In this Jewish testimonial video, Ken Barun, a former member of Ronald Regan’s cabinet, past-president of the Ronald McDonald House Charity, and current Executive Vice-President of Billy Graham’s Evangelistic Association, explains how Jesus can fill the emptiness within us, no matter how successful we may appear.
From battling antisemitic attacks in his childhood home of New York City to becoming addicted to heroine, Ken’s early life was lived out in shambles. His rampant drug addiction of 7 years led his own family to disown him, and later, he was recruited by concerned members of a drug recovery organization to a three-year residential program to try and help him get clean.
“God was my imaginary friend, and I said, ‘Please God, if you get me out of this one, I’ll never use drugs again!”
Ken’s prayer was answered in a peculiar way, as he was led to eventually become the president of the drug recovery organization. Then one day, the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, visits the program’s headquarters, and for 2 hours, Ken and Reagan discussed his story of how he overcame his drug addiction. Reagan then turned to the residents of the program and asked him, “is it OK if I tell the residents of the program that, ‘your body is the Temple of your Spirit?” Ken replied, “you can tell them whatever you want, you’re the president of the United States.” Jim Baker, the Chief of Staff, turned to him and said, “We saw what you did with drug addicts, we’d like you to join the campaign, because just think what you could do with Republicans.”
“I’m in Washington—here’s my title: “Deputy Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs / Public Liaison for the US Department of Health and Human Services”—Huge title, I don’t even know how you fit it on a business card! It was like a miracle, things kept falling into place.”
Ken found success everywhere he looked, he was a guest of the Royal Family in England, was invited to private visits with the Pope, and even spoke with the Dalai Lama. He became the global president of the Ronald McDonald House Charities, and raised their net worth from $300,000 to $1.6 billion by the time he left in 2007. But something stirred within him.
“I was doing well, but my heart was all messed up. I was searching, how am I ever going to get happy? You could pay me all the money in the world, give me nice cars, a nice house, but all this success I have having didn’t fill this emptiness within me. If I could just find this answer, then the pain would go away.”
Later, the Ronald McDonald House collaborated with a Car Magazine to put on an auto race event for charity, a one-lap tour of America in which they would receive pledges based on miles driven. He arranged for a McDonald owner, Paul Saber, to drive a Ferrari for the event. While driving on the highway, Paul kept telling Ken to go faster and faster. Concerned, Ken shouted out, “Paul! You don’t act like you’re afraid to die!” But Paul gave a peculiar reply, “I’m not, because I know where I’m going.” Ken retorted, “What’s that supposed to mean?” And then Paul explained, “Now let me tell you about my friend, Jesus.” Paul began to explain Christianity to Ken, who screeched on the breaks and pulled over the the side, confused.
“Look, I’m a Jew!’ And he said, ‘No, you would be a completed Jew; that means that you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, that you’ve accepted that Jesus is the Messiah, that Jesus went to the cross and died for our sins.”
“I knew as a Jew, that we weren’t supposed to read the New Testament, it was taboo. When I opened it up, I saw that it was just an extension of the Old testament, it completed the story for me.”
Ken didn’t know how to proceed, unsure of what steps to take or rituals to complete, did he need to visit a synagogue? Step on a glass? Build a chuppah? But Paul told him that all he needed to do, was pray.
“God, forgive me for my sins, I accept Jesus as my Savior. I repent for all the things I’ve done wrong, and I ask You to come into my heart and into my soul, clean this stuff out and make me new again.”
Ken began sobbing, unable to stop. He felt as if a large weight had been lifted off his shoulders, that he had been freed, and that the emptiness within him, the answer that he sought for so long, had been filled.
“I’ve heard this word ‘Born Again Christian a whole lot of times, but after that night, I knew what it’s like to be born again!”
He called his father, excited to share the news, even though he figured that he would just be disowned for the second time. He told his father that last night, he had prayed to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, but he father said nothing, and started to cry. His mother gets on the phone and begins to chastise Ken, “What did you say to your father to make him so upset? He’s 85 years old, he’s in a wheelchair, he’s not feeling well…” So Ken told her the good news as well, and likewise, was met with dead silence.
“But she came back into the conversation and said, ‘He’s not crying tears of sadness, he’s crying tears of joy, because when we were looking for help for you with your drug problem, we found Jesus too.”