Valentina’s story: God had been pursuing her heart
A Jewish charity in Odessa had given names and phone numbers of Holocaust survivors to people who wanted to offer a gift of groceries to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Holocaust Remembrance Day. That’s how our missionary Larissa arranged to visit Valentina three months ago. Thanks to you, she was able to bring Valentina groceries, but so much more!
Valentina was born in 1943, under the Nazi occupation. The doctor, a kind German woman, realized Valentina’s mother was Jewish and urged her to leave the hospital as soon as possible to avoid being discovered. Mother and baby wandered from place to place for a year, remaining virtually homeless as they hid from the Nazis.
After hearing Valentina’s story, Larissa asked if she could read one Bible verse: John 3:16. Valentina listened to the verse and said, “My son always shows me this passage.’’ And she added, “My husband and I get the Jews for Jesus publication regularly, and we read it, but we cannot attend meetings for health reasons.” For years, this woman had been hearing the gospel from us and her believing son. God had been pursuing her heart!
Larissa told Valentina her testimony and invited her to pray to receive Jesus. Valentina asked, “Will you pray, and I will repeat after you?” Then her husband, Grigory (who is not Jewish), said, “What about me?” He wanted to be united with his wife in faith, so he prayed also! God is so faithful! Thanks again for partnering with Jews for Jesus.
Edith’s story: reclaiming what the Nazis stole
Anatoly, leader of our Kiev branch, leaned forward as Edith told her story. Life was calm and quiet, she said, until the day she found herself clinging to her mother on the railway platform along with 200–300 other Jewish people. “I kept asking where we were going and why. Some yelled, some cried; mothers held their children close. One kind Ukrainian woman brought us food and wept for us. And all the time, she repeated, “Our Father who is in heaven . . .”
“Edith, do you want to hear that prayer again?” The words were out of Anatoly’s mouth before he knew it.
Surprised Edith asked, “Oh, do you know that Russian prayer?”
“Edith, that prayer is neither Russian nor Ukrainian, it is Jewish!” Anatoly opened the Bible and showed how Yeshua (Jesus) had taught His followers to pray that prayer so long ago. Edith shook her head vigorously.
“No, no! Not God and not Jesus! I don’t need anyone from that company!”
Anatoly continued to visit Edith. Sometimes she told of the atrocities she’d experienced in the concentration camp called “Death Loop” that she and about 200 others survived, while more than 50,000 Jews were murdered.
Sometimes they talked of faith, repentance, forgiveness, the existence of God—and of course Jesus. Edith was resolute in her denial. But she told Anatoly, “Son, you believe for me and for yourself. You keep praying. But there is no God for me.” One day she explained why.
“For me, the idea of God is emblazoned on the Nazi soldiers’ uniforms that said, ‘Gott Mit Uns’ (God with us).”
Anatoly grabbed his Bible and said, “Look, they stole that from our Bible!” Then he read from Isaiah, “He will be called Immanuel,” which means ‘God with us.’” Edith was shocked. Still, she said she wanted nothing to do with God.
Years passed, and Edith’s time was drawing to an end. Anatoly recalls, “I came more often. We talked and talked and talked. Edith argued and argued and argued. My hope for her salvation dwindled. Still, I continued to visit.”
Edith’s relatives hired a nurse, a Christian named Irina who tried to share her faith. Edith refused to listen, so Irina told Anatoly, “You keep talking to her and I will be praying for her heart to melt.” And over the next six months, God answered that prayer.
Anatoly rejoiced that, “Even if we do not feel God with us, He still is. Edith was dying and her opposition to God was dying with her. Finally, as I visited with her for the last time, Edith prayed for God to forgive all her sins and for Jesus to enter her heart."
"God is with us, truly, I thought as I kissed her on the cheeks. God IS with us."
Ten days later Edith was with God in heaven, finally fully freed from the horrors of the Holocaust.
Boris and Zinovy’s stories: God’s amazing power to save!
Maxim, leader of our Moscow branch, came to Jerusalem as part of a team effort to reach people in the Russian-speaking community. During the month he spent there, he visited an elderly man named Boris, who was preparing for a serious surgery. As a child during World War II, Boris had been held prisoner in a ghetto in Vinnitsa. (The atrocities and mass murders that took place in Vinnitsa included 120,000 Jews who had been living there, as well as 50,000 who had been deported there. Boris was one of the survivors.
Maxim explained, “Boris was already acquainted with one of the messianic pastors in Jerusalem, and had expressed great openness to Yeshua (Jesus). When my colleague Vova and I visited him in the hospital, we discussed a passage from Isaiah chapter 53. A little later, Boris had another visitor: his friend Zinovy.
“Zinovy survived the same ghetto as Boris. It turned out that Zinovy already knew the regular Russian-speaking staff from our Tel Aviv branch. In fact, he had attended one of our events just a few days earlier.
“But, unlike Boris, Zinovy was not so open. He immediately declared that he was an atheist and a Communist. He was clearly displeased with the conversation we’d been having with Boris, and after chatting about other things, we ended the visit, after agreeing with Boris that we would return a few days later.
“I returned with a former pastor who was volunteering with Jews for Jesus. When we came to the ward, Boris was not there! He had been brought to another room for a CAT scan. I was disappointed because I felt that the Lord had prepared Boris’s heart, and it seemed to me that this time he could pray to receive Jesus. And he just wasn’t there! Were my expectations mistaken? I hated for Pastor Paul’s first visit with us to end in failure. But often this is how God demonstrates His sovereignty.
“God gave us wisdom and I managed to find Boris in the CT treatment room; he was still waiting for his turn. They let me in – a miracle! We only had time to exchange a few words, but Boris let me know he definitely wanted to meet. We agreed to try again in two hours.
“We returned at the appointed time, and there was Boris, waiting for us. But Zinovy had also come—the man who had interrupted our talk about God last time. Well, not this time, I thought.
“How wise is our Lord! The conversation went very well with His help. Paul explained how he had personally come to faith in Jesus. We read from the Bible. In the end the four of us holding hands prayed and asked Jesus to come into the heart of both Boris and Zinovy. Glory to the Almighty! God works in mysterious ways!
“Not only had God given me a true expectation of Boris’s ready heart, but against all expectations the Great Lord had also prepared the heart of (as it seemed to me) the “hopeless communist." I think that is why our visit was postponed for a couple of hours—so that Zinovy would be at the right place at the right time. God used His timing and blessed our teamwork to bring these two Jewish men who survived the Holocaust to salvation! Hallelujah!”