NEW UPDATE: We have recently been informed that Phyllis Stroh has indeed entered into her eternity of Heaven in April of 2002. We are very happy for her but so sad we no longer can have her occasional encouraging email notes she used to send to us. She also was a faithful fan of our TV ministry broadcast (PRECIOUS TESTIMONIES) that played in her viewing area, and very often she would send us such sweet notes of encouragement after she had viewed one of the testimonies that had just aired. Thank you Lord for taking care of her as long as you did while she was here with us!
We know she suffered quite a bit physically in her last days and are so thankful she no longer is suffering but is rejoicing before her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To God be all the glory for the testimony that lives on through this precious saint who so willingly shared Jesus Christ as her Messiah!
(By: Phyllis Stroh)
Dickens begins his novel "David Copperfield" with the words "I was born," precluding other writers from using that simple but perfect opening ever again. But on September 7, 1958, I was miraculously given an opening of my very own when I was born again!
The words "born again" are a turn-off to many people, who immediately conjure up visions of "Elmer Gantry," a novel by Sinclair Lewis, which broad-brushes religious experiences concerning Jesus as being phony, out-for-the-money, and fool-the-public scams. Let me assure you that I have never made any money from having been born again - but in actuality it has cost me to admit to having had the experience. However, admit to it I must, and I deeply desire to do so, no matter what the cost.
"Then why not keep it to yourself? Why bother us with it?" you may logically ask. There are many reasons I desire to share my born again experience, one of them is because it was a true miracle, and it's human nature to want to tell about and hear about miracles. Proof of this is born out in the immense popularity of movies, TV shows, books, documentaries, and articles concerning miracles, let alone the visitations by throngs of people to sites where miracles are reported to have taken place.
Many long for and look for miracles in this world of difficulties and wars, particularly when it seems as if the miraculous and the supernatural and the unseen are the only possible solutions, and they are right! But true miracles cannot happen without God, and for some very strange reasons we are reluctant to admit to there being a God, the supernatural Creator of this world, of this universe, of everything! Of our own natural selves, we find it difficult to conceive of one person having created all of this and that one person controlling it. Therefore, when that One Person, the one God, steps into our lives and says, "Here am I!" we call it a miracle!
And that's exactly what happened to me on Sunday morning, September 7, 1958, shortly before my 33rd birthday. It was the day of the evening of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), when my husband and I decided to take our youngest son, who was four years old, for a walk. As we walked, we came across a little green building, with a sign on the outside that said "Hebrew-Christian Church". The sign intrigued me, thinking it was a meeting place where Jews and Christians debated about Jesus Christ, the false god of the Christians.
I said to my husband, "That sounds interesting. Let's go in."
There were many empty pews. No doubt the hot weather was keeping people away from the debate. We chose a pew to ourselves, up close to the stage, where stood an intelligent looking young man, with dark curly hair, and wearing thick glasses. Though I hated admitting such a thing, he was obviously Jewish. Therefore, he immediately had all my attention, for I expected him to deliver a scathing tirade against the Christians and their Jesus. In fact, he was asking the very same question I had asked my father many years ago, when I was only 15 and trembling with fear at the possible physical consequences I might suffer for mentioning the verboten subject of Jesus in our Conservative Orthodox home. But the day had come when I absolutely had to know why we Jews didn't believe in Jesus. Being in America, going to American schools - I was constantly subjected to the name of Jesus, not only at Christmas, but also all through the year. So, taking my life in my hands, I point-blank asked my father, "Why don't we believe in Jesus?" and quickly ducked certain he would hit me.
However, I hadn't counted on my father's great love for me. He answered with controlled patience, yet quite firmly, "We don't believe Jesus is the Messiah because when Messiah comes - He will bring peace. Since it's obvious we don't have peace, Jesus cannot possibly be the Messiah." My father's answer was so perfectly logical - it lasted me for the next 18 years. I never again inquired about Jesus.
And now, this young Jewish man, on the stage before us, was asking the exact same question I had asked my father, and he was giving the exact same answer my father had given me: "The Jews don't believe in Jesus because when Messiah comes - He will bring peace."
I was feeling a little smug, certain that "our side" was going to win. Then the young man continued, saying, "But I tell you Jesus came to free us from a bondage greater than the bondage we suffered in Egypt, or in Babylon, or in Rome, or in any of the places we have been. JESUS CAME TO FREE US FROM THE BONDAGE OF SIN!" Before I could question the young man's suddenly changing his mind about which side he was on, I was transfixed into another realm. Someone was speaking to my mind. It wasn't the young man. It was Jesus. It was Jesus telling me all about Himself, Who He was and Who He is.
He said, "I am Jesus, the Son of God. I Am God. I am the Messiah. What you have heard about Me is true. What you have read about Me is true. I Am Light. I created light. I created everything you see and all you do not see. I Am Truth. Believe Me and believe in Me. I made man. I came to earth in the form of man to die that all might be saved. In My Blood is forgiveness of sins. The Pesach (Passover) you love and celebrate every year is about Me. I Am The Sacrifice of The Passover. The Matzo (Unleavened Bread) is My Body. The Wine is My Blood, through which you have forgiveness of sins. I Am The Lamb, The sacrificial Lamb, Who died on the cross for you, for the whole world. The Haggadah (the Book of the Passover Service) is about Me. The Torah (The Five Books of Moses) is about Me. The old Testament is about Me. The New Testament, which you were so fearful of reading, is about Me. It is true I was born of the Virgin Mary. She was a virgin. My Birth was miraculous. I Am God. I can do anything. I Am all powerful. There is nothing I cannot do. With Me nothing is impossible. I Am the Light you were seeking. I Am the Truth you were seeking. I Am the Peace you were seeking. I AM THAT I AM."
While HE was speaking to me, Jesus showed me many things. Among the things HE showed me was one of those party favors: the kind that's all curled up and when you blow it, it uncurls and goes straight out. Someone blew on this one, and when it came straight out - it became a big, beautiful, white flower, with green leaves. I understood the Flower to be a form of God, of Jesus. Then way down, in the left-hand corner, was a black blower all curled up tightly. I understood this to be the devil, Satan, something else in which I had never believed. I was given the definite idea that this was not necessarily the permanent condition of the black blower, which could uncurl at anytime and do evil. He was not dead.
Then I noticed, as this information was being poured into me, tears were streaming down my face, almost in torrents. I couldn't stop them, nor did I want to stop them, because it felt as if I were being washed inside, all over, everywhere, inside and outside. Indeed, I was being washed and cleansed, thoroughly and completely of all sin. I was born anew! Born again! I was given the fresh start I had longed for: a new beginning! The chance to start all over, with all the old stuff forgiven and washed away, was being given to me - as a gift, a miraculous gift!
This all seemed to have happened within a very short space of time, hardly a minute or two. Yet everyone around us was now leaving the church. As I continued sobbing, my husband steered me out of the pew, up the aisle and between the people, until he had gotten our son and me out of the church and on our way home. As I walked and wept, I thought, "In one moment, if someone had put me on the rack and tortured me - I would never have believed in Jesus. But now, the next moment, I can do nothing but believe in Jesus, the One I had always been taught was a false, Gentile god."
Well, I had been taught wrong. Jesus is not a false god: JESUS IS GOD! The Goyim (Gentiles) are not wrong! It's we Jews who are wrong! Out of the whole world we are the ones who are wrong! Jesus Christ is all He claims to be! I was astounded! Open-mouthed! Awestruck! Embarrassed! We Jews thought we were the smart ones, the smartest in the world, more intelligent than the Goyim. We were The Chosen people of God, the only ones going to heaven, while everyone else was going to the other place. Good grief! How wrong can you get???!!! Unbelievable!!
There we sat in our living room, I on one chair, with my mouth still open in amazement, and my husband sitting opposite me, with an almost frightened look on his face.
I looked at him and asked, "What do I do now?"
He gulped and then asked me hesitatingly, "Do you mean what do you do if you come to believe that Jesus is The Messiah?"
"Oh no!" I hastily answered. "I do believe He is The Messiah! I know He is The Messiah!"
"Well," he offered carefully, "some people are baptized when they believe in Jesus."
"What is baptism?" I asked.
After my husband explained to me about baptism - I knew that's what I had to do: be baptized!
But meanwhile, it was Rosh Hashanah, and we had to be at the home of my parents before sundown, to go to Shul (the synagogue) with them; for, as was the custom, my father had paid a lot of money for seats in the Shul for all of us. On our way to my parents' home, I realized I could not allow my father and mother, nor any of my family, to go on believing the lies about Jesus we had erroneously been taught. I had to tell them the truth and it had to be now, tonight!. Their lives depended on it! Jesus hadn't rescued me from eternal damnation for myself alone, but for my family as well.
We arrived at the house well before sundown. The delicious aroma of my mother's holiday cooking filled the air, making us hungry in anticipation of the superb dinner we would have upon returning from Shul. The candles were in the silver candelabra on the dining room table, waiting patiently for my mother to light them at just the precise moment. Dad looked especially handsome in his best suit and black felt hat, and mom was more beautiful than ever in her beige crepe and lace dress. Never had I loved them more than at that moment. Yet, I knew that after I said the words I had been rehearsing on the way over there - the chances were very good that I might not live to eat Mom's cooking ever again. Reason being because my father would either kill me on the spot, or make me leave his home, never to darken his door again. They would say a prayer for the dead, for a meshumed; and I would be considered a traitor and a double-crosser; I would be despised, rejected, and banished, a Quisling; and I, their only daughter, would be dead, as far as they were concerned. Nevertheless, their eternal souls were more important to me than our earthly relationship, which was as dear to me as life itself. But just a few hours ago, Jesus had revealed to me that HE was Life, and without Him there was no life for anyone who didn't believe in Him.
I took a deep breath, swallowed hard in my dry throat and said, "Daddy, don't go to Shul tonight."
Daddy stopped in his tracks, looked at me as if he hadn't heard right and asked loudly, "What did you say?"
My heart was pounding as I repeated, "Don't go to Shul tonight. Come with me to church instead."
Now Daddy was really getting angry. His face was beet-red as he shouted, "Are you crazy? What are you talking about?"
He started to come around the dining room table after me. But I stood my ground, ready to die if I must, as I quickly tried to tell my parents what had happened to me that morning. By this time, hearing the commotion, my brother Davie came out of his bedroom, dressed to go to Shul. Davie had been a student at the Yeshivah (Hebrew school of higher learning) and was well taught in all of The Tenach (The Old Testament) and The Talmud (books by the rabbinical body). He listened to my story, but said nothing.
At the end of it, I still lived, my parents still loved me and did not deny me, but they refused to hear anymore about the matter. All of us went to Shul, where I suffered greatly, realizing more acutely, moment by moment, the enormous ignorance and blindness of my people and the rabbis who taught them and upon whom everyone relied for their religious beliefs. And up until that very morning too I had never thought for myself, and had depended upon the rabbis to instruct me in the way I should live a Jewish life, without really questioning them to any great extent. It hadn't occurred to me that when I stood before God on the Judgment Day - I would be standing there alone, without a rabbi by my side to defend me.
Worst of all, I had never fully investigated The Bible, the way my Bubbie (grandmother) had admonished me to do. Instead, I had relied on the various prayer books for daily and holiday worship. Little wonder my people and I stood naked before the world, without the knowledge of Jesus to clothe us. And I the most uncovered of all, for I had been so very certain that my second son was going to be the Messiah. While this was not an uncommon thought or desire among Jewish women, where their sons were concerned, how very foolish I now felt - by the revelation that my son and I were just a little too late - Jesus and Mary had precluded us by almost 2,000 years!
When we arrived home from the High Holiday Services, it began to dawn on me that this Rosh Hashanah was truly a New Year for me! Everything was new! Everything was changed! The Shofar (trumpet) had blown resoundingly in my ears and literally in front of my eyes!
Mom said she wouldn't worry or take me seriously as long as I wasn't baptized. On October 5, 1958, Herb Munce baptized me by immersion (and near drowning) in the little Hebrew Christian Church. It was not a pleasant experience. In fact, it was somewhat frightening. I felt as if I was going into a den of lions. I fully expected to die, which in a spiritual sense was what had happened.
Now my mother believed me - that I did believe in Jesus and she was not happy about it. She also sensed that I had met with a kind of death, and that I was more distanced from her. She wanted to know if I had become a Protestant or a Catholic - or what? I, too, wanted to know what I was now. I searched myself thoroughly inside and discovered I had become neither Protestant nor Catholic nor Gentile. Happily, I was still Jewish, and if anything - more so!
And in the ensuing months, the Lord showed me many of the ways He had used to bring me to Himself, including two passages in The New Testament: ... We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.... And the other: But the comforter, which is the Holy Spirit (the Holy Ghost) the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you.
Eventually, my husband and I found out that the name of the young man who was preaching that great day of my rebirth was Haskell Stone. Three months later, under Haskell's preaching, in the little Hebrew Christian Church, my husband was marvelously reconciled with Jesus through Genesis 4:12-15, as he realized the tremendous magnitude of God's forgiveness and mercy, when The Lord put a mark upon Cain (possibly the mark of The Cross).
We began a Bible Study in our home, with Haskell as the teacher. My parents and my brother Davie began to attend these Bible studies, as did my daughter and our youngest son. In August of 1959, almost a year after I was born again, my brother Davie, the learned Yeshivah student, saw the truth of Jesus in the third chapter of Genesis: that the sin of Adam and Eve (and, therefore, our sin) was our attempt to live independently of God... to live our own lives as we wished, without God ruling over us. Davie declared Jesus as Lord and was baptized in Kent Lake, in Michigan.
Jesus' teaching of turning the other cheek was the most difficult for my father to overcome. My tenderhearted mother found the Crucifixion of Jesus more painful than she could bear. Nevertheless, she was able to confess Jesus as the Son of God.
When my daughter read the 53rd chapter of the prophet Isaiah - she knew immediately it spoke of none other than Jesus.
In the summer of 1967, my father called Jesus "LORD," and he and my daughter were baptized together in the swimming pool of some believing friends in Michigan. In January of 1970, our youngest son, through Bob Stone, came to believe in Jesus and was baptized in the home of Haskell Stone - in the bathtub.
Jesus said, "Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again." (John 3:7)
If you don't believe me - then read The Bible for yourself: For what does it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26)
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my life story. I hope it has blessed you and if you have doubted that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, I pray that the Holy Spirit has shown you the truth what I have just shared with you. God bless you and I hope to see you in eternity in Heaven!NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: If you are questioning in your heart what this Christian life is all about and would like to know more about being reconciled to God, please click here to learn how you can do that. Thank you and God bless you!
Please let it be known here and now that it was not through me but through the faithfulness of Haskell Stone and his wife Rosalyn Stone, and the prayers of many people, and above all - the prayers, work, and love of our Lord Jesus - that various members of my family and I were saved and born again.
During our recent trip to California (for the wedding of my granddaughter), my niece, Dana, the only daughter of my brother Davie, also attended the wedding. During one of our conversations, Dana let it be known that she most definitely and assuredly believes in Jesus. Dana's mother, the wife of my brother Davie and my sister-in-law, was a believer in Jesus. Her name was Denise. She died on 4/29/95.
I will have been in the Lord 42 years on 9/7/00.
Additional Note: Our dear brother, Herb Munce, who baptized me, died between 2/25/97 and 2/26/97, in Israel. On May 15, 1998, Haskell Stone died.