We had only had our Moscow office open for a few months when we mounted our 1993 Summer Witnessing Campaign there. As a result of that campaign, Avi Snyder had on file hundreds of names of interested Jewish people the staff had encountered on the streets. Armed with this list, Avi sent out a mailing to invite people to a special Rosh Hashanah service. To our knowledge, this might have been the first messianic Jewish High Holiday service to be held in the Russian capital in almost a hundred years.
Avi demonstrated his commitment to an eventually totally indigenous work by the fact that everything in the service was to be planned and carried out by our Russian staff. The only “outside involvement” consisted of Avi’s notes that the staff used to organize the service and the non-Russian speaker from the United States—me!
The staff’s average age (aside from one grandmother) was about 21. Most of them had been won to Christ and discipled by Avi himself. They were young and exuberant. They reminded me so much of me in the early 1970s when I was one of those young staff workers who first helped to get Jews for Jesus going in California.
The Russian staff rented an old theater near central Moscow for the service. We really did not know what to expect. Such a thing had not been done before. Many volunteers came out to help with the ushering and the preparation of a snack they would serve afterward. The theater’s seating capacity was Rosh Hashanah in Moscow 300. By the time the service was ready to begin, the place was mostly filled.
Avi had told me before the meeting that when I gave the invitation to follow Christ, I should expect people to respond. He instructed me that I should invite them to come forward and pray out loud.
“I always expect people to respond to an invitation,” I said.
Avi just smiled enigmatically, as though he knew something I didn’t. “Just invite people to come forward,” he repeated.
I got up to speak. I had told my interpreter that I would be speaking from Isaiah 6:1. She read the passage for me in Russian and began to interpret as I spoke. I quickly remembered that when using an interpreter, a speaker takes twice as long. I decided to stay with the text and drop many of the Western illustrations I had prepared. At the end of my message, I gave an invitation to the audience to repent and turn to Christ.
I asked those who wanted to make a commitment to Jesus to stand. At first, no one moved. Then, with some prompting, a few rose to their feet, then more. After the third request, about fifty people were standing. I asked them to come to the front of the auditorium by the stage. People started to move forward, and soon more than forty were praying. Later that night we counted twenty-three cards signed by Jewish people who had prayed for the very first time to ask Jesus into their lives as Lord and Savior.
After the service, while people were noshing (snacking) on apples and soda in the lobby, many who had not come forward during the service approached me to ask questions. I kept my interpreter close beside me. In the course of the next hour, I had the chance to pray with three more Jewish people as they gave their lives to Jesus.
I have been involved in Jewish ministry for more than twenty years, and I have led many people to the Lord—but usually one at a time. In all those years of ministry, I have never experienced such a great moving of God as I saw last Rosh Hashanah in Moscow.
Please pray for our work in Moscow and in Odessa. Pray for Avi Synder, whose leadership has been instrumental in building this story to our Messiah. God is continuing to move among the Jewish people in the former USSR. Soon it will be High Holiday time again. Pray that this year our ministry in Moscow and elsewhere will be even more fruitful for Y’shua than it was last year.
Editor’s Note: The political situation in Russia is volatile. With a change in leadership, the religious freedom believers now enjoy could be obliterated. It is a time for all to work and pray while it is yet day, for “the night is coming when no man can work.”