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Meet The Irrepressible Harvey Katz
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By Haydn Jensen

Harvey is my friend. But, a lot of Londoners can say that. He's the kind of guy that loves nothing more than meeting and greeting people with a warm hello and brief caring conversation. He says he gets that from his father, Sam Katz, a London developer who was well known for his outgoing warmth with his commercial and residential tenants. Harvey's also an unapologetic evangelist.

Author of Becoming a God Magnet; Life Lessons in Sharing Your Faith, Harvey personifies what it means to be an open book. Never hiding his faith, Harvey is open and engaging in talking about spiritual matters and yet does so with sensitivity and care. Together with his brother Howard, they run the family business, ESAM group, which their father started with another business partner to develop residential and commercial real estate. Among other commercial properties, Fleetway is perhaps their best known commercial interest as a popular family-oriented bowling and recreation center.

As a business owner developing commercial real estate, Harvey integrates his Christian faith with his professional life; he naturally engages people in spiritual conversation as opportunity allows. He says he feels called to be a light to people around him by building relationships with them and sharing his faith as a natural expression of the friendship. For example, when he meets people who are interested in exploring Christianity, Harvey might give them a suitable book, video, or invite them to the lunch hour Alpha Course which he hosts from his office behind Fleetway. The Alpha Course is an evangelistic course which introduces the basics of the Christian faith through a series of talks on video and an opportunity for wide-ranging discussion. For Harvey, belief in Christianity is by no means a condition of friendship. Although Harvey is a very open and enthusiastic Christian, if he senses no spiritual interest or the person is turned off by faith or religious discussion, nothing is forced.

Harvey shares a story about becoming friends with a man who was also a property owner. He was not a Christian, but Harvey gave him a copy of Becoming a God Magnet. Although the man did not want to become a follower of Jesus at the time, he and Harvey remained friends, of course. Some time later while out golfing, the man suddenly turned to Harvey and said, "OK, go for it." "Go for what?" "Convince me to become a Christian." Harvey told him that he couldn't do that-this was a matter between him and God.

But, he said, if he was serious about the question, he should start by simply talking to God on his own, and if he wanted to he was welcome to come to the Alpha Course Harvey was holding in his office. On the third Alpha Course session, the man became a believer. He has been growing steadily in his faith and often says to Harvey, "Let's go fishing"-meaning, let's go talk to people about Jesus. Harvey shared another story of how on an 11-minute flight from Vancouver to Victoria he had a spiritual conversation with the Korean fellow sitting next to him. It was a sincere talk that ended with that man praying to receive Christ as the plane landed!

Because evangelism is such a central part of how Harvey lives, it's good to know how he came to faith himself. Growing up in a Jewish family, Harvey started to question things as a teenager. He was looking for answers to bigger questions as he searched for meaning in life and struggled with a growing emptiness. This was accompanied by bouts of depression also. Harvey shared in Becoming a God Magnet, "Our home was a place where we never spoke about God. We spoke about being Jewish-but not about God."

When he was sixteen, Harvey happened to meet Hank, a friend of his brother Howard's who introduced him to a brand new idea: it was possible to know God personally. Hank was also able to set Harvey straight on another important matter: You can never make yourself good enough to get into heaven. This of course led to a third vital revelation that Jesus was sent by God as the Messiah and sacrifice for sin-and that a person will be saved through repentance of sin and accepting Jesus Christ as saviour. Hank invited Harvey to pray to receive Christ as saviour. Harvey says that night he found what he had been waiting for. After he prayed to receive Christ, Harvey reflects, "In a funny sort of way, I felt more Jewish than ever. I had grown up hearing the great stories of my ancestors and their relationship with God. Now I felt a deeper connection to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I felt that I had become a true son of Abraham."

Ever since becoming a Christian, Harvey can't help sharing his faith with others. He admits that as a brand new believer he probably was wrong in being so enthusiastic in talking with people about Jesus, perhaps doing a lot more talking than listening. As a Jewish kid turned high-energy Christian, Harvey's Jewish and non-Jewish friends thought he was crazy. He felt misjudged by others but couldn't help it. As Harvey says, "I had fire in my bones."

Today, he describes evangelism as "a loving thing" that needs to be done "in a loving way". He finds that asking questions is the best and most natural approach. Is there a list or pattern of questions he uses? No. Harvey just goes with whatever flows from the conversation. People have often said to him, "You're Jewish-why would you believe in Jesus?" After answering, he would say, "That's how I see it. Now, what do you think?" And, the conversation goes from there. Rather than engage in arguments over theology and so on, Harvey suggests that the most powerful weapon we have is our testimony. "Nobody can argue with your own experience."

In considering what was the most valuable lesson he had learned in life so far, Harvey said that for him it was learning not to do things on your own strength. "I have to be dependent on Him-if I try and be strong 'for God', I fall on my face every time." Harvey has found that God shines the most through him when he lives in a spirit of brokenness and humility. A good thing for us all to remember!

Interested in Harvey's book? www.believebooks.com/-Becoming-A-God-Magnet-by-Harvey-Katz_p_11.html also available through Creation Books in London, phone 519.659.2610 and through The Mustard Seed, call 519.439.4423 In addition, Becoming A God Magnet can be ordered at www.amazon.ca and www.chapters.indigo.ca.