Last year, my wife Vered, was invited to the Jewish Voice Ministries International (JVMI) Messianic Leadership Roundtable. Though not a leader per se, she is a scholar, with a PhD in Second Temple Period Literature and further studies dealing with the inter-workings of the time period that saw the birth of both Judaism without the Temple, the Yeshua-based faith that became Christianity as well as aspects of modern day Messianic Judaism. I say this, not to brag on her, (though I am extremely proud of her accomplishments) but to show that she earned her place among the leaders of our movement and deserves to have her voice heard. When she returned from last year’s meeting, she was excited with the people she had met and the networking that had begun. She also said that this year, I was invited to attend as well, as her spouse, a position that I am equally proud to hold. However, I felt a bit out of place within this collection of 300 plus rabbis and leaders from eighteen nations of various expressions of our community, along with many of their spouses.
After attending this year’s conference I come away with a number of observations. First and foremost, all the attendees of the MLR are simply men and women who all share the same hopes and aspirations, frailties and fears “such as is common to man.” Then, regardless the size or duration of their ministries, they are all looking for the same thing; how to serve the LORD more fully and effectively, and how to lead their sphere of influence to a closer walk with ADONAI as a healthy part of the Body of Messiah.
The main sessions were directed this year by Richard A. Swenson, M.D., who shared observations on burnout, as well as tools and keys for dealing with it, whether in ministry, personal life or both. The sessions were informative, practical, and even humorous at times while dealing with a subject that threatens to cause havoc in so many ministries and families. As important as the daily sessions were, the interaction among the various attendees and their spouses had a greater impact on my life. Hearing their hearts and what the LORD is doing in and through the them, sharing their joys at their successes, and praying with them over the struggles and perceived times when success seemed afar off was a great encouragement. That is not to say that I agreed with everyone I encountered. As with any family gathering, you are close to some, while others you greet politely in love and drift away. However, the important point is that we are all family, with our various foibles, and we have interacted with one another in love and respect. This is the key that Yeshua attempted to convey to His followers when He taught, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35). Noteworthy is the fact that this exhortation came on the heels of Judas’ acknowledged betrayal.
Whether I attend in the future or not, I will remember this time fondly, knowing that even if I forget the names of many of the men and women I have met, I will not forget the faces and hearts of the brothers and sisters with whom I have become acquainted. This time has focused a spotlight on “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! … For there ADONAI commanded the blessing —life forevermore!” (Psalm 133:1 & 3b) The heart and hard work of Jonathan Bernis and his staff from Jewish Voice Ministries International have helped energize this Scripture once again in the lives of the men, women and ministries that they have touched. May Messiah’s words ring true for the JVMI team, “And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, amen I tell you, he shall never lose his reward,” (Matthew 10:42).