Reflections on Returning from Poland
Just a few days ago, I returned from Poland, where I spent eleven days with a group of Holocaust survivors now living in Israel. We began the trip with two days in Warsaw, the capital, where a visit to the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial was a must.
We then traveled to the north of Poland. On the way, we visited the town of Plonsk, the birthplace of David Ben-Gurion, the first Israeli Prime Minister. We also stopped in Olshtin, home of astronomer and scholar Nicolaus Copernicus, and Gdansk, which is said to be the most beautiful city in the country. The European Soccer Cup took place while we were in Poland, so of course we had to add some sports to the list of the group activities! We watched three teams as they competed fiercely for first place in various kinds of games. It was nice to see how these 80+ year olds felt young again.
We also visited one of the local death camps, where we prayed that a horrible event like the Holocaust would never happen again. That same evening, we had time for some people in the group to share their memories about it. One of the men who spoke spent three years in one of the death camps. He said, "I went to the camp as a young boy, when I was only nine years old, but I was an adult by the age of twelve when we were liberated."
On Sunday, we went to a local Evangelical church; the members were so happy to host a group from Israel. The pastor invited me to preach about God’s salvation, and a few people from the group shared their testimonies. For most of them, it was the first time they had ever visited a church, and they loved the experience. The most important part of our tour was the spiritual fellowship that we had every morning and evening, when we sang worship songs, exchanged experiences and learned from the Scriptures. I had the opportunity to teach about Israel as God's chosen nation, His plan of salvation for all people and about the way one should live after accepting the Gospel.
Every evening, different local believers visited us, sharing their testimonies and answering many questions. Many of the people who came on this tour began to read the Bible and pray for the first time in their lives. Once, when we were talking about biblical prophecies and how we are a part of their fulfillment, a lady stood up and said that this tour changed her life. A few others prayed with me, asking God to show Himself to them.
I am thankful to God for the opportunity to serve these Holocaust survivors through organizing and leading this trip to Poland. They were able to meet real believers, and they could feel the love of God. I believe that many of them will come to believe in Yeshua after this trip. Please pray for salvation for these dear people, as well as for the salvation of the whole nation of Israel.
Ministry in Finland and the Balkan States
Toivo Maki and his wife, Malla, enjoy ministering among the small community of 2,000 Jewish people that reside in Finland. Toivo had an established career as an architect when he received a calling to ministry. The Makis have also branched out to the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where there are still 5,000-10,000 Jewish people, mainly elderly survivors of the Holocaust and oppressive Communism. Before World War II, the Baltic States had a large (250,000) and established Jewish community with many famous Jewish sages and rabbis. Today, there are opportunities to minister in unique and practical ways to this much-diminished group.
The focus is Latvia's capital, Riga, and second-largest city, Daugavpils, where there is a small Messianic congregation. Toivo received a special invitation to participate in a service for a memorial that was to be erected at the site of a mass grave from the Holocaust. He was interviewed by two newspapers, and had the opportunity to speak with the mayor of the city to explain his faith and how he hopes to help and minister to the people.
Finally, there is a ministry called "Bread For Latvia," by which large shipments of bread are distributed throughout the country. In Vilnius, a Jewish city once famous for its impact on Jewish tradition and learning, a small and needy Messianic congregation received word of the shipment and took the bread and distributed it among those in prison.
- Please pray for continued open doors for the Makis, that the favor they have received in the Jewish community will increase, and that opportunities to minister through Messianic congregations will expand.
- Please pray for the well-being of the Holocaust survivors, the elderly and those in prison whom they often visit.
- Please pray for the translation of the book, Isaiah 53 Explained, into Finnish — a project that is currently underway — to touch many lives.
NERIYAH A. HEALTH UPDATE
Many friends of Chosen People Ministries and Neriyah A., who serves in Israel, have been asking about his health after the failure of the donated kidney he received six years ago. Neriyah is receiving dialysis three times a week as he prays for another donor to arise. He has arranged to get treatment while sleeping, so that it will not interfere as much with his ministry and his home life. Currently, he is continuing to lead an active life of service to Messiah, as the Lord enables him to meet his health challenges. Please pray that he will continue in stable condition as he waits for his name to come up in the list of potential kidney recipients—and that the Lord will provide a good match.
LUNCH LEADS TO FAITH DECISION IN ARIZONA
After being introduced by her aunt, a Jewish believer, to staff member Cathy Wilson at a Bible study, Stephanie* was open to knowing more. Stephanie's aunt made arrangements for them to meet for lunch, and throughout the meal their conversation revolved around Jesus as they ate and read from the Bible. Cathy writes, "After the lunch plates were cleared, we held hands and prayed. Right there in a booth at a busy lunchtime spot, Stephanie confessed her sins, asking forgiveness and placing her trust in Jesus. Our new sister in the Lord was beaming—her face was radiant!"
MINISTRY OF MERCY IN MESSIAH'S NAME
Eugene L., one of our faithful staff members in Israel, began visiting an elderly Jewish lady. After establishing a trusting relationship, he patiently shared the Gospel with her and finally she accepted the Lord. Eugene writes, "I have no words to express my joy! She asked me to visit her frequently and read the Bible together." Not long after, the woman passed away. Eugene adds, "I am thankful for this opportunity to have brought the Good News to her shortly before her last breath—the Lord is merciful."
CAMPING TRIP BRINGS SALVATION TO RUSSIAN JEWISH WOMAN
Even when on a short vacation from their Toronto ministry, staff member Anna Bortsov and her husband, Vladimir, are ardent witnesses for Messiah. During a weekend camping trip, they encountered a number of Russian Jewish people at the campsite and began to witness to them through Isaiah 53. One man invited Anna and Vladimir to his campfire. He knew Isaiah 53 by heart in Hebrew and Russian, and they sat near the fire talking for a whole evening. His wife was listening, but did not enter the conversation. After about four hours of discussion, the man got up to go to sleep—but his wife came and sat down. She said, "I am ready to repent; help me to do it," and Vladimir led her to the Lord in prayer.
From August 4-18, over 100 staff members and volunteers from all over the world participated in Shalom Brooklyn, our summer outreach in New York City. After receiving evangelistic training, the teams shared the Gospel message through multiple platforms on the streets of New York.
We connected with hundreds of Jewish people through health fairs, baseball clinics, book tables, surveys, one-on-one sharing and passing out materials that present the message of Messiah in a Jewish way. Please pray with us for all the lives that were touched this year – that as we follow up with these contacts, many would open their hearts to receive Yeshua (Jesus).
This year's outreach included baseball clinics and health fairs
Intrigued by Isaiah 53
One of our team members, Israel, walked into Central Park to do a short religious questionnaire with people who were relaxing on the lawn. He met Daniel,* a religious Jew and a regular synagogue attendee. Israel asked Daniel about Isaiah 53, and Daniel replied that he had read the whole Jewish Bible thirty years ago in school, but he was a little rusty on Isaiah 53.
Israel read him the chapter and asked him whom he thought it was talking about – and was pleasantly surprised to hear him say that it could be the Messiah. Israel then offered Daniel some additional information about Isaiah 53 and the Messiah, for which he was thankful. Daniel gave Israel his email address and asked him to get in touch in a week or so, after he had a chance to read and consider the message of Isaiah 53.
Team members take the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah chapter 53 to seekers on the streets
Bible Study on the Boardwalk
While conducting spiritual questionnaires at the Brighton Beach Boardwalk, Brian approached Avi,* a religious Jewish man who was sitting on a bench. Avi noticed Brian's ring with Hebrew writing, and this led to a ninety-minute conversation about spiritual matters. Brian took him to Isaiah 53, which he had never read, and explained how the chapter points to Messiah. Avi responded, "I can really see the logic of what you are saying. It's definitely plausible. It's just not what my tradition teaches."
Avi was overwhelmed by Brian's love and surprised to hear about how the New Testament teaches that God will remain faithful to the Jewish people. At the end of the conversation, Avi gave Brian his phone number and asked him to call and continue the dialogue, because he wanted to learn more about Jesus.
Our evangelistic book tables led to many fruitful spiritual conversations
Encounters at Book Tables
Mark struck up a conversation with a Jewish man at a book table during the first Sunday of Shalom Brooklyn, and they discovered both their ancestors were Armenian-speaking Jews from Tabriz, in modern Iran. The man told Mark he is interested in biblical prophecy. After that meeting, they began to dialogue over the phone and are currently planning to get together to discuss spiritual things.
At another book table in a very Jewish area of Upper Manhattan, team member Israel met Jonathan, a Jewish college student who was doing a project on religion in New York. He asked to interview both Israel and Belinda, another team member. During the interview, Belinda gave her testimony and Israel shared how he came to faith through reading Isaiah 53.
After finishing the interviews, Jonathan turned off the tape recorder and asked, "So you are telling me that if I don't believe in Jesus and have a relationship with God, I will not go to Heaven when I die?"
Israel compassionately replied, "Jonathan, I don't want to offend you, but I really want to be truthful with you. Yes, I believe that for you, or anyone, to have a relationship with God and receive His free gift of eternal life, you have to believe in Jesus."
As Jonathan left, he said, "Thanks for telling me the truth."
* Names have been changed
Please pray for our follow-up with these seekers - and many others! You might also consider joining us for Shalom Brooklyn in 2013.