I was appointed by the board of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry at its November 2018 meeting to be a church ministries representative working in the upper Midwest. That was the result of one short trip to New Jersey. But it was also the conclusion of a very long journey.
My history with The Friends of Israel goes back a long way. In one sense, it began when my grandfather was among the earliest readers of Israel My Glory magazine. Then it dates back to the mid-1980s, when I first saw that publication in a magazine rack in church, and wondered what the title meant.
I could trace it back to college and then seminary, when I began reading textbooks by the late Dr. Renald Showers and became a great fan of his teaching. I was thrilled to hear him as the guest speaker for a Bible conference in our seminary in 1996. The week was memorable for being so cold that school was cancelled the day after the conference ended—an extremely rare occurrence! But even more memorable for me was the opportunity to meet Dr. Showers in person.
Our journey toward The Friends of Israel goes back to 1998, when I read a book by Bruce Scott, and invited him to come for a special Sunday at the church I pastored in Iowa.
The journey intensified in 2013, when I called Bruce and inquired of him about serving with the Friends of Israel. I even began to go through some of the paperwork at that time. However, the whole process—especially the idea of raising financial support—seemed very difficult, so I set it aside and took another path.
But that journey resumed in 2017. I was concluding a fruitful interim pastorate where I had served for roughly two years. While I knew that was ending, I did not know that other, additional changes lay just ahead.
Suffice it to say that we were about to enter into our “Job 1 moment,” where everything falls apart. The biggest surprise we faced occurred when my wife Lynnette called to tell me that she had been diagnosed with a macroadenoma—a large pituitary tumor that required brain surgery within a matter of weeks.
We flew to California where she had that surgery with one of the world’s foremost pituitary surgeons. She is fine now and continues to heal from the effects of this tumor, which could have taken her sight or her life. But back at home a few weeks later, and facing the elimination of a position that I had hoped would be my career for years to come, we were having a discussion about the future direction of our lives one day after lunch.
In thinking about what to do next, the answer quickly became clear to me, and Lynnette agreed. We needed to get back on the road toward The Friends of Israel and follow it as far as the Lord would allow. Not knowing if we would make it across the finish line, we determined to follow that path to its conclusion—one way or the other. So, my next call was back to Bruce Scott.
That led quite literally to five major trips throughout 2018—going twice to New Jersey, once to Las Vegas and twice to Indiana. The final trip was the one I began my story with—to the meeting one week before Thanksgiving, where we were appointed by the board to serve with this great and historic ministry.
Our journey toward service with The Friends of Israel has not fallen in a straight line, and it has not been an easy one. But we have followed it to the end—which, in reality, is a new beginning.
Just about two weeks before Lynnette received the diagnosis of her brain tumor in 2017, I preached the final sermon of my interim pastorate from these words of the apostle Paul:
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11-13)
The Lord has continued to teach us the lessons of these verses—sometimes in ways that do not seem pleasant at first. But His purpose is always loving and good, and we can trust Him (cf. Rom. 8:28).
Please pray for us as we undertake this new ministry with The Friends of Israel.
Paul J. Scharf (M.A., M.Div., Faith Baptist Theological Seminary) is a church ministries representative for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, serving in the midwest. He also assists Whitcomb Ministries and writes for “Answers” Magazine and Regular Baptist Press. For more information on his ministry, visit foi.org/scharf or email firstname.lastname@example.org.