In just one moment, the life of a city can be changed forever-and this was certainly the case in New York City after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Although the hustle and bustle are back and people are shopping, going to the theater and exploring New York’s famous museums, something has changed. There is an underlying melancholy – a silent plea for healing – that our Chosen People Ministries staff members come across again and again as we seek to share the Gospel of the Prince of Peace.
Randall and Luda Ford: Serving the Bukharan Jews in the Borough of Queens
Randall and Luda Ford are a wonderful example of the ministry that develops when God’s servants immerse themselves heart and soul among those to whom the Lord has sent them.
In this case, the people are the Bukharan Jews, a specific sub-culture of Jewish people who have immigrated mainly from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. They are concentrated in the borough of Queens, where between 50,000 and 100,000 reside. In the vast apartment complex where the Fords live, there are no fewer than 850 Bukharan Jewish families.
The Fords have had notable success through their home Bible study and through assistance from various short-term outreach groups. The Fords train these groups in Jewish evangelism, and they in turn steer interested people to Randall and Luda’s doorstep. One of the volunteers’ activities is to distribute flyers that say “Free: Russian Jesus Film.” Luda and Randall field the calls that come in and deliver the films personally. They have met about thirty families in this way.
The Bukharan Jewish people are not an easy group to penetrate, but Luda’s own Bukharan background and Randall’s loving commitment to the Lord have opened many doors. Luda says, “We are meeting many new people. It’s a neighborhood and a culture that is almost unreached, yet slowly but surely, we are reaching them.”
Laura Fels: Ministering to the Marketplace
If there is anyone on the Chosen People Ministries staff who has her finger on the pulse of post-9/11 New York, it is Laura Fels. Laura, who has been “on loan” to us from Campus Crusade and is now officially on staff part time, has good reason to be attuned to the rhythms of the City in these tense times. She began her ministry with us literally half an hour before the first plane struck the Twin Towers.
Her ministry is to “the marketplace”- the young professionals and seasoned executives who make this city hum with commerce. She observes, “New York doesn’t want to regard itself as having changed. People shy away from the subject of the attack, but once you are able to get them to open up, you can see that people are still afraid. When a small bomb went off at the British Embassy (just around the corner from our headquarters), it was like people were reliving a nightmare. Traffic came to a stop and one could sense people thinking, ‘Here we go again.'”
Proof positive that New Yorkers are now in a different frame of mind is an event that Laura is coordinating for Jewish businessmen and women working in Manhattan. It is titled “Russia, Iran, Israel and the Bomb-what should the U.S. do?” Such are the concerns that now occupy us in this anxiety-ridden age.
Steve and Carol Fenchel: Building a Messianic Community of Faith
Building a Messianic congregation requires patience and maturity, which are just two of the qualities that congregational leader Steve Fenchel brings to his ministry. A Jewish believer, Steve has helped build Messianic congregations for almost 20 years. He and Carol have been instrumental in planting a Messianic congregation on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Formed earlier this year, the congregation has forty regular attendees. They are a reflection of the diverse populace of the city, including Jewish believers, seekers, and a broad range of nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. The services consist of worship, a teaching from the Hebrew Scripture and Steve’s Gospel message.
Part of the congregation’s recent outreach was to coordinate with STEP, our Summer Training and Evangelism Program, which gave out invitations to the congregation’s services and also provided contacts for Steve to follow up on. Steve and Carol have an exciting vision for expanding the Mission’s presence on the Upper West Side: a coffeehouse drop-in center where people can come to talk and learn about the Messiah’s message.
Klaudia Zhelezny: Reborn Through Suffering and Now Serving the Lord
The September 11 attack was especially traumatizing to New Yorkers because the majority simply had nothing with which to compare this horrific experience. This, however, was not true for the many Russian Jewish people with whom Chosen People Ministries has been working for many years. The Russians know what it is to suffer, both individually and as a nation.
Klaudia Zhelezny is a living example of the Lord’s ability to pierce through seemingly impossible circumstances. Born in Kiev, she came to the Lord after the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. As one of Chosen People Ministries’ most gifted workers, Klaudia’s opportunities to share the Gospel with the Russian Jewish community have grown exponentially through her active evangelism.
For the last year, Klaudia has hosted a program on Russian radio called, “The Bible, History and Us,” which presents evangelistic messages based on the Hebrew Scriptures. She receives calls after every program, some from seekers and some from new believers. Klaudia says, “I have a great opportunity to witness to people I certainly wouldn’t get to meet in person.”