Last month we introduced you to new staff who are training here in the U.S. This month we’d like to you meet new staff who are training in Israel and Hungary.
Training/serving in Israel
Boris Svortskov was born in Russia, but his family migrated to Israel when he was just eight months old. When he was three, his parents divorced and his mother remarried a couple of years later. Boris was six when his stepfather heard the gospel and, before long, came to faith in Jesus. Soon after, his mother also came to believe, and so Boris was raised in a believing home.
At age sixteen, Boris began to play guitar and, before long, formed a band. He says, “I played for the glory of God on the weekend and for my ego and my glory the rest of the week.” He knew he needed to choose which was more important, and realized it was time to repent of sin and pride and surrender his life to the Lord. He was baptized at age seventeen, not too long before his service with the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) began. He served as a combat medic in the army, eventually training other medics. Like many Israelis, toward the end of his service he began making plans to get away from the things he saw and experienced upon his release. He recalls, “I planned to become a shepherd in New Zealand for at least six months. God had other plans for me. I had to grow in my understanding of Him and His will in my life and so I found myself at The Shelter in Eilat [a youth hostel ministry that we’ve partnered with on many occasions] working with believers, evangelizing and meditating on the Word of God. Then I went to Lech Lecha, a three-month discipleship course for young Israelis. There I met Gefen, my future wife, and forgot about the sheep in New Zealand.” Next Boris went to India as a participant with our Massah program, reaching out to other Israeli backpackers who had also finished their army service and desired to get away for a time and clear their heads. Since then he has been studying at the Israel College of the Bible and helping out with the young adult ministry at our Moishe Rosen Center in Tel Aviv. Boris still loves to play guitar, lead worship and enjoy God’s creation through kayaking and other outdoor activities.
Gefen Svortskov’s mother is an Israeli kibbutznik* and her father a Scottish Christian. They raised her in a believing home up on a kibbutz;* but like Boris, Gefen reached a point where she felt she was leading a double life and her attitudes and behavior at school did not match with who she was in her congregation. And so at fourteen she repented and received Jesus. In high school she had a setback, was angry with God and became very depressed. This depression lasted through her army service. Two months after being released from the IDF she went to Lech Lecha, where she was renewed in her faith and commitment to the Lord and where she met Boris. They began dating after they finished the program, and Gefen volunteered as a cook for the next Lech Lecha group. At that point Eli Birnbaum asked her if she’d like to participate on the next Massah and she agreed. By the time the team left for India, Gefen knew she wanted to continue with our ministry past Massah, and so she has done, working mainly with children and young adults. At the same time, she has been studying at the Israel College of the Bible. Boris and Gefen were married in May, 2014. Gefen has a heart for women’s ministry and is looking forward to developing in that area.
*A kibbutz is a collective community in Israel. Kibbutzim (plural of kibbutz) used to be primarily agricultural communities, but today Israelis live and work together to produce a variety of commodities. A kibbutznik is a member of a kibbutz.
Training/serving in Hungary
Ildiko Hajdu volunteered with Jews for Jesus in Budapest for a year and a half before coming on staff with us. She quickly proved to be someone we could count on, whether it was as team leader during a witnessing campaign or floor manager for our Passover banquet.
Ildiko’s mother is Jewish, and her paternal grandfather survived the Holocaust, though he never regained his health and died before Ildiko was born. Her paternal grandmother converted the family to Catholicism, which was not unusual in Hungary at that time. Ildiko recalls rebelling against the idea of God’s existence as a teen. She married at age 20 and by the time she was 28 she had two sons. By age 30 she suffered the devastating loss of her mother, and felt her life begin to deteriorate.
When Ildiko’s younger son was six, he began taking guitar lessons, and his teacher was a fervent Christian. Ildiko says, “By that time I had heard the gospel from several sources, but it hadn’t reached my heart. I thank God that this man was steadfast in daily telling me the gospel and my need for Jesus. He lent me a book which I don’t remember, except for the last sentence which said, ‘Jesus Christ is the only one who can wash you clean of your sins.’ This sentence went straight to my heart, and in February 2001 I asked God to forgive my sin and be Lord of my life.” Five years later, Ildiko’s husband died. She and her sons have found God to be faithful, and telling others about Jesus has become a natural part of her walk with Him. Connecting with Jews for Jesus has given her many opportunities to share her faith, as well as opportunities to learn more of her Jewish heritage, a heritage that, like many Hungarian Jews, she’d rarely heard mentioned in her home.
Ildiko is an active, athletic woman and enjoys a good challenge—as well as the quiet contemplation of gardening or sitting with a good book.
Attila Varadi describes his upbringing as life in an average Hungarian family. While his father was Jewish, he did not teach Attila to believe in God or live as a Jew. In fact, the family, like so many in Eastern Europe, was atheist.
Attila was only seventeen when his mother died, and this caused him to think about the meaning of life. One day, while sitting in class at his high school, a thought seemed to pop into his mind out of nowhere. “If God exists, the meaning of life is to praise Him.” He shared the thought with his best friend and fellow band member, who dismissed it as stupid. But another band member had recently begun attending a church youth group. Attila had made fun of his beliefs at first, but now he began asking him spiritual questions. Over time, the answers made sense to Attila and he came to faith in Jesus.
Attila graduated from the Budapest University of Tech and Econ (he majored in IT) and he also has an associates degree in theology from Calvary Chapel Bible College. Attila is especially passionate about reaching people through music and through the Internet. He plays guitar, drums, helps to lead worship and looks for opportunities to offer words of encouragement.
Did you know that you can look up various our branches and staff members on our website? Note: pages for some of our newer staff are still “under construction.”