Eugene Cho

generations of faith and salvation

Last Sunday, couple folks were baptized at Quest. Their stories of coming to faith in Jesus always moves me. With permission, here’s the story of Rosalind – one of only 30,000 Karaite Jews in the world and now one of two Karaite Jew believers.  I want to encourage you to read it and be blessed.

quest church baptism

“The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. ‘I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ So Abram left, as the Lord had told him…” Genesis 12:1-4

It feels like my faith journey began before I was born. I guess that’s why my testimony might feel more like a history lesson than a story about God’s grace, but the fact that I’ve made it here is almost testament enough.

I am a Karaite Jew; a sect of Jews that has been around since God passed down his laws to Moses. Originating in Mesopotamia, the area between the Tigris-Euphrates river system (present day Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc.), only 30,000 of us remain in the world today, 4,000 of which reside in the U.S.

My parents were born in Egypt and, like many of the Karaite Jews, were also imprisoned, and then expelled, during the 1967 six day war between Egypt and Israel. In the middle of the night, my father was taken to a prisoner of war camp (similar to U.S. Japanese internment camps during WWII). At 37, he, my mom and two brothers were forced to start over, having lost everything (home, business, money, dignity), they began a second life in Italy as Jewish refugees. It’s a miracle that my father escaped the two-years of imprisonment sustained by two of my uncles and several other Jews. It’s a miracle that I was born to them in SF, CA, in 1972.

So begins my story of Christ’s protection, guidance and salvation.

Judaism is the Foundation of My Faith

In Hebrew, Karaite means “Followers of Scripture.” According to some Jewish scholars, the Karaite are referred to in the Bible as “the righteous,” because they believed in keeping the Torah’s commandments with no additions. [Now I understand why I always HAVE TO be right.J]

They broke away from Rabbinical Judaism (today’s mainstream Jews), who added an interpretation of scripture known as the Oral Law – the Talmud. The Karaite movement can be compared to the Protestant Reformation, because the Karaite vowed to follow the word of God over the opinions of Rabbis.

“Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.” Deuteronomy 4:2

Grace Several Years in the Making

I am a Jewish Believer, Follower of Christ and have been since sometime before my 7th grade teacher at West Portal Lutheran School told my classmates that she felt sorry for me, because I was going to hell. When I approached her, hoping she’d clear up what must have been a rumor; Mrs. VanBlarcom confirmed that she had indeed said this, insisting it was nothing personal. Jews don’t believe in Christ, so you’re going to hell – “no offense,” she reassured me.

Thankfully, my brother had taken me to my first (and only) Young Life meeting in 4th grade. I had also been attending Lutheran school since age 5 and Chapel every Wednesday. All of this prep helped me believe that Christ’s teachings offered more hope than Mrs. VB knew how to share. So, I decided to take this up with my pastor, Pastor Keyne. When asked if I would go to hell, because I’m Jewish, Pastor Keyne showed me the grace I needed. “I can’t tell you the answer. God is the final judge.”

As an 11-year-old, this was reassuring. Also as an 11-year-old, I vowed never to assimilate as a Christian. Christians, after all, seemed was often more divisive than unifying. I decided that I would always, privately, be a Follower of Christ, never losing my Jewish identity.

Departure from Tradition

Not unlike my ancestors, today I stand before you prepared to profess my faith as a Jewish believer. No, the Karaite don’t believe that the Messiah has risen, but the tenants of this faith planted the seeds I needed to begin following Christ at an early age. How? Karaism teaches that:

It is more important to do the right and moral thing than to do the same thing as everyone else.
It is up to the individual to take personal responsibility for interpreting Scripture, basing his understanding on the merits and logic of a given interpretation.

Luke 7:6–8 gives me the courage to let go of tradition and join a small sect of Karaite Jewish believers. So far, I think this sect is only comprised of me and my brother Clement, but I have to admit that even as an adult I have continued to be very private about my walk with Christ. That is until today.

“Jesus replied. “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:  ‘These people hone me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” You have let go of the commandments of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

Using the empowerment bestowed upon me by the Karaite, I have taken personal responsibility for interpreting scripture and leaving the traditions of men. Finally, I am choosing to be washed by the water of Christ’s amazing grace. Like my father who started anew at age 37, today, also at age 37, I ask Pastor Eugene to help me begin my public life in Christ.

Church, will you promise me one thing? If I do this, promise me you will never tell anyone they are going to hell. Amen.

[photo by dcruzin photography]

Filed under: christianity, church, faith, Jesus, ministry, quest church, religion

18 Responses

  1. zoelavie says:

    Thank you for a beautiful story of faith. May God bless you with grace and strength in your spiritual journey.

  2. thejourneywithnoend says:

    AMEN!!! Thank you for sharing? I would love to share this with some friends? Do you mind if I print it and share it?

  3. Peter says:

    Tears are filling up. Amazing story.

  4. Joe says:

    I also attended West Portal Lutheran in SF from 2nd-4th grade. I had wonderful teachers who shared the love and grace of Jesus. What a beautiful story of God bringing people to himself…sometimes in spite of Christians.

  5. Nate says:

    Profound.
    I have long considered Judaism to be as family. It would be a mistake to consider Xianity as a religion, born simply at the time of X.
    Beyond that, we are accountable (as individuals) to how we receive or reject the wooing of Jesus…
    Beautiful testimony.

  6. Kacie says:

    AWESOME. Worshipping with the Chosen People of the Lord that have believed in the Messiah is a HUGE privilage. That is awesome.

  7. Lori says:

    Rosalind, you have a powerful testimony. What courage you have to stand on the word of God and its truths whether or not your fellow Karaite approve or agree with your interpretation of scripture. Welcome to the family and God’s richest blessings to you in your life with Him.

  8. Rosalind Sciammas says:

    Thank you pastor Eugene for giving my story a global audience. Lori, Kacie, Nate, Joe, Peter, Joann, Zoelavie, (and journey with no end feel free to share) — how touched I am by your responses. I’ve spent years searching for a church that embraced diversity over assimilation, extended grace instead of judgment — one humble enough to act as a servant (not a barrier) to Christ’s message. Finally, I’m home.

  9. eugenecho says:

    @rosalind: thanks for stopping by the blog and again, sharing a glimpse of your heart. thanks for extending to me the joy and grace of being one of your pastors.

  10. Joel says:

    Wow, this is a powerful story. I particularly liked her vow to never assimilate as a Christian, but remain as a Follower of Christ – I am of a similar bent, after eighteen years of acting Christian. Thanks for this.

    P.S. I think the scripture passage is actually Mark 7:6-8, I tried to look it up in Luke and it wasn’t there.

  11. Newman says:

    Shalom Rosalind. I’m Jewish but was raised a Christian. After studying the Hebrew Bible for several years, I’ve joined the Karaite community in Jerusalem. I’d like to know more about you’re story. Coming from the small community of “followers of the Miqra” that I’ve joined, and having joined the faith I was raised in. We may have common experiences, and valuable information to share about our beliefs. I’m interested if you found a way to reconcile the religion God gave our ancestors at Sinai, and being a follower Jesus. Maybe you can do both? My email is newmancbn@yahoo.com

  12. Shalom Everyone,

    As a karaite Jew who was born and live in Israel it is
    Very sad story to hear !

    To leave the truth,and to believe in false believes is waste of time and life that ELOHEY ISRAEL (ADONAI) gave you. I think that you really mad bad choice and that you need to come back to your roots (i.e Karaite Jews).If you will learn the Bible it self you will find
    that there is no other TORA.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Moshe

  13. What can I say? Rosalind ask yourself this question. If Jesus died once for the sins of mankind and by believing that he sacrificed his blood once is all that is needed to believe in, then explain to me Jer.33:17-18. “For thus saith YHWH; There shall not be cut off unto David a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; neither shall there be cut off unto the priests the Levites a man before ME to offer burnt-offerings, and to burn-meal offerings and to do sacrifice continually.” Why is sacrifice needed if the blood of our brother Jew was enough for ever? The Covenant YHWH made with our forefathers has not been annulled. It has no expiration date. God hates human sacrifice. The Christian Bible is not a “new covenant” (testament). At what point did YHWH say HIS Covenant with his people was void? There was NO other Covenant made with Israel. “MY people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”

  14. Lew White says:

    The act of immersion for followers of the Messiah of Israel is the beginning point, where they enter into the Covenant. Acts 2, and Acts 4:12, show us there is a Name we must call upon for deliverance. We speak it as we are immersed, not anyone holding onto us. That Name is but one:
    “YAHUSHA” seen in the TaNaK 216 times, and spelled as Yahushua (2 times), and Y’shua (1 time).
    Immersion is the outward sign of a good conscience toward Yahuah, and also the outward sign of our identity as an Israelite. It is the moment our heart becomes circumcised by Yahusha.

  15. Thank you for this faith & hope story. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. God be with you always in your journey..

  16. Joseph says:

    Great another jew ruined and is spread as evidence that christianity has to be the “true” religion.

  17. Thanks for some other wonderful article. The place else may just anyone get that type of info in such an
    ideal method of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I am on the search for such information.

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One Day’s Wages

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There's no such thing as a self-made person. Someone believed, encouraged, and invested in you. Be grateful and be that someone for others.

Taking a break from the sabbatical...to partner in ministry in Denver at Cherry Hills Church and at the CRU staff conference. It was such a gift to be able to encourage a handful of folks one-to-one, a small group of Asian-American leaders from EPIC, and the larger group of 5000 staff during one of the sessions.

I've been personally blessed, challenged, encouraged, exhorted, and convicted by so many who have poured into my life - friends, acquaintances, and even strangers - and I hope to do that for others as I seek to be faithful to Christ.

Thank you, Lord.
#cru17 Nothing grows by itself. If something matters to us, may we be intentional about growing it.

Invest. Pray. Plant. Water. Nurture. Repeat. God sees and knows us. In fact, God knows everything about us.

Not just the good we try so hard to project but even the mess we often seek to hide.

Let this soak in: Not only are we fully known but in Christ, we are fully pursued and loved.

This is grace.
Amazing grace. Hairstyles change. Sideburn fads come and go but may our commitment to love, honor, respect, and be on mission together for Christ never waver.

Thank you, Minhee. I love you so much even if you made fun of my hairstyle and sideburns. I missed you, Seattle. Grateful for a time to pray, rest, retreat, read, reflect, and sabbath. I've spent the last 12 days in the woods alone. Competely alone. It's been both haunting and refreshing. Haunting because of loneliness. Refreshing because through the silence, I am reminded - again - that I'm not alone. Emmanuel.

Also, bought myself a cheap kayak and loving the solitude time in nature. Also, the kayak is paying instant dividends in my bass fishing game. #sabbathrest #bassfishing #catchandrelease

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