One thing people might not realize about being a missionary is that it has its seasons—and like most walks of life, it has accompanying ups and downs.
For the missionary in training, everything is a combination of nervousness and excitement. But in time, that passes. A sense of confidence and greater trust in the Lord settles in, and we go about our service with deliberateness and an expectation of seeing God in action. It’s exciting to travel to new places, lead challenging evangelistic projects and see people receive Jesus as Lord. On the other hand, it’s not so exciting to be stuck in the office trying to solve logistical problems or doing paperwork. And of course it’s not exciting to arrive at an agreed upon place for an evangelistic visit only to find the other person has forgotten or decided not to come.
All-out evangelistic campaigns are grueling, but exhilarating and worth every second. They are not a forever” aspect of our personal ministry, but their sheer length and difficulty make them feel like seasons unto themselves. Campaigns include long hours and separation from home as the weeks stretch into a month or more. But they also provide a tremendous sense of camaraderie and an unbelievably concentrated series of opportunities to witness.
Sometimes we have seasons when it seems that we can’t point to anything that would cause us to stand up and shout—nothing that would make us want to grab someone and tell them a story or sing them a song. It’s not as if we’ve been inactive—but at times life seems to hold a little too much paperwork and a few too many computer fix-its. This feeling is at its worst when too much time has passed since we’ve seen someone come to faith in the Lord.
Lately, I’ve been doing plenty of discipleship visits with new Jewish believers and plenty of sorties (tract-passing expeditions). I’ve recently taken a trip to Israel to work with our staff there, and another trip to New York to prepare for what will be the biggest evangelistic campaign we’ve ever done. Between trips I’ve done street evangelism at a couple of major parades on the annual DC events calendar. Sandwiched between all of that are the requisite tasks that keep me coming back to the office.
During the less exciting seasons, sometimes I ask myself, “Could I have made more effort to reach the lost? Could I have met with more unsaved Jewish people? Could I have done more street evangelism? More phone calling? More letter writing?” I’m sure the answer to all those questions is “yes.” But I know that people’s salvation depends upon God’s sovereign choice to touch their lives. He is the means through which those He is calling come to Him. I know that my responsibility is to be faithful to God and leave the results to Him. It is exciting when He chooses to use our efforts in ways we can see right away. But experience has taught me that as long as we remain faithful, He uses us in ways and at times that we may not realize for years to come.
At times you see our missionary reports about people who’ve stopped meeting with us…only to regain interest months or years later. But there are other stories we have yet to tell, because we have yet to see or hear the outcome ourselves. Some of those stories will have to wait until heaven.
What about you? Whatever your role in God’s army—whether front lines or behind the scenes—as you do your best to follow His orders, you can rest in the knowledge that He controls all outcomes. To whatever extent you are sharing your faith, take comfort and be confident in what God has promised: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
North American Director
Stephen's grandparents immigrated to America from Eastern Europe in the early 20th century, ultimately settling in the Chicago area. As a boy, Stephen enjoyed sports and excelled in school. In his high school years he began to question the values he had been raised with, and instead of focusing on academics, began to spend all his time playing guitar and harmonica. Over the next few years he searched for answers to his many questions about life, eventually becoming a follower of Yeshua. Three weeks after receiving his bachelor's degree in social work from the University of Illinois, he got married and began to work with abused and neglected youth in a residential treatment center in Chicago, which he did for 10 years (taking one year out to live on a kibbutz in Israel). He received his master's degree in social work from the University of Illinois in 1984. He and his young family attended a messianic congregation for 13 years, where Stephen served as the worship leader. In 1989, Stephen began missionary training with Jews for Jesus and now serves as North American Director. For 12 years he oversaw our work in Israel and still continues to be involved with our work there. Laura and he have four children, three of whom are married. He received a master's degree in intercultural and Jewish studies from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1997. Stephen is known to be a warm-hearted and engaging teacher and a good listener.