Passing from Life to Death … to Life
I “inherited” a contact named Mikhail from Lilia, one of our former staff members. She left notes explaining that she had tried to reach him many times, but did not succeed. Mikhail was always busy; he was a genius when it came to how to spend his time and how to avoid meeting with us. Certainly, he was far from faith in Jesus and from talks about God and eternity, much less the problem of sin.
I promised Lilia that I would try to keep knocking at the door of the heart of Mikhail until he answered. At first, I also failed. It seemed like every attempt to talk to Mikhail was waste of time. He was always on the run, always in a hurry. However, I became acquainted with his daughter Lena. She came to faith—though not through our mission—and attended an evangelical church in Kiev.
I met with Lena several times. In fact, when she saw what we do and how we labor for the salvation of our Jewish people, she became a regular donor and prayer partner, and supported Jews for Jesus for many years. A few years ago, Lena became ill with a terminal disease that progressed very quickly. I promised Lena before her death that I would continue to try to serve her always-busy father. But as much as I called or tried to meet him—over and over Mikhail was unreachable. Very energetic in his 70s, he ran away from me and certainly from Christ, too.
One day when I attempted once more to phone Mikhail, his granddaughter answered. She said, “The grandfather is in a hospital.” I asked with anxiety, “What’s the matter?” She said, “Grandfather is sick; he has stage four cancer.” I phoned a few times that month and finally arranged with Mikhail’s relatives to meet with him at his home. When I finally got to see him, his thin, frail body seemed almost without life. However, his mind and lips still worked well.
We talked about Christ and repentance. He opposed and rejected my words about God. All of the relatives—the son that had arrived from a far city, his wife and grandchildren—listened with bated breath, as if there was a battle. Actually, there was a battle for the salvation of his precious soul. I asked at the end of the visit whether I could come again. Mikhail invited me to return. This seemed like a good sign to me, like a ray of light at the end of tunnel. I believed there would be victory and he would be saved.
I returned a few weeks later … and was invited back again and again. Again and again, we talked about Christ. On my last visit, Mikhail himself initiated a conversation about repentance and told me that he was ready to be reconciled with God. He repented sincerely, weeping. A few days later when I phoned to Mikhail he said, “Jesus came to me; I saw Him in my sleep. He said, ‘I will take you to Myself.'” A few days passed, and this dream came true as Mikhail passed into eternity.
And so, the thirteen long years of attempted ministry to Mikhail did not end in vain. At last, he not only welcomed a Jews for Jesus missionary into his life, but he welcomed Jesus the Messiah to save him just in time.
We hope this story encourages you, for as Paul said, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9).
Anatoly (“Tolik”) leads our Kiev branch.
If you have a Jewish friend who is struggling with cancer, the story of a Jewish believer oncologist might be helpful. You can watch here [still trying to find the link for Jack’s video story] or read the story of Dr. Jack Sternberg.
Anatoly Emma was born Odessa, Ukraine, in 1976. Odessa is a large seaport city which at one time had a Jewish population of approximately 300,000. Anatoly came to believe in Jesus as his Messiah in 1993 and was actively involved in the church he began to attend. For two years he was part of a group that worked in the hospitals for drug addicts, alcoholics, TB and venereologic patients. In 1995, the Lord called him and another brother to start a new church in Odessa, and up to 1999, he was ministering in this new congregation. Then, in 1999, the Lord called Anatoly to start ministering to his Jewish people, and he joined the Jews for Jesus ministry. For the last two years, Anatoly has been the leader of the Kiev branch of Jews for Jesus. He and his wife Olga have two little children, Elizabeth and Christina.