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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Grateful. Still reflecting on the letters that I've received from classmates and students that have come before me and after me. Never imagined all that God would have in store for me. Lots of humbling things but in the midst of them, there were literally thousands upon thousands of daily decisions and choices to be faithful. That's what matters. Seen or unseen. Noticed or unnoticed. You do your best and sometimes you stumble and fumble along but nevertheless, seeking to be faithful.

Also, you know you're getting old when your school honors you with a Distinguished Alumni Award. Lol. 47 is the new 27. Or something like that. Here's to the next 47. In our culture, we can be so obsessed with the "spectacular" or "glamorous." The Church often engagws in thia language and paradigm...but what if God has called many of us to small, ordinary things?

Will we still be faithful?
Will we still go about such things with great love and joy?

I recently came across this picture taken by @mattylew, one of our church staff...and I started tearing up: This is my mother; in her 70s; with realities of some disabilities that make it difficult for her to stand up and sit down...but here she is on her knees and prostate in prayer. She doesn't have any social media accounts, barely knows how to use her smartphone, doesn't have a platform, hasn't written a book, doesn't have any titles in our church, isn't listed as a leader or an expert or a consultant or a guru. But she simply seeks to do her best - by God's grace - to be faithful to God. She prays for hours every day inteceding for our family, our church, and the larger world.

Even if we're not noticed or celebrated or elevated...let's be faithful. Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant. And not even successful in the eyes of the world.

Be faithful. Amen. #notetoself (and maybe helpful for someone else)

At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply. May our compassion not just be limited to the West or to those that look like us. Lifting up the people of Iraq, Iran, and Kurdistan in prayer after the 7.3 earthquake - including the many new friends I met on a recent trip to Iraq.

The death toll rises to over 400 and over 7,000 injured in multiple cities and hundreds of villages along the Western border with Iraq.

Lord, in your mercy... We are reminded again and again...that we are Resurrection People living in a Dark Friday world.

It's been a tough, emotional, and painful week - especially as we lament the horrible tragedy of the church shootings at Sutherland Springs. In the midst of this lament, I've been carried by the hope, beauty, and promise of our baptisms last Sunday and the raw and honest testimonies of God's mercy, love, and grace.

Indeed, God is not yet done. May we take heart for Christ has overcome the world. "Without genuine relationships with the poor, we rob them of their dignity and they become mere projects. And God did not intend for anyone to become our projects." Grateful this quote from my book, Overrated, is resonating with so many folks - individuals and  NGOs. / design by @preemptivelove

my tweets