Lifestyles

Story published: 02-26-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Larry Stamm: A Jesus-loving Jew


By Lynn J. Richardson
Publisher

Born into a Jewish family, Larry Stamm, pastor of local outreach at Grace Fellowship, said he always believed in God.

But like many, he said his religious experience was mostly “a matter of social and cultural events and tradition.”

In 1987, Stamm was 23 years old.

“I had sort of turned away from my religion,” he said.

A good student and a top-notch tennis player, Stamm said he should have been on top of the world. But the more he achieved, the more lost he felt.

“I knew I was lost,” Stamm said, “but I didn’t know what ‘found’ was.”

In college, Christian friends shared their faith with him. One friend, in particular, asked Stamm penetrating questions he still remembers to this day.

“He asked, ‘Do you know what the absolute truth is?’” Stamm recalled. “Then he asked me, ‘Do you know who you are and where you’re going after you die?’”

Stamm started searching for the answers to those questions. About 18 months later, he met a man on an airplane – a complete stranger — who asked him another soul-searching question.

“As we talked about philosophy, he asked me, ‘Why don’t you ask God, as you know Him, if Jesus is the Messiah?’” Stamm said.

The repeated questioning and ongoing testimonies concerning Christianity led Stamm to seriously re-examine his faith.

“I knew it wasn’t a coincidence,” he said. “I prayed to God to show me if Jesus is the Messiah and He did.”

After becoming a Christian, Stamm served as a missionary sharing his Christian faith with Jewish people and others on the streets of Manhattan.

Now living in Jonesborough with his wife, Lori, and their two children, Elijah, 10, and Shoshi, 9, Stamm’s journey to East Tennessee really started three generations ago with his grandfather, who immigrated to the United States just before the Holocaust.

“My grandfather served in the German Army in World War I. During that time he became friends with a man who later became an SS agent (a member of the Nazi protection squadron),” Stamm said. “Because he was a friend to my grandfather’s family, he falsified documents to allow my father and his parents to flee Germany in 1939.”

That was just months before Germany closed the borders.

“Their ability to escape was a miracle in itself,” Stamm said. “They left and went to Belize and then to Daytona Beach, Fla., and that is where they settled.”

Stamm grew up in Treasure Island, Fla., in a Reform Jewish home – the most liberal of the three major branches of Judaism. He was bar mitzvahed at age 13 and confirmed at 15.

He came to the area in 1991 to take a job as the assistant tennis coach at East Tennessee State University where he worked for 14 years before starting in the Christian ministry.

He is the first and only Jewish believer in Jesus in his family. Because of that, he said, things have not always been easy.

“When I first became a believer, they were confused, obviously. That seemed to be the dominating response. But we had a good relationship,” Stamm said of his family dynamic.

His relationship with his father later deteriorated when Stamm defied his father’s request that he not share his newfound faith with his paternal grandmother.

“I guess it was really more a crossing of authority and those boundaries,” he said, “but as an adult, I did what I had to do.”

His defiance resulted in 20 years of estrangement from his father. His dad passed away several years ago without the two ever reconciling.

“It isn’t necessarily easy being a Jew for Jesus,” Stamm said, “but I follow the truth regardless of the consequences.”

For Stamm, the objective evidence of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament and the transformation in his life, provide ample evidence that Jesus was who he claimed to be – the Jewish Messiah.

“Steeped as we are in modern Western culture, it’s easy to forget that we worship a Jewish Messiah,” Stamm said. “But Jesus was Jewish, and Christianity is deeply rooted in Biblical Judaism.”

Stamm will be sharing his faith and his perspectives during a two-day seminar scheduled for Friday, March 1, from 6:30-9 p.m. and Saturday, from 8:30 a.m.-noon.

“I’ll be making those connections between the Old and New Testaments to help people have a deeper understanding of the scriptures,” Stamm said.

For more information about the free seminar, call Grace Fellowship Church at 928-5601 or sign up at gfcnow.com/lifelonglearning.