|How I Came to Faith in
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
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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