Kimberly is a member of the Holy Language tribe, following Yeshua and learning Hebrew! Here's her story.
My birth in the mid-1950's to a Midwestern family, where I was the youngest of three children, was uneventful, except it was... my birth! Everyone is the center of his or her own universe, my father used to say. That notwithstanding, I cannot recall a time in my life where Yeshua seemed a stranger or when I did not love Him. I called Him "Jesus" of course, as He was referred to in the Baptist church we attended as a family. My family stopped attending church together when I was pretty young, about six years old, and never again attended church as a family regularly, although my parents and older siblings encouraged me to do so. Faith and trust in the Lord ran deep in my parents and older sister, even my older brother for the most part, and all of that greatly influenced my childhood. We were a God-fearing family of non-church attenders who loved Yeshua dearly.
When I was seven years old,we moved from the house that my parents had built in Ohio to the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Soon after, my older sister took me to Sunday services at a Presbyterian church where I received my first Bible as a gift. It was a cold winter with deep snow and lots of time to read. I knew that books were meant to be read, my new Bible was obviously a book, and it was mine (hence, my responsibility to read it) so I opened it to the beginning, to Genesis, and began reading. I continued to read at least through Exodus, with my family's strong encouragement. I was in second grade and barely reading chapter books at that time, but the Bible, that was something different altogether.
After two years, we moved from the suburbs to a small town on the Allegheny River, and I finished growing up there. The town had a number of churches, and over the remainder of my childhood, I attended every one. Many of my friends there were Roman Catholic as well. One particularly boring summer when I was about twelve years old, some of them taught me to recite the rosary. That group included two boys who were preparing to go into the priesthood. I did not keep in touch with them, so do not know whether they followed through on that. It is exciting to me that recently through social media (Facebook) I have reconnected with quite a number of the Christian youth I knew then, and even the youth leader, and all have remained true to the Cross, deeply in love still with Yeshua, having raised their children and now grandchildren to do likewise. Something very right was happening back then, over forty years ago.
Although I had Jewish classmates in school, I knew little about Judaism. I learned of Chanukah first from a Jewish girl in my fourth-grade class. That was during recess when we were discussing Christmas, and she explained that she and her family did not observe that holiday, but did observe Chanukah. She seemed embarrassed, shy about talking about it. It all seemed confusing and sad to me.
During my teens in the early 1970's, I jumped into the "Jesus Freak" movement with both feet. I sang and played guitar at the local Christian coffeehouse, and participated in other activities, such as "Young Life" meetings of Christian youth which were held in various homes each week. I was even invited to act in a school production of Godspell, but declined as I was taking a full class load in order to graduate high school early. Even though I identified myself as Christian, I was very open minded about religions other than the ones to which I had been exposed.
At fifteen, I started dating a young man a few years older who I had known slightly through my brother. Our first date was to a Bible study at the Presbyterian church where several generations of his family had attended. A few months later, the youth from that church attended a retreat in the snowy mountains of Pennsylvania. The scripture-saturated sermons were delivered by a man who pounded home the message that if you are not for Yeshua (Jesus) then you are against Him. There is no middle of the road. Realizing I had been trying to stay in the middle of the road, I repented and accepted Yeshua as Savior and Lord of my life and never looked back. From that day, my life, including my way of thinking, changed dramatically.
The Presbyterian group we were involved with was evangelical, and cosponsored Jews for Jesus outreaches being organized by a Messianic Jewish man our pastor knew. There it was again, this Jewish element. I did not know yet how much the Lord was preparing me then for future revelations.
Ten days after my eighteenth birthday I married my boyfriend. Throughout our courtship, we had been very active in church and church-related activities, and that continued after marriage. By that time, we had left the Presbyterian church and were involved in an independent fundamental Baptist church, very strict in its teaching, but with rousing song services led by the pastor who had a great voice. Consistent with the church's teachings, I stopped wearing slacks or jeans or any other clothing that might be construed as a man's clothing. My life was otherwise guided by strict rules, as the teachings were pretty legalistic in some respects, but not so in other respects. "Nothing but the Blood," was not only a hymn we sang, but a theme that was taught strongly.
Around 1998 through 2001, my sister was studying our genealogy and verified what she had always suspected: we are Jews! She began attending a Messianic Jewish temple affiliated with the Seventh Day Adventists and had been doing so for several years by the time I also started attending services with her. My sister studied Hebrew during that time, but I did not. We attended a really nice regional retreat of the SDA and the Messianic groups affiliated with them.
Our former rabbi leads two assemblies, so two different Shabbat services, one which meets on Friday nights, and the other which meets on Saturday nights, after Shabbat is technically over, but he is only one person. For a while, my sister and I held Shabbat services for our families in my home on Friday nights. We lit the candles and prayed the Hebrew prayers and sang the Hebrew songs. Our families humored us and went along with it all. It was a lovely chapter of our lives and a practice I would like to do again.
In time, we left that Messianic group (although we still keep in touch) and after not attending services anywhere regularly for a few years, began attending services at an Apostolic Pentecostal ("Oneness") church at my then-ten-year-old grandson's strong insistence. In a short time, I received the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues, which came as a complete shock as I had not been seeking that experience and wasn't even sure I really believed in it. That experience made a believer of me. From that time, Yeshua has taken my life by storm, taking me deeper and deeper into fellowship and intimacy with Himself.
Within the past few years, I have learned that our new neighbors are Jews. The great-grandmother said that one of her daughters is now a Christian and keeps trying to talk to her about that. Her other daughter leans that way too. They know our former rabbi and have an interest in attending services there. She said some things about Yeshua are hard for her to reconcile, but perhaps when He returns He will reconcile those things for her. I agreed that He will.
As much as I can, I like to immerse myself in what I am learning. I really enjoy Messianic music, especially in Hebrew, and have had intense spiritual experiences while listening to music. A few examples that come to mind now are: "Vayikra Shemo," and at another time "Ki T'hilati Attah," both by Steve McConnell and "L'David Mizmor," by Zemer Levav.
There are many details I am leaving out, but the gist of my story is that I grew up Protestant and then found out I am a Jew, and I am loving all that Yeshua is revealing to me about that. What a fantastic adventure! Yeshua called me as a prophet when I had no idea what that means, and layer by layer He guides me through all of that. I have been feeling the need to study Hebrew increasingly as Yeshua has revealed more clearly my identities in Him, His calling upon my life.
I found out about Holy Language Institute through a video that singer/songwriter Beckah Shae put together explaining why she uses Hebrew in her songs. I am a writer as well, having written some spiritual and scriptural songs. Within the past year I have started to learn the mandolin, in addition to guitar and dulcimer.
Studying Hebrew means so much to me I could cry thinking about it. The cadence of the language feels like home to me, like a homecoming. I love the knowledgeable, yet down-to-earth way that Izzy teaches about the language and the Hebrew letters, and also about the culture and perspective of Jews. I particularly enjoy how he presents a really good case for the position that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew. It amazes me that as much as I have studied the Bible all of my life and have really immersed myself in study, I do not recall ever hearing that before.
During my doctoral studies, I focused on the resilience of distributed communities. From that perspective, I appreciate so much what Izzy, Genevieve and Tirzah do to foster that, the resilience of the "Holy Language Tribe" as they affectionately call it.
Yeshua is healing me deeply and making me whole through my study of the Hebrew language, the "DNA of Creation," as the language has been described, and that is not at all an overstatement.
The State of Israel has certain criteria for citizenship which include proving one's Jewishness. Prophetically, and by revelation of the Ruach HaKodesh I have learned that our Abba does not care in the same way how Jewish we may be. Even one molecule of Abraham and Sarah's blood in us is enough to house the power of all of Yahweh's covenant promises to Abraham. Yes, I know that the Gentiles are grafted in, but when Yeshua makes His return known it will be in a manner that astonishes everyone by the extent of His commitment to the blood covenant, to His people Israel.
In short, the Hebrew language to me is very much a part of health and wholeness, both of which are inherent in, inseparable from the gospel of Yeshua. Not only that, but it is through the Hebrew language -- including my study of it, immersion in it -- that the Lord is bringing order to my life, and through my testimony and who I am in Him, He is also bringing order far beyond.
The Jews are my people, and I long for them intensely, even though I feel a stranger still among them. I am sent to lead them as a little child. The Jews are my past, my present, my future; God's promises to Abraham glow in my DNA and circulate through my body with every beat of my heart. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," is brought home to me moment by moment in that very concrete way, in my body, which is a canvas for God's glory.
In the picture, I am reading The Bedtime Sh'ma: A Good Night Book to my youngest grandchild, Totiyanna, who is five whose birth I mention in my story. The book has some Hebrew letters and transliterated Hebrew in it (the Sh'ma).
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