Dr. Amy Downey spent countless hours inside a Waxahachie Whataburger perfecting her dissertation. The late nights and cheeseburgers paid off too, as that dissertation was recently published as a book — "Maimonides's Yahweh."
Raised by a preacher, Downey was a devoted Baptist. She never questioned God, but began to challenge and examine her religious beliefs in high school.
Surprisingly, her parents were very supportive of their daughter developing her own opinion on faith.
"I think it was, 'What do I believe? Is it my parent's faith or something different?'" Downey questioned. "It's not that I came back to what my parents were; it's that I looked at everything and went, 'They're right.'"
Downey sat on a couch at Waxahachie Bible Church and explained that exact spirit from high school influenced her to pursue a doctorate degree of theology in apologetics in 2016. Downey was the first and, to date, only female to graduate from Liberty University in the program, according to the college's registrar's office. She is the 12th individual to graduate from the program.
In her dissertation, Downey wrote about the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides, a rabbi also known as the Rambam.
"His 13 principles serve as the first formulation of Jewish theology in history and include the belief that God exists, that he is one, that he is not a material being, that he is eternal and that there is no other God," according to philosimply.com.
In Downey's book, she attempts to answer the incarnational question from a rabbinic perspective.
Before graduation, Downey established a mission organization in 2004 — Tzedakah Ministries, which translates to "righteousness" in Hebrew. Missions have led her travels to four continents — including eight countries — to speak at conferences, as well as 30 states in the United States to discuss the need for the Christian church to take on the responsibility of Jewish evangelism mandated in Romans 1:16 and 11:11-24.
"We have Christian families with Jewish people in their lives and Christians want to know how to witness to them and how to share Jesus with them, but they don't know how," Downey explained. "That's where I come in and help them know how."
Downey even spoke at a conference in Tokyo in 2017 on how to help Japanese Christians reach people they come in contact with and how to share the gospel.
"One half of one percent of Japanese [people] are Christians," Downey noted.
Downey shared the key to evangelism is to "build a relationship with somebody because people want to know you care, that you are listening to them."
She then referenced a time in her life when she heavily leaned on her faith. Downey recalled being 30 years old when her father died from an aneurysm at the age of 66.
When she described how her faith got her through adversity, she reflected on the terroristic attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. She lived in New York at the time and was near Rockefeller Center, four miles from the Twin Towers when they collapsed.
Downey then referenced Dietrich Bonhoeffer's last words, "This is not the end; it is just the beginning."
Downey did not know if she'd be able to hug her mother again, but she knew if it were the end, she'd see her father again.
Kathy Romero has been a member of Waxahachie Bible Church for 13 years and met Downey 18 years ago.
"Amy has a heart for it," Romero said.
Downey is also perceived as a vital resource. Romero hosts Bible studies and utilizes Downey to better understand deeper meanings.
"It helps to understand on a heartfelt level," Romero emphasized. "That is totally different than sympathy or empathy when you're talking about a soul level, and Amy gets that."
When questions arise that pertain to the Bible, Downey refers to original languages of Greek and Hebrew as these readings share more context. Downey did note that she memorized the King Jams as a child and prefers the New American Standard edition.
If interested in learning more about the mission organization or purchasing any books written by Downey, log onto tzedakahministries.org.
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450