Tony Simon, a noted evangelist and pastor in Israel, was killed in a pedestrian accident in Iraq on May 29.
Simon was walking back to his hotel in northern Iraq after preaching a sermon when he was struck by a motor vehicle. The Messianic leader was in Iraq to provide aid to locals in the troubled country. He had taken several trips to Iraq and would often bring others to help give aid and reach the people of Iraq. About 22.5 percent of Iraqis live in poverty, according to World Bank statistics from 2014.
Simon led an English-Russian congregation at the Baptist House in Jerusalem. Bruce Mills, an American retiree living in Israel and close friend of Simon, described the work Simon did in Israel.
“We were involved in starting congregations,” Mills said. “We did all sorts of street evangelism, literature distribution and speaking. He was very active in making it clear that [following Jesus] isn’t a gentile religion.”
Raised by Jewish parents, Simon did not come to know Christ until his college roommate began to discuss the Bible with him. As they dug deeper into various passages, Simon began to open up his heart to the Lord.
“I got so excited about these new discoveries that in my exuberance I went around the streets telling everybody,” Simon wrote in an online testimony. “Another believer at the Kibbutz named James often took me to Christian meetings in Haifa. One day he asked me, ‘Who do you believe Jesus to be?’ My answer was an emphatic, ‘the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel!’ On this day, December 24, 1982, at the age of 18, I found peace with God. I was born again. I repented of my sins and trusted Christ as my Savior.”
Simon was able to use his religious background to relate to those he ministered to in Israel, where followers of Christ comprise only 2 percent of the population, according to a 2015 survey released by the Pew Research Center.
Mills described Simon as someone who was unafraid to spread the Word in Israel despite having several encounters with officials and locals who did not appreciate that a Jewish person was bringing people to the Messiah. Simon also was active in combatting the notion that Jewish people should not be witnessed to, Mills said.
Zion’s Hope, a ministry that Simon worked through for 25 years, recalled the legacy he leaves behind.
“Tony’s passion was to see souls saved and Jesus Christ exalted,” David Rosenthal, director of operations for Zion’s Hope, wrote. “Though his time on earth has ended, his legacy will live on throughout eternity. To all who knew and loved him, He will be missed beyond what words can express.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Daniel Woodman, who will be a senior journalism major at the University of Missouri, is a summer intern with Baptist Press.)