The new year is a time of new beginnings – but it is also a time of endings. I was reminded of that truth earlier this week when I learned of the death of my dear friend, John French.
I met John more than 25 years ago at the funeral of Jamie Buckingham, an extraordinary man who was a friend to both John and me. At the funeral, I sang Psalm 23; afterward, overwhelmed by a sense of loss, I shared a deep, emotional conversation with John. It is an image that stays with me to this day: an orthodox rabbi and a devout Christian, consoling each other, united in grief over the death of a Christian pastor.
It turned out John and I were united in other ways as well. He had a deep love of Israel, shared my vision of Jewish-Christian reconciliation, and immediately wanted to be part of The Fellowship‘s work. In 1993, he joined The Fellowship‘s board of directors, and quickly made his mark, impressing everyone with his faith and his leadership. He served as chairman of the board for many years.
In the early years of The Fellowship, many opposed the work I was trying to do. Having people around me like John – who not only understood our mission, but wanted to share his time and wisdom to see that mission realized – meant more to me than I can say. The Bible tells us, “Walk with the wise and become wise” (Proverbs 13:20). I make no claims to great wisdom, but anyone who knew John knows that to walk with him was to walk with the wise. His advice and support was invaluable to me on my extraordinary, bridge-building journey, and it provided a sure foundation for The Fellowship‘s lifesaving work.
Please pray for the French family, and for all who loved John, as they grieve their loss. But also join me in celebrating John French’s life and all he was able to accomplish by praying that God will raise up more people like him – strong, God-fearing men and women who love Israel and commit themselves to supporting and protecting the Jewish state and her people.
As 2018 begins, I pray that you might have someone in your life like John, who recognizes your innate talents and continually challenges you to do your best, who has a genuine concern not just for you, but for others, and puts that concern into action.
Thank you, God, for the life of John French. And thank you, John, for your friendship, wisdom, and good counsel – I will never forget it.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President