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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Window seat. For the win. As leaders, we must not see ministry and family as competing commitments.  We must not sacrifice our marriage and kids for the sake of "ministry." How can we? Loving our families IS ministry & good leadership.

And on a side note, we took this goofy photo for Mother's Day last Sunday at @seattlequest. I was shocked! What in the world happened to our kids? Our 13 year old son blocked four of my shots on the basketball court yesterday. He's since been grounded... I fear that we ask God to move mountains, forgetting that God also wants to move us.

In fact, it's possible that we are that mountain. Time flies. The eldest is wrapping up her 1st year in college and the college tours have begun for the 2nd child. The youngest enters high school in the Fall. Can't say enough about how proud Minhee and I are of the kids - not just of their accomplishments but the people they are and are becoming.

But...man...we can't wait to party it up when we're emptynesters. Party at our house. It's going to be epic. Humbled. Grateful. Mindful of God's grace and faithfulness in my life. It's all grace... It's an unexpected honor to be invited back - even with some mini-drama - to @princetonseminary to receive the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award - exactly 25 years after starting my journey there as a student in 1992. Wow.

Princeton isn't necessarily for everyone. And to say that I loved everything about my experience would be misleading but it was very formative. Ir challenged me to examine why I believed in what I believed. It reminded me that God could handle my questions. It prepared me for a post-Christian context where I am not entitled to be heard but I had to earn the right to be heard, and of course, it taught me that all is good with a Philly cheese steak at Hoagie Haven.

No one is an island to themselves and I am certainly an example of that. Many people - women and men, young and old, and of many backgrounds - prayed, encouraged, mentored, and loved me along the way. Grateful for my professors at seminary, my many classmates, and the numerous fellow staff and co-laborers I've had the privilege of serving Christ with past and present. And of course, I'm forever inspired by my parents, my children, and my wife, Minhee. Thank you for your faith, hope, and love...and oh, for your patience. Only your family will know and see both the best and worst of you. They've seen my worst...and keep on believing in me.

Thank you again, PTS and President Barnes, for this honor. Then, today, and tomorrow...by God's grace, just striving to be faithful to my Lord and Savior...to preach and live out the convictions of the whole Gospel. Amen. So humbled and grateful to be with @catalystleader in Cincinnati to encourage leaders from all around the country about the invitation to Uncommon Fellowship.

Preached from John 4. We can talk, preach, sing, philsophize, liturgize, and spit rhymes about Samaria...but we still have to talk through Samaria.

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