Stories from Russia and the Ukraine
What Motivates Us?
God has continually been putting a question before me: what stimulates or motivates my ministry? For the first year and a half to two years, my main motive was to understand and perform the work that God had given me to do for Him. That continues to motivate me still, but it seems that God wanted me to regard the ministry as more than a duty. More recently, He has shown me that the opportunity to serve Him is more of a blessing to me than it is to Him or even to those I reach with the gospel. Ministry is God’s gift to me and I echo Paul’s words (though my mission is primarily to Jewish people): To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).
The more I understand the concept of grace, the greater my joy in ministry. But as it turns out, even this is not to be the foundation for my service to God. He has shown me, through various people and circumstances, that my primary motivation is to be love—love for unsaved people, love for my brothers and sisters and love for God. I know that I can’t love with my own love. But I also know that I will be able to love with His love given to me through the Holy Spirit. I want to ask you to pray for me and the rest of our staff that God would continually teach us to have this love.
A Year Ago in Moscow…
Just about a year ago on April 25 there was an Israel Independence Day rally in Moscow. It was held near the central synagogue on Arkhipov Street. Four of us put on our blue Jews for Jesus jackets and went to hand out the broadside, “Good News from Israel.” At first all was quiet. Some Jewish people stopped to talk, others stopped to tell us, “We are Jewish, too, but not for Jesus.”
Some Orthodox rabbis approached and told me to leave. I told them the gospel and asked if they would explain why Jesus is the not the Messiah. They refused, but instead left and returned with the police who also asked us to stop broadsiding. The police informed us that the synagogue was having a sanctioned rally and that we could not give out literature within 500 meters, or we would be arrested. By that time, the sortie was scheduled to be over.
The rabbis followed us as we walked toward the metro, but we decided to continue our sortie because so many Jewish people were still pouring into the rally. Some were from Israel, others from the Caucasus. The rabbis tried to hinder us again, bringing the police back just as I was praying with a Jewish woman to receive Jesus. This woman had come to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day, but received true independence and freedom from sins. The police warned us again to stop handing out tracts or they would take us to the police station.
We finished and went into the metro to pray. There the Lord sent us still more Jewish people who gave us their names and addresses to hear more. Altogether, we received 40 Jewish contacts, and prayed with two Jewish people and one Gentile to receive Jesus. Praise the Lord!
Always the Unexpected
Unlike most of my Jews for Jesus colleagues, I have usually preferred sorties (tract passing expeditions) to one-on-one visits. I think it is because you never know what to expect, you have a unique closeness to God while being vulnerable on the streets, and He arranges the most memorable surprise encounters with people. I always see God moving so clearly on sorties, and that is probably why I prefer sorties over visits. But recently I have seen all of these factors in a series of visits I have had with a woman named Rita.
A colleague had passed along the address of this Jewish woman. I called and invited her to our Shabbat meeting, as is usual. Rita promised to come but did not; I invited her many times and she never came. When at last she attended a meeting she was quite active, asking many questions and sharing about her own life. I arranged to meet with her again, and as I shared the Scriptures with her she informed me, “Yes, most everyone is sinful, but not me! I’m not sinful. Ask my relatives and neighbors and they will tell you that Rita is a saint. I never refuse to help anyone, even when I am sick.” I suggested that God Himself would show Rita who she is before Him. I prayed for her and left.
As our third meeting began, Rita confessed to me, “I fully recognize that I’m sinful.” I silently thanked Jesus for Rita’s open heart and we began to study the Scriptures that tell how to deal with our sin. I hoped that Rita would understand her need to repent and receive Jesus. Rita showed no desire to do either, but as our meeting drew to a close, she suddenly said, “My brother-inlaw, Peter, has been going to some church in Srednyaya Street for the past 20 years. He always invited our whole family to go with him, but we never did. Then my sister died and we moved to another place and I have hardly seen him since.”
Well, the church I attend used to be located in the Srednyaya Street and had recently moved. So, the very next Sunday I found a brother named Peter in my church and told him that Rita V. would come to our service the following week. He could scarcely believe my words because it was he who had been inviting her to church for some 20 years. Rita came to church and met Peter. They hugged each other, their eyes shining with happiness. We all sat together in the pew.
At the end of the service, the pastor called people to repentance, and Peter tried to convince her to go to the altar. She looked confused and moved closer to me. I had to tell Peter, “The time of repentance is not for you or the pastor to decide, but only for Rita to respond to God’s call.”
The following Sunday, just before the preacher was about to call people to repentance, Rita stood up. A sister sitting next to us tried to hold her back because the pastor had not actually invited anyone to come forward. But Rita would not sit down. She stood still for a moment, then quickly went down to the podium. Ten adults and two children followed her. All were in a hurry to repent and receive Christ.
Rita immediately began classes to prepare her for baptism, not missing even one. She is already sharing her faith with others!
You can always expect the unexpected on a sortie, but God works in wonderful ways after the sorties as well, as we follow up with people like Rita. Please pray for her continued growth in grace.