The story behind the formation of Gesher Shalom was a move of God. Between the years of 2002 - 2004, there were three separate congregations in Orlando, my home town. During that time, the three leaders would not talk to each other.
Rabbi Charlie Kluge, who was, at that time, the president of the MJAA, believed that God was calling him to leave his congregation in West Palm Beach, move to Orlando, and start a new congregation from scratch.
This was not easy. He would be leaving people he knew along time, remove his wife from her family, and going to a place where problems existed in the Messianic Movement. During this time of building and planing, he was driving from West Palm Beach to Orlando for the weekend services. He did this under the calling of God.
He contacted the three congregation leaders and talked to them about placing themselves under his authority. He explained the vision God gave him for the new congregation and asked them to be a part of it. One of the leaders had about 60 members in it. I know because I was that spiritual leader.
The date was Saturday, June 26, 2004. It was night. According to the Jewish understanding, night starts the next day, making it June 27, 2007. I can never forget that date. It was my 35th Wedding Anniversary. This was the date that all three congregations closed their doors and placed themselves under Rabbi Kluge.
On this night, the congregations still would not speak to each other. They set in their own congregation in different parts of the room. Rabbi did something I never thought he would do. He called the leaders and their wives up, set them in the front row, and He and his wife, Racquel, proceeded to wash the feet of these leaders. Rabbi for the men, and Racquel for the women.
Tears flowed that night. Tears from the leaders and tears from the congregations. That night, we became a strong, dedicated congregation.
People have asked me why I would give up a strong working congregation for the unknown. I give all the same answer. As a leader, I knew the cloud had moved from me and was being placed on Rabbi Kluge. I could follow the cloud, or stay in the wilderness. I choose the cloud, and we have not regretted it.
I would challenge anyone to tell me of any time in history where three congregations, Church or Synagogue, closed their doors when they did not have to, and placed themselves under the leadership of one person. If they know of one, let me know.