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Stories From A Faithful Witness

  By Irene Hanley

    It took eight years of weekly witness to Irene Hanley, a resistant young Jewish lady, before she fell on her knees with a very troubled and convicted heart, and cried out to God for faith to believe.  In mercy God took away the veil.  She under­stood and put her faith in Jesus.  With the joy-filled heart of one whose sins are forgiven, she began to witness within an hour.   Her husband trusted Christ through her witness when he came home from work that night.  The following are two excerpts from Irene Hanley’s life of dynamic witness for her Lord and Savior.

A Bridge Party Interrupted

    On a Wednesday evening I was speaking in a church prayer meeting in a little city in Central Illinois.  After the service, one of the ladies of the church said, “O Sister Hanley, can you stay over tomorrow?  We have eight Jewish families here in our little town.  We love them all; we’ve been praying for them.  I would surely like for you to visit them.  Can you stay?”

    I could not reject the challenge she threw out to me, so I told her I would stay.

    “They’re just as nice as they can be,” the woman went on, “– all of them.  But there’s one who I think is going to be just a little hostile toward the Gospel.  She has shown this spirit when others have tried to approach her.”

    “Well, let’s go to her home first,” I suggested, “and then we’ll go to the others.”

    We were going to visit all eight homes that day.  I was driving.  It was a very bad winter day with snow and ice on the streets.  Presently we pulled into the driveway of this one Jewish woman’s home.  I knocked on the front door of a large enclosed summer porch.  I heard a voice say, “Come in.”  So I entered the sun room.  I could smell that there was baking going on, and as soon as she came out of the kitchen I could see that, indeed, she was baking.

    “O excuse me,” she said, “I thought it was somebody else at the door.  I’m very busy.  My daughter is going to be engaged in a few weeks, and I’m baking cookies for the announcement party.”

    “O you are?” I said, “then I won’t bother you.  No, I’ll just go on.  Are you making the little thin nut cookies?” (And I called them by their Jewish name.)

    She said, “No, I have misplaced that recipe.  My mother gave it to me some time ago, but I can’t find it anywhere.  I wanted it so badly to make some for the party.  Do you know the recipe?”

    “Yes, I know the recipe.  I know it by heart.”

    “Will you write it down for me then?”

    “I’d be glad to.”

    She did not ask my name, what I was doing there, or what I wanted, but just asked that I write the recipe down.  So I told her I would.

    “But,” I said, “wouldn’t it be better if I just made them for you?  Would you like for me to stay and make them for you?”

    “You mean you don’t have anything else to do today?”

    Then I thought of the other Jewish women I wanted to see, but the Holy Spirit said, “No, you stay here.”

    So I said, “No, I’d be glad to make the cookies for you.”

    “Well, what do you need?”

    I told her.

    She said, “Well, I have everything you need then.  Come on into the kitchen.”

    In the matter of a few minutes I had my hands in the flour barrel.  She was so gracious, had already put an apron around me, and was measuring out the flour and the butter for the dough.

    Suddenly she said, “Isn’t there someone sitting out in your car?”

    “O yes!”  (I had forgotten all about her.)  “Yes, that’s a friend of mine.”

    “It must be terribly cold out there,” my hostess said.  “Go tell her to come in.”

    With my apron on and my hands all floury and buttery, I opened the front door of the sun room and motioned to my friend to come in.

    She called in a hushed voice, “Is it all right?”

    “Sure, I’m baking cookies,” I told her.

    “What?”

    “Yes, I’m making cookies.  Come here.”

    She came in, puzzled and curious, for after all, I had not been in there very long.  I did not know the woman, she did not know me; and there I was, making cookies.  I took my friend into the kitchen, and she sat down in a chair beside me while I mixed up enough dough for three batches of cookies.  This was early in the morning.  I knew I would still be there baking cookies until three or three-thirty in the afternoon.

    While I was rolling out the dough, my hostess was sitting next to me on the opposite side of the table from my friend.  She said, “What are you doing in this town?”

    “O I spoke in a little church last night.”

    “Did they know you were Jewish?”

    “Sure,” I said, “they knew I was Jewish.”

    “And they didn’t care that you were Jewish?”

    “Of course not.”

    I kept rolling, cutting, trimming ­cookies.  She kept questioning me.

    “What did you speak about?” she asked.

    “O I talked to them about Gentile Christians loving the Jews and told them that the Jews ought to love the Gentiles.  Then I told them how it is that we are able to love one another.”

    “How did you tell them that we are able to love one another?” she prodded me.

    I said, “Well, you see when the Gentiles become Christians –”

    “What do you mean,” she interrupted, “‘when Gentiles become Christians’?  They’re born Christians.  They’re not Jews, so they’re Christians.” (Many Jews think that every Gentile is born a Christian, the kind at whose hands they have suffered many purgings.)

    I said, “Those Gentiles are Christians who have been born again and have believed on Yeshua Ha Mashiach.”

    “What did you tell them about Jesus?” she asked.

    In answer I preached to her the same sermon I preached to the congregation the night before.  She was amazed.  She kept asking me questions.  I answered only what she asked, for I did not want her at any moment to tell me to leave the house.

    It was nearing twelve o’clock, and all of a sudden she exclaimed, “O this is Thursday.  This is the day we Jewish ­ladies in this town play bridge.  What will I do?  I’d forgotten all about it!”

    I said, “Well, go ahead.  If you trust me, I’ll stay here and finish these cookies.  I know I won’t be through until three or three-thirty.”

    “I tell you what,” she said, “I’m ­making a big pot of ox-tail soup with barley.  If you’ve never eaten it, I can tell you it is delicious.  I’ll call up the ladies and see if they’ll come here for lunch.  Then we can play bridge after that.  Will that be all right with you?”

    “Sure!  This isn’t my house.  It’s yours.  That would be fine with me.”

    Within I thought, “Thank the Lord!  I’m going to be able to see the other ladies as well.”

    She called the ladies and they all thought that her idea was a good one.  She told them she had a lady doing her baking for her in the kitchen (speaking of me rather condescendingly, I thought, but that was all right.  This was all in God’s plan and purpose.)  She added a little water to the soup, but it was delicious anyhow.

    All the ladies came – seven of them – so there were my eight Jewish ladies!  My friend and I sat down at the table with them.  My hostess asked me to be the guest and start passing the food.

    I said to her, “I always pray before I eat.  Do you mind?”

    “No, go ahead.”

    Then she explained to the women that I was a Hebrew Christian, that I believed in Jesus, and that we would pray.  So I prayed in the name of the Lord Jesus, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that He might reveal Himself to all of us and that He might help us throughout the day that His will might be done.  I prayed for the daughter that was soon to get married, that she and her future husband might enjoy good health and happiness.  When I finished, I could see that my hostess was wiping a tear from her eye.  Then we ate.

    After the meal, I said, “Now you ladies just go ahead and play your bridge, and my friend and I will stay in the kitchen and make the cookies because I will have to jump up every so often to take the trays out of the oven and put other ­cookies back in to bake.”

    One of the women said, “No, let’s not play bridge today.  I’d rather hear what this woman has to say.  We can play any other time.  How about the rest of you?”

    They all agreed.  “Yes, we feel the same way.  Can you sit in here and tell us why you believe in Jesus, how you came to believe in Him, and what He has done for you?”

    Well, thank the Lord!  Until three-thirty or four o’clock I had the privilege of reading from Isaiah, Deuteronomy, Genesis, Jeremiah, and the Psalms, between times of rolling out dough.  They followed me to the kitchen, then to the living room, back to the kitchen and back to the living room, first crowding the kitchen and then the living room, as I told them about the Lord Jesus Christ.  Out of this group two were saved.  Four asked for Bibles.  I trust that God will nurture the seed that was planted and that it will bring forth much fruit. 

“Would Those Promises Be for Me, Too?”

    It was a rainy morning, the kind of day one would like to stay home and just pray, read, or do things that a housewife has to do.  Nevertheless, I went to the hospital [where she volunteered her services].  I had a little time so I felt I should go up on second floor and read the Word and pray with a dear friend of mine, a Gentile Christian, who had had a stroke.

    Six months after I became a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I started out as a missionary under a Baptist mission board.  Because I was such a young believer and had more zeal than knowledge, they placed over me three counsellors – lovely Christian women – who advised me and prayed for me.  Most of all they loved me.  I thank God for every one of them.  This woman whom I wanted to visit was one of them.

    I found her in the reception room in a wheelchair.  I could see that she was quite ill.  Her face was swollen and her eyes were almost swollen shut with eczema.  She was not alert.  She thought she was in one hospital when she really was in another, and, of course, I was not about to correct her.  I talked to her about the Lord.  She seemed to respond very intelligently about spiritual things.  I had prayer with her, read the Word to her and quoted the promises of God.

    All the time I noticed that there was  another couple in the reception room – a man and his wife.  He was in a wheelchair.

    When I got through praying with my friend, this man painfully turned his wheelchair around to me and asked, “Would those words apply to me, too?”

    I said, “Why, yes.”

    “Is this some matter of business you have with her alone?” he questioned.  “Is this some business deal you have between you?”

    “O no, no.”

    “Well, would you read to me out of that Book, too?  Would those promises be for me, too?”

    “Why, of course, they would be, sir.”

    I could see that he also had been the victim of a recent stroke.  His speech was slightly impaired.

    I asked him, “Are you a Christian?”

    “No,” he said, “I’m a Jew.  I’ve never been a Christian.”

    “And you’ve never been saved?”

    “No.”

    “Are you a sinner?”

    “O yes.  I know I’m in a terrible condition and I know I have no hope.  Read to me out of your Book.”

    “All right.”

    “But before you read,” he said, “what denomination do you represent?”

    I said, “I represent none to you, sir.  I’m representing Jesus only to you.”

    I read to him Scriptures which explained that we were all sinners, why we were sinners, why we could not save ourselves, and how we could be saved.  He kept nodding.

    “Do you understand?” I asked.

    “Yes, yes.”

    “All right now, I shall pray for you and while I’m praying, you pray in your own heart.  I’m going to pray for the Lord to save you.”

    I prayed and when I finished, I asked him to pray.

    “But I don’t know how,” he confessed.  “Would you pray and let me follow your words?”

    Thus, with my help, this dear man prayed the prayer of a repentant sinner and when I opened my eyes, both his hands were up in the air in surrender to Christ and faith in Him.

    I turned around to his wife who was sobbing loudly.  Indeed her whole body was shaking with sobs.  I quickly went to her, and, with great love and compassion, took her hands in mine.

    “My dear,” I said, “your husband has just received Jesus as his Savior.  Aren’t you happy?”

    “Yes,” she said, “if he understood it.”

    I said, “Don’t you suppose God knows how much he can understand?”

    “Don’t you know he’s had a stroke?”

    “Yes, but do you think God is limited?  God knows what he has said and meant in his heart.”

    “O I believe it,” she exclaimed.  Then she confided, “He’s been here since June the first.”

    “Has any pastor visited him?” I asked.  “Has the rabbi?  Anyone?”

    “No,” she said, “no one.  And I’ve had no comfort in all my life.”

    Now I dealt with her, and praise the Lord, her eyes began to beam with the radiance of heaven!  Her face took on a different look.

    Suddenly she said, “My sister said that there was only one Irene Hanley, and now I believe her.”

    I looked at her in amazement.  “You know me?”

    “O yes, I recognized you when you got off the elevator.  I knew you when you came in here, but I wasn’t going to tell you who I was.  You led my sister to the Lord Jesus Christ...,” she hesitated as though it was hard for her to say it, “and she’s in heaven now.  My sister spoke to me about you so many times.  She always said there was only one Irene Hanley.”

    I was a little embarrassed, to say the least, but I said to her, “Well, I guess God knew that He would have His hands full with just one Irene Hanley.”

    I left the hospital that day to go to my car, thanking the Lord for the privilege of leading this dear couple to the Lord Jesus Christ when I least expected it.  I did not even ask God to give me souls that day.  I do not know whether I even asked the Lord to help me be a witness for Him.  All I knew was that I was in His hands and obeying all He told me to do, step by step, moment by moment.      Many people have asked, “What is the proper way to approach a Jew about Jesus?  How do you go about it?”  There is only one answer.  There is just one way that they can be won, and that is through love – real, genuine, Christlike love.  Love speaks a language that can break down every barrier, a language that can cause people to listen – not always right at first, but when love in all its sincerity is proven to them, they will listen to what is said.   

    – Taken from the book Israel, My People.

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