, including a heart attack in the 1970s. He often credited capable assistants he had in the 1960s and 70s with helping him keep the ministry going during that critical period in our history. Among those capable helpers over the years are such notable names as Albert Runge (who went on to serve as a Christian Missionary Alliance pastor in Canada for many years but recently returned to CJF as Associate Bible Teacher on our radio program), Arnold Fruchtenbaum (now Director of Ariel Ministries in California), Susan Perlman (the only person at Jews for Jesus who can give orders to David Brickner and Moishe Rosen), and Woodrow Kroll (now Director of Back to the Bible Ministries in Nebraska), just to name a few.
Charles Halff frustrated many of his critics (and even some of his friends) because as hard as they might try, they could not pigeonhole him theologically. What made his teaching and preaching difficult to categorize was the fact that in matters of soteriology he was solidly Reformed in doctrine, but in matters of eschatology he was strongly premillennial and dispensational in his views.
On the one hand, Charles’ Reformed friends could not understand how he could be so gullible as to believe in “Jewish fables” like the notion of seven dispensations, including a literal, coming, thousand-year reign of Messiah Jesus on earth. Many of his premillennialist colleagues, on the other hand, had difficulty accepting his strong views about election, predestination, and the sovereignty of God. Yet he held these views steadfastly right up to the night of his sudden homegoing in November of 2000, and CJF Ministries continues as an enthusiastic advocate of this unique doctrinal viewpoint even to this day.
When my family and I moved to San Antonio in 1988 so I could accept the presidency of CJF Ministries (still known as “The Christian Jew Foundation” at that time), we wondered if we were doing the right thing. But Charles was a great co-worker and gave me a great deal of freedom in the ministry. Eventually, we settled into a routine and the work since then has given us a great sense of fulfillment and joy. These have been, without question, the best years of my life.
Charles agreed with me in 1988 that it was time to begin a transition from mainly a radio ministry to a more diverse missionary work. The center of gravity for Judaism worldwide was shifting from New York City to Jerusalem, so we knew we needed to get organized in Israel and expand the work there. Throughout the 1990s, we worked together to train and hire new workers in Israel and other parts of the world. The Lord sent us a man named Jerry Green (now with the Lord), and later another man named Roy Schwarcz (now with Middle East Ministries) to serve as our first two Directors of Missions.
Later, Roy put us in touch with Barry Berger, who had been serving as a National Ministry Representative for Chosen People Ministries. When Roy left CJF Ministries to assume a full-time position with Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Barry stepped in as our third Director of Missions. Like Jerry and Roy before him, Barry has done an incredible job. He has a real heart for evangelism and radiates his love for the Lord. Our missionary work has expanded greatly, both in size and effectiveness, under his leadership.
Barry has a fascinating testimony. He was raised in a Jewish home (his family roots go back to Minsk and the Chassidic movement) but through a combination of unfortunate circumstances, found himself wandering the streets of Chicago as a young man. One night, he followed the sound of music to a downtown black Baptist church. He went in, heard the Gospel, and prayed to receive the Lord that night. The black woman who led him to Christ became his spiritual “mother.” She has advised him and prayed for him regularly over the years. She is very elderly now, but they still talk on the phone from time to time. They have a special bond.
Barry’s wife, Violet, is Greek (yes, she actually speaks Greek). So Barry says that he and Vi represent a literal fulfillment of Romans 1:16 (“… to the Jew first, and also to the Greek”). Vi is a great helper and partner in Barry’s ministry, just like my wife, Marcia, is to me.
Barry is the driving force behind our JET (Jewish Evangelism Training) Institute, which we hold at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Phoenix each year in July. It’s a two-week, concentrated course of study that includes doctrinal studies, apologetics, and a messianic witnessing plan adapted from Dr. Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion (with his permission, of course). At JET 2003 this past summer, we had 35 students, and 44 people received the Lord during the two weeks of hands-on witnessing training.
Another aspect of the ministry we’re very excited about is our outreach on the Internet. Roxanne McKnight, our Associate Editor, helped us set up our first website back in the mid-1990s and maintained it for several years. Now we have a full-time Website Administrator, Brian Nowotny, who has expanded our outreach to three websites (although that’s not really all he does).
Our flagship website is at www.cjf.org. Then we have an online store at www.messianicspecialties.com where we offer a myriad of Bible study resources and other ministry-related items, and we also have our campus ministry website at www.universityoutreach.com. Several of our missionaries and volunteers have ministries on public campuses, including our son, Michael, whose ministry is at The University of Texas at Austin, where the undergraduate enrollment is an incredible 50,000 students. Michael is a sophomore in the School of Communications.
University Outreach is planning a “Live the Land” tour to Israel for high school and college-aged students in July of 2004. As far as we know, it will be the first tour of its kind and we are excited about it. Michael will be assisted by Joab Levytam, whose father Gideon has a Jewish ministry in Canada, in this effort.
We get tens of thousands of “hits” (visitors) on these websites every month. The Internet is worldwide, of course, so people are coming to us from everywhere, including places one wouldn’t ordinarily think about—like Vietnam, for instance, or Malaysia. Last year, we received an e-mail from an official in the Chinese government who had seen one of our websites and wrote to ask if we could help him contact an official in the Israeli government who could help with a certain matter—which we were happy to do.
The opportunities are great, and we look forward to networking with our fellow LCJE agencies and exploring ways we can work together to achieve our common purpose—taking the Good News of Messiah Yeshua to Jewish people (and Gentiles, too!) around the world.