From the Worldwide Faith News archives

'Wrestler with God' becomes a bridge builder

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 23 Oct 1998 14:37:28

Oct. 23, 1998        Contact: Tim Tanton*(615)742-5470*Nashville, Tenn.

NOTE: The Rev. Milton Gould, an elder in the North Indiana Conference,
is pastor of
Clunette United Methodist Church in Warsaw. He has led Indiana United
Methodist churches since 1969.

A UMNS Commentary 
By the Rev. Milton Gould*

I have always wrestled with God it seems, but now I had a clear sense.
He was saying, "Don't fight me on this!" 

This was the feeling I had after returning from our 1994 trip to the
Holy Land with Bishop Woodie White and hundreds of other Indiana Area
clergy and laity.

The trip had a powerful effect on my life that went much further than
deepening my vision for pastoral ministry. My visit to the Jewish
homeland was forcing me to face a fact. A fact that all my life I had
been avoiding. 

I was ashamed and afraid to admit that I was Jewish. 

This strange love-hate relationship about the identity of my family of
origin is something I have struggled with all my life. 

I Milton (Moshe) Gould grew up in a New Jersey family of Jewish descent.
However, not only did my family not practice the Jewish religion, we
completely avoided discussing our Jewish heritage. My family attended a
small Methodist church. This is where I found my spiritual nurturing. 

I became a believer in Jesus the Messiah while attending Billy Graham's
1957 Madison Square Garden Crusade in New York City. My mother, some
friends from our church and I sat in the highest gallery. I was 10 years
old at the time. All I could see was a dot on the stage. But the message
was loud and clear. As all the big people went forward during the altar
call, I sat in my seat and quietly received Jesus into my heart. 

My quiet decision brought me into a relationship with the Lord, but I
did not enjoy an easy path to growth. When I was 11, my parents divorced
after years of turmoil. My father remarried, but our new blended family
remained dysfunctional and full of domestic tumult. It was during this
time that my father reminded me of our Jewish descent. The revelation
only further confused a young boy already in pain over the divorce. I
was struggling, trying to find my way.
At this critical time, God used three people to give me some stability.
The first was my grandmother. She was a strong Christian woman who
encouraged me to seek God's will for my life and obey Him no matter what
others in my family might think. The second was my Sunday School
teacher, Mrs. Eleanor Wehrle. She put her love for God into practice by
loving a little boy left devastated by his family's breakup. The third
was my student pastor, the Rev. Joseph Ford, who planted the seed of
God's call to ministry in my heart. 

I wrestled with God's call to ministry throughout junior high and high
school. Finally, out of frustration, I told God that I would attend
Taylor University in Upland Indiana for one year. However, I also warned
Him that if He didn't tell me that He wanted me in the ministry during
that first year, then I was going to quit and go to forestry school. 

That fall, I had an experience that confirmed my call. Since then, I
have never doubted God's call. My spiritual journey, however, has been
marked by struggle. I have learned much in life the hard way. 

I met my wife, Ava, at Taylor, and together we moved ahead into further
education and ministry. I earned a master of divinity in 1975, and a
doctor of ministry in 1988. God has blessed our ministry together. God
has permitted me nearly 30 years to exercise my spiritual gifts of
preaching, teaching and caring. 

But underneath all these years of ministry and growth there lingered an
inner sense of pain, shame, joy and pride I felt about being Jewish.
When asked if I were Jewish, I would often deny it or give some feeble

Then came the 1994 Bishop's Pilgrimage to Israel, where God led me to
look in the mirror and admit to myself with a certain trepidation, "I am
a Jew, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And that my Lord,
Savior and Rabbi is Yeshua (Jesus) the Jewish Messiah." The decision was
not easy, but it was final. God seemed to warn me not to wrestle with
Him on this one. The years have taught me that in the long run there is
no use fighting the Almighty. When I have tried, He has always won. And,
I must admit that He has always been right. 

The decision to accept my Jewishness has gradually brought healing to my
life, marriage and family. It has given me a sense of "coming home" that
I can only compare to my original salvation experience. I am more at
rest in the Lord than I have ever been. 

Now, it seems that God is asking me to take a fresh look at my calling.
I am sensing that God is leading me in the direction of developing
bridge-building ministries and relationships with the Jewish community.
Part of the leading (for the moment) is being directed toward writing a
curriculum that will look at "Jesus in His Land," which I hope will help
members of the church see the Jewishness of Jesus, His Life, His Time,
His Land and His Faith. 

I believe there is a need for United Methodist Jewish believers in Jesus
the Messiah to come together for fellowship, support, fun and learning.
I know of a number of area laity and clergy who are of Jewish descent
and would love to be in contact with others who might be interested in
coming together. 

If you are interested (Jew or Gentile) you may contact me at: 2415 N.
Grandview Drive, Warsaw, Ind. 46580; phone/fax: (219) 858-2550; or
e-mail: I would ask that you pray for Ava and me as we
seek God's leading for ministry and open doors of opportunity. Pray that
this stubborn wrestler with God will, by God's grace, be obedient to the
vision set before us.

# # #

*This column originally appeared in the Hoosier United Methodist News,
the newspaper of the United Methodist Church's Indiana Area.

Commentaries provided by United Methodist News Service do not
necessarily represent the opinions or policies of UMNS or the United
Methodist Church.

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