When I graduated from Bible school, my first assignment with the American Board of Missions to the Jews (now Chosen People Ministries) was in Los Angeles. We had a mission house at 5020 Pico Boulevard. I lived there with my family, and I also had a small office there. We had Bible studies and fellowship meetings in our living room. This was a time when we were very discreet. The plaque in front of the house did not advertise the mission; it simply said, Reverend Martin Meyer Rosen.” I had installed the plaque just two weeks after I was ordained. Two months later, I realized that I had done it for the sake of status, and God doesn’t need that kind of status.
At any rate, we were listed in the directory as the American Board of Missions to the Jews. I wasn’t surprised when a lady came—she said her name was Edna—and asked if she could get some tracts. I was glad to sort through and I gave her several copies of three or four different tracts. She said, “No, I need more; I need more.” I gave her a few more, and said, “It’s better to use those up, and then, if you need more, I’ll get you some.” Then, because she’d come rather early in the morning, I asked her not to come before 9:00 a.m..
This went on for several days—not exactly in a row. She’d come and get her tracts, and then come again and get more. But then, I got a call from a rabbi at Temple Isaiah, which was on Pico Boulevard, up near Robertson. He said, “We know of you, and we know that this isn’t a legitimate Jewish congregation, but you’re entitled to believe what you want, and preach what you want. However, please don’t imagine that all these pamphlets you’re stuffing through our mail chute are being passed on to the congregation. And it’s a sin to waste people’s money.” It’s never been my policy to put literature in someone’s mailbox or on their car dashboard, and I let the rabbi know that we hadn’t realized our literature was being used that way.
Well, that was Edna. That was her idea of witnessing. But she was bold, and if she had an opportunity, she would confront the person face-to-face. She came to witness to a woman named Eilee, a woman who had been a radio actress in the Philadelphia area. There were a lot of well-known radio personalities back in the 50’s and early 60’s. Anyway, she’d come to California. One day, Edna appeared on her doorstep, handed her a handful of pamphlets, and said, “I want you to know that for the sins of adultery, you are going straight to hell.” Edna turned around, and left.
Eilee found my phone number on one of the pamphlets and called me up. She was really shaken. I began trying to apologize for Edna. What I didn’t realize was that Eilee was really shaken because she was concerned about sin in her life. She believed exactly what Edna said. It turned out that Edna had been her personal maid and housekeeper in Philadelphia, and knew her well.
Eilee asked if she could meet with me and we had a visit. Yes, I told her, there is a sin called adultery, and yes, you probably did commit that sin, and all sinners go to Hell. She said, “What can I do?” I said, “Well, I believe that Jesus forgives sins.” And she prayed with me to receive the Lord, there and then.
She became a member of Hollywood First Presbyterian Church, was in a lot of their dramatic presentations, and as much as people can be a story in Hollywood, she was.
The important thing is: God used what I would have described as the wrong way to witness. I learned to stop apologizing for the way that other Christians do things. Eilee didn’t seem to think that there was anything wrong with Edna, or the way she did things.
I could go down a list and think of dozens of times where I would have to say that if there was a wrong way to witness, Christians chose that wrong way. Nevertheless, people came to believe in Jesus.
I firmly believe in training our missionaries as best we can, and in sharing witnessing tips with anyone else who is interested. But the bottom line is the Holy Spirit. He seems willing to use our best and sometimes our worst efforts in His sovereign work.