My name is Mel Hellman. I was born in Akron, Ohio to a Jewish family and began religious training at an early age. (My parents were not very religious but they thought it would be good for me, and there was a temple quite close to our home.) But when we moved to California and my father asked in a rather strained voice, “Would you really like to continue your training?” I sensed a lack of enthusiasm about schlepping me back and forth, to and from the nearest temple, which was 15 miles away. I told him it would be okay with me to drop the training. He did not ask twice, (“Are you sure, Mel?”) and I knew that my impression had been correct.
When I was 14 my parents split up, and my life began to go “downhill.” To make a long story short, when I was in my 20s I spent a year in prison, and afterward began attending 12-step programs to break the bad behaviors that had landed me there.
The 12-step programs talked about a “higher power” which I recognized as a candy-coated way for saying God, or for the Christians, Jesus. As a Jew, I never gave much thought to Jesus. Yet I had a strong urge to live a spiritual life. Many people recognized that and gave me books to read and study. Unknown to me, one such friend passed my name along to Jews for Jesus.
So one day I got something in the mail from Jews for Jesus, including a post card. There were three little boxes on the card that could be checked. One said, “I am interested, please contact me.” The next said, “Please keep me on your mailing list,” and the third said, “Please take me off your mailing list and don’t contact me.” I couldn’t check that third box fast enough before the phone rang and it was Jews for Jesus—wanting to know if I would like more information! I was kind, and thanked the person, but assured them of my disinterest. As for the friend who sent my name to Jews for Jesus, when he told me what he’d done I felt very offended. I didn’t talk to him for three years. Yes, I was angry.
Still, my hunger for spiritual truth grew stronger, and over those three years, more Christians came into my life. One such friend came to my store. (I’m a general line distributor for electronic parts, a business I bought in 1967 from my father, who started it in 1953.) He began reading to me from the book of John. I can’t remember what he read or why it affected me so, but somehow everything I’d heard and read about Jesus finally clicked into place. I excused myself, looked up the number for Jews for Jesus and made a call. You see, three years later I remembered that they had offered more information if I was interested.
I found myself talking to Steve Wertheim. I do not remember all that we said but somehow, I felt a difference in my heart and asked him how I could know Jesus. He invited me to say a prayer with him to receive Jesus and I agreed. It was December 9, 1988.
It wasn’t long before Steve Wertheim moved to San Francisco but it was great to have his brother Rob in my life as a mentor and friend. My family saw the amazing changes God made in my life and they wanted the same thing. My children all became believers and my son became a pastor.
I never want to forget where I came from or how Jesus found me, a lost soul. Because of Him, I feel complete and whole. I am almost 63 years old, and I pray that God will give me a few more years to work for Him.
I have learned from each person who had the courage to witness to me that planting seeds in people’s lives is important. I love to share the same seed of hope with others, and watch it grow.
I know that being bold for the Lord means taking risks. You never know what will happen. Witnessing means being willing to take rejection from people who just don’t understand what’s at stake. If you “lose” someone in the process, it’s better than having done nothing to see that person found in Jesus. And if you entrust the people you love to God, you never know; someday you might get that person back. That’s what happened with Gene, the guy who gave my name to Jews for Jesus. Today, he and I are close brothers in the Lord and talk often. He planted a seed. And I will always be grateful.