Sveta and Misha
These articles — a memorial by Sveta’s husband Misha, and Sveta’s own story — have been edited only slightly in order to preserve their own voices. They have been translated into English from the original Russian.
In the first article, Misha, a Jewish believer in Jesus, also tells how he has been processing the loss of his beloved wife.
God With Us:
A Memorial to Sveta Karpovetski, 1980–2012
By Misha Karpovetski
On February 15, my beloved wife Svetlana departed into eternity. Words cannot describe the pain of this loss. So tenderly and affectionately she loved me, so diligently she cared for the children, and so gladly she served the Lord. Looking back, I can describe her life with one word: devotion. She was happy in such a way that she could make those around her happy too. Looking ahead, I can say that God is good. Many may count me abnormal; many may say, “How could God be good, when He took both of your wives from you?” [Misha’s first wife passed away from cancer.] But I know for sure that God Himself has not left me. Passing through this sorrowful experience of loss, I have learned first of all to seek the face of the Lord and ask for His comfort.
When we married, Sveta dreamed of seeing just one repentant sinner. How she rejoiced when she saw those who had sought the Lord and were ready for baptism. How happy she was when before her eyes our friend Victor, in the space of two months, turned from unbelief to faith and passion for God. How she thanked God for my disciples. Two weeks before she died, Sveta visited the rehab center. How she rejoiced when she learned that five of the men there were ready to be baptized. Working in the mission “Jews for Jesus,” Sveta seamlessly joined the team and labored with full devotion. She had a knack for finding needs and meeting them. Sveta found favor and joy in the eyes of her authorities (actually, friends) who valued and loved her.
And how happy she was to nurse the long-awaited infant who was born to us. At the beginning of our marriage she had a miscarriage, and then had trouble becoming pregnant again. She always wanted to bear me a child. When she did conceive and give birth to our baby, she deeply desired that he would resemble me. Before the birth, at her baby shower, my Sveta wrote that she wanted the child to be like me in every respect. She told those who were present that God had left one angel on earth, and that by a happy coincidence he happened to be her husband. I thank God that she loved me so blindly. My Sveta now knows the difference between real angels and me. But I miss her so much.
When we married, I prepared Sveta for the possibility that the Lord could call me home at any time, since I was seventeen years older than she. One day I held a group counseling session, and since it was in our home, we invited Sveta and her friends who were visiting from Belarus to join us. The point of the counseling was to resolve that if we suddenly fall into a situation which we didn’t foresee, we should learn to:
- Truly accept the situation
- Seek Bible passages to help handle it
- Make right decisions
After presenting these points, I turned to my dear wife and said, “Now suppose that you were widowed.” She replied that she wasn’t ready. All the same, I asked her to go through these three steps, reminding her that I didn’t want her to be unprepared when it happened. When God summoned not me, but Sveta, her friend called me from Belarus and said, “You taught that to us, and now God is teaching you.”
The life of my beloved was cut off so suddenly that I wasn’t ready to have to take these steps myself. Yet I had no choice, since that was where God had placed me. With all sincerity, I can declare that God is good, no matter what. Those who come to Him must seek, not answers to questions, but mercy and comfort.
How I have accepted this situation
When death comes and you lose a loved one, it’s hard to accept it as a done deal. We all know that we are mortal and death could come to any of us at any time, as Solomon wrote in his book, in Ecclesiastes 7:2, “Because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart.” But it’s difficult to take it to heart, especially when the departed person was one flesh with you. Yet to reject this fact is futile, because life and death are in the power of our Lord. Of course it’s possible to argue, complain, and take offense, but that doesn’t help, because we aren’t stronger than the Lord. The one course that remains is to trust in Him and seek comfort in Him.
What Bible passages God has shown me
It’s unfortunate that I have this sad experience of loss, but it’s a blessing that I’ve learned to trust in the Lord, to run the race set before us, walking close to Him. When my first wife, Alina, was deathly ill and close to the end, I cried to the Lord to comfort me. As if they were new verses in Scripture, I saw Philippians 4:4-5 in a completely unexpected light: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” I pondered how someone could rejoice in these circumstances, with a wife near death, and two children ages six and three. I started to meditate: It doesn’t say that rejoicing always is simply a wish. It doesn’t say to rejoice when everything is going well for you. Rejoice—it’s a command of the Lord, and if we don’t fulfill it, we’re sinning against God. But the question arises: how can we rejoice and grieve at the same time? Yes, these circumstances seem mutually exclusive. But here’s the secret: in the Lord we can both rejoice and grieve, because we have a God in whom irreconcilable things can be reconciled. For this reason, in the Lord we can grieve over a painful loss and rejoice in wonderful salvation. In order that our joy in these difficult circumstances might be sincere rather than feigned, we must submit in the face of the various circumstances in our lives, knowing that God controls them and doesn’t send trials beyond our ability to endure. For this, it is vital that we learn meekness and humility from our Lord Jesus.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). It’s not that God imparts meekness and humility merely because we need to learn them. I think that in this situation, we learn better than anywhere else to trust in God, and our story of God’s love and mercy grows much deeper. For this reason it is written, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.”
My Sveta deeply desired that I would work in the mission “Jews for Jesus.” When I went for an interview at the mission, they asked me, “How does a meek, humble person differ from a proud person?” I answered, “The proud person prays, ‘My will be done,’ while the meek and humble person prays, ‘Thy will be done.'” To rejoice in the Lord, one must accept God’s will and submit to the circumstances which God sends, since His will is best not only in heaven, but also on earth.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) We don’t know why it happened. This tragic event is like a small piece of a puzzle. God can see the whole picture. My Sveta was very meek. She always sought God’s will. Everyone who knew her immediately noticed what a cheerful, happy person she was. It’s true that we can’t rejoice without meekness and humility.
Before we decided to marry, we prayed and fasted, and Sveta resolved to be a mother to my orphaned children. A year later she told me, “I’m so glad you told me back then that unless the two of us loved one another, you wouldn’t accept my sacrifice to mother your children and we wouldn’t marry.” How sincerely she’d looked in my eyes and said, “My dear, you’re the very best.” At first, I’d felt uncomfortable and amazed at the idea that this frail little woman could view my strengths as if in a microscope and disregard my weaknesses. Now, the memory of our relationship is exceedingly sweet to me.
What decisions I’ve reached
With her death, Sveta dashed all our plans to the ground. We were joyfully looking forward to the time when I’d start working in the mission “Jews for Jesus”. This pleasant anticipation strongly stirred our souls. I was very happy that I would be occupied in the favorite work of my wife—namely, preaching the gospel—and Sveta rejoiced to know that I could do much for the Lord in this mission. She was prepared to take on herself all the housework and care for the children so that I could focus on ministry. But the Lord has seen fit that my ministry now would be my family. I understand and accept the responsibility which God has committed to me to raise my children for Him. I always taught Sveta that God is the first priority in our lives. After all, we owe Him everything.
People often complain when God takes away a loved one. But how easily we forget the reality of what God gives. In His mercy, God gave me two wives whom I love dearly and from whom I have children. I thank God for my 8½ happy years with Alina and 5½ with Sveta. Sveta always said that she wanted to live with me as long as possible, that even if she was widowed after five years, she would be happy that God gave her such an island of love and harmony on earth. And now I say that I am happy. Yes, God took two wives from me. But just as He promised, “The Lord is near,” He has not left me without His love and mercy. No one and nothing can ever separate us from the even more perfect love of Christ, for we conquer everything through the power of Him who has loved us. It is no coincidence that we named our son Immanuel (God with us). Certainly God has promised that even if a mother leaves her nursing child, God will never leave us. Our loss is great. Sveta has left me, the children to whom she filled the place of a mother, and our nursing baby. But God has not left us without His love and mercy.
When you remain for a long time in the same situation, you often don’t think about how God works in the hearts of those whom you serve. Svetlana’s parents, brothers, and sisters came from America and Belarus to her funeral. Believers also gathered from all over Israel, even a group of them from Eilat. Sveta was so dear to them that they came to honor her memory and accompany her on her final journey. Many people shared such warm words about her. I believe that if everyone who wanted to speak had been able to, the funeral would never have ended. My friend Victor and his wife traveled from the far north, from the Arctic Circle. They have been married less than two months. Faced with our need, they decided that Victor’s wife would stay for three months to help me with the children. Sister Valentina flew in from the Baltic States to help with the children. A sister has given me her vehicle to use. Brothers and sisters are always coming to our house to bring groceries and cook food. I have received very many phone calls, and very many people are ready to meet my needs, asking me to let them know when a need arises. People and churches are sacrificing so that I can have financial freedom and serve my family. Innumerable people are praying for me.
In these days of sorrow I constantly remember the well-known story of a man who dreamed that God promised never to leave him. This man saw two pairs of footprints in the sand, going through all of his life. Coming upon the most difficult experience in his life, he saw that one pair of footprints disappeared. In confusion he cried to the Lord, “You promised never to leave me. Why, in the most difficult moments of my life, were You not beside me?” God answered, “In those moments, My child, I carried you in My arms.”
God carries me today in His arms of perfect love, giving me comfort in sorrow and the joy of His presence, filling my heart with the peace which surpasses comprehension and with His love which never ends.
By Sveta Karpovetski
Note: Sveta was a Gentile believer in Yeshua.
Happy voices rang out in the yard and preparations were underway: today we were going to the young people’s social! I always loved these joyous meetings, outdoor adventures, when we sat around the happily crackling campfire which simultaneously warmed us with its radiance and baked potatoes under the sparkling coals in its bosom. I licked my lips, visualizing how I would toss the potatoes so as not to burn my fingers, and then crush them and breathe in the fresh, fragrant steam.
Above all else, though, I was drawn by the singing. Everyone in our family loved to sing. I had sung in the choir since childhood, and something majestic welled up within me as we sang with great solemnity the hymn, “How Great Thou Art.” But in nature, the presence of God was so near, so real, that it gave a completely different ring to the hymn lyrics, “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear!”
Suddenly I remembered that I’d promised to visit an elderly lady and assist with her housework today. My indecision between my promise and the social didn’t last long. As I conversed with the lady and saw her eyes filled with gratefulness and love, I knew that I’d made the right choice. Immediately Jesus’ words came to life: “I was in need and you came to Me … that which you did to one of the least of these …” In that lady’s eyes I suddenly saw Jesus’ eyes shining with joy. My heart trembled with joy, and the peace of God filled my being.
How pleasant it is to sleep in in the morning, to sense the warmth of the sun’s rays on your face. How sweet is the morning drowsiness, when your eyes aren’t yet open. The first thoughts of the day creep into your head, and memory softly comes into focus, marking the reality of the day which has just dawned.
Hallelujah, today Uncle Peter is coming to visit us! Pictures flash before my eyes: barbed wire, behind which, humiliated by jeering onlookers, hungry, weak from hard labor, but not broken within, our brothers suffered for their faith. Among them was my dear Uncle Peter. Afterwards he had gone to America at the request of Christian organizations, to share with the brethren the wonders of God’s works behind barbed wire and the perseverance of the men’s wives, who were inspired by their husbands to endure this time as they cared for many children and trained them up in the faith of their fathers.
I remembered how we’d parted before his departure for America, and Uncle Peter and the relatives had encouraged us. The days had flown by, and now there on our doorstep I could once again see his familiar face with his broad smile and shining eyes, radiating God’s love, and could hear these warm words, “Our dear Sveta, beloved by us and by the Lord!”
I was always touched and amazed at how my uncle, in the midst of all his busyness, could see needs and involve himself in the lives of all who surrounded him. Before he left, he and I had time to talk alone. Those kinds of conversations were always exciting to me, because he nearly always took me by surprise with unexpected questions. This time was no exception: “Sveta, you’re already twenty-four; why aren’t you married yet? Have you decided not to marry, or can you not get any proposals?”
Man always hopes for something better. When you see a caterpillar crawling up the trunk of a cherry tree, you know that eventually it will become a beautiful butterfly in all its fullness, and its wings will shimmer in the sun with all the colors of the rainbow. This is how I look confidently at the future.
I thank God that I was born into a Christian family and reared in a conservative Baptist church. I considered my church the very best, and the authority of its ministers supreme, and I didn’t notice how my heart was full of spiritual pride which drew me from the truth of the Living Word to outward traditions of church life. But there came a time when I stood on the threshold of breaking out of my parents’ cocoon into my own independent life. Outwardly, everything looked normal, but I wasn’t satisfied spiritually. Now living in America, I envied Christians in other churches, and was drawn by their openness and sincerity. I didn’t understand how they could be so free.
Thus began a serious spiritual conflict between the traditions of a Christian form of life with which I was bound, and these spiritual treasures which appeared in the lives of other believers. More and more questions arose, for which I couldn’t find answers. I couldn’t shake off the feeling of inadequacy in my Christian life. I wanted to understand my purpose for living and for what, as a Christian, I should spend my life and power. I begged God to show me how I should live and serve Him. I was sure He would answer me, because He promised, “If you seek Me with all your heart, you will find Me.” I knew that the answer would be in Scripture, and I prayed that He would send me a godly person who could instruct and counsel me on living for the Lord.
The deepest desire of my heart was to adopt a child. I constantly thought about doing so. Today I understand that this desire was preparation for my future, for as the desire matured toward a serious decision, an overall plan began to emerge.
When the heavens speak
I have always loved to meditate on the heavens at times when, from the stormy darkness after rain, a ray of light emerges to gently warm the earth and paint a picture of the promise given by God to Noah: a rainbow! Overflowing with all the colors, it unites two ends of light, forming a bridge which invites us to walk along it.
In life, nothing happens by chance. I was always touched to read in Psalm 139: “In Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” When I cried out to God to fulfill the desires of my heart, He answered, of course, but in a totally different way than I was expecting—because God knows better than we do and He always does exceedingly abundantly above what we think or even imagine.
As I struggled spiritually, I sought the kind of Christian atmosphere in which I would feel satisfied, pleasing the Lord. I desired to go to a Christian youth camp in Israel. The director of this camp was our good friend, with whom I’d grown up in church. I’d always esteemed this brother and I secretly hoped that during the camp I’d receive spiritual support and counsel. I was awed at the anticipation of being in Israel, seeing the Promised Land and Jerusalem. But suddenly, this brother himself called me with an unusual request: to serve as interpreter for his friend’s wife who would soon be coming to my very city in America for cancer treatment. His voice was full of compassion and sympathy which overflowed onto me. Thus began for me God’s revelation and great blessing. I had thought I would go to Israel to serve the Lord, but instead, He was bringing Israel to me.
It’s hard to describe the tumult I experienced in coming to know Alina and her friend Gina. They weren’t like the Christians I knew, but it was easy and comfortable to be in their presence. When I saw Alina for the first time, I was struck by the strong will this sister possessed. Her body was wasting away with illness, with cancer visible even on her skin, and her breaths were short and labored; yet how her sunken eyes glowed with life, and with what rapture and hope did she turn to God, laboring in prayer in the midst of her terminal illness. And oh, the thankfulness and love with which she looked upon me when I arrived to help her with something! I would lie awake at night, seeing before me those sad eyes, full of love and thankfulness.
At home, I would receive many calls from Alina’s believing friends in Israel and America. This was the first time I’d encountered such involvement and concern, and the first time I’d sensed this unseen power of prayer, as an innumerable multitude of Christians fought for the life of this one sister. But I was especially sorrowful with her husband’s involvement and concern, as he constantly called from Israel. It seemed that he experienced the same sufferings as she, and I felt his pain.
One morning I went to Grandma Anna’s home, where Alina was staying. Grandma was bustling about with housework while Alina sat in the armchair, breathing heavily, but smiling and saying with a broken voice, “Grandma Anna, when I get well, I’ll help you with everything.”
For the first few days Alina’s treatment in the clinic progressed successfully, but then the disease took its toll, metastasizing into her lungs, and she had difficulty breathing even with oxygen. That evening she grew even worse and required immediate hospitalization. Gina, the sister who had accompanied Alina from Israel, advised her husband to come without delay. A few days later I witnessed the meeting of these two hearts in love. It’s hard to describe how their relationship touched me. For ten painful days, I observed Misha relate to his wife with great tenderness and love. Though tired and weak from fasting and sleepless nights, he never left her side. It seemed that in this short time he wanted to give her all the love which he would have given in all the future years of their happy family life together. I was amazed and dismayed by their relationship. Never in my life had I thought that a husband could love his wife with such devotion; I had not even read of such love in good books. I couldn’t understand how he had the strength to endure all of this without sleeping or eating.
I remember when I brought juice for Alina early one morning. She was sleeping and Misha was sitting beside her in an armchair. I wanted to leave, but something very strong drew me to these people, and I greatly appreciated their relationship, and thanked God that they asked me to remain in their presence. I so wanted the wonderful miracle of healing to happen, and we fervently prayed for this. Misha pressed the doctors to take drastic measures to check the illness. But the doctors were constantly in a state of uncertainty as to what to do.
There came a critical moment when Alina was transferred to intensive care and they told us that she wouldn’t make it through the night. When it was clear that the doctors didn’t have any hope left, Alina took off her oxygen mask and turned to her husband, “Do you believe that God will heal me?” I saw tears in Misha’s eyes as he replied, “That is what I earnestly desire and pray for, but I don’t know God’s will.” Then Alina said to me, “My husband is a man of little faith”—and added, turning to him, “I want to live and serve the Lord together with you.” Those were the last words that she was able to say to us.
I can’t express the feeling of sympathy with which God filled my heart toward Misha and his children, but I’m grateful to God that before his return to his children he explained to me the right priorities in the Christian life. His answers to my deep questions were so simple that I wondered why I hadn’t understood them earlier. After Misha returned home, our relationship continued, and in time we decided to unite our hearts before the Lord.
I went through many different fears and hesitations in my journey toward this decision, and Misha always related to me with great understanding, giving me wise counsel in time of need. Today, after two years of our family life together, I understand how right he was in all that he said at that time. I am blessed beyond measure that God has given me a loving husband who is my shepherd and spiritual authority, as well as my closest companion, a true friend, who comes before I even ask him. I thank God that He has given to my husband, the head of our household, the wisdom to accept full responsibility before God for my relationship with the children.
And finally, here is Misha’s story of his own journey to faith in Yeshua:
“Love Never Ends”
By Misha Karpovetski
It happened suddenly—so suddenly that I didn’t comprehend what was happening until I heard the words from my older brother Leonid’s mouth: “We don’t have Mother anymore. She has died.” Then my heart was pierced with the stabbing realization that never again would I see her who was an angel of kindness toward me; never again would I meet her stern but love-filled maternal gaze; never again would I hear her deep, tender voice; never again would I feel the gentle touch of her hand.
Especially heart-breaking after my mother’s death were my father’s sufferings: his sleepless nights; packs of smoked-out cigarettes; and words uttered with profound grief and tears welling up within his eyes: “I would give anything to have her back again.” Father himself passed away just as suddenly as Mother did. He left me a vivid example of marital love and devotion, of fatherly care and involvement.
With the departure of both parents, I felt a vacuum within me, irresistibly searching for something to fill it. My parents had dreamed for me to study at the university, and finally the time arrived: I became a student. Student years are generally considered to be the most fun time of life. Accordingly, I, like King Solomon, tried to drown out the voice of loneliness with mirth, passing time in merry student groups, immersed in dancing, theater, and countless other activities. But all this was vanity of vanities and striving after wind. These questions never left my mind: “Where are my parents? Do they see or hear me? What will happen to me when it’s my turn? Why does man live, if all alike die? And what is the meaning of life?”
Looking death in the eye
“It’s not so bad—leave in the fall and return in the spring,” I thought as I stepped into the military office. Since I hadn’t studied military science at the university, I was required to serve only a year and a half in the military, instead of two years. I didn’t realize what I would go through during my term of service, and how it would influence the rest of my life. On the train taking us recruits far away from home, whizzing past various villages, we all asked the same question: “Where are we going?” An older, experienced solder smiled wryly and announced, “Company 20-A to Turkmenistan’s battle district in Afghanistan.”
I was no longer a teenager, as were my young comrades with adrenaline pumping in their blood, drawing them toward adventure. All my life suddenly flashed before my eyes, with the question: “What if I never come back?” Inexorably I yearned to live, to love and be loved, to raise a family. But the train was taking me away into uncertainty. For the first time in my life, filled with despair, I turned to One in Whom I did not believe, at Whom I had laughed and Whom I had blasphemed: “O God, if You exist, save me!”
For half a year I studied at the Ashkhabad army school. These six months of mockery and humiliation, sleepless nights and physical exhaustion, showed me how low a person can go, as well as how one can survive in such an extreme situation. We were prepared for Afghanistan like cattle for slaughter. In class the commanders impressed upon us that the radio station where we worked was filled with explosives, and should not fall into enemy hands. The words kept ringing in my ears: “You are dead men, you are doomed.” I still remember what one officer said, ostensibly showing concern for us: “Enjoy this New Year’s Day celebration, because for many of you it will be your last.”
The day before our deployment to Afghanistan, I had the day off. It was my first time in six months to leave the military base. Before I left, one of my friends, who had been in the service for a long time, suggested, “If you don’t want to go to Afghanistan tomorrow, throw away your military ID and report it as lost. During the time it takes to replace it, someone else will be sent instead of you.” Here I faced temptation: if this “someone else” should die in Afghanistan, how could I live with that? I didn’t yet know the One Who loved me so much that gave His life to save me from eternal destruction. My parents’ words came to mind: “Don’t do to others anything you wouldn’t want them to do to you.” I decided: “I won’t take my friend’s advice.” Once again, my whole life flashed before my eyes, and some invisible force made me repeat the words: “God, if You exist, please save me.”
In Afghanistan, I was stationed on the Salang mountain pass, 4500 meters high. This was an important “mountain pass” time in my life as well. In our platoon there was continual drunkenness, smoking of charz (an Afghan drug), and taunting of young soldiers. It was very difficult to break from this pattern, not to imitate everyone else. Yet even more terrible were the shootings around the garrison, when Afghani snipers fired from their own camp, murdering Soviet soldiers in ours. In these harsh conditions snow avalanches also claimed solders’ lives. And at night, hate-filled Afghani solders crept into our barracks and slit the throats of Soviet soldiers. In the morning we sorrowfully sent off our friends in the “black tulip”—the helicopter which carried away corpses.
He found me
Spring is the most beautiful season of the year. Walking down the streets of my hometown, breathing the spring perfume of blooming trees, and relishing the birds’ singing, I joyfully anticipated my reunion with my brother and my friends, with whom I had developed a close bond and corresponded during this difficult period of military service.
Suddenly, memories overcame me, carrying me back to the moment when I had turned to the Lord and cried, “God, if You exist, please save me.” I wanted to believe that God had heard me and that it was He who had preserved me alive and well, not crippled, but with strong arms and legs, having escaped malaria and typhus, strolling again down the streets of my hometown. How I wanted to thank Him now! But the question came: “Who? Maybe there is no God after all, and this whole story is just a figment of my wild imagination.” My parents had trained me to be principled and honest, and my years of study had turned me into a rational analyst; accordingly, to my questions about the meaning of life and life after death, I added two more questions: Is there a God? And if so, which religion holds the truth?
This inner search coincided with my immigration, with my brother, to Israel. By the time we arrived, I had studied much literature about Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Judaism and Kabbalah. But the more I delved into these different religions and beliefs, the more I became entangled in the maze of doctrines. All these religions seemed to me like a good meal of spaghetti—you never know where is the beginning and where is the end!
Here in Israel I felt my loneliness more sharply, away from my familiar surroundings and the friends with whom I used to spend time. I found everything to be completely different: a different country; different people, with whom I needed to deal very carefully if I wanted to save those few coins I’d received from the Ministry of Absorption of Immigrants; and a different language, which was used by our fathers two thousand years ago but now was completely foreign to me. At this time I longed for a friend with whom I could share my heart. And once again, just as before, an unknown force made me repeat these words: “God, if You exist, Who are You? Reveal Yourself to me; I want to know the truth about You.”
Soon I was invited to visit a young couple with whom I studied in Hebrew class. I was delighted to visit someone. These people were Christians and we began to debate religion. At that point I was a well-read, learned young man. But like most Jews, I was biased against Christianity. Yet I was attracted to this young couple by the joyous smiles that lit up their whole faces. I couldn’t resist asking, “What makes you so happy?” They replied, gesturing out the window, “Can’t you see how beautiful it is? On the other side of the Lake of Gennesaret is the city of Capernaum.” I asked, “What’s so special about Capernaum?” They answered, “You don’t know? It’s the city where Jesus performed so many miracles!” They decided to enlighten me by giving me a Bible as I was leaving. I was very happy to have this book because I had heard and read a lot about it. But when I tried to read the Bible, I got bogged down in the genealogies, just as I had in the theological maze of different religions.
Once, conversing with this couple, I examined the prophecies they pointed out to me. At that time I was a cold, rational realist and had never before faced the supernatural. I literally jumped in surprise: “How could prophets who lived so long before the birth of Jesus Christ describe so explicitly the place of His birth, the time of His coming, His life, death, resurrection, and even His ascension into Heaven?” I suspected ulterior motives: “It looks like these Christians are trying to lure me into their sect.” But when I opened the Old Testament published by rabbis and started to compare the Old Testament prophecies with the Christian Bible, I encountered another surprise—they coincided exactly with one another.
Still, though, my stereotypical Jewish nature was at work: “How can I, a Jew, believe in Jesus? What would my Jewish relatives say?” Besides this, I realized that in accepting God into my heart I would need to leave behind the sins in which I had found pleasure and comfort. I understood that I was standing on the threshold of a monumental decision: the acceptance of the Truth which I had so long resisted. My struggle continued for four months, and God showed Himself strong. He found me while I wasn’t seeking Him. It was He Who compelled me to search for the meaning of life, led me through difficult temptations, and brought to the Promised Land. It was He Who caused my heart to suffer loneliness and walk through this quest, because He knew me long ago and knew the decision I would make.
Through the prism of tests
With faith in God, reconciliation and joy flooded my heart; loneliness left me and meaning filled my life. I gained many friends, whom I call now “brothers.” That doesn’t mean that I forget my old friends, whom I loved and whom I prayed for; it’s just that these special, new relationships bind us with inseparable, invisible bonds, held in the hand of the One Whom we call our Heavenly Father. And of utmost importance to me became the invisible presence of my best friend Jesus, whom I had resisted for so long but to whom I had finally opened the doors of my heart.
But a new test burst into my life: my beloved wife was diagnosed with cancer in its final stage. It was a real shock to me. As this reality sunk into me, I again called upon the One Whom I already knew, in Whom I believed, asking for His support, consolation, and healing for my wife. We spent a year and a half in desperate struggle, earnest prayers and tears, but all was in vain. I became an eyewitness to the decay of the temple which is called the flesh. Yet we didn’t lose courage, nor did we despair, because this whole time we were supported by the Word of God and by a multitude of friends and brothers, who united in prayer and shared our struggle. It was a time when we were going through our Gethsemane and entreated our Heavenly Father that this cup of separation, called death, might pass from us—adding to our prayer, as Jesus added to His, “not my will, but Yours be done.”
During this period of illness my wife Alina experienced many mood swings. On the one hand, she resigned herself to the probability that death might separate us. As her thoughts progressed further, she “foretasted” the joy of the meeting with her Heavenly Father, firmly trusting in His promises. Out of these thoughts, in the midst of the physical sufferings, God’s peace filled her heart. But there were other times when she saw how much I and our two small children needed her, and fought for life with renewed vigor.
The cancer inexorably ran its course. But Alina bravely continued to struggle for life. At this time we were especially close to God and keenly felt our congregation’s support. No matter how bad Alina felt, she always came to church, always smiled at the brothers and sisters, and was always thankful to God, resting her trust in Him.
Unexpectedly, we received the call from a sister in the U.S. She told us about a clinic in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where cancer patients in the final stages may receive reliable help. We brought this need before the Lord and started preparing for the trip. Many brothers and sisters, Christian organizations, and congregations made donations toward Alina’s treatment. As our trials increased, we felt our spiritual family’s loving support all the more deeply. Among all our blessings, a special one for us was a sister named Svetlana who lived in Tulsa. When I asked her to help with translation she happily exclaimed, “It is a great privilege and honor for me to help Jews, who are my family in Christ!”
It took several months to obtain permission for Alina to enter the U.S., and by the time she arrived at the clinic, it was too late. The cancer had already metastasized to her lungs, requiring hospitalization. We spent Alina’s last ten days together in the hospital—ten days filled with the tragedy of the separation of two loving hearts, united by nine years of marriage, two wonderful children, and most importantly, love and faithfulness to the Lord and to each other.
Sveta was a great blessing and encouragement to us in the hospital. She was not only our translator, but a sharer of our suffering, taking it into her heart. She took time off from work and school just to care for us, to pray and cry together with us, observing the whole reality of what was happening. Unbeknownst to us, she also rejoiced in the harmony of Alina’s and my marriage relationship, perceiving the warmth of love which Lord had kindled in our hearts toward one another.
Sveta witnessed the moment when Alina turned to me with her last words: “I long to live and serve God together with you!” That last night Sveta refused to go home. She stayed to assist and support us in those extremely sorrowful hours of our life.
We spent the whole night at the bedside of my dying wife Alina, fervently praying to God for the miracle of healing if that was His will. In early morning we caught a glimmer of hope that if Alina could survive the night, she might be able to overcome the illness; but at the same time, the doctor said that Alina had no more than an hour to live. I leaned over my wife’s bed, sobbing, uttering parting words, and asking forgiveness for my improper actions in different situations of our life. Our pastor Tom called from Israel and gave me Scripture verses to read to Alina before she left this world. The last verse Alina heard was Revelation 21:4: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” For my Alina the former things had already passed away. The nurse who was at the moment in our room, carefully watching all the monitors for signs of approaching death, said through her tears, “At the last words of that verse her blood oxygen level suddenly dropped. With those words you released her.”
Though it was difficult for Misha to come to terms with his loss, God gave him grace in his affliction, for He promised that love never ends (see Misha’s memorial article above). Misha and Svetlana’s friendship grew into a strong, mutual attraction, which their age difference and other circumstances couldn’t extinguish. God united them in marriage, giving them to each other and giving Misha’s children a loving mother. He gave Svetlana the opportunity to love those who so needed it. They all obtained abundant joy, because God faithfully keeps His promises, always leaving a bright story of that love which never ends.