The Messianic Jewish Bible Institute (MJBI) was formed in 1995 and launched in 1996, through the cooperative efforts of both Messianic Jewish and Gentile Christian leaders.
After years of communist rule, God began preparing the hearts of the Jewish people in the former Soviet Union. In 1993, one group, Hear O Israel Ministries (later integrated into Jewish Voice Ministries International), began doing large outreach festivals of Jewish music and dance in major cities in Russia.
Additional festivals followed in Belorussia, Ukraine, and Moldova. In each festival, the Good News was proclaimed. By God’s grace, the people responded and tens of thousands of Jewish people came to faith in Yeshua (Jesus), the Jewish Messiah. Leaders were desperately needed to start new culturally-relevant Messianic Jewish congregations.
As a result of this work of the Holy Spirit and an unprecedented awakening in the “land of the north,” Hear O Israel Ministries began a Messianic Jewish Bible school in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1994 under the direction of Hear O Israel’s leader and Messianic Rabbi, Jonathan Bernis.
On a parallel track, Dr. Dan Juster, a leading Messianic Jewish theologian, author, congregational leader, and Director of Tikkun Ministries, had started Messiah Bible Institute (MBI) in 1981. It began small with Dan Juster training the first students and graduates, Asher Intrater and Eitan Shishkoff. In time, MBI grew and effectively trained a number of Messianic congregational leaders. Some of the teachers and staff included Dan, Asher, Eitan, Dr. Michael Brown, and Dr. Michael Rudolph.
In 1995, Jonathan Bernis and Dan Juster joined efforts to train leaders for the fledgling Messianic Jewish movement in the former Soviet Union. Together with B’nai Maccabim Messianic Synagogue in Chicago, Illinois; G-d’s Grace Foundation in Beloit, Wisconsin; and Shady Grove Church in Grand Prairie, Texas; they officially formed a new training school. They had the conviction that as ministries work together, rather than independently, there is a multiplication of talents and fruit for the Kingdom of God. In time, Gateways Beyond International in Cyprus, and Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue in Dallas, Texas, would also join this coalition (2002 and 2007 respectively).
They named this newly formed ministry the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute (MJBI), and chose Dr. Wayne Wilks Jr., from Shady Grove Church, as the one to pioneer the school.
The school started in Odessa, Ukraine, in the fall of 1996. Odessa is known as the southern gateway city of the former USSR to Israel.
In 1998, the MJBI leadership team and board began to see that God was calling the MJBI to expand to other countries besides the former Soviet Union.
After another Hear O Israel festival in Hungary, the MJBI began its second school in Budapest in January of 1999. In September of 1999, the third school began in Moscow, Russia, in cooperation with the Messianic Jewish congregational network of Russia. This school was relocated to St. Petersburg in 2005.
The MJBI linked with Har Zion Messianic Congregation in Brazil and Netivyah Ministries in Jerusalem, Israel, to form the fourth school in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in February of 2000.
Under the leadership of Marcelo and Matheus Guimaraes, the MJBI graduated over 500 students. Many of these graduates now lead Messianic congregations and pastor churches throughout Brazil. Though remaining closely related in vision and friendship with the MJBI, the school is now fully self-supporting and independent; and the final MJBI graduation class will be in December of 2012. The MJBI curriculum has been integrated into their successful online CATES program for Portuguese speakers.
In February of 2001, another school began in Buenos Aires, Argentina, under Jorge Goldstein following another successful Hear O Israel festival. Jorge’s vision was to expand this instruction in other South American countries as God led. As a result, he has traveled to numerous Spanish-speaking countries spreading the Messianic vision and offering course materials. Of special note in 2007, a number of congregations in Peru began MJBI courses there also through seminars and correspondence courses which continue to this day.
The MJBI seeks to equip Messianic leaders, who in turn reach into their communities in a culturally-relevant way and effectively proclaim Yeshua, plant congregations, and disciple other new Jewish believers. Through 2002, the MJBI’s only focus was in countries that had significant Jewish populations.
In 2002, the Lord showed the MJBI leadership team that God had called them to a second purpose: to help bring education to the Church regarding God’s heart for the Jewish people and the significance of His work among Messianic Jews. In 2002, the MJBI also began to sponsor banquets, events, and training sessions in the United States for the purpose of spreading the vision of the MJBI and equipping the Church in its responsibility to Israel and the Jewish people.
As requests for schools were coming in from locations that were primarily non-Jewish, the MJBI started an “affiliate status” for schools. In November of 2003, the first affiliate school was started in Seoul, Korea. Pastor J.S. Lee oversees this school which is called the Grace International Bible Institute.
In 2006, Dan Juster, MJBI Vice-Chairman, immigrated to Israel. He now oversees the MJBI related programs in Israel. The major emphases are producing teaching materials in Hebrew, a two-year Bible school program for Ethiopian Israeli leadership, and equipping seminars for Messianic leaders.
Additionally, in 2007, Dr. Jack Hayford and The King’s University (formerly The King’s College and Seminary) in Van Nuys, California, asked Jewish Voice Ministries International (JVMI) and the MJBI to oversee a fully-accredited graduate and undergraduate program in Messianic Jewish Studies at their institution.
In 2009 through Rabbi Marty Waldman’s influence, an affiliate MJBI was started in Mexico City, Mexico, under the direction of Pastor Agustin Enriquez Vargas of Pan de Vida Church.
As a result of MJBI’s medical outreaches in Ethiopia, a revival of Jewish culture and the spread of the Gospel followed. in December of 2008, the MJBI began a school in the capital of Addis Ababa among the Beta Abraham community. A new congregation was also launched to disciple the believers. In 2010, a second MJBI began among the Beta Israel Jewish community in Gondar, as well as support for the poor and needy there.
In 2011, a third Ethiopian MJBI will begin among the Gafat people in Woliso, Ethiopia. The Gafat are from the Beta Israel community and have a strong sense of their Jewish history. A new congregation has been planted among them, as well as a fervent class of 120 quality students.
Also in 2011, the MJBI launched its online school in English, The School of Messianic Theology (SMT).
Additionally, the MJBI is helping with satellite video and correspondence programs in various regions. The goal is to eventually dub other languages over the SMT courses to produce a uniform curriculum in multiple languages.
Along with these Bible schools, the MJBI sponsors efforts begun by these schools and their graduates. These include humanitarian efforts that range from a feeding program for Holocaust survivors and elderly pensioners in Ukraine, to aid for the Jewish poor in Ethiopia. The efforts also include starting and supporting congregations that are raised up by the leaders being trained at the MJBI schools.
The MJBI simply serves a relational network of qualified leaders. Many students serve in ministry in the local Messianic congregation as well as finding other outlets of service among the Jewish population. Since numerous Messianic congregations are being birthed and churches are being renewed in their Jewish roots, the need for laborers is great.
The MJBI is asked to send student teams to serve Messianic congregations and churches in congregational planting, teaching, outreach, and in Messianic worship and dance. As funds are available, qualified students are also provided internships to serve such congregations after graduation. Some students are also placed on congregational planting teams that are sent out upon graduation.
The MJBI is fulfilling its calling to boldly proclaim Yeshua as Messiah, train leaders for Jewish ministry around the world, and educate the Church on God’s heart for the Jewish people, as it eagerly awaits the promise of Romans 11:15 that the acceptance of the Jewish people will mean “life from the dead.”