The Shamash Network:
a unique liaison program in Restorers of Zion
One way that Restorers of Zion is able to serve and strengthen the Body of Messiah here in the Land is to act as a channel for emergency financial help. In this area, as in others, we are a facilitator - determining where the needs are, and then routing financial aid from several organizations who want to help the Israeli believers in this way. Sometimes the gift comes through us as representatives of the donors, and sometimes directly from other organizations.
But how can we investigate all the needs that become known to us? They are many and are scattered all over the country. To do a proper job of it, we would need a full-time team making a circuit around the Israeli congregations, personally verifying where the legitimate needs are. Yet our organization is run by people who already have full-time jobs!
As we prayed for a realistic solution, we came to a framework similar to what Jethro advised Moses - to set up a network of assistants from residents among the "tribes" who could help us carry this responsibility.
Restorers asks every congregational leader to appoint one member of his congregation (or more) to work with us as a liaison or contact person. In a Jewish framework, this is a Shamash (similar to a deacon in the church framework).
This individual is responsible to evaluate all requests from his/her congregation for emergency financial help - verifying that the needy person or family is submitted to the spiritual authority of the congregation, that their faith in Yeshua is genuine, and that their financial need is legitimate and immediate. Among other things, the Shamash is required to visit the homes of the applicants, and also gather from them the necessary documents that show the extent of their need.
When Restorers approves a need for funding, the Shamash is responsible for receiving the check from Restorers (or other organization), bringing it to the recipient, obtaining their written confirmation that they have received the money, and then reporting back to us.
(All of the above details are requirements agreed upon by Restorers and ministries from abroad who have designated us as their partner in Israel. These good people are depending on us to fully verify all needs and gifts, so that they can fulfill their responsibility to the original donors.)
When the leader makes his choice, we schedule a personal meeting with the Shamash, in order to get to know him/her and explain what kinds of documentation we require for verifying financial needs. The individual supplies a written recommendation from the congregational leader, confirming that he/she is approved for this service and has the authority to work with Restorers of Zion on behalf of their congregation. We view this liaison task as a very important role in every congregation, and one that carries spiritual responsibility.
Following is the introductory letter we
give to each congregational leader, explaining the framework of accountability
we are seeking:
The Shamash - Service and Accountability
The Shamash will act as the representative for your congregation in working with Restorers of Zion. He/she will be directing financial aid from Restorers to the needy in your fellowship, and may also identify needs for other kinds of help as well. This is a leadership position that carries a high level of responsibility.
For this reason, it is important that the Shamash be accountable to other leadership in the congregation, who can provide spiritual oversight (the pastor and at least one elder). If the Shamash is also the pastor, this oversight should be provided by at least two elders or amuta board members.
The letter of authorization that Restorers has requested from each Shamash is the first step in building a relationship with your congregation. This letter should be signed by those who will serve as overseers for the Shamash. It should state that they agree that this individual is a good choice to serve your congregation in such a position, and that they are prepared to take responsibility for supporting the Shamash in his/her duties, and for giving advice as needed. In the unlikely event of a problem with his/her performance, or any questions relating to how Restorers funds were handled in a given situation, the overseers will be expected to explain the actions of their Shamash and share the responsibility for his/her decisions.
To ensure full accountability, Restorers will send an annual report
to the Shamash and his/her overseers, which gives a detailed summary of
our service to your congregation, including funds given for financial needs.
Duties of the Shamash:
To identify and verify needs in your congregation for financial aid, and to collect the information that will help us in our efforts to meet such needs (attached is a guideline with the information we will need for each applicant).
To personally visit the homes of those who are requesting financial help, as part of the verification process.
To pass gifts from Restorers of Zion to the designated recipients in your congregation.
To forward to Restorers a signed thank-you note from those who receive a gift (the note should mention the amount received, date and signature of the recipient).
To pass announcements from Restorers to your congregation about additional services available, and/or calls for meeting other needs in the Body that your congregation may be able to help with.
To consult with the overseers when necessary, for example in cases where a need that Restorers has agreed to meet becomes more complex than expected, or any other situation where sound advice and joint responsibility are called for.
We also supply each congregation with a short but comprehensive questionnaire to guide the Shamash in verifying a financial need and determining a solution. In this questionnaire, we try to not only evaluate the need, but also explore the possible reasons for the emergency, and how the root causes might be remedied so that the needy person will not be forced to come back in two months with another emergency request.
Restorers is offering this questionnaire on-line as a suggested guide for use by any other congregation or donor organization that would like to adopt this liaison system (or simply use the questions in evaluating financial needs). Interested readers can freely copy and distribute it as desired.
We are pleased with the response from the Israeli congregations to this innovative approach. The leaders know their flocks far better than we ever could - even if we were to personally visit each one - and they are taking our framework quite seriously, seeking to be responsible caretakers of what they view as the Lord's funds.
The Shamash Network appears to be not only a more efficient way for evaluating needs, but also a way to ensure that the leaders are involved in meeting those needs, and a way to give attention to the whole person (because so often the lack of funds is only one part of a greater need). And of course it's one more way to foster unity, caring and teamwork between that congregation and the Body of Messiah at large.
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