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How I Came to Faith in Messiah
by J. Asher Motola

I was born into a Sephardic Jewish family in Turkey in 1946 and moved to Canada 10 years later. Most of my growing up took place in the English section of Montreal. I had no religious upbringing but did have a Bar Mitzvah ...tradition...tradition...for which we went back to Turkey. As an only child, I developed a close relationship with my parents. I earned a BA from McGill University in Montreal and a Law degree from the same university. A few years after graduating from Law School I went back to McGill to earn a degree in education. I speak four languages: Turkish, French, Spanish, and English.

I went to Law School thinking I would be able to make a difference in people's lives. After working in a legal aide clinic in a low-income neighborhood I began to realize that any changes I could influence were only temporary and that in fact it was society as a whole that needed changing. Real change, lasting change, meaningful change would only take place when the heart of man changed. I knew the answer was a spiritual one, but at the time I had no idea what form that spirituality needed to take.

Discouraged, I walked away from my job and future career determined to find Truth. In the '70 there was a sense that the ancient teachings of India somehow held the key to the mysteries of life. I had met a young woman who had similar ideas and ideals and together we set out on our quest. We began by hitchhiking across Canada and down to Mexico. The plan was to travel to South America and then go either east or west - eventually winding up in India - good thing the earth is round! .

One day, we were hitchhiking on a main street in Mexico City when two young men approached us to ask if we believed in Yeshua. It was very easy for me to say, "Yes," since I believed in anything and anyone - from the Hindu gods to the Aztec idols. It was also easy to pray to receive Yeshua since I had no idea what that meant and little suspected where that simple prayer would lead.
There was no problem with accepting Him as one of many masters, but after I had read the Bible for a few days, it became apparent that I had to accept Him as the one and only. This was very difficult. Not only did I have a world view that shied away from absolutes, but I am Jewish and even a secular, non-practicing Jew knows that Yeshua is for others and not for him.

I was determined to find the truth and to understand the purpose and meaning of life. I continued to study the Bible and to ask questions. God is faithful to be found by those who seek to know Him. My questioning led me to John 10, where Yeshua clearly speaks of Himself as the, "only way." Suddenly I understood that I could choose to accept Him as He presents Himself or I could reject Him and continue my search, but I could not just take Him as one of many ways since that is not what He says about Himself.
That was the beginning of my walk with Messiah. A short while later it became clear that living together with my traveling companion was not an acceptable option. We either needed to get married or part company. We chose the former and 32 years later Suzanne and I are still married and thankful to God for having brought us together.

For the next five years, we shared our faith on the streets of Mexico, Australia and Tahiti - anyone who would listen heard about Yeshua. In Tahiti, Suzanne contracted dengue fever. When she was well enough to travel we returned to Montreal. Even though it was a very tough financially, I stayed home to care for the children and for Suzanne while she continued to recover.
I knew that we would be back in missions one day, but during this time in Canada, this seemed so unattainable. God seemed to be saying I needed to bring something practical to the mission field and that I needed to become an integral part of a congregation of believers . We had neither. I had a first degree in Philosophy and Literature and a second one in Law - hardly practical stuff. And as for the congregational family, I had neither been to one nor knew anyone who went. One day in early 1979, while lamenting this situation, I saw an ad in the paper, "...already have a first degree? Give us one year and we will give you a second one in Education." My spirit leaped; this was something that was doable. I felt the Lord say that I could teach the principles of faith in Messiah. I went back to school (McGill University) for a year and earned a degree in Education.

To get a job as a classroom teacher we moved from Montreal to Fort St. John, British Columbia, where I taught high-school English and French. As I began to teach, I learned that I couldn't take off my shoes of faith in Messiah at the door of the classroom. Whatever I did, whatever I taught, it all had to come from my being believer. That's who I am. Just as I come into the classroom as a man, without shedding my gender, so too I come into the classroom as a believer in Yeshua, without dissociating myself from my identity.
God began to show me that there is no difference between the secular and the sacred; every day is His and every day is holy. My every activity is to reflect His glory and be done to His glory. My faith must be the leading influence in how I teach and how I act towards my students. Regardless of what I am allowed to say in the public classroom, nothing can stop me from praying for them or responding to them as Yeshua would.

In B.C., we started attending a congregation for the first time. Because I am a teacher, I was asked to teach an adult Sunday School class. I developed teaching materials. Soon after I was invited to sit on the congregational council and Suzanne and I were asked to lead a home fellowship group. I had not anticipated working in the public school until retirement, but neither was the Lord giving us the green light to leave Fort St. John. We had moved there and into teaching in obedience to God's word and thinking that it would be a stepping-stone for missions. But after eight years it started to feel as if I were being kept in a waiting room.

In 1989 we decided to take a sabbatical year. I took a leave of absence from the school board, we rented our house and went to Kona, Hawaii to enroll in the Crossroads Discipleship Training School (CDTS) at the University of the Nations (U. of N). Following our three months of lecture - since we had a whole year off - we stayed in Kona to help teach in the Foundation School, (a school for the children of the adult students enrolled in classes at the U of N.)
One morning God grabbed my attention: He had called me to teach the principles of faith in Messiah, but all these years I had been teaching French vocabulary and rules of grammar. My life had been divided between my school existence and my work for the Lord. I felt as though I had to live in two different worlds: the sacred and the secular. Suddenly, in YWAM, in the Foundation School, I felt an integration of both. I became aware of and began to experience the fulfillment of what He had called me into 10 years earlier and what He had been preparing me for during all these years.

If we were going to stay in Kona and become full-time staff with Youth With a Mission, our first step would be to pray together as a family and agree to this radical redirection. The next step would be to get the blessing and release of our congregation in BC, and the final step: the actual resignation from the school I had been teaching in. Writing the letter of resignation was easy; mailing it was an amazing challenge and a foretaste of battles to come. As I opened the mail box I felt myself assailed by every possible question and doubt regarding my future plans and the "foolishness" of launching out on this faith venture. How could I give up a secure job? How would I provide for my family? How could I be so irresponsible? What will happen if it doesn't work? Etc. etc. etc.???

I knew what I had to do, based on what the Lord has shown us. We moved forward. We applied for and were received on staff at the U of N. We rented a house. We went to BC to dispose of many of our things and to ship some to Hawaii. We began to contact friends to invite them to become part of our missions team and to seek their prayer and financial support. Little did we know how many changes and adjustments we would need to make in order to transition into the missionary life.
Our four children were exposed to a multiplicity of educational models and styles: home school, correspondence school, independent study, public school, private Christian school, co-op home school, and a stint as my students in the Foundation School. It doesn't appear that any of this set them back in any way. They have all earned university degrees and one is pursuing graduate studies.

Today, at 59, I am in transition from my work at the U. of N. Kona campus. I am working to help international staff and students obtain visas to study and work in the US and I am also working with my wife at The Pregnancy Center - a local pro-life ministry. I am still called on to teach students and to teach teachers to teach. I enjoy using all that God has invested in me to help people find their destiny.
I have no regrets about leaving my secure job as a classroom teacher. I just switched careers and followed what God was calling me to do. I merely changed my emphasis. When God says it is time to move, do it, regardless of the seemingly safe or logical alternative. I am overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God when we were faithful to take the risk. I wonder what would have happened if we hadn't taken this leap of faith to trust God?

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