I first met Joanne Chinkers in March of 1991 at the home of a Russian Jewish man who had recently
come to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah.
He had invited me to have a private debate with rabbis from Baltimore, Maryland on the subject of who is
the Messiah according to Isaiah – I was frankly shocked that they had agreed to do this – but when I
arrived, there were at least 15 people present, including three counter-missionaries, two of them rabbis.
(Counter-missionaries are Jews who work against people like me – called missionaries – and seek to turn
Jews away from Jesus and bring them to traditional Judaism.)
A number of the people present were also believers in Yeshua, and this Russian Jew planned the whole
thing out to surprise the main participants, a counter-missionary rabbi named Tovia Singer and me, in
order to discover who of us could do be a better job of debating our position without notes. (He was a
highly intellectual man and somehow, this was important to him.)
Also present were two other counter-missionaries and Joanne, who had come along with them as a
Years earlier, in her college days, Joanne, herself Jewish, had believed in Jesus but lacked adequate
foundations. And so, when she was asked to reach out to a religious Jewish man, he ended up influencing
her more than she influenced him, and over a period of time, Joanne renounced her faith in Jesus and
became an Orthodox Jew.
But not only did she become Orthodox – actually, ultra-Orthodox – but she herself became a counter-
missionary, working actively to pull other Jews away from Yeshua.
She would attend Messianic Jewish conferences or Bible studies with the sole purpose of raising
objections to Jewish faith in Jesus, and she was quite sharp in her arguments.
Then something began to change.
As a thinking person, she began to question some of the traditions she was practicing, and when she heard
one of my relevant teachings, she wrote me an honest letter, expressing some of her concerns.
But I never received it, since our ministry had relocated and she used an old address.
That night, she had traveled with the counter-missionaries from New York to Maryland, where this
Russian Jew lived and where I resided at that time.
After the lengthy debate, which took several hours and followed a detailed outline of subjects that Rabbi
Singer and I were given to cover (again, without preparation, although Rabbi Singer did have lots of
relevant notes that he had brought with him), Joanne was deeply shaken.
It was clear to her that I had scriptural support for my arguments and that Rabbi Singer’s arguments were
sadly lacking, and when she came to talk with me at the end of the night, she was clearly shaken. (She
then handed me a copy of the letter she had originally sent to me.)
That led to months of dialogue, which led to earnest seeking of God on her part, which led her back to
Yeshua as Messiah, and she has followed him devotedly ever since.
Now, as a single woman in her 50’s, she is serving sacrificially in one of the poorest, most oppressed
parts of the world, in Nigeria, not far from Boko Haram.
She has lived without electricity (and that means no air conditioning or even fans).
She has lived among snakes and other venomous creatures.
She has lived in the midst of extreme poverty, where mothers regularly die in childbirth, where people die
of snake bites, and where others go missing, only for their mutilated corpses to be found later, their body
parts harvested for some witch doctor’s spell.
But Joanne does this joyfully because she is able to offer hope to little children in the form of education,
training teachers, teaching herself, and using her own limited resources to create new textbooks and to
provide better facilities so these precious little ones can have a better future – or even a future at all.
A few months back she texted me, having traveled by motorcycle to an outlying Muslim village in the
middle of nowhere where she was able to share the gospel with the local chief. She was burning to see
that village come to Jesus.
And of course, she is always burning to see our Jewish people recognize our Messiah, Yeshua, the King
of the Jews, still rejected and misunderstood to this day.
Interestingly, when people ask Joanne who led her to Jesus, she says with a smile, “Rabbi Tovia Singer,”
based on his poor performance on that memorable night.
I encourage you to sign up to receive her newsletters and to partner with her to bring the gospel to some
of the most needy people on the plant.
Getting back to that night in March of 1991, although a few people informally recorded the debate, at
Rabbi Singer’s request, the tapes were never released. However, he did debate me on a radio show hosted
by Sid Roth in early 1992, and the audio of that debate was released with our full written consent. You
can listen to it here. Since then, Rabbi Singer has refused to debate me again, in any setting, private or
Let’s continue to pray for these counter-missionaries, some of whom are very sincere and devoted rabbis,
and let’s continue to pray for the all the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Who knows how many others there are out there, just like Joanne, ready to meet their Messiah and give
their lives for a hurting world.
I am grateful to God I have been involved in her journey, and she is a shining example of what the love of
Jesus looks like in action.