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An Uncommon Friendship

by Kelley M. Mathews on December 1, 2009 in Profiles

In the past ten years New Age festivals have sprung up in Israel offering a variety of religious expressions from Hare Krishna to Shanti to Jesus. The festivals have provided the National Evangelism Committee (NEC)—the evangelistic arm of messianic congregations in Israel—opportunities to set up a shop in which to offer the New Testament and other books. At one such festival David* received a New Testament. Later he met “Noam” Hendren (ThM, 1980),  a friend of his teen-aged daughter. Here David and Noam tell the story of the uncommon friendship that developed.

David*:  I was called over to a stand by a bearded fellow with a heavy accent, whom I heard calling, “Friend! Come over and have a free book!” When he handed me a copy of the New Testament, I tried to resist. He insisted on giving it to me for free, and by the time I heard him read me John 1:1–14, I was thinking, “How many guys have ever read the New Testament in Hebrew?” I took it out of interest in religion, philosophy, and the desire to do or touch something new.

Noam: A regular visitor to our home, David occasionally asked me questions about the New Testament. Within a couple of months his questions turned more serious, and four years ago we began to meet weekly for several hours.

We started by focusing on the plan of God using the Old Testament only, but David also had other, more philosophical questions. It quickly became clear that he was serious, asking the kinds of questions that get to the core objections that concern Jews. One of David’s first questions was, “I don’t know what to do with this business of Jesus being God. I don’t see how that fits in with being a Jewish person.” That is probably the fundamental stumbling block for any Jewish person considering the gospel. I took David through the Old Testament, showing how it presents the Messiah as God coming in human flesh.

We met for about two months. As we worked through these topics, it became clear that David really understood the gospel. He was no longer raising common objections. He was satisfied that we were talking about the truth.

David: Noam and I sat mostly at the same spot in a small city park. Our meeting grew longer from one sitting to another, and we found many books, movies, stories, and ideas in our common interests. We would spend two or three hours going through the Old Testament, and then another couple hours talking about other things. Apart from being a teacher or mentor, Noam became a friend as well.

Three things attracted me to Noam as a mentor. First, he answered my questions.  Second, he seemed to know a lot—I mean a lot—and I appreciate that. That sort of knowledge attracts me, especially when it is dispensed in the way Noam does it. He does not presume to know so much. Third, the friendship that grew between us was also a factor for me. Noam invited me into his home, and with his family he has shown me true care, welcome, and love.

Noam: I could see that David was leaning toward faith in Yeshua, so I knew I needed to warn him. “David, before you make any decisions, you need to know that, here in the Land, putting your faith in Yeshua is not going to score you any points. It could bring a lot of problems with family, rejection from friends, and people will think you’ve joined a cult. You really need to count the cost, because there could be negative ramifications.”

He looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, it’s too late. I already believe that Yeshua is the Messiah!”

David: After every sitting with Noam, I would end up sitting with a friend over a game of chess discussing what I’d just learned. We spent the time trying together to batter down the ideas and notions Noam introduced. I played both “batterer” and defender, and we found it harder to batter down those ideas—whether ideas concerning God or ideas concerning science and thought.

Noam’s family also had an influence on my decision. In spite of what they believed, they seemed “sane.” And they were much more than that—they really had a light in them that was shining in my face. In them there was the kind of testimony that people often teach about—that someone will look on a believer and say, “There’s something different about you. I want to have what you have.”

Noam: After serving in the army like all Israeli high school graduates, David now helps lead the youth group at our messianic congregation. We continue to meet to discuss questions and issues. He’s a natural student, so he pursues knowledge on his own. He’s like an adopted son.

David: After finishing my three-year service to the country, I’ve signed up this year for studies at the Israel College of the Bible [where Noam teaches] for the one-year program, with the intention of moving on to one of the country’s universities next year. I hope to study history, Hebrew, or perhaps even archaeology, and then go back to my real interest, which is Bible and theology.

I’m grateful for Noam being  my mentor and for God’s work in intentionally putting us together. From early on I too desired to become a teacher and help others understand more, and see their hunger and thirst for truth grow.

I’ve had a huge privilege (which I realized only later, when people expressed their envy) of spending three years as Noam’s “private student.” I’ve learned a lot from him, and not just from what he said verbally. 


Mini-profile of Ken “Noam” Hendren 
(ThM, 1980)

 As a junior high student, Ken Hendren came to faith in Jesus.  The unbelief of his mostly Jewish classmates spurred his desire to share the Lord with Jewish people. He eventually pursued ancient Near Eastern civilization studies at UCLA, which included a year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He returned home, met Joan—a Jewish believer—and married the following year. They moved to Dallas to complete Ken’s education at DTS, and upon graduation nearly thirty years ago, they moved to Israel and began their ministry there. The Hendrens became Israeli citizens in 1982, and their two daughters were born in the Land.

Ken, now known as Noam, serves as co-chairman of the National Evangelism Committee. He teaches at Israel College of the Bible and is involved in discipleship and evangelistic leadership. He pastored a congregation for fourteen years, during which time many Israelis—native-born and immigrants—came to saving faith in Yeshua as Messiah. He is the author of HaIsh HaHu (“That Man”) on the life of Yeshua in its Jewish context. Published in both Russian and Hebrew, it is used widely in evangelistic follow-up and discipleship. You may contact Noam at noamhen54<at>gmail<dot>com.

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