Even the Paper Chase Is Not in Vain
In Jewish evangelism administration is a necessary evil.” Without someone to handle preparation and organization, administrative work could easily tie the hands of the missionaries. I am a missionary with Jews for Jesus and over the past four years I’ve been ministering in Los Angeles as office manager. I find this a satisfying way to serve my brothers and sisters on staff.
Because we have the largest missionary staff of all the branches, the job of Los Angeles office manager tends to be more than a full-time vocation. I have little time out of the office for street evangelism or ministering on a one-to-one basis. At times I feel frustrated, especially when I hear our staff relate exciting incidents about sharing their faith. Of course I rejoice with them, but paperwork seems to pale in comparison with one-on-one ministry to spiritually needy people.
Still, being in the office all day has its advantages. It gives me opportunities to speak with people who call in to talk about spiritual issues. Perhaps they have seen one of our vans on one of the many freeways, or they want to satisfy a natural curiosity about the “strange people” handing out pamphlets about Jesus on the downtown street corners or the boardwalk at Venice Beach. Many Jewish people who want to avoid the vulnerability of speaking with someone face to face will call our office instead. When they do, mine is the first voice they hear, and often I have the first opportunity to tell them about new life in Yeshua.
Through years of answering the telephone I have learned always to sound a cheerful note. Some callers only want to make a negative statement and hang up without giving me a chance to speak. Some want to make a statement and are curious about my response, as long as it doesn’t make them feel threatened. Others are truly curious and really want answers to deep questions they either have formulated in the past or are in the process of formulating even as they make the call.
I don’t consider myself the best judge of how serious a caller might be, but over the past month or so, two of my conversations with Jewish people diminished my frustrations with “the paper chase.”
One morning I spoke with Sherry, who said she was a believer in the Messiah. She seemed somewhat shy and reserved over the telephone, yet she expressed some heartfelt needs to which I was happy to listen.
While Sherry hadn’t been a believer for very long, she wanted to be in fellowship. She hadn’t been able to find a worship situation where she felt welcome as a Jewish believer in the Messiah. This gave me the opportunity to invite her to the Friday evening worship services held at our Los Angeles facility. Unfortunately, Sherry worked on Saturday mornings and because of the distance from her home and her odd work hours, she was unable to attend, though she appreciated the invitation. I suggested a couple of churches in her area where I thought she might feel comfortable and also asked if she would like to have someone meet with her on a regular basis so that she might be discipled. She agreed, and I passed on her name to one of our missionaries for follow-up. This allowed for further contact and discipleship and assured me that at the very least, Sherry would have fellowship with one other Jewish believer. Sherry still has not been able to attend services on Friday evenings, but she was able to come to our Rosh Hashanah service on a Sunday evening in mid-September.
It particularly encouraged me to see her spiritual growth since I had spoken with her that first time, and to note her fervent desire to attend our worship services. It was the first time I had met Sherry face to face, and we both remarked at the differences in our expectations of one another. Sherry couldn’t thank me enough for introducing her to her new “mishpochah” (Jewish family). I was overwhelmed that our brief phone conversation had led to her finding a spiritual home with us.
A second encouraging phone call recently came from someone I’ll call Lou. I’m often wary of people who claim to be sincerely interested in the Messiah. Perhaps my cynical suspicion stems from encounters with insincere people which happen all the time to any missionary. On that one afternoon, I had already received several calls from people I knew were not interested. I figured Lou was just another of those interruptions.
I was in the middle of a project when he called, and I tried to think, “maybe this one is for real.” Lou began asking questions about the Trinity. Because of the mysterious nature of this particular aspect of our faith, I never feel I give satisfactory answers, but Lou seemed appreciative of the time I spent with him on the telephone. At the same time, though he wanted to continue talking, I had to get back to my project. Rather than hang up, I knew I could pass the call to another of our missionaries who was in the office at the time. The missionary just happened to be my brother Rob, a new missionary with Jews for Jesus. He happily took the phone, and before I knew it, he was praying with Lou to accept Yeshua as his savior. I was both amazed and blessed. Lou had enough confidence to continue speaking with someone else who could give him life-transforming information, and he also comprehended that information, processed it and accepted it for himself. What’s more, his making that all-important decision to follow Yeshua encouraged me to continue taking those phone calls. It also encouraged my brother Rob to continue in his task of preaching the gospel, whether on the phone, or face to face while conducting interviews or handing out tracts on street corners.
In the last three months, our Los Angeles branch has seen at least eight people make first-time decisions to follow Yeshua. I find that quite impressive. It’s not so much that we strive for numbers, but every phone call and every tract we distribute helps turn our frustrations into forward advances that bring more and more souls into God’s kingdom. I think of the Apostle Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
Editor’s Note: Steve is a graduate of Talbot Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree and is fully qualified to minister. We appreciate his willingness to expend most of his time and energy in using his administrative skills for God’s kingdom.
Executive Assistant to the Director, Missionary
Steve Wertheim is a missionary and executive assistant to the executive director of Jews for Jesus. Steve’s father is a Holocaust survivor, originally from Germany. Many of the Wertheim family have come to faith in the Lord and have had a part in the Jews for Jesus ministry. Steve’s wife Janie, who is also a Jewish believer, has written some of the children’s materials used by Jews for Jesus. His son-in-law, Toby, heads up the group’s IT department and his brother, Rob, is a missionary in the San Francisco branch of Jews for Jesus.