Jews for Jesus in Kharkov
With a population of 1.5 million people, Kharkov is the second largest city in Ukraine. The Jewish population there numbers about 40,000, the majority of whom are atheists. Included in the Jewish community of Kharkov are many intelligentsia and also many elderly and needy people. Memories of communism are intense and there is much pride.
The response to the gospel is a very clear-cut yes” or “no.” Rarely do we find a neutral opinion. Many people—particularly those who receive financial help from Jewish agencies—are afraid to consider Jesus because of pressure from the synagogue. Yet many Jewish people are interested in the gospel and willing to risk learning more.
That interest was clearly demonstrated in 1997, during our Kharkov witnessing campaign, when we received more than 1,500 addresses from Jewish people willing to receive our publications. One Jewish believer in Jesus, Irina Rivkina, prayed fervently for the start of a branch in Kharkov. The answer to Irina’s prayer came in 1998 and she became our first staff member in Kharkov. Next, Irina’s sister, Yulia Sokol, joined our staff. In the summer of 1999, Irina and Yulia left Ukraine to serve in Essen, Germany, and Jewish believer Mikhail Vayshengolts came to lead the work in Kharkov. He was joined briefly by Leonid Dolganovsky, who also moved on to serve in Germany. Outreach workers Elvira Meyer, Yelena Gourtovaya and administrative worker Slavik Meyta joined Mikhail and Ira on the Kharkov staff since 2001 and they make up our full-time staff.
Because the staff is few in number, our Kharkov branch depends on regular volunteers.
Some unique aspects of our Kharkov branch
- We have the lowest printing prices of all the branch cities of Ukraine, so all our Russian language publications are printed in Kharkov. The managers of the printing company are Jews and we pray that they will actually read some of the material they are printing!
- Mikhail has had opportunities to preach regularly through Trans World Radio. As a result, many more Christians are praying for the salvation of the Jewish people and for the ministry of Jews for Jesus.
- Elvira uses Jewish folk dances to reach Jewish hearts.
- One volunteer works for an airline and gives Jews for Jesus tracts to all the people who fly to Israel!
- Our Shabbat meetings (Bible studies): we have a small group of about five Jewish people attending these meetings. Please pray that more of the people we minister to would come and benefit from these meetings and from getting to know one another.
- New outreach workers: we are hoping to increase the size of our staff and currently have two possible candidates.
- We have been praying for an opportunity to preach the gospel on TV. We hope that God will use the upcoming Behold Your God campaign to accomplish this (see p. 3)
Meet Our Kharkov Staff
Mikhail (Misha) Vayshengolts
Our 37-year-old branch leader was born in Odessa to a family of Jewish atheists. He came to believe in Jesus at the age of 27, having attended an evangelical church out of curiosity. Misha joined our staff in 1997. He enjoys composing new tracts. He studies theology by correspondence with the faculty of the Odessa Christian University. Misha’s wife, Ira, serves in administration at our Kharkov branch. They have a 12-year-old daughter, Kseniya.
Born in 1937, Elvira came to know Jesus at the age of 57, through an evangelical church. She is a widow and mother of an adult daughter, Tatiana. She has been an outreach worker with Jews for Jesus since January 2001. Before joining our staff, she had taken part in two witnessing campaigns in Moscow. Elvira has also participated in campaigns in Minsk, St. Petersburg, Kiev and Odessa. Elvira loves to worship God through dancing.
Our third outreach worker, 37-year-old Yelena, was born in a Jewish-Ukrainian family, but was raised without her father. When she came to salvation at the age of 27, she found her Father in the person of God. Before joining our staff in September, 2002, Yelena had taken part in two Moscow witnessing campaigns as well the Dnepropetrovsk campaign.
Our youngest Kharkov staff member, 25-year-old Slavik, serves as the branch administrator. He was brought up in a Christian family and came to know Jesus personally when he was 15. Slavik met Jews for Jesus in 1992 and prayed for our ministry for years. He became a volunteer in 1997 and joined our staff in May, 2001. Slavik enjoys translating and interpreting as a means of working on his English skills and he is also involved in youth ministry at his church.