Ted Vanlandeghem, The Unexpected Journey

Ted Vanlandeghem grew up in a middle-America, middle-class Jewish family. “Our religion was baseball and sports, and outdoor stuff. There was an acknowledgement of God and belief in God, but it wasn’t something we talked about.” So Ted was as surprised as anyone the day he became a Christian, and trusted that Jesus was the Messiah he’d been looking for. “When you look back, you can see how God was moving. God connected me not only with believers, but also with Jewish believers. I didn’t know that God would take me on the journey that I would become a believer too.”
“God has been at the forefront of my journey from the very beginning guiding me in a supernatural way, to do what He created me to do, to bring His Good News to people around the world, including the people in Israel,” Ted said. It began with simple acceptance when he heard the gospel as a child in Ohio. It grew when he was stationed as an officer at Andrews Air Force Base in Wasington, DC, and became involved with Jews for Jesus and attended a Passover Seder that was hosted by Stan Telchin. “The first time you sit through a Passover as a believer you begin to see this pointed to Jesus all along. Every moment of it, every point of it, was pointing, shouting, yelling ‘Jesus is the Messiah!’” Ted recalled. “God brought more and more Jewish believers across my path and began to accelerate relationships with Jewish believers. Then God began to grow a call in me to reach the nations and my very own Jewish people.” But the next 26 years kept Ted in active duty with the Air Force, in various capacities and locations around the world. In civilian life, he served in numerous teaching and leadership positions including local churches, evangleistic outreach, and prison ministry. He got married, had six children and eventually three grandchildren. His final military assignment brought him to Dallas, Texas, where in many strange and unexpected ways Ted felt God was leading him into full-time Jewish ministry. He truly expected he’d be working with friends in Christian and Missionary Alliance in Israel, but person after person brought confirmation that Ted would be doing something else in Texas. Ted’s wife wanted to introduce him to a lady she met at the hair salon (who was collecting money for a mission in Israel), which led to a chance encounter with an out-of-towner (who was working with that mission), who introduced Ted to a guy with Johnson County for Israel who hosted a Night For Israel Gala, at which Ted make other important connections. Between the original meetings and the gala, everywhere Ted went, “things like this continued to happen,” Ted said. “I’m in Walmart, I’m in a Kroger, you name it, total strangers kept asking me if I’m Jewish, if I speak Hebrew, if I have anything to do with Israel.” Then one night on his very first visit to a new home group, a woman said to Ted, “I know you don’t know me, but I’m supposed to tell you that you’re supposed to send your testimony and story to Maoz because God has a position for you there.” Ted had met Ari Sorko-Ram, the founder of Maoz at the gala, but it didn’t seem significant at the time. And Maoz wasn’t advertising any vacancies, but Ted sent his story to them anyway. Ted’s wife gathered the family to worship and pray. “Then I was at another gathering,” Ted recalled, “and somebody said, ‘You are no longer to toil in things of no eternal consequence. Your hands have been set apart for a holy occupation.’ This was really unusual for me, but I said, ‘Ok, I give my hands to serve.’ Right when I said that, my email pinged and it was a reply from Maoz that said ‘We want to meet.’” A week later, in that meeting, Ted discovered he and his wife had a connection to these people too. “We were sitting in front of these people, who we never met before, who many years before had been discipling the couple in Ohio that was responsible for my wife coming to know the Lord,” Ted said, “God opened the door for me to come on board, even though I had never done anything like this before…” 
Ted now serves as the US Spokesperson and the Director of Partner Relations for Maoz Israel, an Israel-based Messianic Jewish ministry. Maoz, which is the Hebrew word for strength, strengthens families, churches, businesses and communities through leadership training, translation of books and teaching materials, providing music and necessary resources, as well as humanitarian aid to victims of terrorism, regardless of reilgious or cultural background. “Our goal is to equip believers to be strong,” Ted explained. “lf believers are strong, they make strong homes and families; if homes and families are strong, they make strong churches and congregations; if churches and congregations are strong, they make strong movements in a nation.” “We have a vibrant Arab ministry too,” Ted said. “Muslims need to hear the message of Jesus, but they need compassion too. It blows their mind that Jewish Christians not only want to tell them about Jesus, but want to know them, and show them love, and protect them and help them. That opens the door for the gospel to move forward.” Jewish Christians caring for Arabs seems pretty unexpected. Add that to the growing list of surprising events in Ted’s life. “God has taken me on this journey of the unexpected,” Ted said. “Part of the journey is relying on Him and not trying to control the outcome, not trying to orchestrate everything. When I gave my hands to Him and let go, I did something crazy and counter-intuitive like turning down incredibly good jobs in the defense industry, and working in ministries that typically didn’t pay very well. As we were waiting in uncertainty, all along the way,  God met our needs.” That meant giving their last $50 in an offering, and on the way home meeting with their landlord who surprised them by reducing their rent by $50 for the next 24 months. Or the time when Ted and his son were traveling on an obscure toll road and Ted had no coins to put in the unmanned toll booth. After he prayed, he found the exact change sparkling in the dirt on the side of the road. Or the time he was running late to catch a plane, and almost missed the opportunity to pray with a woman who needed a miracle, and got one. Or the time a stranger offered to pay all the expenses for Ted and eight members of his family to fly to Uganda to attend his daughter’s wedding. “Every time God shows up and He provides, it’s exhilarating! It’s the most satisfying thing to know in your heart that God showed up, God heard your cry, God met your need. There’s been so many times!” Ted recalled. “I am not a sensationalist. I had a very successful career in the military, and I worked in the White House. I didn’t get to those places by being dramatic or sensational. But God knew our needs. We didn’t ask anybody for help. Sometimes we didn’t even ask the Lord. But God knew the need before we spoke or prayed. I know it probably sounds too good to be true, but it is true.  Let go of control, and let the Lord steer your ship. Don’t try to orchestrate it yourself.”
Since the pandemic, it seems like we all are on an unexpected voyage on turbulent seas. “In Israel, just like in the US, and around the world, there is a lot of uncertainty. That’s just the world we live in,” Ted said. “That uncertainty is an opportunity to reach out and minister to those who have no hope and are hurting and afraid, to see people and to show them the hope that we have.”

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