If you’re not planning to use the information we’re giving you, then you’ve wasted your time, and you’ve wasted our time—and you know what? We Jews for Jesus don’t like to waste time!” It was not the kind of statement one might expect at a Christian conference, but those were my words at our first “Laborers for the Harvest” conference held in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa last December. More than just a conference, it was a three-day training seminar on Jewish evangelism to which we had invited fewer than 40 selected Jewish believers in Yeshua from various republics of the C.I.S.
Our seminar began with the necessary reiteration of the basic gospel truth: that there is no salvation for Jews or Gentiles except in the name of Yeshua (Jesus). Sergei Nydich, our first indigenous staff member from the former U.S.S.R., exhorted his fellow post-Soviet Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ to stand resolutely and unashamedly on that scriptural teaching. Pointing out that others are willing to compromise the gospel message because it makes its hearers uncomfortable and its messenger disliked, he said, “Some are telling us not to be outspoken to our people about Jesus, but just to love them. What if Jesus had loved us the way they are telling us to love our people? What if Jesus had simply taught us, fed us, healed our sick and raised our dead, but had never told us we would all perish unless we repented—because He didn’t want to risk offending anyone? What if Jesus had loved us straight to hell?”
The three-day seminar focused exclusively on practical information about bringing the gospel to the Jewish people. Lectures covered a range of related subjects: writing and distributing evangelistic literature; conducting in-person evangelistic visits; leading a person to the Lord; and caring for the new Jewish believer. Of special interest to many was the lecture on the peculiarities of witnessing to close friends and relatives.
The fact that God is doing a special work among the post-Soviet Jewish people became evident once again when the question was asked, “How many of you now have brothers, sisters, parents or children who have followed you in the faith?” Half the attendees raised their hands.
Those attending the seminar included Jewish believers from 14 cities throughout the C.I.S. Among them were Tanya and Sasha, a young couple who have started a messianic outreach in the western Ukraine; Valera, a young man whose work with a Jewish statistic agency gives him daily opportunities for sharing his faith; and Valodia from Moscow, who got a little less sleep than some of the others because he spent a good part of one night leading to the Lord a person who “just happened” to be staying at the facility where we were holding the seminar.
What happens next? We hope people will use what we discussed. In the meantime, in addition to our work in Odessa, we have established a branch in Moscow with two full-time outreach workers. The harvest has been plentiful. With the good liaisons established with Jewish believers from the various cities, Jews for Jesus hopes to bring a high-profile style of evangelism to many places in the C.I.S.
We will rely upon friends such as those who attended the seminar to participate in sowing the seed, watering it and nurturing the crop that will be gathered. Right now we are in the midst of a harvest. Yet we know historically that harvests do not continue indefinitely. They end, and this one also will end. Yeshua said, “…night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). As long as the fields are white unto harvest, it’s almost criminal not to send workers into them!