This testimony used with permission of Jackie Fierman and Ariel Ministries. For original article, please visit Ariel Ministries
This is not a pretty story of how a person found herself. This is the story of a life in which God had miraculously chose to intervene; a life that has been, and is continuing to be, transformed by God’s power. This is my story.
In the Beginning…
I was born in St. Louis, Missouri. My mother dominated my life as a child. She had a history of mental illness that was not well controlled. Then it was called manic depression; now it is known as bipolar disease. There was no medication on the market in those days to control this disease, so she was given tranquilizers and experimental drugs. Due to a lack of love in her own childhood, she didn’t know how to love others, so there was a history of psychological and emotional violence in my young life.
Young JackieI was the unplanned fruit of my parents’ reunion after five years of my mother being institutionalized in a state hospital. The doctors decided that she was not fit to be a mother, so in 1957, she was offered an abortion, which she accepted; however, my father did not accept this.
I grew up believing I was a mistake. I always felt guilty. I felt that I deserved to be punished for something. This eventually led to suicidal thoughts. I never considered that I should express my anger outwardly, and certainly not to the person who gave me life – my mother. So my anger was turned inward.
My Jewish Beliefs
I came from a Jewish family that was practicing to a degree. At the synagogue, I learned that as a Jew, I had a reserved seat in Heaven, just because I was Jewish. I studied there on Sundays for ten years and was confirmed, as is the tradition in some synagogues. I received honors for my ten years of studies, signing the Torah scroll because of my high grades. In terms of my faith, I believed that only important people could understand the Bible. I believed that God only spoke to men like Moses, Abraham, or David. I was taught that the Messiah was coming on Passover. This became the high point of my year, looking forward to Passover, because I knew that once Messiah came, He would free me from my difficult home life.
I attended public school in a Jewish neighborhood. The school was trying innovative ways of teaching. For example, instead of studying Julius Caesar for an opera, we were given Jesus Christ, Superstar. I knew that to put “Jesus” and “Christ” together in the same expression was a sin. And I knew that Jesus was not the Messiah. But the theme song of Jesus Christ, Superstar kept running through my head: “Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, who are you? What have you sacrificed?”
Jesus Christ Superstar Album CoverWe were all basically lost trying to follow the text of Jesus Christ, Superstar. Even the Jewish teachers were confused. One day, someone suggested that a “Jesus expert” be invited to class and the teachers agreed.
Separation of Church and StateThe small classroom was packed solid when the Jesus expert came. I saw a man stand up with his big, black Bible. He began to preach from it. At synagogue, I had been taught that it was better to die, physically, than to believe in Jesus. This man kept speaking and nobody stopped him. I was sure somebody would do something. After about five minutes of listening to his preaching, I stood up and interrupted. “You must stop right now, Mister. There’s separation of church and state, and you’re not allowed to preach in this school!” The man stopped speaking. However, he did come prepared with some written material. This man handed out gospels of John. I was about to shred the material when I opened it up and discovered, to my horror, that throughout the entire booklet they had written out the name of God with all letters. (Side note: Jewish people never write out G-o-d. We write G-d or L-rd.) I was frustrated. So I stuffed it in my pocket and went home. But now what do I do with it? I can’t give it back. I can’t throw it away because it has God’s name in it. I put it in a place that I thought nobody would ever look – the very back of my underwear drawer. And it stayed there.
There’s a First Time for Everything
When I was 16 years old, I was invited to go to church by one of my Christian friends. Of course, I declined. But she was very persistent and finally came up with a solution. She told me there was a potluck afterwards, with homemade, hand cranked chocolate ice cream. Needless to say, my will broke down at that point and I decided to go. I wore a mezuzah around my neck, like garlic is used to protect against vampires. But it was a very different culture to me. As I walked in, I was handed something like a playbill. I found it to be a very frightening experience. Before the ice cream, there came an altar call at the end. During the altar call I felt, physically, like somebody had taken me by my shirt and pulled me toward the aisle. I thought, “Some powerful thing is after me. How dare it come into a place where they think they’re worshiping God, even though they’re polytheistic idolaters because they believe in three gods.” I hung onto that pew in front of me for dear life, and I did not go anywhere.
An Endless Pursuit
After that first church experience, there were many more examples of God’s pursuit for my heart. My first church experience had been at an American Baptist Church, but another friend had invited me to another Baptist church. I was hesitant, until she said, “You went to her church, you should come to my church. It’s a Southern Baptist Church.” I thought, “What’s the difference?” So, I visited her church on a Sunday that happened to be the culmination of a weeklong revival. They gave an altar call at the end and, again, I felt a presence pulling me toward the aisle. I thought, “No way, my family would kill me. Forget it.” So, once again, I hung onto the pew. Alas, I had survived another altar call.
One day, I was at a shopping center with a friend, and I saw a business card on the ground. Written on it were these words: “Need good news? Call 24-hours a day. Recorded message.” These were the Vietnam War days; there was no good news. My friend, Bev, suggested I call to see what it was about. I had no intention of calling, but I picked it up, put it in my purse, and promptly forgot about it.
During my last year of high school, I needed an easy course to raise my grade point average. A friend told me about a course on Biblical Heroes. She felt I would ace it because of my studies at the synagogue. I signed up immediately and, sure enough, it was easy as pie. Halfway through the course, we were handed the Gospel of Matthew. I said, “You can’t make us read this. This is religion in the schools!” The teacher looked at me intently and said, “Jackie, what do you think we’ve been studying, if not religion? If you don’t do the second half of the class, I’ll have to flunk you.” I had signed up for this class to raise my grade point average. Failing was not an option.
I took the copied book home and hid it in the back of a folder so my parents wouldn’t see it. At night, I read the Book of Matthew with a flashlight under my blanket. I was supposed to read the first five chapters for the next day, but when I got to chapter five, it was in the middle of a speech. I thought, “You can’t stop here. Let him finish his speech.” So, I decided to let him finish his speech. I got into chapter seven, which I thought was pretty good. I kept reading. Before I realized it, I had read the entire Gospel of Matthew that night under the blanket with my flashlight. After Matthew, we jumped into the Book of Revelation. I was totally lost. It was like science fiction. But this book prompted me to ask a lot of questions.
I was grounded one weekend and I had time on my hands, so I decided to clean out my purse. Lo and behold, I found the card that read, “Need good news?” I could barely read the writing by this point. I remembered getting the card and thinking it was a joke. Since I had time, I called the number on the card and listened to a message with only Old Testament verses, explaining how Yeshua, Jesus, is the Messiah. I thought, “Ha! That’s their Bible, not mine.” So I called back a couple of times until I had written down all the verses mentioned. When I checked them out, it was very clear that theses really were verses from my Bible.
Over a period of time, I had come up with five questions that I had never asked anyone. The most important question was, “How could Jesus’ blood cleanse you from sin?” I had been taught blood was a no-no, very bad to have in your meat if you kept kosher. How can blood clean anything? I never heard about this in synagogue.
Giving Up the Fight
One night, my friend Bev invited me to attend church with her the next day, which just so happened to be Resurrection Day. Before I knew it, I accepted the invitation. But just as quickly, I thought, “No, that’s one of the biggies.” Jews don’t go to church on Easter, because in Europe the Gentiles would go out with a cross and murder, pillage, rape, steal, and burn in revenge for Jesus’ death. But once again, I found myself attending church.
The preacher started off by saying, “I know some of you out there aren’t Christians and that some of you are wondering how the blood of Jesus can cleanse you from your sins.” My jaw about dropped. He showed us from Genesis and many other Old Testament passages how blood was always needed for sins to be forgiven. The preacher then proceeded to answer my other four questions. I was in a state of shock. Of the five questions he answered, every single verse was from the Old Testament. He did not touch the New Testament. During the last hymn, there was an altar call, and I was sure I was leaving fingernail marks in the wooden pew in front of me.
I made it out of church alive, but the very next morning, in my public Jewish high school, there were signs up all over the walls saying that the Liberated Wailing Wall was coming, singing Hebrew and Christian folk songs. I decided to go, but on the day of the concert, I saw another poster. This poster was very different, with very big and blasphemous words that read: “Jews for Jesus.” I was upset. They were meeting at the same time and place as where I was going that afternoon. I heard a voice say to me, “Jackie, there’s your answer.”
I decided to go to this concert, and by the time I got there, they were already singing! They sang several songs I knew, and then a young Jewish man named Sam Nadler explained how he had realized Jesus was the Messiah. At the end, they asked if anyone had questions to come up and talk with them. I thought, “Ha! Now’s my chance, now I’m going to get them.” I stood up and my shoes wouldn’t move. I couldn’t get up front to cause trouble. I turned around and saw a newspaper – that would be my cover! I went back and randomly opened the newspaper to a page where there was a Billy Graham column. In big letters it said, “Turn to God!” I closed the newspaper and said, “Okay, God, I will go.”
The biggest thing for me, other than belief in God, was being Jewish. I started to talk to a woman who asked me if I knew Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22. I replied, “Yes”. Then she asked, “What’s keeping you from believing?” Well, it was simple. I couldn’t stop being Jewish. What I didn’t know is that you could be Jewish and believe in Jesus as the Messiah. She explained to me how some people in the early Church actually believed that you had to become Jewish (through circumcision) just to believe in the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. They were wrong, of course, but she said, “That’s how Jewish it is to believe in a Jewish Messiah.” Suddenly, a light went on in my head. I thought, “It’s true. Jesus really is the Messiah.”
I struggled with this new information. I had no peace. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or think clearly. But God continued to provide people in my life to help me along the way.
Wayne, a gentleman who lived about a five-minute walk from my house, had invited me to a Bible study and I accepted. The study was on how Old Testament prophecy is fulfilled in the New Testament. The following Saturday, I attended this Bible study again, but this time I decided to stay longer because I knew that afterwards they would go out and talk to people in the street. I walked with Wayne as he shared the gospel of Jesus with about a dozen people that day. I heard him explain that it is by grace that you are saved through faith, not of yourselves. It is a gift of God.
I went home that day and pleaded with God for help. I just couldn’t fight anymore. I said, “God, give me a verse, please, and let me know that I’m not going to die, because my parents are going to kill me if I do this.” He had me turn to Psalm 27:10: Even if my father and my mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up. I closed my Bible, gave up the fight, and a burden lifted off my whole being as I prayed, asking God to forgive my sins through the blood sacrifice of the Messiah.
That was April 12, 1975.
It’s No Coincidence
I found out that Wayne was a pastor, so I began attending his church. I also found out that he used to hand out cards to people that said, “Need Good News? Call 24-hours a day. Recorded message.” That abandoned, discarded, dirty card that I picked up months before had come from his ministry. He told me that the week I called was the only week that year they had used only Old Testament verses. Any other week, I would have heard New Testament Scriptures and hung up the phone. I also discovered that Wayne was the “Jesus expert” who visited my school all those years ago! He told me he had prayed for me back then. He and his wife, Carolyn, had received some of their training from Dan and Arlene Rigney, who later joined Ariel Ministries.
Gradually, God began a healing process. I learned that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for those who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. God doesn’t work on everything in our lives all at once. He continues to heal me. My family doesn’t recognize me since I joined Ariel Ministries Canada. They don’t understand the joy and the passion that they see in my life.
God saved my mother from committing suicide when she was in her early 20s. God saved me from being aborted, so that I could share eternal life with her. Eventually she became a believer, and so did my father. They are both with the Lord now, and I have experienced healing.