Relationship with God leads to change of faith

  • Pastor Rick Cohen of the Adirondack Christian Fellowship Thursday Jan. 10, 2013 in Wilton, N.Y. (Michael P. Farrell/Times Union) Photo: Michael P. Farrell
    Pastor Rick Cohen of the Adirondack Christian Fellowship  Thursday Jan. 10, 2013 in Wilton, N.Y. (Michael P. Farrell/Times Union)
    Pastor Rick  Cohen of the Adirondack Christian Fellowship Thursday…

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Pastor Rick Cohen: A founder of Adirondack  Christian Fellowship in Wilton.

Background: Raised in a Jewish household in Portland, Ore., Cohen  converted at 18. He attended community college outside of Portland and several  Bible study programs. He has ministered around the country — in Oregon, Arizona  and in upstate New York since 1999 when he helped found the Adirondack Christian  Fellowship. Recently, Cohen traveled to Newtown, Conn., to offer support in the  wake of the shootings at Sandy  Hook Elementary School. He has two adult children and lives with his wife in  Saratoga Springs.

You were raised in a faithful Jewish family. As a young man, you converted  from Judaism to Christianity. What was the catalyst for that change of  faith?

In 1971, the idea of Jews becoming Christians was very foreign to me. When I  was presented with Jesus, it was really very surprising. I had a revelation was  that I did not have any personal experience with God. I loved my Jewish roots,  and I still do love my Jewish roots, but I was not finding a relationship  with God.

I resisted the belief in Jesus though. Then one day, I felt the presence of  God in the car. I said, aloud, “Are you going to make that tire go flat and kill  me because I don’t believe in Jesus?” Immediately the tire went flat. I put on  the spare tire and drove into downtown Portland. I said out loud, “That was just  a coincidence.” The spare went flat. I still resisted against Jesus for several  more days. I eventually realized he was the king of the Jews and he was  calling me.

How did your family react to your conversion?

My mother said, “Oy vey!” It was at the time distressing to my family, but my  sister also became a Christian just before me. And my mother became a Christian  some years later, just before she passed away. At first it was very difficult  for them to accept, but my longevity and commitment to the faith won  them over.

Before I converted, my best friend at the time was leading me into drugs. I  was on my way to having a problem with drugs, but I stopped doing drugs. It was  hard for them to argue with the results in my life. I was living a much better  life. I still feel connected to Judaism. The connection between Judaism and  Christianity is inseparable.

You were recently in Newtown, Conn. What did you do there?

The day the shooting happened I came home to find out how close it was to my  friend John  Eastwood, a pastor at Calvary Fellowship Southbury in Connecticut. He had  been at the fire station next to the school when families found out what had  happened. He invited me down, we were at one of the memorials. I played guitar  with Scott  Lumley, the pastor at Calvary Capital District in Ballston Spa. We sung  songs of comfort as well as talked with mourners and prayed for them. We were  there to counsel people and pray with people. It was not  about proselytizing.

What was the experience like?

I knew that I was going there to grieve with the people of Newtown, to mourn  with them but also to offer hope to them. I felt that I would need to have the  strength to be there for other people. I cried many times, but I was also able  to embrace and encourage people. As dramatic as it is in Newtown, there are  hurting people everywhere who need help.

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