I first met Ira Strauss in July of 1977 at the Green Lake Conference Center, located near Green Lake, WI. Ira would often joke that he was a ‘perfect Christian’ because he was a Christian Jew. Ira lived in the Bronx area of New York City. He had been going to Green Lake and attending the National ABMen’s Conference, while his wife was participated in the National Women’s Conference, also at Green Lake Conference Center, for several years by the time I met him.
When Ira was in high school he had been a member of a New York State, high school champion basketball team. Even in his eighties, Ira never missed a shot, scoring with every attempt. During the periods that the ABMen’s conference offered free time you would find him in the gymnasium; waiting for his next opportunity. Ira just loved to challenge boys who entered the gymnasium to a game of Horse. (Horse is a two player game on a basketball court that involves matching the last shooter’s basket.)
As mentioned, Ira never missed, and you can imagine the awe that a boy or young teenager would have at being defeated by someone older than their own grandparents. For Ira, the game of Horse was simply leading up to an opportunity. Once he had the young man’s attention, Ira would then offer to give pointers on how to properly shoot a basket and very few would turn that opportunity down. So, mixed in with lessons on stance, and proper shooting, Ira would include his witness for Christ. And the young men who Ira met would listen attentively as Ira taught basketball and Christ.
Here is a follow up story involving another person who had known Ira.
Rev. Tim Schwartz, while he was the pastor of a church in Pennsylvania, took Ira’s method of witnessing into the digital age. (This is not the same Rev. Tim Schwartz who lives in Kansas.) Working with some of the people in his church, a few computers were purchased and video games were loaded onto them. Then they played one another until they were very good at playing the games. Once well practiced, they began inviting neighborhood kids into the church to play video games and the church members often won. Following Ira’s methodology, the church members would then give the neighborhood kids pointers on how to win at the game and share Jesus along with the game lesson.